Tomorrow, I am speaking at the Southwestern Conference for Classical Christian Educators on the topic of Great Books. Below is my introduction to my speech.
“Due to neglect of our rich heritage in the West our civilization is crumbling. Powerful and seductive ideas have gripped the minds of the Western man and have caused him to worship the creation instead of the creator. Darwinism, utopianism and Freudian psychology, to name a few, have lured us away from pursuing a life of virtue in an intellectually and emotionally robust Christianity.
“Not surprisingly, these ideas have focused their attack on our educational system. What better way to radically change culture than to affect the hearts and minds of our young? Today, the standard approach to education assumes people do not have souls and that the highest end of man is to do a job well and fit in with the rest of society. The virtue most emphasized in our schools, therefore, is…tolerance.
“Our high school curriculum quite clearly reflects these aims. Health or wellness classes have replaced mandatory ethics classes (in which the men of old held the “odd” belief that you had to be an ethical person to pass them). The classes required pursue the less than bold goal of producing students able to function in our society. English for four years, math for a couple, sciences, social sciences, physical education, history and economics round out the disjointed path from freshman to graduate. Tolerance of others’ points-of-view is the aim in the humanities since the humanities deal with subjective values. The sciences, concerned with the business of irrefutable fact, staunchly preach Darwinian evolution and fight tooth and nail in court to exclude other approaches.
“Sadly, many of our Christian schools have unknowingly surrendered to the influence of modernity, adopting a form of education exactly as in the public schools but tacking on Bible as a subject and requiring attendance in chapel.
“I propose that as Christian educators we need to reclaim traditional western education that seeks to make students wise and virtuous by the means of the study of the Great Books – those texts that have come down to us through the ages because they most thoughtfully and eloquently examine the most important ideas in life.”
I didn’t write out the supporting arguments for these last claims because I wanted to give myself flexibility in my speech to adapt to the audience. I hope these thoughts stimulate further ideas on education from our readers.