This series explores part of what I recently shared during teacher training at Providence Preparatory Academy in Wilmington, NC. It presents five principles that guide classical Christian education. You can view the rest of the series here.
A couple of caveats are in order before we begin.
- First, these principles can be adopted by more than just those teaching in a Classical Christian context. Teachers in other contexts can operate out of them; I know several who do so. (Though it is often far more difficult for them, since the system they work in does not embrace or encourage this approach.)
- Second, these principles can be adopted by more than just teachers, in the strictest sense of that word. These principles apply to parents, pastors, managers, trainers, pastors, bosses, and more. If you teach anything, consider doing so from this perspective.
Principle 1: Classical Christian education is teleological. It works towards an end: Christ-like wisdom and virtue.
Telos is the Greek word for “end” as in “the end towards which one works.” A teleological education is an education that is going somewhere because it is working towards a specific end-goal.
There was a movement in the mid-late 20th century that advocated for a “value-free” education, one in which students were free from any exposure to particular value systems. This movement has largely been officially abandoned, though most of its notions remain in many school contexts. There are those who still think that you can educate a child without passing along a system of values – that there exists a way to teach something meaningful without declaring certain things good, true, and beautiful.
They are mistaken. A teacher who does not teach students to perceive truth in the midst of lies, goodness in the midst of evil, and beauty in the midst of chaos is not worth their salt.
Classical Christian education has a value system. It declares a telos, and “end-goal” of education: the cultivation of Christ-like wisdom and virtue. An education that does not recognize this as its telos will fall short of the purpose of an education. It may do a really good job of preparing people for careers, or the next stage of learning. But it will not create fully-alive human beings. It can’t, because it doesn’t even try to.