A Classical Education
Classical education is a rich, historically rooted educational philosophy and method of instruction that dominated educational practice for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks referred to education as paideia, the transmission of the entire culture (enculturation). It’s the same word we translate as discipline found in Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline (paideia / enculturation) and instruction of the Lord.” Paideia in both ancient Greek and Hebrew cultures related to the cultivation of not only the mind but the morals (the soul) and the body. The purpose of education was to bring about the fullness of one’s humanity by teaching wisdom and virtue in order to come to Truth, to be able to see and replicate Beauty, and to live Goodness. Plato wrote that education should train the affections so that the student “praises and rejoices over and receives into his soul the good, and becomes noble and good, [and] . . . justly blame[s] and hate[s] the bad.” (Plato, Republic). Saint Augustine called this “rightly ordering our affections.” Education, then, was (and is to us at Faith Christian Academy) formative rather than being chiefly informative.
It was a classical, Liberal Arts education that formed the most intellectual and influential authors, statesmen, and thinkers of the West and allowed them to enter into the Great Conversation and examine the highest thoughts of man: What is justice, God, honor, number, origins, love, truth, democracy and so on.
Under the influence of men like Charles Darwin, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and John Dewey, however, educational philosophy shifted from being moral to being utilitarian. The question Who will I be? and What’s worthy of my love? became What will I be? and What’s worth my time? as education took on the task of training workers rather than affections. The child was no longer seen as a person to be nurtured, but as a future worker to be trained. Thus, the integration of thought was disintegrated to individual subjects and those subjects having ever-changing relevance to the rising worker’s need.
At Faith Christian Academy, we reject the idea that the highest aim of your child is what college he will attend or how much money he will someday make. We understand that every education is a moral education, so we purposefully educate in light of God’s Word, His intention for us, and His love for the world. Our hope is to send out graduates who love the Lord with all their heart and soul and mind and strength and who habitually serve those around them as an expression of that love, no matter what career they choose.
|Modern Education||Classical Education|
|The child is a cosmic accident||The child is created in God’s image|
|Molds behavior by treats and rewards||The child learns to face his shortcomings|
|Seeks to make the child happy||Shapes rightly ordered affections|
|The teacher avoids moral questions||The teacher is the virtuous role model|
|Adjusts for ease||Holds a high standard|
|Exalts what can be done||Does what ought to be done|
|Uses pop-culture to engage “fun”||Uses stories to develop moral imagination|
|Uses ever-changing newest techniques||Relies on what history has proven|
|Relies on opinions found in textbooks||Reads primary sources|
|The teacher tells||The teacher asks|
|Uses multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank assignments and tests||Utilizes informed dialogue or writing about ideas|
|The child’s opinions, unrefined abilities, and self-determined interests are unquestioned||Brings students “up” in knowledge, tastes, and abilities|
|The child creates||Students rethink or imitate the greatest thinkers and artists first|
|Learning is measurable||Learning is formative|
|Ultimately aims for college, career, money, pride, and self-fulfillment||Aims to form “Good men speaking well.”|
The Liberal Arts
The word liberal is derived from the Latin word for free (i.e., liberty) and carried with it the idea of being honorable, bountiful, and noble. The liberal arts in the ancient world were those disciplines considered essential for the education of a free person, one who would govern himself and be a wise statesman. Becoming a “liberal artist” meant that students began as apprentices learning by imitation before they were able to create on their own. A liberal arts education sets before its students historic masters of language, thought, reason, morality, art, and music as those worth imitating.
These liberal arts were further developed and divided into the Trivium (the language arts) and the Quadrivium (the mathematical arts) during the Middle Ages. The Trivium, or three paths of grammar, logic, and rhetoric, focus on learning to understand and use language effectively. Thus, a liberal arts education studies language by learning handwriting, phonics, spelling and its rules, grammar, vocabulary, reading, Latin, composition, formal logic, and formal rhetoric.
The Quadrivium, or the four paths, is comprised of the mathematical arts of arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy, or upper-level math and science. Thus, a traditional education in the Quadrivium studied number and its relation to space (geometry), time (music), and a combination of the three (astronomy).
Students emerge from a liberal arts education as those able to read and understand the arguments or “conversations” found in difficult texts, able to examine themselves and thoughts presented to them using logic, able to construct an argument founded in truth and goodness to defend or persuade, and able to understand the language of mathematics and appreciate its innate beauty.
“The liberal arts are not merely indispensable, they are unavoidable. Nobody can decide for himself whether he is going to be a human being. The only question open to him is whether he will be an ignorant, undeveloped one or one that has sought to reach the highest point he is capable of attaining. The question, in short, is whether he will be a poor liberal artist or a good one.”
– Mortimer Adler