The Hows & Whys of Classical Christian Education

Classical Christian education assumes that life has a purpose, and that there are such things as right and wrong. Man's life is ordered by God who has revealed what is true and what is false, what is wise and what is unwise, and what will bring joy and what will bring sorrow. It teaches that humanity has a narrative with a problem, a climax, and a redemptive resolution, and that we are each actors in that story. In other words, classical Christian education teaches the hows of the world -- the events, the formulas, the processes, the content -- but it also undergirds them with meaning, with the fundamental whys. It provides meaning for each subject, and for each of our lives. It connects the otherwise disconnected particulars with an ultimate Universal. 

Secular education, including classical charter schools, do not assume any of this, beyond adopting a series of moral guidelines unmoored from any objective standard. Students are taught how the world works, but they cannot give an ultimate accounting for why it should work that way, or why various historical and cultural trends are good or bad. Secular education, with many merits in terms of knowledge acquisition, ultimately trains students to think from a utilitarian and self-serving basis: What is right must be what works best for the most people, or what harms the least number of people, at any given time. Or, what is right must be what I personally feel to be best, or what I identify with most. 

Like many other methods, classical education is excellent at teaching how and what, but students crave more. Is the quadratic formula true because numbers, and a quantifiable natural world, happen to still behave in a consistent way through time and chance? Or is it a formula that reveals the mind, and therefore the deeper purposes, of a Designer? Did Rome fall because it was no longer a relevant player on the world stage of the early Common Era, or because its ideas, and therefore its actions, had moral consequences? Are the world's famous people, such as Queen Boudica, Jeffrey Dahmer, Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, Harvey Weinstein, Bonnie & Clyde, King David, Eminem, or Donald Trump, models for how we should each live or not live -- or are they each equally good humans exercising their basic human right of self-identity? Students will ask these things, they will feel them, they will crave to know why. Classical Christian education gives them an ultimate reference-point for truth in Christ.

Humans need knowledge, but they yearn for purpose and meaning.  Classical Christian education says, "Look, here is a beautiful world. Learn about it!" Then, like many secular schools, it says, "Be a good citizen in this world, and love your neighbor." But finally, unlike those schools, it says, "Love your neighbor, and the world, because Christ is the incarnation of Truth who first loved you, and who will always love you."