Classical Education

What is Classical Education and where did it come from?

According to Wikipedia:

The classical education movement or renewal advocates for a return to a traditional education based on the liberal arts (including the natural sciences), the canons of classical literature, the fine arts, and the history of civilization. It focuses on human formation and paideia with an early emphasis on music, gymnastics, recitation, imitation, and grammar.

In a nutshell, the idea is to recover what has been lost by going back to the old ways; specifically, to what is considered the classical period of history, when the Greeks and Romans ruled the world.

All of this sounds good and certainly fits into what we have grown to understand as education. It includes reading great books and thinkers, learning the classical languages of Latin and Greek, the appreciation and participation in the arts, and the harnessing of the body’s potential.

A lot of devout believers are enamored with classical education, and there is great merit to many parts of it. However, there are also great areas of concern.

First of all, if we are looking to recover what has been lost, we need to look farther and in a different direction. As with all things, God’s original intent needs to be considered, and we will discover this in His word. We will see it both spelled out directly and lived out in the lives of those persons God mentions.

We are all Greeks.

In the West we have all been “Hellenized.” Hellenization is something that began during the time of Alexander the Great. As a result of his conquest of the known world, Greek thought (Greece is Hellas in the Greek language) made its way throughout the civilization of the West. It eventually overtook even the Jews, and also made its way into the Christian church.

What is Greek thought?

At the foundation of Greek thought is humanism. Basically, humanism asserts that man, not God, is the measure of all things. This means man can use his own intellect to ascertain truth, and that man’s thinking determines whether God is right or wrong.

We see this everywhere in our culture, don’t we? Humanism has led to relativism, which has led to an abandonment of absolute truth, or any truth at all. I recently watched a white, American man claim he was a Pakistani woman in a televised political forum, and no one was allowed to point out this obvious lie.

Another foundational Greek premise is that of “dualism.” Dualism in its most basic form is that everything spiritual is good and everything physical is bad (this is also the basis for the heresy of Gnosticism). This is everywhere, and we often live by it without realizing it. For instance, we venerate spiritual professions such as pastors and praise leaders, but we consider professions such as engineers and airline pilots as “necessary” but not important for the Kingdom of God.

when we embark on a quest to find the best education, we naturally gravitate to that with which we are most familiar.

We are immersed in a Hellenized world. Our schools are set up in a dualistic fashion; rarely is there even a head-nod to the spiritual realities. We have compartments for the “real world,” and compartments for the “spiritual” or religious world, but they never touch each other. A person is considered worthwhile if they are “smart.” We seldom even consider the word “wise” as a positive designation in our circles of influence.

So, when we look to the “old ways,” we just go back to an earlier form of the same, only more rigorously.

But there is a different way.

This was completely foreign to me at first. I actually had a hard time wrapping my cerebrum around it for a long time. Here’s the idea:

Become a Hebrew, not a Greek.

The Moore Academy puts it like this:

The Greek Teaching Method focuses on CONTENT

Hebrew teaching method focuses on CONTEXT

Greek Method teaching seeks to shape a student’s mind

Hebrew method teaching seeks to shape a student’s heart

Students under the Greek method learn what the teacher KNOWS

Students under the Hebrew method pattern themselves after what their teacher IS

Greek Method teaching is Efficiency driven

Hebrew Method teaching is Relationship driven

I actually had to create a chart so I could understand it better:

I believe the reason we are all drawn to the Charlotte Mason method is because she found a way of expressing the Hebrew ideals of education in a practicable manner. We read that she considered children “persons” who were created in the image of God and had responsibilities to God and man on that basis, and she relied on methods that allow for the inculcating of ideas via relationships.

Can a Jesus-loving, Bible-believing Christian teach their children according to Classical Education and be true to their faith?

Absolutely, but with caution. While we are learning our Latin verbs and delving into the Battle of Marathon, let us be careful to look at it all through the lens of the pilgrims and sojourners we are. While we study the poets, playwrights, and philosophers, may Christ always be King and the Father’s intentions always be foremost in our minds.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.

Proverbs 14:12

For more on this, here is a podcast I recently recorded, and it includes reference to my free Ancient Greece Study Packet:

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Classical Education

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