Why I Want a Classical Christian Education for My Children, Part 2

Part 2: The Big Picture Continued 

In Part 1 of this series, I laid out the sacred responsibility of parents in educating their children and discussed how essential the assumptions and aims of an education are to its outcomes. Next, I gave the first two reasons why I want a classical Christian education for my children. This second entry will continue with two more big-picture reasons.

3. Classical Christian education cultivates joy and wonder in students.
“To learn gives the liveliest pleasure.” - Aristotle, "Poetics"

When someone goes to a fast-food restaurant, they order, pay, and expect to receive the food they requested. Interactions between customer and staff are cordial at best, but both parties are there for transactional purposes (to get food or a paycheck). Excluding some kind of divine appointment, there is unlikely to be anything memorable or meaningful about the experience.

In a consumeristic society, it is not surprising that people start to look at education through this same lens: “I pay tuition, you teach me, I regurgitate answers, you give me a grade, I earn a diploma, end of education.” This attitude can be seen even in the practices and language of well-meaning educators. This type of hoop-jumping philosophy is at work when a teacher is more concerned about making their test “objective” than effective, or spends more time talking with students about grades than about what they are learning. In students, this transactional mindset is most obvious in the cheating that is rampant in American schools; many students value getting a certain grade more than actually learning and, tragically, more than their own integrity.

There are no quick and easy solutions to transforming such a pervasive and broken view of education, but the first step is to fight the fight. The classical Christian education movement has not surrendered to the cultural tide. Rather, proponents have recognized that God made learning intrinsically good and enjoyable. That learning is a natural human desire is clear to anyone who has listened to the endless questions that toddlers ask. We are wired with the desire to understand the wondrous world that God created. Wonder is our natural state, apathy and boredom are deviations from that norm. As such, classical Christian education seeks to nurture that natural sense of wonder in students, not through the bait and switch, spoonful-of-sugar methods of edu-tainment, but through highlighting that which is marvelous or praise-worthy in the topic itself, letting students experience those things first-hand. Education need not be drudgery for the one who wishes to learn.

4. Classical Christian education takes human desire seriously.
“There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.” - David Foster Wallace, "This is Water"

Flowing from an anthropology that recognizes that humans are made in the image of God, classical Christian education is holistic both in the sense that it brings unity to the curriculum (more on that later) and that it seeks to bring harmony to the soul. Most varieties of education take seriously that humans are thinking beings, but too often the affections are ignored (for a penetrating diagnosis of this problem read James K.A. Smith, "You are What You Love").

We are emotional beings, worshipping beings, and just as we can have right or wrong ideas, we can have right or wrong feelings. Like wrong thoughts, wrong feelings can be corrected, not with the flip of a switch, but with patient pruning and cultivation through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Contrarily, our culture tells us that feelings matter and then in a great irony encourages us to let them grow unchecked until we are left with a weedy, unruly mess. Feelings do matter and that is exactly why we must refine them. God gave us our emotions not to rule over us but to come into alignment with His heart so that we love what He loves and hate what He hates. We all need our feelings to be attuned to that which is good, true, and beautiful. If we don’t reach our children at the level of affections all else is lost.


Stay tuned for Part 3!