A Second Look at Classical Education (Part 2)
- Wednesday, August 07, 2002
I agree with the classical educators that memorization is an excellent discipline. And not everything our children memorize will be from the Bible, but probably much of it should be. This is another area I question in trying to balance Christian education with the classical approach. There is an emphasis on memorization of secular humanistic passages.
It is probably a good idea to review our personal goals for home schooling from time to time. Why are we doing it, and what do we want to see in our children when they reach adulthood? Classical education seems to idolize education. In ancient times knowledge was virtually worshipped as the means to gaining human perfection. I guess a good question is whether classical education can be Christianized? What impact does great amounts of learning have on the human ego? I Corinthians 8:1 says, "Knowledge puffs up," and knowledge without virtue produces arrogance. James 4:8 says, "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." If acquiring knowledge becomes all-consuming, are we allowing our children to be subject to pride? I have heard a number of parents boast about the highly intellectual books their children are reading. How can we be sure that our children will be balanced and rely on God more than on their academic achievement?
Let us take a look at the dialectic stage of the trivium. Following the grammar stage this phase emphasizes the reason of man. According to the Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, the wisdom of God is neither sought nor applied. Logic is the cornerstone of this training and pupils must investigate and formulate sound reasons for their arguments. Among other things, this concept teaches that we cannot believe what we cannot see and prove. Everything is to be questioned and nothing is assumed to be true. How is this "scientific" approach reconciled with Gods requirement that we have faith, and believe what we cannot see or prove? How can we be sure that our children will not apply the rules of logic to their faith? As we teach our children to diligently compare what they have learned with the Word of God, mans concept of logic or reason is often miles apart. (Acts 17:11)
Argument is the basis for the methodology of logic. The most skilled presenter is the one who can argue best, refute best, and question best. The premise is to question everything and accept nothing as certain. There is no absolute truth to interfere with reason in arguing your case. Nor are rules based on any preconceived moral standard. In this method there is virtue in being able to argue every view, while no view is evaluated as right or wrong, and no idea is to be left unchallenged.
As I look at the principles of argumentation, I have attempted to evaluate it from a Christian view. The life and teachings of Jesus as well as other examples from scripture present some challenging principles. On many occasions Jesus was silent when he could have argued persuasively. The Proverbs teach us that there are times when no answer should be given. As we pursue "peace with all men" (Hebrews 12:14), we are often called upon to keep silent. From a practical sense, what effect will teaching my children to argue have on their relationships with others, especially when they marry? Will they successfully separate the skills required for argumentation from everyday relationships? What impact will training in logical argumentation have in the area of pride in my child? The scriptures encourage us to seek wisdom, which is God-given. Can the wisdom of God co-exist with the reason of man?
Frederick Nietzsche was the son of a priest and was headed for the religious life himself. Following his fathers death when Fredrich was a boy, he was sent to a well-known classical school. He learned Greek and Latin; he read the great classics and became well versed in mythology. He then began to question the tenets of Christianity until he totally abandoned the faith. His boyhood instruction taught him to question everything he learned. He was considered a great philosopher, yet his life was troubled and difficult. He spent the last ten years of his life confined in a mental institution. When I read about Nietzsche and others like him, I wonder what impact classical education could have on my childs faith.
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