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Ask Andrew 8/17: Why “Circe” ?

From Joetta in Illinois,
If you claim to be Christian, why have you named your organization after a sorceress?

Joetta, at first, it stood for the Center for Independent Research on Classical Education. When I thought of it, I laughed so hard I nearly crashed my Pontiac 6000 into the telephone post on Shawano Ave. opposite my father’s restaurant. I never thought it would be heard in public, so I kept it for tax purposes while I wrote Classical Education: Towards the Revival of American Schooling.

Then CiRCE started to grow – people wanted me to speak at conferences, to train teachers in their schools, to provide advice. I had to decide: should I keep this name of a sorceress from the Odyssey, or should I smarten up and do something sensible.

As you can see, I didn’t smarten up or do something sensible. Instead, I contemplated the name and did some research. I prayed too. And here’s what I found out: CiRCE comes from the Greek word transliterated Kirke. Kirke, in turn, shares the root of Kuriakos and comes from the same stem. Kuriakos, in turn, means: belonging to the Lord. It is the word from which we get our word (get this!) Church!

When I discovered this, I knew I had to keep it. My first love is Christ, and that love is expressed toward His bride/body. CiRCE Institute makes its insights, information, and inspiration available to anyone who wants to discuss classical education. But we are a Christian organization, and we believe that Christian classical education is both the fulfillment of education and the fulfillment of classicism.

Another reason we kept the name CiRCE is because it fits our slightly off-kilter sense of humor. After all, Circe transforms men into pigs and lions. Well, the way we see it, education is the process of transforming animals into humans! What could better express that idea?

Finally, this is not well known, but the sorceress Circe ended up giving up her practice. If you read creatively between the lines, you’ll see that she was standing at a distance when Paul was preaching on Crete. She was converted by the experience and decided from that point onward to serve others instead of following the fatal temptation of all teachers: transforming others into her own personal tastes.

So what does CiRCE mean and what does it tell you about the CiRCE Institute?

First, as noted above, CiRCE stands for Center for Independent Research on Classical Education. There you see the heart of what we do and the source of all our value. CiRCE is the leading, perhaps only, organization that exists to research classical education: what it is and how it is done; definition, and best practices – past and present.

Derived from our research is a second meaning for CiRCE: Consulting and Integrated Resources for Classical Education. In other words, as a result of our research and practice, you can benefit from our services (consulting) and the materials we produce (integrated resources).

The content of this response was also featured in the first edition of our podcast.

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