From a certain standpoint, classical education is just about the least faddish thing possible, because human beings have been reading Plato for well over two thousand years now. On the other hand, classical education is not simply “reading Plato.” Classical education is also sports programs, Land’s End uniforms, Spring formals, mission statements, and parent-teacher conferences, and it is from a position amidst all these things that the question, “Is classical education just a fad?” is a bit harder to answer.
I would like to argue the classical educators should own up to a common understanding of what the word “classical” and “classic” mean. Rather than explaining classical education in terms of Dorothy Sayers and three stages of learning— which makes Sayers out to be little different from Freud, Piaget, or any of the other 20th century theorists who were always reducing childhood to a sequence of stages— classical educators should happily admit that “classical” connotes “old things” and not be embarrassed by it.
Fellow on a train: What line of work are you in?
Junior: Look, I’ve heard all the reasons for studying Latin and logic, but I don’t see why this school doesn’t offer AP classes and or do something in the way of SAT prep. A little college prep wouldn’t kill anyone. Latin and logic and virtue are great and all, but at the end of the day, I need a job.
Gibbs: At the end of the day, you need a soul.
Junior: I already have a soul.
Gibbs: You already have a job, too. You bag groceries at Kroger.
Junior: I mean a good job.
Gibbs: I mean a good soul.
In upholding the idea that a good man is hard to find, classical education is poised to disturb most Christians in America, for American Christians can essentially be divided between those who believe a good man is easy to find and those who believe a good man is impossible to find. Those who believe good men are easy to find take it for granted that every baptized church attender is doing everything that God asks, thus the struggle for virtue is not necessary.
Teacher: What are the signs of a healthy classical Christian school?
In the same way the priest repairs behind the iconostasis to consecrate the bread and wine, so a celebrant of the birthday party repairs to the kitchen to consecrate the cake. The cake is ritually transformed into the body of the birthday boy or birthday girl through the lighting of candles. For every year the birthday boy has lived, one candle is lit. When all the candles are lit, the cake has become an icon of the birthday boy. The celebrant then ritually processes out from behind the iconostasis/kitchen toward the congregation of the party.
Student: Why do you let your kids read Harry Potter books?
Gibbs: Why not?
Student: St. Augustine would not have let his kids read books which made wizards out to be heroes. He would have burned those books just like the Ephesian Christians burned their books of magic in Acts 19.
Gibbs: Finally! A good argument against the Harry Potter series.
Student: What do you mean, “Finally”?
A dialogue between a manager at Food Country and a seventeen year old boy who has applied for a job.
Food Country Manager: Sorry, but based on the way your tests came back, I cannot offer you a job.
Kid: Why not? I couldn’t have failed the drug test.
FCM: Your drug test was fine, but your light scan came back hot.
Kid: My light scan?
FCM: The retina scan they did after you peed in the cup.
Kid: Yeah, what was that about?
Like most practical and common-sense claims, my thesis is also a little offensive: In the classroom, teachers should dress like teachers.
Reflexively, the reply comes: But who gets to say what a teacher looks like?