Monday, October 14, 2019

Classical Me, Classical Thee: Squander Not Thine Education

by Rebekah Merkle
99 pages / 2017 / Canon Press

At first glance, the title rules this out for the general reader, but Classical Me, Classical Thee is a really good discussion of the basis for any Christian education. While Reformed Christian schools, for example, may not emphasize the Trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) of classical education, the justification for the subjects covered in classical Christian schools applies (or should apply) to Reformed education as well.

Rebekah Merkle uses several analogies to explain the "superpowers" that the classical curriculum gives to students (powers that a good Christian education will also provide). She stresses that such education is not only a "pizza with extra toppings" in comparison to public education but "a fundamentally different pizza." Why? Because the classical curriculum offers a more coherent view of life, the universe, and everything, since in addition to the seemingly miscellaneous puzzle pieces (facts and figures) of a secular worldview, classical education shows how to  comprehend and connnect those pieces by using the picture on the box (a Biblical foundation for students' varied studies).

So what are the superpowers bestowed by classical (and good Christian) education? For instance,

  • in Latin, we are given the basic structures of language that enable us to speak and write clearly (a good reminder of the importance of grammar studies in the English language as well);
  • literature teaches us to read for detail - something that reader-centered study of literature does not equip students for in post-secondary education or the real world;
  • logic prepares students to see through the false claims of our secular culture;
  • rhetoric, on the other hand, enables both classical and Christian students to defend the truth - and worldview study enables them to know what that truth is;
  • math and science show us not only the order in the universe, but also the divine source of that order - something hidden from public school students; and
  • history shows us how we got to the misunderstandings of secular culture, and therefore how to fruitfully address those misunderstandings.
Merkle's chapter on the Trivium is less relevant to the student or teacher of a general Christian school, but her conclusion is an urgent appeal to invest the superpowers (also known in Jesus' parable as talents) developed in Christian education to serve God in "faithful, creative ways."

If you think that Rebecca Merkle's book can help us in both classical and general Christian schools to "squander not thine education," you can get her book here, or here in Canada.