Whitefield Academy Blog
Classical Education: Preparing Adult Learners
My husband and I provided a classical Christian education for both of our children who are now grown and married with children of their own. Recently I was talking with my daughter and she mentioned she was surprised that a friend of hers had not read any “real” books in high school. By “real” she meant books such as Homer’s The Odyssey, Augustine’s Confessions or Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and by “read” she meant from cover to cover.
How vs. What
But this is the same for millions of students across the nation. Schools provide literature textbooks made up of small chunks of “real” books, illustrated with distracting pictures and photos, and fluffed with explanations and commentary. Instead of teaching students how to think, schools have become content to teach students what to think. Critical thinking skills have been replaced with easily forgotten tips and tricks for getting by.
What Does It Mean to “Be Prepared”?
Modern America’s end goal of education is to prepare a student for “real life,” but what exactly does that mean? To be accepted at a top college? Get a good job with a large salary? Raise a family? It can be, but it is really so much more! The goal of education should be to develop the whole person by crafting life-long learners. By training students in the “tools” of learning, we can equip students to pursue truth and to live in a way that glorifies the Lord, ultimately achieving a life of Godly fulfillment.
Classical education cultivates a love of learning and along with it, a fortitude for life — something that has recently been recognized as “grit.” C.S. Lewis said that hard won learning requires cultivating, meaning that learning is a process, often a pain-staking one. Life is hard. College is hard. Work, marriage, children, friendships . . . all are hard. They’re also fun and fulfilling, but those benefits grow out of the hard work. Like Lewis suggests, through memorizing facts, math sums, and vocabulary; through reading and analyzing the Great Books; and through studying history and language, classical education establishes an expectation of and an appreciation for hard work, a crucial skill for the “real world.”
Something unique to classical Christian education is the value placed on the Word and the “word.” Since the dawn of time the Word has been the foundation of civilization, whether in written or spoken form. The Lord spoke the world into existence. The Gospel of John tells us that Christ is the Word and He became flesh and dwelt among us. The Lord uses his holy, inspired and inerrant Word to communicate. Pragmatically, every person interacts with one another through both the written and the spoken word. Language allows us to communicate with each other, but it also allows for so much more. Through language we can learn from History, discover the world around us-both near and far, develop businesses, establish governments, connect with our fellow man, and, most importantly, share the Gospel of Christ. Because we know that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 9:10), classical education recognizes that true wisdom can only be gained when God’s Word is incorporated into our study of the word and the world.
But Does It Really Work?
When I heard my daughter’s comment about “real” books I cringed at first, but then, I was actually encouraged. Despite her occasional homework woes and complaints as a teenager, now as a twenty-something in the “real world,” she has recognized the value of her education, the value of learning, and the value of the hard work that it takes takes to think. Classical education helped her to build a foundation in all subjects and to take the long way around, teaching her to question and engage with information rather than to quickly accept it and move on. Classical education did what we hoped, it served as an excellent tool, instilling in her a love of learning, fortitude and contemplation.