Classical vs. Conventional Education: the Debate

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What is the purpose of schooling our children? What is the purpose of education? Is it to produce children who are “trade ready”? They finish their education and they are ready to enter into a field…perhaps as an employee? Maybe in some years they have the opportunity to move up or possibly start their own business. Or –I posit– should education mean something more?

This is where I enter the debate. I answer my own questions-should education mean something more? Yes, emphatically, yes. Education should mean a whole lot more. It should teach our children how to exit the rat race, how to fall out of the line of lemmings, how to stand up for what is right even if it means you are standing alone.

And even if you know what is right – how trained are you in speaking–are you ready to debate the courage of your convictions? Do you possess enough logical and persuasive rhetoric training to be an eloquent speaker? Are you ready to give a reason for the hope that is within you? (1 Peter 3:15) This is classical education.

The value of classical education is not that it is immediately practical. You do not graduate with a wood working diploma. But I would argue you graduate with something far greater. You gradate with a highly intellectual brain that not only can figure out woodworking (should you so choose) but anything else for that matter. You have become a free thinker. You can move in and out of society with ease yet also humble yourself as our Savior did and excel at carpentry. In addition to your trade, you readily recognize truth, after having been trained in it for all these years. You are full of wisdom and quickness of mind and spirit.

You certainly are an eloquent speaker. No one can stump you. You are trained in the arts of logic and rhetoric. You can believe something, and believe it wholly and fully and people actually listen. You are a leader.

You can move in and out of circles of influence with ease. You are cultured. You know art, you know music, you know the great writers of the world. You can quote poetry and stun the masses with its beauty. You are not a one trick pony. You are a critical, analytical thinker.

Without a doubt classical eduction, with its triumphs of learning latin and greek, can obviously benefit the lawyer and doctor. But what about a man destined to be a woodworker? Plumber? Trash collector? Let us examine the woodworker as a representative of all common labors and the advantage the classical education will have in the long run.

So let’s say graduation day comes and you have received this good, true, and beautiful education but it’s also the day you decide to fulfill your calling and become a woodworker. Your woodworker friend who was not classically educated was trained since childhood in woodworking and that is mostly all he knows. He has the advantage in that regard. He started sooner. But that is all. His advantage is limited. You quickly surpass him. It’s not just one thing but many. And here is why:

His grammar is so-so and his website reflects it. The discipline of learning and persevering difficult language and composition was never impressed on him so figuring out how to make a website thrive is a challenge. He’s not sure what keywords to use since his vocabulary is quite limited. Writing even 1000 words to put on his website page is difficult.

He doesn’t have any capital or investors to make this happen for him. Like most of us he is starting from the ground up. And perhaps he runs into hard times and he is persuaded to do something wrong for the sake of making a quick buck. The temptation is always there- especially when times are tight.

You, however, have been trained differently. You have been trained since birth in what is good, true, and beautiful. You have learned goodness and truth through the Bible as well as countless examples in exemplary literature which so deeply impressed upon you the folly and deceit of sin. So you are not tempted to ruin your name or do anything to create distrust in your clientele and investors – you value your integrity too much. And it is your integrity that will carry you through to success.

You are able to make a website, full of keyword rich words, at length, because you were trained in the “progymnasmata” and are an incredibly skilled and persuasive writer. You start to accrue sales due to your hunger for knowledge and diligence in never quitting. After all, you didn’t quit latin and received the fruit of translating Ceasar’s Gallic wars, you persevered Greek and can now read the Bible in it’s original language—how is this really any different?

Your excellent writing has attracted the attention of high profile, learned investors. When you get coffee together the investor is so impressed by your ability to communicate. This is no country bumpkin who might be a financial risk– you impress him with your culture–this is a learned and serious individual–someone who has been classically trained in the same way as Copernicus, Galileo, Shakespeare, Thomas Jefferson, CS Lewis, and JK Rowling (just to name a few). They were a success and by golly you must be too. This is working in the back of the investor’s mind. He doesn’t consciously realize it – but it was his upbringing too – so he is partial to you. Without realizing it he senses your similar educational experience and the commonalities comfort and assure him. You are not too unlike him. He is just further along. He relates to you on an innate level and you win over the investor.

And this isn’t all you do. Woodworking was just your start. In fact, in time, it becomes only one of your many businesses. You consume books so voraciously (a throwback to your youth–you have read so many Dickens, Homer….Virgil.…a few self help book are like childsplay to you) that you have encompassed a broad spectrum of skills in no time at all. From the examples you have learned of the past presidents and Caesars that you have studied, leading a multi-million dollar company is no big deal. This is what you have been trained for: For the least of things and for the greatest of things. You have been trained for it all.

There is no limits with a classical education because it teaches you not WHAT to think but how to think. It is the essence of a free thinking republic. Our current problems in this country stem from a lack of wisdom. And as we learn in the Bible, “The FEAR of the LORD is the beginning wisdom.” Psalm 111:10

God Is GOOD: Good and upright is the Lord. Psalm 25:8

God i s TRUTH: He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he. Deuteronomy 32:4

God is BEAUTIFUL: Psalm 27:4 “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.”

All Christian classical education begins and ends with the Lord and His perfect inspired Word. It is the ROCK that we build our foundation on. Throughout history there are others who have obtained truth. We read it. Truth originates with God, so if we find that at times Aristotle has found truth – we can learn from it – truth is truth – blessed be the NAME of the LORD the author of all TRUTH.

Others have found beauty. How we admire the beautiful art of painters in the past. It inspires us and at times–it moves us. They did not create beauty. Beauty is a standard that we have learned from God. For God is beautiful. Blessed be the NAME of the LORD the author of all beauty.

And yet still others have modeled what is GOOD. Odysseus knew what was good. He did not know God and he was not the creator of “good” but we can be inspired by his goodness, courage, faith, and hope. We are not too unlike him. We are not too unlike Jane Eyre who chooses to honor God and uphold what is good rather than give in to her fleshly desires for wealth and security. We are inspired by their goodness and encouraged that we also can seek after what is good. With God’s help, we can attain goodness, and even honor and purity. With Christ, we can do all things! God is good. All the time God is good. Blessed be the name of the Lord, the author of all goodness.

This is how a classical eduction can benefit a simple woodworker. It is not in the benefit of immediate money. But it is in the benefit of the mind. For a well trained mind has no limits. The future holds no disadvantage nor set back. All is possible with the man whose mind has been set free. Blessed be the name of the Lord now and forevermore. Amen.

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