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Evaluation of the, The Case for Christian Classical Education
In The Case for Christian Classical Education (TCCCE), Doug Wilson argues for the superiority of the classical approach to education over the modern approach, and that Christians ought to abandon government-operated public schools and enroll their children in Christian schools that take the classical approach. The book is divided into seven sections each serving as a plank in Wilson’s overall case. After reading TCCE, I have a better understanding of what a classical Christian education is and found a number of Wilson’s arguments for it to be persuasive. Typical of his other works, Wilson writes with clarity and like C.S. Lewis or Peter Kreeft, has the ability to use a turn of a phrase with great effect. I found his opening chapter addressing the pitiful state of education in government-run schools to have merit, but many of his claims were mere assertions and not arguments. I noticed this throughout the book when he addressed other issues. However, I want to cut Wilson some slack. As an author, I understand that not everything can be argued for in a book given its spatial limitations. And yet, I would have liked to have seen more support for some of the claims he made, and then quickly moved on from.
Where I thought Wilson was most effective in TCCCE was in making his case for Christian classical education. Specifically, in his arguments about the religious nature of all education (demos); the importance of practicing the paideia of God for a truly Christian education; the doctrine of the antithesis between the serpent and the seed of the woman; and the futility of trying to reform the modern governmental system of education. It would be hard for a sensitive reader to not feel the weight of Wilson’s arguments for Christian education.
Where I thought Wilson could have made his case for Christian classical education stronger was by demonstrating that for education to be Christian, it ought to be classical. As a credit to Wilson, in arguing for the importance of the classical approach in Christian education he was consistent with his presupposition about the authority of Scripture. By that I mean he attempted to show that the classical approach (the Trivium) finds its justification in Scripture. While I don’t think the Trivium is explicitly taught in Scripture (I don’t think Wilson does either) neither do I think it that is contrary to Scripture. Rather, I think that the Trivium is a wise pedagogical approach that is consistent with Scripture and corresponds with the divinely ordained stages that children naturally grow through. Therefore, Christians would be wise to utilize it as pedagogy.
Evaluation of Christian Classical Education
After reading TCCCE, I find myself both inclined toward and excited about classical Christian education. After spending years in both Christian secondary and higher education, I am familiar with the shortcomings of modern pedagogy. As Wilson vividly describes it, modern Christian education is often comparable to putting fresh condiments on a rotten meal. Doing so can make the end product more palatable, but the problem is much deeper. The meal needs to be tossed out and cooked according to a different recipe altogether.
It is clear to me that Christian classical education has great merit. It is consistently Christian in its pedagogy, seeking to submit itself and its methods to Scripture. It denies a secular / sacred distinction and sees all of life as lived for the glory of God. And it recognizes that education has been, and always will be, essentially religious regardless of popular mantras such as “value-free” and “secular” education.
I find the concept of the Trivium to be intuitively obvious and in alignment with the natural stages of growth that children progress through as they mature into adulthood. It is also no small matter that the Trivium was the pedagogy of choice throughout the history of Western civilization.
In summary, Christian classical education is based on self-consciously Christian presuppositions, pedagogically in line with the developmental stages of children, and has the benefit of being the system of education that helped create Western civilization. Consequently, I believe it is an approach eminently worthy of my time and energy in service to the Lord.