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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Book Review - Classical Christian Education

The book, The Case For Classical Christian Education is written by Douglas Wilson. He is one of my favorite authors and has written several books on the home all of which I have found to be very insightful. While I do not agree with all of his theology I have found that he is very thought-provoking in many areas of practical living. This book is 231 pages long and easy to read. He is a very interesting and knowledgeable writer. I read it over our recent vacation, along with some other things.

My reading of this book is the result of some things I was exposed to at the recent homeschool book fair we recently attended in Houston. I attended a couple of workshops on subjects, that come to find out, are a major part of classical education. Consequently my interest was stirred, so I began to do a little research and reading, on the Internet and otherwise. One book that seems to be a classic dealing with classical education is The Well-Trained Mind by I believe her name is Bauer???? I found the book but it was a little expensive for my present level of interest and a bit long. When I discovered that Wilson had written a book (actually a couple of books) on the subject I knew I could probably get a pretty good introduction to the concept of a Classical Christian Education.

The two workshops that I attended that got me to thinking were on Logic and Rhetoric. Before the weekend had come to an end I had come to understand that Classical Education is established on three basic pillars, the grammar stage, the logic stage, and the rhetoric stage.

If I understand correctly the grammar stage is the memorization of facts and roughly corresponds to the elementary age group. The logic stage is the orderly arrangement of the memorized facts and corresponds roughly to the junior high level. The rhetoric stage is the development of the ability to present the orderly arrangement of the facts (in both speaking and writing) with beauty and virtue and corresponds roughly to the high school years. This made a lot of sense to me.

Another element of classical education that seemed to be emphasized was the study of Latin and to a lesser degree Greek. Again, after listening and hearing the reasons the study of Latin made good sense.

While three of our six children have finished their education and one of them has only a year left, and another has only three years left and for the most part I am happy with the results I still want to think about the process of education and what is the most likely to produce believers who are both holy and smart! One guy at the homeschool book fair said, "We don't have to choose between holy or smart, we should aim for both."

I would be the first to admit that homeschooling can easily deteriorate into noschooling. This is not a good thing. We want to raise kids who love God and are able to articulate that love for God in a compelling fashion. Consequently academics cannot be abandoned.

As expected I found Douglas Wilson's book to be very informative and interesting. My mind is churning. He writes the book from the standpoint of a Classical Christian academy which they have at the church where he ministers. Nevertheless the principles can be applied to the homeschool setting.

The following is just a few of the things I highlighted in the book.

"As a whole, the government school system has said yet to drugs, and students by the thousands found themselves on Ritalin, Prozac, Luvox, Paxil, or other related drugs."

"Our civil disintegration in the schools is the clear result of two principle factors: Our children are under-disciplined and over medicated."

"But we do not need gun control, but self control."

"Many hours of slack-jaw entertainment cannot be good for the cultivation of academic rigor."

". . . .the fundamental problem of parental abdication remains."

"Education is fundamentally religious."

"The one type of person who cannot be educated appears to be the American education professional."

"The government schools will stop what they are doing when the American taxpayer stops giving them raises for doing it."

Speaking of those who founded our nation he writes, "They established a constitutional republic, not a democracy, and it is a sign of our current ignorance that we do not even know the difference between the two."

"The Christian faith does very poorly as mere decorative material."

"A citizenry may be taxed in order to fund those activities that God requires of the civil magistrate, but secular education is not one of those activities."

"Excellence in education is the result of vision, hard work, parental love, and a clear sense of mission."

". . . . we will not tailor our curriculum to suit the student; rather, we educate the student so that he conforms to, and masters, the curriculum."

"Christian parents who have abdicated responsibility for their children to the government school are guilty of sinful negligence."

"Stephen Perks makes the point well: 'Either we educate our children in terms of a Christian culture, or we hand them over to be educated by humanists as pagans.'"

"The mark of such an education is confident humility."

"Although they would never state is so badly, they appear to have quietly translated the Great Commission into something like, 'Therefore go unto all nation, and do your best to fit right in, supplementing their perspective with your perspective.'"

"Before we can win the children of the world we have to stop losing our children to that world."

"Every culture has blasphemy laws. . . . In our pluralistic times, these blasphemy laws are called 'hate crimes' legislation, among other euphemisms, but they are really religious protections to keep the reigning god, demos, from being blasphemed."

"Schools that effectively teach our children to live as Christians (in all humility) will be schools that are accused of encouraging arrogance."

"For example we have gotten to the point where a preacher can spend the entire sermon talking about himself and his own struggles, and everyone says that he is being open, honest, transparent, and humble. Another man, who proclaims the truth in a way that indicates something would be true had he never been born is dismissed as an arrogant man."

"The right of one person to a living wage is a demand place upon another person to pay it, and the assumed right of an intrusive government to enforce it."

"In the world created by God, inequities are not removable."

"In actual fact, when liberty is granted, the first thing to disappear is equality of station. And if equality is mandated, then it will be at the coast of liberty."

"The purpose of an open mind . . . is the same as the purpose of an open mouth - it is meant to close on something."

"Everything is connected."

"Christian colleges are a major part of our problem."

"We do not need any more born-again Christian souls thinking pagan thoughts, locked away inside pagan bodies, jobs, hands, clothes, cars, and houses."

"God is not only a larger version of us, only bigger and smarter."

"God's word is affirmed in theory but ignored in practice."

"And because the world around us resembles a particularly persistent and thick fog, some of it gets in."

"Christian students in government schools come to share the worldview of their teachers - not the worldview of their families or their churches. Christian students in the average, generic Christian school fare little better."

"We should never tire of repeating that religious claims are total."

"Education is for life."

In reference to the grammar state of a classical education he writes, "math has a grammar . . . . addition tables and subtraction tables. In geography the grammar would be rivers, towns, continents, and mountain ranges. The grammar of history would be timelines, names, dates, and battles."

In reference to the dialectic or logic stage he writes, "After a child has memorized piles of data, he or she must learn how to sort them out."

In reference to the rhetoric stage he writes, "The study of rhetoric, according to Quintilian, concerns the art of a good man speaking well. Polish without substance is sophistry. Substance without polish is . . . well, actually we don't know what it is because nobody pays any attention to it."

". . . all Christian educators must know that clear thinking is a moral issue. Blurry thinking is one of the great sins of the age."

"Learning to distinguish rightly, learning to evaluate, is the meaning of holiness."

"The reason we have so many 'undisciplined' kids trying so hard to be 'cool' is not because they are slovenly or lazy. They are trying to 'present' but have not been taught how to do so. The result is various, disheveled 'rhetorics': 'Dude, like I was totally there.'"

"At the crossroads of life, it appears that we always have to give a reason for going right instead of left. If we drop our dress code requirements, virtually no one wants to know why? But if we tighten those same requirements, we had better have all our reasons lined up in a row. Few have to give a reason for lowering the bar. Reasons are always necessary for raising it."

"The study of Latin promotes mental discipline; it encourages literary appreciation; it leads to a mastery of English; it provides a solid foundation for preparation for Christian ministry."

"Once the standards start to slip, they slide across the board, culture-wide, and it becomes increasingly difficult for anyone to maintain the higher standards.
(this is true in any area)

"The natural tendency is always down."

"The Christian ministry is not a place for intellectual slackness."

"Given a sharp and eager mind, eloquence is picked up more readily by those who read and listen to the words of the eloquent than by those who follow the rules of eloquence."

"Refusal to discipline in a classroom setting is a refusal to protect the process of learning."

"The entertainment model of education wants the students to enjoy themselves; the older classical model wants students to be disciplined so that they come to enjoy their work."

"The problem of metamorphing is why Veggie Tales are so objectionable. King David was not a turnip, or whatever it is they have him as. The loss sustained by Christian kids who are told this stuff is incalculable. If kids learn more about the meaning of true kingship from Aragorn than they do from a story about Solomon, something is seriously distorted. But modern evangelicals are terminally irreverent."

"When truths are badly adorned, or unadorned, the results are fatal."

"Teachers must be themselves teachable."

"What might be called the 'casual imperative' has established itself in the American mind as the ultimate desideratum. Whatever else you do in the morning when you dress, make sure you make yourself comfortable."

"Everything is to be brought into submission to the Lord Jesus Christ, and every thought is to be made captive, every collar obedient, and every pair of slacks honoring to him."

"Modern evangelicals like to assume that their lives accord with Scripture, and so they often assert that Scripture says nothing about what kind of clothes we are to wear. But this idea is suspended on nothing but people's own desires. The Bible says a great deal about clothing."

"But the triad we want to urge in classical Christian education is truth, goodness, and beauty."

"The wearing of clothes that do not fit, does not flatter, and does not proclaim the lordship of Christ is commonplace, and unbelievers will frankly acknowledge that this is the statement they are trying to make through their appearance."

"But modern evangelical Christians, who have an eagle eye when it comes to imitating anything the world does, are blind to why the world is doing it."

"Imitators of the world's culture from within the church know everything about the world's culture - except what it means."

"The desire to fit in or to be thought cool is not a new phenomenon. The Bible calls it worldliness."

"True teaching, then, is not that which gives knowledge, but that which stimulates pupils to gain it."

"A homeschool is more like to suffer the temptation of allowing an undisciplined, nonacademic atmosphere to take over - and so on."

". . . one of the fundamental duties of all educators is to maintain a keen sense of the antithesis between right and wrong, good and evil."

Book rating ****
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