Part 1: The Task and the Big Picture
To be a parent is to be entrusted with enormous responsibility. For the first years of life, we are our children’s primary gateway to understanding the world. The example we set, the things we place in front of them, and the experiences we give them will all shape them in irreversible ways. We are charged with setting our children on the right trajectory through discipline and instruction (Prov. 22:6, Eph. 6:4).
Our kids desperately need us to teach them how to appreciate the goodness of God as it is loudly proclaimed in his Word and in his creation, and to navigate a world that is so obviously fallen and wicked. They need an education that will put before their eyes and their hearts that which is true, just, pure, lovely, excellent, and praise-worthy (Phil. 4:8).
I take this call as a parent seriously as a sacred trust from God. I want to be intentional about how I am raising my children and the foundation that is being set in their lives. As such, I want my children to attend a school that is aiming for the same things–not working at cross-purposes with them– and I know of no education that is better suited for that goal than classical Christian education. In this blog series, I will give 8 reasons why I want a classical Christian education for my children.
Before we can talk about how a school should teach, we must first think about what a school should teach, or more precisely, what a school should teach students to be. This brings us into the realm of educational philosophy. A school’s educational philosophy is not some box-checking formality; there are very real differences of opinion about what schooling is for and those views produce very different educations.
For example, if a school’s aim is to give students an advantage in the job market, their curriculum should look very different than a school whose primary goal is to produce great American citizens, or another that hopes to shape social activists. The endpoint makes all the difference. The central aim of the school must guide every part of its practice, large and small.
The first four reasons why I want a classical Christian education for my children have to do with these big picture, philosophical matters. Much (though unfortunately not all) of what I have to say here is true of Christian schools more generally, not just those in the classical tradition.
There is no neutral education. What and how one teaches is determined by deeply held beliefs that permeate every part of life and influence how students are taught and of what the curriculum consists. Trying to disentangle all personal values and beliefs from education would be like trying to dam up every stream on a mountain; ultimately the water will find a way to flow downhill. The attempt to create a value-neutral education, as public education has attempted to do, is not only futile, but undesirable. As a Christian I have placed my faith in God, the God who created the earth and all its inhabitants, who walked that earth as a man, who sacrificed himself to rescue us, and who will return to make all things new. This story, this truth, should impact every square inch of life, and that certainly includes education.
This understanding of God also prompts specific views of who we are as humans: On the one hand, we are created in the image of God and are therefore magnificent beings capable of great heights. On the other hand, we are fallen and therefore wicked creatures capable of astonishing atrocities. Both are equally true and a Christian education must take both seriously. Children are precious and valuable, necessitating honor and care, and children are fallen and sinful, necessitating discipline and forgiveness. Classical Christian education starts with this essential view of who God is and who my child is, and that makes a world of difference.
The question of the meaning of life has become something of a joke in large portions of contemporary culture. It stands as the impenetrable question to which attempting an answer is the very peak of pride and futility. The Judeo-Christian tradition on the other hand has long offered a clear and specific answer to that question, which is nicely summarized in the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”
God has created us for a purpose, and I want my children’s education to help them understand and live out that purpose. A truly Christian education, both in the home and at school, starts with that end in sight. Classical Christian education is not about career training or college preparation; it is about cultivating disciples of Christ. Christ-like disciples generally make good employees, but skilled employees do not necessarily make good disciples. As C.S. Lewis wisely observed, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.” We must have our aims and priorities straight and “seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). Anything less robs our children by missing the point entirely.
Stay tuned for Part 2 and 3!