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Words of Wisdom: Douglas Wilson on the State of Classical Education

Douglas Wilson is the Senior Pastor at Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho. He is happily married to his wife Nancy for 35 years and counting, has three kids and fifteeen grandchildren. He’s a prolific author and speaker and blogs over at Blog & Mablog. He also debated the late Christopher Hitchens in this documentary about “Is Christianity Good for the World?” He’s the author of The Lost Tools of Learning, a co-founder of the influential Logos School in Moscow, ID and is a founding board member of the Association of Classical Christian Schools.

It’s been more than 30 years since you and your colleagues started Logos School in Moscow, ID and more than 20 years since LOST TOOLS OF LEARNING came out. Since then classical Christian education has grown quite a bit, in no small part because of the work of ACCS and organizations like it. In looking back, what gives you the most satisfaction?

I think I would have to say that it is most gratifying that the movement now has enough history and momentum to continue on when I am out of the picture. We are well past our lift-off stage, and we can turn our attention to the work of consolidation, and deliberate expansion. I am very grateful to God for how far we have come.
What challenges have been most resolute in testing the mettle of this movement?
There is nothing new under the sun, and so our two great challenges have been the same as they have been for every form of culture building. Those challenges are failure and success. The challenge of looming failure is the challenge of keeping enough students enrolled, paying for the books, keeping teachers fed, and so on. Some schools are challenged every year with the daunting prospect of simply making it. The other great challenge is the challenge of success. You don’t have to worry about survival, and your waiting list goes around the block three times. One of the great challenges for our schools that have been successful (in this sense) is the challenge of staying true to the mission, and not becoming just another private prep school.
What do you foresee being most challenging moving forward? How can these challenges be overcome?
I believe that classical Christian education has proven itself academically, so — as a movement — I don’t think we need to worry about disappearing into nothing. I do think we need to worry about disappearing into something else. I am concerned that many of our schools are starting to measure success by how assiduously established colleges and universities are recruiting their graduates, and luring them with big time scholarships. But we are at the tail end of a higher education bubble, and so I don’t believe that this should be how we measure success. I would love to see a deepening commitment to Christianhigher ed. I know that God calls some of our graduates into the existing system, and God bless them all. But I don’t want anybody going there under false pretenses. So I think the prep school vibe is a big temptation to be resisted.
What does the classical Christian education need for continued growth?
We need to deepen our bench. By this I mean providing a thorough classical Christian education to our next generation of teachers. That would be one thing. We also need to develop and enrich the curriculum choices that we have available to us. A lot has been done here, but much more needs to be done. We are trying to do our share in this, and are grateful to everyone who has a hand in it. For an example of the “next generation” kind of thing we are trying to do in this area, you could check out —
Ideally, what would you like the movement to look like in ten years?
In ten years, I would like to see a great increase in the number of ACCS accredited schools. I would like to see resources developed (curriculum, online teachers, etc.) for schools that don’t have large numbers. And I would like to see the development of a large data base that would enable us to track our graduates and make note of their accomplishments.

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