Common Objections to Christian Classical Education: A Response

Though the philosophy and practice of Christian Classical education stretches back thousands of years in Western Civilization,  it’s recovery in America began as an obscure, grassroots movement  of private schools in the 1980’s.  Since then, it has become one of the most powerful international educational reform movements in decades.   In our culture of secular-progressive, mass public education, Christian Classical education is not “mainstream” and the educational establishment often feels deeply threatened by it.  Here, then, is my response to seven of the most common objections to Christian Classical education put forward by mainstream educational pundits.

  • Christian Classical Education is divisive.  It isn’t what everyone else is doing.  It marches to a different drummer and is out of step with the nation’s agenda for modern public education.

This is true and we consider it a selling point rather than an objection.  Christian Classical Education cultivates excellence rather than conformity.  Educational markets are highly competitive and there is a lot of pressure toward homogeneity and conformity (i.e. common core, AP, IB, GT, etc.).  This pressure to become “like other schools” strikes at the very heart of the Christian Classical movement which thrives on its “deliberate heterogeneity.”  Christian Classical schools seek not to “conform” but rather “reform” the way education is practiced in our country.  We are 100% confident in the intrinsic value of what we offer to each student in our care. 

  • Christian Classical Education is old, outdated, and unfashionable.

Any middle school student at a Christian Classical school could easily point out that this objection is based on the classic “chronological snobbery” fallacy: the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the smug assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited.  Unfortunately, modern public schools have abandoned teaching logic and so educational pundits (themselves a product of modern public education) easily fall prey to these kinds of fallacious arguments.  The truth, however, is that Christian Classical education IS outdated … like honor, courage, integrity and honesty … yet it is exactly what it needed.  Regardless, we aren’t trying to tell truth with a clock, and in an age which has embraced every novelty, the true “progressive” is the traditionalist!

  • Christian Classical Education is not in line with modern thinking.

This objection is true insofar as modern thinking is overwhelmingly characterized by skepticism, cynicism, relativism, subjectivism, naturalism, atheism, materialism, reductionism, positivism, scientism, socialism, radical feminism and many other “maladies of the modern mind.”  In this respect, we see our educational task as proudly making students “unfit for the modern world.”  There is no doubt that Christian Classical education is “counter cultural.”  We seek to harness teenager’s natural tendency toward rebellion and turn that force against the “establishment” philosophies of corruption and decadence that are destroying our culture.  

  • Christian Classical Education is absolutist and judgmental.

So is modern progressive education.  The only difference is that we are honest about it.  We believe in an objective moral order and we want our students to learn to make proper judgements regarding truth and falsehood, goodness and evil, beauty and ugliness.  In contrast, modern education inconsistently and dishonestly fosters a mentality that is judgmental against being judgmental and skeptical about everything except skepticism.

  • Christian Classical Education is small, private, and grassroots.

It’s true that Christian Classical Education is small, private, and grassroots.  This is yet another reason to pull your kids out of public school and put them in a Christian Classical school.  The bigger the school, the more standardized, impersonal, and institutional it becomes and the more children get lost in the system and stereotyped by their race, economic class, gender, sexual orientation, or political party.  We think small is beautiful and when it comes to helping each unique student reach their God-given potential, a small school is what is most needed. 

  • Christian Classical Education is impractical and doesn’t prepare students for the modern world of global economics and high tech industry.

This objection is based on the modern bias known as “pragmatism” (one of the “isms” we seek to inoculate our students against).  In refutation of this objection I quote G.K. Chesterton (sadly not an author read by modern progressive educationists and students) who says “Man’s most practical need is to be more than a pragmatist.  A practical man means a man accustomed to mere daily practice, the way things commonly work.  When things will not work one must have the thinker, the man who has some doctrine about why they work at all.  It is wrong to fiddle while Rome is burning, but it is quite right to study the theory of hydraulics.”  Unlike teaching kids “vo-tech skills” or clever ways to outguess Microsoft word or starndardized multiple choice tests, teaching them how to read and write and think logically and creatively is never impractical and will serve them better in a rapidly changing geo-technological environment.

  • Christian Classical Education is religious.

Yes it is … and so is every system of education.  Modern public education isn’t “less religious” because they pretend to be neutral when it comes to ultimate questions about God, the nature of the universe, morality, and what it means to be a human being.  Secularism isn’t religiously neutral and neither is pretending God doesn’t exist.  The exclusion of God from education sends a loud and clear message to students that He doesn’t matter and isn’t important and that life can be lived and things known apart from Him.  This is secularism and atheism, NOT religious neutrality.  The question isn’t WHETHER we should teach kids religion in school, it’s WHICH religion should be taught.  

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  • Tom

    This is the time of year that we parents get hit by our loving children that public school is the best option for them. A bigger school offers more options for the student is generally the argument. Our family is battling that issue with our oldest son. He is athletically gifted and has a desire to play at the next level. One of his arguments is the ability to be “noticed” by college coaches. (I must say that his argument was methodical, logical, persuasive, and well organized. Which is a testament to his education thus far at ACA.) I admit that I am swayed by his arguments for going to another school. While seeking counsel and seeking The Lord one constant concerning our children’s education rises above all. The care, genuine concern, and love for my children that ACA shows would barely register with a larger school. They would for the most part be a number that might get lost in their system. Each teacher, coach, and staff at ACA genuinely care about the whole of my children. We as parents are in a battle for our society at large. We have the next generation that will make up the coming society. Will we be swayed by the sound arguments for our adolescence and a persuasive culture or hold firm to a truth when we started on this journey?

    • Tom, thanks for your comment, and I sympathize!

      I played small college football and now work & teach at Annapolis. A large number (rough estimate, 50-60%) of our guys played in small towns, and many of those guys played 6 man football. With proper speed and strength training (which ACA provides), often students at small schools have a better chance at showcasing their abilities. And the fact that ACA is not a rural school also helps for recruitment.

      The fact still remains, the best way to be seen by college coaches at any level is to prepare a highlight real and send it to schools you’d like to attend. In terms of big schools (NCAA D1), the percentages of getting a scholarship at those schools is already like winning the genetic lottery. But, with a solid highlight real, good grades, and good interviews with coaching staff, you should have no problem being invited to walk on (no small feat!) and earning a scholarship. Another option: most major universities devote a ton of their recruitment to JUCOs so that’s always another way to get noticed.

      All that said, I commend Peter’s comment above as the best first step. Sit down, determine with your son what is first priority (2nd, 3rd…) and make yours plans accordingly. Then make a decision and wholeheartedly pursue it!

      Hope this helps!

  • Peter Hansen

    Tom, thanks for your thoughtful response. This is indeed a common theme with teenagers. Though your son’s arguments may be logical given his premise, I would encourage you to challenge his premise that “getting noticed” by coaches is the most important thing. It’s not. Though it’s not often the highest priority for adolescents, the care of their soul through a genuine education is the best gift a parent can give a child in the long run. Sports are an important part of life, but in my opinion they are secondary to securing the best education possible which has a higher value and a longer shelf life. Playing sports in college is a good thing and getting an athletic scholarship is really great, but not if it is placed as the highest value in life. The world is full of too many people who can’t distinguish a primary from a secondary good and who live their lives and make their decisions based on a false scale of values.