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A Bloody Mess

Christian classical education is, to our age, a new wine being poured into old wine skins.

Christian classical education is a different kind of thing than conventional, especially progressive, education. When Christian classical schools imitate the industrial model in their classrooms, pedagogy, curriculum, and governance, they undercut their potential.

Two examples come readily to mind. First, industrial education (i.e. the conventional school) has replaced an apprenticeship mindset with certification. In other words, education by its nature is personal, involves the handing on of a tradition, and focuses on mastery of an art.

However, conventional education functions like a factory or a laboratory. The work of the teacher is so impersonal that she could be fired for touching a student. The teacher is trained in “theories” that begin with the denial of human nature and is taught not to look backward to the vast expanse of real human action but to look forward into the vast emptiness of the educator’s fantasy.

The teacher’s college is torn between its desire to create a new world of denatured graduates who enact their social theories and its obligation to produce students who can score well on a standardized test.

The goal is a certificate for the teacher so the school can be accredited so the student can get a diploma.

In short, conventional education is the realm of illusion. And no wonder, since the philosophers who gave us conventional education don’t believe reality can be known any way.

Thus the truly anti-human ideas of the early 20th century educators have assumed extensive influence over the souls of our entire culture and they have been able to do so because they created wineskins intended to hold their wine. They restructured education, or, as they still say, they “reformed” it.

The one room school house, for example, was replaced with the centralized mega-school. The age-integrated school was so thoroughly replaced with the age-segregated school that few people now can imagine how a teacher could succeed in the one-room school house.

Teaching methods replaced teaching and teachers became obsessed with the latest “research based” techniques, all of which have been developed and justified on the assumption that industrial management approaches are suited to the school – above all, perhaps, the assumption that “what gets measured gets done.”

The school has become an assembly line in which specialists use the most efficient techniques to construct a student, piece by piece, 50 minutes at a time in the upper school, with bells telling the product when to move to the next station.

It is, in short, the form of modern education that destroys the child’s soul – even more than the content, little of which they remember anyway.

Any truly penetrating and lasting education reform must, therefore, reject the old wineskins that are the form of this disaster called American education.

We must not any longer sell our students souls to the factory model of assembly and management in which there is no room for the human spirit, much less for the Holy Spirit.

We must return to something approaching an apprenticeship model,

  • in which the Wise mentor and equip the young,
  • in which teaching is an art, not a set of specialized techniques and methodologies,
  • in which the mature hand on the tradition in which the wisdom of the ages is found (but only by those who soak their souls in it),
  • in which the goal is to cultivate wisdom instead of merely to produce experts,
  • in which each class is taught according to its nature (known according to the degree of precision with which it can be known) instead of with a text book that honors neither the nature of the science/art nor the nature of the student, nor the nature of the teacher,
  • in which the beginning, end, and sustaining energy of teaching is love,
  • in which the modes of assessment sustain the soul rather than distracting it with vanity or bitterness,
  • in which our Lord is honored in the way we treat His children,
  • and in which He is discovered to be truly the One in whom all things consist, the One in whom the Father really does “make all things one” (including the curriculum), the One in whom students really could find all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

I believe with all my aching heart that the American Christian school has sold its heritage, its very soul, out of fear. The result is three generations of increasing numbers of graduates of the Christian school who go to college to become unbelieving fornicators because they may have learned the content of the faith, but they never learned the form of godliness, not to speak of the power thereof.

We have an eternally new wine, but we continue to put it in old wineskins. Do we not notice the bloody mess?

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