Thursday, February 18, 2016

Book-Review: The Well-Educated Mind

The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had (Updated and Expanded)

by Susan Wise Bauer
New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2016

The 2016 version of "The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had" by Susan Wise Bauer is a revised and updated version of a text she originally wrote in 2003. Bauer is well-known in homeschooling circles as co-author with her mother of "The Well-Trained Mind" which offers a plan for providing your children with a classical education while homeschooling, as well as author of the "History of the World" series. She is clearly a brilliant woman who has a great ability to understand, organize, and present a huge volume of information.

In "The Well-Educated Mind," Bauer sets out a plan for adults to go back and read and study all those great books that they either missed out on while completing their traditional education or didn't understand if they did tackle them. Make no mistake, this is an ambitious project. To her credit, Bauer realizes that she is writing for busy adults. She suggests dedicating a half-hour a day for four days a week to this endeavor. At that rate, this will truly be a life-long endeavor.

The beginning of the book is dedicated to learning how to read and study these books utilizing the classical framework of a grammar, logic, and then rhetoric stage. She then divides the classic works into sections: the novel, autobiography and memoir, history and politics, drama, poetry, and science. Each section is approached in a chronological order so that one may see how ideas and themes developed over time. For each section she provides an introductory essay which offers an overview of the section as well as tips for getting the most out of reading this particular type of text. She also includes a synopsis of each work and why it was chosen. This is not an exhaustive list of great books by any means, but there is an ample selection.

Even if one does not undertake the project of actually reading and studying all of these books, simply reading this book will provide quite an education. If one could remember all that is included in its pages, one would be far ahead of most of the populace in terms of understanding the development of ideas throughout history and the authors who have shaped and interpreted our world.

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