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How to Conquer Age-Segregation and Successfully Teach Students of Any Age

Leigh Bortins has recently completed her book, The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education. I look forward to reading it over the next few weeks and responding with the occasional comment here.

Already in the Introduction she makes a radical and disorienting statement that makes the book worth reading. She says, “This curriculum works for a student of any age, but that is a hard idea to digest because we think in terms of grade levels.”

Exactly. One of the many ways Darwin rules Christian schools through Dewey is the application of the industrial concept of the assembly line to education. Prior to the 20th century there were occasional schools that broke students into age groups, but I haven’t seen any evidence of schools that separated students into grades that went through the day together.

It’s an amazingly harmful practice educationally in that it undercuts any number of non-linear learning opportunities and it breaks down the society of the school. But Leigh’s point is important for the content and manner of our teaching.

The classical curriculum works for the student of any age. You don’t have to be obsessed with “age-appropriate” material. You do need to be attentive to student appropriate delivery. And you need to be attentive to the students capacity to absorb the material, which is affected by, but not governed by, age, or at least maturity.

The Lost Tools of Writing, for example, is for students of any age as long as the teacher can adapt it to the readiness of the particular student. That’s because LTW, and classical education generally, is focused on contemplating ideas, not reproducing behavioral outcomes.

Because classical education focuses on ideas, it teaches the skills and content necessary to grasp the ideas. Schools that focus on skills or content to the neglect of ideas lose the skills and content because they have no meaning without the ideas.

Put the Idea back in the heart of learning and you will find that foolish practices like age-segregating students will either give way to wiser practices or will react against them.

The trouble is that we are so accustomed to this Darwinian, Naturalistic, Industrial, anti-human approach to education that we find it to inconvenient to restore the Christian, supernatural, agrarian, humane modes of education that gave us science and industry in the first place.

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