What is the difference between classical education and a typical modern-day education offered at a local public school? If answering that question poses a challenge, you will find a new book by Rebekah Merkle most helpful. Classical Me, Classical Thee: Squander Not Thine Education is particularly helpful for parents and students who may question the benefits of a classical, Christian education. While her primary target audience is high school students, the book also appeals to parents and educators. She delves into the merits of schools like Providence, while writing in a comprehensible and colloquial manner.
A graduate of Logos School in Moscow, Idaho, she is now a mom and a Logos teacher. Merkle summarizes the goals of an education that requires students to think, analyze, and evaluate ideas and concepts in light of God’s truth. She offers helpful answers to questions about the purposes of classical education. Several are summarized below:
What is the most important element of a classical education?
An understanding of the Christian worldview is by far the most important thing your school can give you – because a not-so-talented soldier who earned a C- in everything, fighting for the right side, is far to be preferred over a super ruthless and gifted general fighting for the wrong side.
What is the biggest difference between a public school and a classical school?
It’s not that classical schools teach the students more facts than the public schools do, although that’s frequently true. It’s not that classical schools teach different facts than the public schools, although that’s often true too. The biggest and most fundamental difference between what you are receiving and what the rest of American teenagers are receiving is that you are being taught to look at life as if it makes sense, as if it all hangs together and is all part of the same picture. You’re being taught to think about it critically. You are not just being given a list of facts to memorize before the test on Friday after which point you can safely forget them. The most vital things that you are being taught is not the facts themselves, it is the skill of being able to analyze them.
How will a student look different after years of classical training?
When you come out of the other end of the chute after years of this, you will have a brain that is more organized, discerning, attuned to nuance, and capable of saying exactly what you want to say…and (this is the most important part) your mind will have been trained to do that even if you forgot all the Latin you ever studied.
What is the goal of all the classroom drills and exercises?
The facts you are being taught are not the end goal of learning any more than the wall sit is the end goal of basketball. You are spending your days in the classroom doing drills in much the same way that you do in basketball practice. They are all designed to equip you, to strengthen you, to make you into a person who can step out of the classroom and into the world and successfully negotiate situations you have never encountered before.
Rebekah Merkle’s book provides winsome testimony for the value of a classical, Christian education. It’s brief, readable, and thought-provoking for both parents and students.