John Calvin once said the human heart was “a perpetual factory of idols.” Similarly, the typical modern institution is a perpetual factory of clichés. A cliché is an idea which once had power but has become impotent and meaningless through overuse. Classical Christian education is presently filled with clichés, but so is every movement. We need not despair, but we do need to repent.
The mitochondria is having a moment.
No, you read that right. The mitochondria.
In a Target parking lot…
Gibbs: Excuse me, sir. I know you have shopping to do, but I was wondering if we could speak for a moment.
Driver: About what?
Gibbs: About your bumper sticker.
Driver: Which one?
Gibbs: The one that says in very large letters, “My children receive a classical Christian education.”
Driver: What about it?
Gibbs: I should tell you now that I followed you a little ways because I wanted to ask you about it.
Parent: Do you know anything about movies?
Gibbs: Not much. How come?
Parent: Well, my son wants to see this new Batman movie and I don’t know how I feel about it.
Gibbs. How old is your son?
Parent: He’s fourteen. The movie is PG-13, and I often let him see films with that rating, but I’ve seen the trailer for this film, and it looks quite dark.
Gibbs: Agreed. It does look quite dark. What’s the debate in your mind?
The following dialogue is adapted from a conversation I recently had with my daughter.
Camilla: My new diary arrived in the mail today.
Gibbs: Before you start this diary, I’m going to lay down a few rules for how it can be kept.
Camilla: What are the rules?
Gibbs: First, your diary will not be a secret diary. I might pick it up and read it whenever I choose. Second, the diary cannot take away from the other writing you do, especially letter writing.
Camilla: Why can’t it be a secret diary?
It’s hiring season, which means that over the next four weeks, scores of teachers are going to fill out applications, travel to new schools, teach sample lessons, and answer questions about who they are and what they believe. Teaching candidates at classical Christian schools have a tendency to play it safe, which means offering sample lessons that would pass at any Christian school, classical or otherwise.
By now, there is little point asking teaching candidates to write a personal philosophy of education. Anyone who has spent ten minutes browsing classical school websites can cobble together an adequate series of statements about virtue, the “image of God,” and the seven liberal arts. When a teaching candidate shows up on campus to teach a sample lesson, administrators should want to know two things: whether students will listen to the fellow in question, and whether they should listen to him. There’s no point in having one quality without the other.
Student: We need to talk. Look, my handwriting is naturally messy. I can’t help it. It isn’t fair that you graded me down on this week’s essay simply because my handwriting was messy. I can’t help it. Besides, don’t my ideas matter more than my handwriting?
Gibbs: What do you mean your handwriting is “naturally messy”?
Student: No matter how hard I try, my handwriting is messy.
Gibbs: That’s not true. Sometimes your work is legible. Flip back through your composition book and have a look for yourself. Your handwriting isn’t always as sloppy as it was this week.
Father: Raiden has been struggling with his grades, as you know, and there are probably some things his mother and I could do on that front, but I think there’s a bigger problem with your class.
Gibbs: What is that problem?
Father: Well, Raiden is convinced that you don’t like him.
Gibbs: I see. And why does he think that?
If you learned that Fox News was producing a five-part documentary series which described the merits of classical Christian education, what would your response be?
Choose one or more of the following options.
A. I would have to see the entire series before I made any judgement on it. It could be helpful to classical Christian education, or it could be harmful.