Digging in at Ditchley

The heavier lifting began on Day Two at Ditchley. The four-dozen participants were divided into three working groups: Group A worried about primary education; Group B, secondary education, and Group C had a challenging remit: preschool education, education for seniors, and out-of-school learning. I was assigned to Group B, shown assembling below.

Although more narrowly focused than the prior evening’s discussion of all things educational, the conversation about primary and secondary education of necessity covered a lot of ground too: preschool preparation, student mental health, content and curriculum, testing and assessment, the role of the traditional “trivium” (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) in a liberal arts education, along with choice and student trauma. The importance of teaching came in for a lot of attention and, late in the discussion, the significance of leadership at the school level arose as significant.

Three 90-minute sessions were allotted to Group B (and to Groups A & C) interspersed with short breaks for coffee and snacks (below).

A suggestion was made that we understand the connection between education theory and practice “through a glass darkly,” in the words of Corinthians as picked up by film maker Ingmar Bergman. Another was that one way to pull together this sprawling discussion would be to consider schooling within the journalist convention of “who, what, where, when, and why?”


Later in the day, we received a couple of free hours for a quick visit to Oxford. Oozing history from every pore, Oxford is a delight to the eye. Even on a brief visit, the sights are stunning, the history impressive.

The Church of St. Mary the Virgin has been the official church of Oxford University since the year 1200:

Meanwhile, Balliol College, one of the oldest colleges in the university, was founded in 1236:

The Ashmolean, the first university museum in the world, was constructed starting in 1678 to house the “cabinet of curiosities” of Elias Ashmole. It has grown to be a stupendous collection of art and artifacts from antiquity to the present day, with impressive Greek, Roman and Egyptian collections, including a statue of Hercules subduing the Nemean Lion in the first of his twelve great labors.

It’s not every theater that’s as eye-catching as The Sheldonian, built in 1664 and designed by Christopher Wren, the architect who rebuilt London, including St. Paul’s Cathedral,  after the Great Fire of 1666.

Finally, The Bodleian Library system is the largest university library system in the world, housing more than 13 million volumes:

That’s a lot of food for thought and the mind on a quick tour of just a couple of hours.

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