At curriculum night I shared some key differences between classical, Christian education and modern, progressive education. This year I’ll flesh out those differences to further our understanding of the benefits of a Providence education.
Can education be morally neutral? Is it possible for students to learn in an unbiased environment, or does all learning flow from a certain worldview perspective? As Doug Wilson writes in his book, Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, “Neutrality is impossible; worldviews in education are unavoidable. Jesus eliminated neutrality in all areas when He said, ‘He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.'”
All teachers communicate a way of thinking, a way of acting, a way of being. The Scriptures teach that when a student is fully trained, he will be like his teacher (Luke 6:40). Understood in this verse is that all teaching has moral implications that explicitly and implicitly affect the student. It’s a sobering thought to remember that every teacher necessarily transfers a way of life to his or her pupils. To believe that education can occur outside of this paradigm is to deny the way God created the world.
C.S. Lewis affirmed this view. In his short treatise on education, The Abolition of Man, he argues that education is necessarily a moral endeavor. His thesis: We all teach our children from a specific common point of morality (what he calls “the Tao”). All cultures, writes Lewis, share common, self-existent beliefs, and those who deny this truth (e.g. relativists, multiculturalists, postmodernists) offer self-defeating arguments.
Lewis eloquently summarizes an education that attempts to deny this moral framework. Even in his time, there were those who felt education could be separated from a common moral foundation. He summarizes the catastrophic results of such a proposition:
In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.
Classical, Christian education is founded on this idea: all education is moral education. Whether is science, history, art, or literature, the teacher and the environment palpably orient not only the learning outcomes but the trajectory of a student’s worldview. Ideas are as much caught as taught. Hence, the necessity of an education founded upon the gospel of Jesus Christ and the objective truth of His Word.