Uncovering Milton’s Classical Pedagogy

John Milton had considerable sway in the political discourse of his day, often writing at the intersection of philosophy, theology, and public policy. In fact Milton was the kind of public intellectual that classical educators hope to foster–one rooted in sound reasoning, connected to the past, able to influence ideas in the present, all the while having the courage to confront the spiritus mundi, and doing it with works of subtle beauty. His letter to Samuel Hartlib, in which he lays out his ideal program of education, is perhaps less familiar among classical educators than it should be. This may be because, in spite of the clarity and urgency of the first page of his letter, the rest is encumbered by difficult sentences, unfamiliar vocabulary, and a chronologically disoriented presentation of his program.
This talk will rediscover the familiar by uncovering the structure of Milton’s educational program that lies at the heart of his letter. His program involves a movement through what Milton calls “languages,” “solid things,” “experience and tradition,” and “sensible things.” The students’ destination is “knowledge of God,” a point so central to the project of repairing the foundations–first and foremost for Milton, England’s own. Along the way Milton addresses questions that remain relevant for modern classical educators in a way that is refreshingly unconventional–questions like “what is the role of language learning?

Josh Wilson

I received my B.S. in Theology from Clarks Summit University (PA), teaching credentials at East Stroudsburg University, MA in English Literature at the University of Toledo, MA in Biblical Hebrew at the University of Michigan. I'm currently finishing my PhD at Columbia University, Teachers College. I teach Upper School English at The Geneva School of Manhattan, where I've been since 2017. Prior to that I taught English in Toledo, OH, and before that, worked as an assistant pastor for seven years. As a pastor I had the heart of a teacher. Now as a teacher, I have the heart of a pastor. I love both roles. My current work at Columbia University is a PhD in English Education. My area of interest is classical education, and I've sought to form my coursework and theses to that end.