What is Classical Christian Education?

It seems that every few years a new statistic is released that shows we are in a race to bottom of American education. Then, like clockwork, new reforms are proposed by politicians and education "experts" to "fix" education once and for all with new curriculum and better school buildings.

Every year we break a new record for education spending, but we seem to get less and less for our money. We demand more testing, but are appalled when we see how low the standards for "basic skills" have become. Yet, there are exceptions to this rule.

Across America, there are schools getting it right. They are not "reforming." They are restoring excellence in education. They are doing so by restoring traditional classical forms of education. Instead of following the "latest and greatest education" technique, these schools are looking to the past and finding something extraordinary-the best that has been thought, written, or spoken.

Classical schools are discovering that the key to our future-our children's education-lies in our past.

These classical schools are looking to the education that trained minds as diverse and gifted as Einstein, Jefferson, Bach, Newton, Luther, Augustine, Cicero, and Aristotle. Thousands of years separate these great minds and they would no doubt disagree on almost everything. Yet, their education was surprisingly similar.

They read the same works of literature. They learned to master the language arts and mathematics in the same way. The classical languages (Latin or Greek) were central to their education. History was not simply the memorization of unconnected facts, but the source of great moral instruction. They read the best that had been thought, written, or spoken and were taught to think, write, and speak in same way.

Recalling his schooling in these liberal arts, Thomas Jefferson wrote:

I thank on my knees Him who directed my early education, for having put into my possession this rich source of delight [classical education]; and I would not exchange it for anything which I could then have acquired, and have not since acquired.

Will our children say the same thing about us? Martin Luther, describing the sort of education he longed to give his children declared:

Speaking for myself, if I had children and could achieve my purpose, they would have to study not only the languages and history but also singing, music and all the branches of mathematics. For what is all this but mere child's play which the Greeks in former times trained their children, and which certainly developed them into men and women of wondrous ability, skilled in every pursuit. How do I regret now that I did not read more poets and historians and that no one taught me them.

Jefferson and Luther knew that classical education moves children beyond mere basic skills. Instead, they are prepared to meet a standard of excellence in language arts, mathematics, science, history, aesthetics, and literature. Wisdom, virtue, and eloquence, not mere "basic skills," have been the hallmarks of classical education for two thousand years. Our families, workplaces, churches, and communities need men and women with these qualities more than ever before.

Education of the Mind and Soul

But, our children require more than an education of the mind. We must also educate the soul.

Another student of classical education, St. Paul of Tarsus, wrote that parents must bring their children up "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." Ephesians 6:4.

Centuries before Paul (or even Plato) wise King Solomon advised, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." Proverbs 22:6.

Just as the mind cannot be separated from the soul, both Paul and Solomon knew that the sacred cannot be separated from the secular in education. Even the Greek philosopher Plato would have agreed.

He instructed teachers to:

"impress upon [the student] that this just, and that unjust, one thing noble, another base, one holy, another unholy, and that his [duty] is to do this, and not do that." The sacred and the secular form and support one another. Indeed, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." Proverbs 9:10.

At Our Savior Lutheran School the classical and Christian teachings work together to form, or cultivate, a student's mind and soul. We are concerned with more than the next academic level and future career. We teach the whole person. Christ's admonition to be the "salt of the earth" and the "light of the world" is not a call for mediocrity. It is a call for leadership. As parents and teachers, we have the responsibility to raise up the next generation of leaders. Our Savior is restoring this classical Christian model of education that forms eloquent confessors of the Christian faith and wise leaders in our community.

Classical Christian education is the inheritance our children deserve. How can we fail to pass it on?