Last fall at our September Curriculum Nights we discussed the newly-adopted Portrait of a Graduate. Along with embodying our Providence core virtues, we desire our graduates to possess:
- Courageous obedience to God’s Word
- Love of truth, beauty, and goodness
- Sound faith and sound reason
- Strong command of language
- Appreciation of Western Civilization’s rich heritage
The last statement is unlikely to be endorsed or welcomed by many today, particularly in our age of wokeness and ideological multiculturalism. Scott David Allen writes in his impressive book: Why Social Justice is not Biblical Justice:“For all its flaws, Western civilization offers so much that is good – freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, respect for the individual, due process, relative peace and prosperity, and so on. These goods arose from an understanding of biblical truth lived out imperfectly, but faithfully, over many generations. Those attacking the West are doing so, largely, with the tools provided by the civilization itself. The social justice narrative ignores history entirely. We ought not to.” Developing an appreciation for the Western tradition coincides with our recent Grand Tour trip to Greece, Italy, and England. Due to COVID challenges, our seniors postponed their June 2021 to April and just returned last week (current juniors will depart this June). A longstanding tradition at Providence, the Grand Tour is designed to open the eyes of students and offer exposure to sights heretofore only observed in books and videos: The Sistine Chapel; Michelangelo’s statue of David; St. Peter’s Basilica; The Parthenon; the lost city of Pompeii; Raphael’s painting of The School of Athens; the Coliseum in Rome; Westminster Abbey; the Churchill War Rooms. The list goes on. The Grand Tour reminds us that the virtues of a classical education go beyond the walls of the classroom. To walk where Paul walked – the seniors read together the Apostle Paul’s address to the Athenians in Acts 17 while standing on Mars Hill – has a profound effect on how we view ourselves. To experience the beauty of ancient cathedrals and churches shapes our aesthetic sensibilities. To gaze at the Sistine Chapel ceiling awakens wonder, appreciation, and awe. The Grand Tour broadens the mind and shapes us in a way that only travel can. In his hilarious book, Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain wrote, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” As an integral part of a classical education, travel not only expands our understanding but positions us to better appreciate our forebears and the ideas that shaped the West. While it may not resonate with postmodern sensibilities, our Republic owes a great debt to those who paved the way for human freedom and flourishing.