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The Well Trained Mind: Thoughts from Chapter 11

This is a series of posts I am writing about The Well Trained Mind, by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. Although the WTM has a decidedly homeschooling bent, it is an excellent reference book for any parent who is interested in taking an active role in their child’s education.

Over the next few weeks I am reading the WTM again for the second time and blogging about my thoughts chapter by chapter.  I invite you to read along with me, and chime in your own thoughts in the comment section below.

Chapter 11

General Thoughts:  This was the chapter on teaching religion in the Grammar stage.  The WTM is written from a secular perspective, although the author Susan Wise Bauer is I believe married to a Christian pastor.  I thought that chapter 11 was written quite well.  For me, the key sentence is on page 203 when the authors write: “We’re not arguing that religion should be “put back” into public schools.  We’d just like some honesty: and education that takes no notice of faith is, at the very least, incomplete”. 

Memorization of Bible verses, Talmud passages, etc. is often a big part of early religious education in many faith backgrounds.  This fits in nicely with the structure of the Grammar stage in the Classical Education model. 

Our own family is from the Methodist faith, and we have been introducing world religions to my son (6) by reading kiddie versions of ancient religious texts.  For more on this, please see here.


  1. Jean says:

    This was one of my favorite chapters in WTM when I first read it. I think it’s quite true that schools are not often able to teach about the roles religious belief has played in history, nor are they able to teach literacy in different religious traditions. At least, that’s been the case IME.

    When I was in college (at a fancy university where most of the people were a lot smarter and better-educated than I was), I took some upper-level courses in medieval literature. For a class like that, it’s pretty necessary to have some understanding of Bible stories and Judeo-Christian history and beliefs. I remember we got to a text that referenced the Moses and Passover story, and I was the only person in the whole class who knew it. Then we had a text that referenced Adam and Eve, and I was the only one who knew anything about that–or what a mass was. The professor had to stop for a week or two and teach about that kind of thing. It was sort of mind-blowing to realize that these students had already taken Chaucer and Milton and all sorts of things that rely on a solid background that they simply did not have.

    That is probably one of the reasons that I homeschool, really. There’s no requirement for anyone to believe in any religion, but you can’t just go through life ignorant about any religion at all. How would you understand history and literature?

    The other thing that was mentioned in WTM–I think–that connected with all this in my mind was that a lot of people kind of assume that everyone was stupid before about 1960. I really hope to combat that in my own homeschooling, and I hope to teach about religion in history–that people believed things for a reason and they weren’t stupid.

    Hope you enjoyed my novel. 😉

    • jenbrdsly says:

      I was thinking about this comment and all of those college students in your class who didn’t know anything about religion…. I probably would have been one of them if I hadn’t have read so widely on my own, and chosen to attended church of my own accord. My parents are atheists and didn’t really teach me anything about the histories of different religion. I think when you don’t teach children about other religions they can seem mysterious and “cool”.

      College for me was shocking (and SLE in particular), because the religious education I had received had been so literalist. I had attended a Wesleyan church in middle school, which exposed and fundamentalist approach to the Bible. So when we were studying Genesis in SLE and the professor was talking about the two different creation stories within the first two chapters of the Bible, I was really shocked and didn’t know how to handle that type of information, even though I had read the entire Bible through cover to cover many times. I called my friend Jenny who was at Cal Lutheran and she told me, “Yeah, there are two stories of creation in the Bible, but that’s okay. You can still believe in God without believing that there were seven literal days of creation.” So for me, the more I learned about religion the more I had previously learned crumbled, and then new understanding and faith was built up over time.

  2. Jean says:

    Interesting. I don’t remember any discussion of the Bible at all in college–most of my professors were probably Marxists anyway, I know some were–but I guess I grew up in a really minority religion anyway. Having my beliefs disregarded in class would have been pretty routine for me and I would have been surprised at anything else.

  3. Jean says:

    Yes, and it was about 1993 too; Marxism’s lowest ebb. But I still had a professor who introduced himself on the first day as a Marxist as though it was a matter of course. I guess that’s an advantage of being a literature professor!

    • jenbrdsly says:

      This makes me think of that book I read, Surprised by Oxford. The author said that in academia it is real career killing to identify yourself as a Christian. Being a Marxist on the other hand….

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