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Why I Aim to Be a Classical Educator

And why modern education resembles an enema . . .

Modern education resembles an enema.

On Monday morning, the teacher stands before his class, wretched implement in hand, and proclaims, “Learning is fun!” The students doubt this claim.

What follows is an attempt to pump decontextualized, uninvited streams of information into an uncaring classroom of students. When the teacher senses the collective lower intestine to be near bursting, he ceases information transfer, and schedules a test or quiz. Students are tasked with squeezing tightly until the test arrives, at which point they void their bowels and prepare for another influx of data.

This metaphor may seem harsh, but it is the sordid state of affairs in America’s educational system today. Bell-curve style evaluation techniques, such as the Common Core Initiative and standardized testing, ensure that the average student–who is a purely statistical entity-finds himself the target of all efforts. Specialists encourage students to go to “college preparatory” high schools, where they hone their test-taking skills in order to enter a prestigious post-secondary institution. Thanks to copious government grants, the prospective student, if he falls on the correct side of the bell curve, will find his dreams fulfilled. Soon he will enter a university whose only hope is to produce another six-figure technocratic data-man for today’s pulsating, fragmented world.

This state of affairs concerns me.

Education, from the outset, was never meant to be a means of control. Rather, it was an attempt at allowing students to grow in wisdom and virtue. By teaching children what ought to be, instead of what can be, classical educators ensured that not only were they creating students equipped to face the future’s problems; they were primarily teaching children how to be more human. For classical education, according to teacher David Hicks, “does not just offer what the student or the parent or the state desires, but it says something about what these three ought to desire.” Classical education taught the “First Things,” the truly important Goods from which all our actions should flow. Classical educators do not simply train children to solve problems, but teach them the immense glory and beauty of what is, and by showing these things, ensure that the children will be far better problem solvers than the alternatively trained “technician.” C.S. Lewis stated it more succinctly: “Education is not about cutting down jungles, but irrigating deserts.”

Sadly, classical education is the minority among American schools today. But my goal is to change this by becoming a classical educator myself. I am by no means a wise or virtuous individual, but my hope is that I can show others the Ancients who were wise and virtuous. Perhaps one student I educate will internalize the beauty he beholds. That is all I wish.

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