In a 1947 speech, the great British writer Dorothy Sayers asked, “Has it ever struck you as odd ... that today, when the proportion of literacy throughout Western Europe is higher than it has ever been, people should have become susceptible to the influence of advertisement and mass propaganda to an extent hitherto unheard of and unimagined?”
Sayers then went on to wonder whether it’s simply because of the rise in mass communications — or something worse. “Do you sometimes have an uneasy suspicion,” she asked, “that the product of modern educational methods is less good than he or she might be at disentangling fact from opinion and the proven from the plausible?”
I certainly do have that suspicion. So-called “modern” education was already failing students in Sayers’s time, and it certainly is today. That’s way so many people, including Christians, misunderstand facts, or they're swayed by specious arguments, or they have no idea how to properly express ideas in ways that are coherent and believable. Modern America is rife with the telltale signs of miseducation.
Today on my Two-Minute Warning, which I urge you to watch at ColsonCenter.org, I talk about how modern education developed, how it is undermined by moral relativism, and how, exactly, it differs from what is called classical education.
What is a classical education? Classical education advocate Susan Wise Bauer puts it this way: “Classical education depends on a three-part process of training the mind. The early years of school are spent in absorbing facts, systematically laying the foundations for advanced study. In the middle grades, students learn to think through arguments. In high school ... they learn to express themselves.”
Classical education uses natural developmental stages to train students to discern between true and false facts, understand good and bad arguments, and develop the ability to turn their thoughts in to intelligent words. What more could we hope for our kids?
It’s the kind of education that prepares men and women for all areas of life. Plumbers, engineers, executives, housewives all will have to sort out facts and arguments and make themselves understood.
Classical education also trains young minds to think holistically about life. Most modern education is compartmentalized. Classical education teaches that astronomy is related to economics is related to philosophy. Truth in this model forms a rational whole, which is at the heart of a coherent worldview.
Now, while Classical education doesn’t have to be Christian, much of it is Christian. And when the classical approach is mixed with Christianity, the result is powerful. Children become men and women who have taken a Christian worldview to heart.
If you have children or grandchildren, let me encourage you to seriously consider classical education. More and more communities have classical schools. If yours doesn’t, maybe you can be part of an effort to establish one.
Again, for more, go see my Two-Minute Warning at ColsonCenter.org. Modern education has been failing students and society for decades. We need — and in classical education we have — a better alternative.
Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.
Publication date: August 24, 2011.