“What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” A classical Christian education dares to say quite a lot. But what does Hogwarts have to do with a classical Christian education? I dare to say more than you think, which is why I say send your child to Hogwarts. The book series contains a myriad of classical allusions and its positive (and in some ways practically Biblical) portrayal of love is astonishing to find in something so fervently revered by pop culture.
Over the course of the last few weeks we decided we should go on a bit of a Tom Hanks binge. You know, the classics: Sleepless in Seattle, Forest Gump, You’ve Got Mail, and Cast Away. Hanks is an incredibly gifted actor who has portrayed some of the greatest characters in cinematic history. His ability to communicate depth and complexity with the utterance of a single word is quite profound.
Coming from Northern California, where my beloved Pacific Ocean is often a murky green or fathomless purple-gray, I always found the “wine-dark” seas of Homer resonant, fitting; until I remembered that Homer was writing about the sparkling blue gemstone that is the Mediterranean, set within its circlet of land. Wine-dark? Simple scansion cannot account for this description, as it does for so many Homeric epithets. Rather, it appears that Homer called the ocean “wine-dark” not only because of scansion, but because the very word “blue” did not exist yet in Greek.
Socratic teaching methods are a cornerstone of classical education, for good reason. Plato’s Socratic dialogues are foundational for presenting the big ideas behind “great conversation,” like, truth, justice, and rhetoric. But Socratic pedagogy is not merely classical; it is deeply Christan, as Jesus engaged with listeners through questions, riddles, and parables often more than direct lecture. We believe it is the pedagogy best-suited to the Bible classroom.
Socratic Conversations in Bible
Formation of Imagination
As Classical educators we believe that literature forms the imagination of students, and this conviction is at its truest in the Bible classroom. Through Scripture students imaginatively enter into the reality of the Biblical characters: the pain of loneliness and of long journeys, the loss of family and betrayal of friends, but also the joy of ascending to Zion, smelling the incense in the temple, and receiving manna from heaven.
The Greatest Literary Work
Classical schools are known to be preservers of the great literature of the Western tradition. Homer, Milton, Dante, Shakespeare, and Donne - these authors and their fellows are commonly elevated as those that Classical schools commit to passing on to the next generation. But do we remember Moses, Isaiah, and Paul on our list of great authors?
In his Republic, Plato strives to answer pivotal questions about education: What is it? What is its goal, its purpose in our lives? How should it be accomplished? He begins by describing education as a quest to seek, know, and love truth. It is not a simple acquisition of facts, but a journey that transforms the soul. Its purpose is to bring us to know and love what is just, beautiful and good, and to enable us to live a life guided by devotion to the truth.
Fifteen years ago, I took my first high school teaching job. I was set to teach sophomore English at a large public school. The first day of classes was just a few weeks away. After some frantic reading and planning, the time came to decorate my classroom. Included among the most prominent items: a large printed C.S. Lewis quotation, a large printed Michael Scott quotation, and a Pearl Jam poster.
“Oh, if only I could see that manger in which the Lord was laid! As a tribute of honor, we Christians have now removed the mud-baked one and replaced it with a silver one; but the one that has been removed is more precious to me! Silver and gold are appropriate for the pagan world: the manger of baked mud is more fitting for the Christian faith.... I am amazed that the Lord and Creator of the world was not born amid gold and silver, but in the mud.”
- St. Jerome
December 25, 1956, New York City
It was Harper Lee’s seventh year away from home in Alabama. When she wasn’t working at her job as an airline reservation agent, she wrote fiction. She never expected to make a living from it.