Truth, Tradition, and Trajedy

Nov 15, 2009
In general, three approaches have dominated education from the beginning of time and I'm not sure there can be any more that are not combinations, parts, or permutations of these three. The sophist does not believe in a knowable universe, so he focuses on adapting to change. The modern version of this approach is progressivism. The traditionalist believes that knowledge is embodied in a tradition, so he focuses on absorbing and perpetuating that tradition. Many variations of this approach are followed in contemporary schools, but the best of the traditional theorists is probably ED Hirsch with his Core Knowledge approach. The classicist believes in a knowable world in which knowledge is perception and relationship. Individual Christians hold to any of these views, though Christianity is obviously a tradition in that its truths reside, not in the discoveries of the student, but in the wisdom of the fathers. I find that Christian teachers trained in conventional colleges are strongly influenced by Progressive approaches, which discourage, by their nature, philosophical reflection on what you are doing. For the most part, accepting these Progressive approaches without reflection undercuts the work and claims of the Christian school. I don't believe any of these approaches aligns with the teachings of scripture at a high level except for the classical approach. At the root of the classical approach is a commitment to the belief that things have a nature and that we can know them according to their natures and treat them in ways fitting to their natures. In addition, things have a purpose, and love enables its object to fulfill both its purpose and its nature. In the classical tradition, the object of a science is to know the nature of a thing. The object of an art is to refine one's ability to know the nature of things. The sophist or Progressive educator does not believe we can know anything. The traditionalist believes that we can know only through the tradition. The classicist believes that we can perceive the nature of things and relate to them according to their natures. What does your teaching lead your students to? That will tell you which of these theories you hold. The
Andrew  Kern

Andrew Kern

Andrew Kern is the founder and president of The CiRCE Institute and the co-author of the book, Classical Education: the Movement Sweeping America

The opinions and arguments of our contributing writers do not necessarily reflect those of the Institute or its leadership.

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Let me ask you which approach I use. I believe or think that we can know only ourselves, albeit difficult, and tradition can be useful if it remains guide rather than rule.

However, although you are correct Christians rely on the wisdom of the fathers, they convince themselves into believing this is inspirational.

Do I believe we can relate to things according to their natures? This would be the only way to relate, tradition would dictate rather than relate. By your own definition the sophist would not know but why not relate to the apparent nature of said thing. At least a person of wisdom would look at as many influencing factors as possible. Then I would say "the probability is thus"

I find myself in several categories, what do you think?


I've read this post a few times and I'm afraid I don't understand it well enough to reply intelligently. Would you mind going back to the first paragraph and developing it a little more? If you don't mind, please be careful with your sentence patterns as what you are saying shows a lot of careful thought and I truly want to understand it.



"The traditionalist believes that we can know only through the tradition."

A guide yes, but as rule no. Some early Church fathers talked of noble notions implanted in us. Jesus talks of doing what is right, rather than according to appearances.

"In addition, things have a purpose, and love enables its object to fulfill both its purpose and its nature"

Agree, if we agree on love.

The sophist may believe the universe is unknowable but the self is. Rather than adapt, focus on the knowable, the self.

I have a different idea of scripture. When Jesus answers "I am" I'm reminded of eastern precepts.

Honestly, I don't have the time right now to give you the depth you deserve. I realize any poorly formed ideas will be recognized, but I would enjoy discussing your post later.