Why Classical Education?
For education to be effective, it must go beyond conveying fact. Truly effective education cultivates thinking and articulate students who are able to develop facts into arguments and convey those arguments clearly and persuasively. Rigorous academic standards, a dedication to order and discipline, and a focus on key, lost subjects is fueling the rapid growth of the nation’s classical schools.
There is no greater task for education than to teach students how to learn. The influence of progressive teaching methods and the oversimplification of textbooks make it difficult for students to acquire the mental discipline that traditional instruction methods once cultivated. The classical method develops independent learning skills on the foundation of language, logic, and tangible fact. The classical difference is clear when students are taken beyond conventionally taught subjects and asked to apply their knowledge through logic and clear expression.
In 1947, Dorothy Sayers, a pioneer in the return to classical education, observed, “although we often succeed in teaching our pupils ‘subjects,’ we fail lamentably on the whole in teaching them how to think.” Beyond subject matter, classical education develops those skills that are essential in higher education and throughout life – independent scholarship, critical thinking, logical analysis, and a love for learning.
We hope you agree that this movement back to and beyond classical education develops timeless skills that are as important in today’s rapidly changing world as they were to our founding fathers.
A Love For Learning
Occasionally, parents who are interested in classical education express concern that it will be too difficult or too demanding for their children. Disciplining and challenging students is certainly part of the classical method. However, we believe that education is inherently enjoyable for children. The classical method is based on the philosophy that students should be encouraged to do what they naturally enjoy during particular phases of their life.
In Dorothy Sayers’ essay “The Lost Tools of Learning,” she promotes teaching in ways which complement children’s natural behavior. For example, young children in grammar school are very adept at memorizing. They enjoy repeating songs, rhymes, and chants to the extent that they often make up their own. In classical education, the “Grammar” phase corresponds with this tendency by focusing on the teaching of facts. During the junior high years, children often become prone to question and argue. Classical education leverages this tendency by teaching students how to argue well based on the facts they have learned. We call this the “Logic” phase. During the high school years, students’ interests shift from internal concerns to the external. Teenagers become concerned with how others perceive them. This stage fits well into the “Rhetoric” phase of classical education, where students are taught to convey their thoughts so that they are well received and understood by others. The education culminates with the debate and defense of a senior thesis.
The classical method not only cuts with the grain, but it develops a true sense of accomplishment in students. Many educators are artificially positive and soften grading scales in an effort to bolster their students’ self-esteem. We believe that a sense of self-worth comes from accomplishment. The student who excels after working hard achieves a greater sense of accomplishment than one who is given the grade. By holding students to an objective standard, they gain a true understanding of their abilities. Where self-esteem offers an artificial appreciation, classical education provides a realistic and true estimation of a child’s ability. Students who work hard to achieve a C based on accomplishment are more satisfied than a class of students who all receive A’s and B’s.
Finally, we believe that learning, hard work, and fun are not mutually exclusive. Learning should be a joyful endeavor – one that presents a challenge. A visit to Grace Lutheran School quickly demonstrates the delight of students who love to learn. Learning is exciting, especially for children. In our experience, children who transfer from a conventional classroom to a classical classroom usually develop an increased appreciation for education and for the pursuit of knowledge.
Latin and the New Millennium
The most frequently questioned piece of classical education is its use of Latin. Why do students in the Information Age need something so arcane as Latin? Considering the number of quality schools that for centuries taught Latin as an integral part of any good academic training, the instruction in Latin should need no defense. However, like many traditions lost in the name of progressive” education, Latin’s advantages have been neglected and forgotten by recent generations. Latin was widely taught even in American high schools as late as the 1940′s. It was considered necessary to the fundamental understanding of English, the history and writings of Western Civilization, and the understanding of Romance languages.
Grace Lutheran School teaches Latin for two major reasons:
- Latin is a language that lives on today in almost all major Western languages, including English. Over 50 percent of English vocabulary comes from Latin. Training in Latin not only gives the student a better understanding of the roots of English vocabulary, it also lays the foundation for learning other Latin-based languages.
- Learning the grammar of Latin reinforces the student’s understanding of the reasons for, and the use of, the parts of speech being taught in our traditional English classwork (e.g., plurals, nouns, verbs, prepositions, direct objects, tenses).
The “Christian” in Classical Education
One frequent question we hear from parents is “what about a Bible class?” Some parents fear that the classical method will overshadow the importance of Christianity in their child’s education. Classical and Christian schools understand that a Bible class is not enough. Yes, most classical and Christian schools have Bible classes. However, the real power is in teaching ALL subjects from the perspective of the Christian worldview.
Classically educated students will not distinguish between God’s creation and science; between God’s order and mathematics; or between Church history and world history. Throughout the curriculum, an inseparable association exists between subject-matter and spiritual matters. Today, this association is only possible through private Christian education, as government schools have become increasingly unable to present the complete picture, including the spiritual viewpoint.
Conventional education operates on the philosophy that education is neutral – that it merely conveys fact and that facts do not require a spiritual context. We believe that facts, whether scientific, mathematical, historical, or otherwise, can only represent truth if they are taught in the context of a Christian worldview. There is no neutrality. For this reason, we found our classical curriculum on biblical truth to provide an education that is pervasively Christian. The classical method’s Christian worldview is more than a Bible class. It shows the natural world and its history through the lens of God’s sovereign will and decree.
The “Politically Incorrect”
In the past 50 years, the academic study of Western Civilization has taken quite a turn. A fundamental belief of classical educators is that studying Western Civilization, with its triumphs and its failures, must be central to education. For the Christian, Western Civilization teaches us much about our origins and our theology. Our origins must be studied if we are to understand what makes us who we are and what factors will influence our future. Most theological matters have been decided within the backdrop of Western Civilization. Without a knowledge of our history, we are left to re-experience age-old heresies. From economic systems to mathematics to music, Western Civilization provides a rich context in which to build knowledge and wisdom. History offers us much if we will only make the effort to learn its lessons.
Setting the Highest Standards
Grace Lutheran School is committed to the premise that students will work harder to meet a higher standard. A structured environment, including uniform dress, contributes to the order and discipline expected in the classroom.