Not long ago, I was having a chat with a fellow Catholic blogger who discovered that I am a theology teacher at a college prep school. He asked whether I was interested in opening a classical school, and while I would love to teach the classics, I had to answer no. I was neither trained in the classics myself, nor have I studied in-depth the methods used to pass them on.
I wish that I had received a classical education. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until high school that I learned a bit of Latin and had my intellect opened to an entire world of the classics. When I was awarded an Oxford Classical Dictionary my senior year, it was one of my proudest moments. I went on to study Latin and Greek in college, along with a few other classical courses (even one semester of ancient warfare) and emerged a stronger thinker than I had ever been. If only I had had more time to study the classics while a boy!
My wife and I have a strong desire to give our own children a classical education. In considering this, I’ve distilled the following points as my main arguments in its favor:
- Freedom – Classical education has strong ties with the liberal arts, which are called that not because most liberal arts professors are liberal, but because the liberal arts make a man free (Latin, liber). A man who has and uses an education in the liberal arts always has a free mind and soul, even though he be chained in a prison cell (this may come in handy some day).
- Leadership – Let’s acknowledge one basic fact: Congress is the world’s third largest zoo. We desperately need leadership to bring structure and order to this chaos. Classical education starts with the trivium of liberal arts, including grammar, logic, and rhetoric. By starting children off on the process of thinking philosophically at a young age and by teaching them how to express their thoughts articulately, classical education is training leaders for tomorrow.
- It’s popular with the Traddies – The current liturgical trendiness of the timeless and beautiful Latin Liturgy is not just a fad. Unlike folk music and guitar Mass, it’s here to stay. I even hear the pope is a fan. Check out what these classically educated youngin’s think of the Latin Mass.
- Your son will already have completed the hardest part of seminary – Canon 249 of the Code of Canon Law states that any “program of priestly formation is to provide that students not only are carefully taught their native language but also understand Latin well.”
- Complete Thoughts – If you haven’t picked up a literature textbook lately, try it out. You might be shocked to find that few complete ideas are fleshed out. Somewhere between the government and the editorial boards of publishing companies, magical textbook elves remove the meaningful, thought-provoking content and replace it with out-of-context snippets designed to impress upon students a wide range of equally disconnected viewpoints. Is it any wonder we have private parks in several major cities occupied by people who see no inconsistency in blogging about socialism on a Macbook? They have a Frankensteined philosophical worldview. Give your kids the gift of integrity of mind.
- Virtue – I once had an interview with a school whose principal began asking me on the phone about my views on sexual morality. I made it clear, of course, that I believed the faith of the Church. Shockingly, he then opposed me by proclaiming that his school was “in the Dominican tradition of the virtue of tolerance.” At that point, it was clear that I would not get the job. I suppose I could have asked, out of curiosity, which religious order Tomás de Torquemada belonged to, but I wasn’t in a playful mood. Charity is a virtue; tolerance is not. The virtues of Christianity are familiar to classical educators and are included in their curriculum, while the so-called modern virtues (in reality, niceties) are dealt with as all the foolishness they are.
- Patrimony – We didn’t spend all those centuries Christianizing Western Civilization just to flush it all down the toilet of modernism! In the age of convenience and constant distraction, we’ve lost the perspective of the many centuries of wisdom our Church has gained. It’s part of our heritage and we have a right to it!
There you have it. Classical educators out there, am I missing anything?