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Classical Education for Psychology Students #1: Skilling Beyond Vocation

I've an avid interest in developing my classical education knowledge. skills, and competencies because they are so relevant to the professional domain of psychology: critical reading, thinking, writing, and argumentation; paying attention to minute details; identifying patterns and considering logical explanations for them; and disciplined due diligence (check, check, check...cite, cite, cite). With this in mind, my first chance of some 'time out' during moving madness, I tuned into the Victor Davis Hanson interview ("distinguished classicist and historian") via Cana Academy on the yttube.

The interview was a wealth of knowledge, inspiration, and direction. Hanson characterises the term classical as, pertaining to that which is enduring, long-lasting, and relevant across time and context. He shares that a classical education provides a framework of reference (i.e., a lens) complementary to any vocational path. Cultivating open-mindedness to consideration of different perspectives on a topic is a graduate attribute for any Australian graduate (e.g., "Teamwork: Ability to apply skills in different contexts", Oliver & de St Jorre, 2018, p. 830). As is being adaptable and agile, fitness for purpose (Oliver & de St Jorre, 208) in the face of rapid changes, be they due to personal challenges, tech developments, shifting geo-political landscapes, or natural phenomenon. Hanson emphasises the classical education frame of reference as providing a model of How To Think Something Through. Once we've mastered this model, it can make adoption of other dissimilar models more straightforward (e.g., those not foundational to western culture). Also, that classical education is the capacity for Aesthetics (Beauty). A phenomenon often overlooked in the science disciplines. Most of us have heard the adage, "it's the journey, not the goal that counts". Beauty in this context is the attitude we hold as we journey through a problem, challenge, or a simple mundane task. As well, it can be the attitude with which we argue our case about a given topic in an assessment or in dialogue with another (including on social media). For example, your next psychology assessment becomes an Art Form. Cool~~~

I garnered from the interview that it is highly practical for myself (and other students of psychology) to take up an interest in western history, artifacts, literature, and language, to expand our ways of thinking about any given topic/situation/problem.

In this way, we can hone our skills in the written and spoken word, as we enhance our conceptualisation of events and issues drawing on our shared past classical culture. As stated previously, we need not stop there, rather we may find that exploring and incorporating frames of reference from other cultures take on a deeper meaning, as we can engage with them more enthusiastically because we've dug into our own roots. Hanson elaborated on the need to study History to appreciate the structure of the main events that shape any culture. One can become systematic in applying a framework that has succeeded in the past, to an activity in today's world. For example, a group assignment hampered by social loafers. As with all knowledge, Hanson reminds the viewer/listener to keep in mind that a historian of any period/culture chooses what to include or not, and that History communication is part of a creative process. As such, we the reader/listener must be active; apply our critical thinking and not take the historian (or other 'knowledge bearer) as gospel.

Further, states Hanson, cultivating an understanding of the roots of one's day-to-day language (e.g., Latin or Ancient Greek in English), enhances our ability to discern meaning and wield a rich powerful metaphorical dialogue. Who knew that being curious about the grammar, syntax, and vocab of one's first language could expand comprehension of so many other aspects of life?! I think my favourite takeaway from the Hanson interview, was his encouragement to 'get amongst it' in the broader community. The concept reminded my of my anthropology studies at uni~ immersing oneself as a participant-observer in a sub-groups of one's broader culture (e.g., farmers, gamers, or an organisation), or in a different broader culture (e.g., a First Nations, Indian, or Norwegian community). The goal is to 'get uncomfortable', take risks, and be intrigued by ways of being and communicating that one is not used to. The experience is holisitc, and one inevitably learns practical skills to problem solve, learn, and to pass on knowledge, in turn expanding one's perspective about what it is to be human. Further, it reduces the likelihood of adopting a point of view that one can be completely objective and 'stand outside' looking in at an event or set of social practices, detached with an Ivory Tower view of the world. Also, to be grateful for the qualities bestowed by manual work, non-excess of material possessions and leisure time, and life challenges, to the unfolding of person-hood and citizenship responsibilities. When asked, Hanson's reading recommendations for classical texts to aid one's engagement with the world, were:

Introductory Euripides' plays Medea (c. 431 BC) and Bacchae (c. 405 BC) Xenephon's histories and philosophies, Hellenica (c. 350 BC) and Anabasis (c. 370 BC) Plato's The Apology of Socrates (c. 380)


Homer's Illiad and Odyssey (c. 700 BC) Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War (c. 402 BC) Virgil's epic poem Aeneid (c. 25 BC) Horace's poems Odes (c. 23 BC) Petronius' satiric manuscript fragments of Satyricon (c. 1 AD) Tacitus' fragments of Histories (c. 105 AD) Suetonius' biographies The 12 Caesars (c. 121 AD)

I am inspired by Hanson to continue cultivating my development in classical education to complement my psychology studies and practices. I began my journey a few years ago, starting with the Epics of Homer and the Lyric of Sappho, as well as the grammar and syntax of English via a TESOL course. Although, I've still a way to go, I am enjoying the challenge and learning experience, and the expansion of my skills to engage with day to day life. I encourage you to consider incorporating a classical education into your lifelong learning journey too. Hope my future writings on this theme are of use to you too. ~ Charmayne

References Beverley Oliver & Trina Jorre de St Jorre (2018). Graduate attributes for 2020 and beyond: Recommendations for Australian higher education providers. Higher Education Research & Development, 37(4), 821-836, DOI: 10.1080/07294360.2018.1446415


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