I teach Latin. I read classics. I indulge in letter writing. Even acquaintances predicted that I would have a, “vintage, Jane Austenish sort of wedding.”
Along that vein, I’ve been told that I have an, “old soul.” I do not precisely know whether people mean that I’m mature or that I act like a crochety old lady. Either way, I prefer to interpret it as a compliment and mentally group myself with things like empire waistlines and the smell of old books.
Because of this, I’m in danger of something called Chronological Snobbery. Chronological Snobbery is a logical fallacy in which something is deemed better or worse because of its time of origin.
For example: “Calvin’s Institutes is obviously a better systematic theology than Wayne Grudem’s because it was written during the Protestant Reformation.” While it is true that the Institutes was written during the Protestant Reformation, its time of origin has nothing to do with whether Calvin wrote a better systematic theology than Grudem. He may have. Or he may not have. But the time of his writing is irrelevant.
In my context, it’s easy to do that with classical education. “We’re following the type of schooling that was developed by the ancient Greeks and Romans.” The inference here is that because classical education has existed for the past 2000+ years, it must be a better model than any of these newfangled, wishy-washy educational methods. Dewey be damned and all that.
While I love that what I teach has been taught for centuries and that, in learning from intellectual giants of the past, I’m able to think through thoughts first posed by Socrates and Augustine and Sir Isaac Newton, the traditionalism of classical education is not enough to validate it. Older is not always better. I don’t want to adopt Greco-Roman religion just because it’s older than Christianity.
After all, I have a savior who existed before time began. #intentionalirony
However, snark aside, I do think that classical education, specifically classical Christian education, is the best teaching model available today. Classical Christian education seeks to discover truth, goodness, and beauty in God’s Word and world. I am challenged to train excellent students as a joyful celebration that God has endowed us with His Image. We don’t read classics to become haughty. We read them because, in doing so, we can enter into the Great Conversation and talk about questions related to the meaning of society, justice, beauty, truth, and sin. By doing this, students learn how to think for themselves.
Is that not what our society needs? The world is a very different place than it was one-hundred, fifty, or even ten years ago. We don’t know how it will change, and we can’t live expecting that life and society will stay just as they are. We need people to rise up who know how to think and how to articulate God’s immutable truth in the midst of a relativistic world. That’s what classical Christian education aims to do: not so that our students will save the world but so that they will point to Jesus as the One who will.