Staying “Christian Classical”

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No school finds it easy and a few don’t find it possible, but you can, if you wish, become and remain a truly Christian classical school. The main prerequisite is that you must strain to move toward the dream or you will drift away from it.

First, you have to put a flag in the ground, a standard that your community can rally around and that defines and, yes, distinguishes you. America needs educational leadership from the battle lines, and you can’t lead if you don’t have a standard.

You also have to embody your Christian classical commitments. A few crucial documents will help.

Do you have a charter of some sort that states your commitments explicitly and strives to define the key terms? Does it clearly state your purpose as an institution? Do you know it? Can you explain it?

Do you identify standards (primarily qualitative) against which to measure your decisions at the governance level.

Do you have a curriculum document that teachers are accountable to, flexible within, and hired to implement? Does it include the core principles, elements, and forms of a Christian classical education?

Do you have a teacher development plan with standards spelled out? Do you show it to teachers before you hire them and guide them through it after you hire them? Are you devoted to the essential task of equipping teachers to perform a task that the surrounding community has a very hard time understanding?

Do you have a parent development strategy that prevents parents who don’t understand the vision from making decisions that affect its execution while ensuring that parents who do understand the vision are in appropriate positions of service? Are parents enabling you to fulfill your commitments or interfering?

Do you have a headmaster hiring and development strategy that ensures that you identify a head who can lead your school “further up and further in” to the Christian classical vision? Have you defined his role clearly and specified the responsibilities that he carries? Have you defined his relationship to the board? This is a live mine when neglected, and when things go wrong the head cannot be blamed if the board has not fulfilled its duty in this regard.

If these elements are not spelled out AND implemented, it is only a matter of time before your school loses its way. It might take 20 years, but it will happen. It will probably take three or four. And you probably won’t notice.

If you have not developed and documented these elements, you can survive as long as you have committed leadership who understand what is needed, but that leadership will eventually roll out and the vision will be lost.

Don’t rush to finish them tomorrow, but complete these documents. And don’t buy them from another school. The only way the Christian classical vision can become your DNA is if you “waste” all kinds of time thinking about these things yourself. The process is just as important as the product.

Do board/headmaster retreats. Read books like Norms and Nobility, Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, Wisdom and Eloquence, Plato’s Republic (especially books 8 and 9). Put teams together to discuss these matters. Spend – no, invest, your time in thought! Nothing gives a better ROI when it leads to wise action.

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