March 2024: T. S. Eliot on Education and Culture

Please join us in March 2024 for a Virtual Reading Group with Jim Hartley


Pre-registration is required, and we ask you to register only if you can be present for ALL sessions. All readings must be acquired in advance.  Participants who successfully complete ALL sessions will be eligible to receive an Amazon e-gift certificate.

“Surely the great poet is, among other things, one who not merely restores a tradition which has been in abeyance, but one who in his poetry re-twines as many straying strands of tradition as possible.” T. S. Eliot’s work, both his poetry and prose, was a large project re-twining the straying strands of cultural tradition back into modern life. This VRG explores his extended essays on culture and education. 

The questions which are explored in this set of readings are varied. What role does tradition play in a free society? Is a free society one which adheres to tradition or abandons tradition? What role does education play? Is education important merely for its practical use value of training a new generation of accountants and engineers? Or is education important for passing down a tradition? Who should decide the content of education? Does society have the right to determine the content of the education it supports or merely the structure of the educational system?

Session I: Tuesday, March 5, 2024, 3:00-4:00 pm EST, What is Culture?

What is “culture”? Eliot’s simple description is “that which makes life worth living.” Is that a good definition? Is there a difference between elite culture and low culture, and if so, how important is it to maintain both? 


Eliot T.S. “Notes Toward the Definition of Culture,” Introduction, chapters 1, 2  in Christianity and Culture, pp. 85-122 

Session II: Tuesday, March 12, 2024, 3:00-4:00 pm EST, Unity and Diversity in Culture

How local is culture? How important are religion and the family to the definition and preservation of culture? What is the relationship of culture to politics?


Eliot T.S. “Notes Toward the Definition of Culture,” Chapters 3, 4, 5 in Christianity and Culture, pp. 123-170.

Session III: Tuesday, March 19, 2024, 3:00-4:00 pm EST, The Idea of a Christian Society

Eliot sets out to explain the nature of an explicitly Christian Society. Is developing such a society the aim of education? Should it be the aim? While there is no doubt that Christianity is an important part of the development of the idea of a free society in the West, are the societies which developed fundamentally or incidentally rooted in religion? Is Eliot’s Christian society recognizable? Is the idea he describes desirable or attainable? Would Eliot’s Christian Society enhance or reduce liberty?


Eliot, T.S. “The Idea of a Christian Society” in Christianity and Culture, pp. 3-51 

Session IV: Tuesday, March 26, 2024, 3:00-4:00 pm EST, “The Aims of Education”

What is the aim of education? Does the answer to that depend on how we define education? Does education have a political end? Who should decide on the proper end of education? Is the aim of education inevitably religious in nature?


Eliot, T. S. “The Aims of Education” in To Criticize the Critic and Other Writings¸ pp. 61-124