What is this Classical Thing?

Folks ask me all the time to simply state in clear language what we mean by a classical education.  So as to keep it short, I will tackle this from the view that certain principles are the key to such an education and spend several short articles in our newsletter on each principle.  So let me show we are going, and then go there, and at the end I will summarize where we have been.

An outline of these key principles might include the following:

I.                    What are the ends of a Christian classical education? What are we hoping to accomplish by pursuing the education of our children?  At a minimum, it would seem this would include such ideas as man having a purpose, what that purpose is, how our fallen nature demands the admittance of grace into education, how education should order our affections rightly, and how such an ordering affects our whole understanding of where we fall in the hierarchy of God’s created universe.

II.                  What is the nature of a Christian classical education? Here we would include consideration of how we view the world in which we live, the nature of knowledge and knowing itself, the source of all truth, what role our reason should play in education, how ideas come to be embodied in a student, in what order we should learn about Creation, and how much we should seek to learn within the limits of formal schooling.

III.                What principles come from the nature of a child? If we are teach children well, we must teach them according to their nature, so a contemplation of that nature is in order.  Here we would want to include discussions of the nature of respect, the developmental stages a child naturally goes through, how to raise the tastes of a student, how to call a soul to moral greatness, and how to cultivate the habits of discipline.

IV.                What principles come from the nature of a teacher and the art of teaching? Here we would look at the nature of teaching itself, including the questions that pertain to cultivating wisdom and virtue rather than producing productive workers, the roles of imitation and contemplation, how to best assess learning, what are the viable modes of learning, the role of authority, and the concept of growth.

V.                  What principles come from the idea of community? And here, finally, we would have to discuss the basic principles of community because we learn best within a community.  So a discussion of how a community should share a vision and mission, how they should evidence reverence for the True, Good, and Beautiful, how to build an aligned hierarchy of learning in both the school and family, what comes with historical perspective on learning, the role of propriety in education, and even how accountability is necessary to good learning must be had as well.

I think it obvious just in drawing out the ideas in each of the above five kinds of principles that I might be on this topic for a while.  I hope you will enter into what is intended to be a conversation.  Send me your thoughts, arguments, and insights; I want to hear them.

Note of Credit: I have used Andrew Kern’s outline above (from the Circe Institute’s materials), and wanted to give him credit for such.  He is a dear friend to let me not have to reinvent the round wheel.


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