A few years ago I read an impassioned argument by the then president of Boston College for a return to classical education. It was an eloquent and impressive presentation that aroused my envy of students who studied under his administration.
The flame was revived by an article by Andrew Kern, one of the leaders in the current classical education movement. He writes that the biggest difference between classical and conventional education is theological. That simple statement explains a lot about the direction of public education.
"Conventional education is ultimately nihilistic," he writes, "believing that we live in a great meaningless vacuum. Classical education, Christian or philosophical, rests on the foundation of Being. Everything quite literally follows from this."
To explain the point, "Conventional education" he says "is oriented toward power (college and careers, empowerment, and so on) while classical education is oriented toward truth. Which is ultimate? Which serves the other?"
"The conventional educator acts on the premise that the purpose of childhood is socialization. The classical educator sees childhood as the time for moral development."
Mr. Kern has expressed the concern of many parents who see public education as a movement toward indoctrination. Good parents don't want to send their children to a school that undermines their values. It's the reason more and more are opting for an alternate educational environment where some spend thousands of dollars per year for a private school. Others choose to teach their children at home. A growing segment of our population is running away from the system of conventional education.
Our grandparents didn't need schools to socialize their children. They had family and church for that. They were more concerned about values than power and they never heard of a student taking a gun to school and shooting his classmates.
Nobody talked about bullies on the playground. That sort of problem was remedied at home.
We need educators with the wisdom of King Solomon, a man whose proverbs are still relevant three thousand years after he wrote them. He may have been the greatest king any nation ever had. His philosophy of education was simple: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge." (Proverbs 1:7)
Until next time, Jim O'Brien