“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.
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.
If you ask a bleary-eyed high school teacher how things are going at school, he’ll likely mention grades within a few sentences. "Grades were due last night and I’m spent”... “I was up late emailing a parent about a grade.” Scores of teachers burn out of the classroom every year, many of them citing the grading load. And there is nothing quite like the existential despair that grips a man when he looks at a stack of 100 essays that he knows he must grade.
“Knowledge is power” is a quote often attributed to Francis Bacon, and its sentiment is responsible for much of the dissolution of our modern souls.
Dear Mrs. Norris,
I go to a classical school. Most of my neighborhood friends and some kids I know from soccer all go to public school. When I hang out with them, they make fun of my school. They say that it isn’t a real school because we don’t have very competitive sports, we have to wear uniforms, and we have to take Latin. They make me feel like I’m missing out and like I’m never going to be as cool as they are, all because I go to a classical school. At this point, I’ve started resenting my school for being so weird.
Many parents have offered rewards to their child in order to form a habit. If the child makes his bed every day for a month, he gets ice cream. The goal is that he will continue to make his bed even after devouring the prize. But how often does the child take the reward and then fall back into the same undisciplined lifestyle? He had no interest in forming a habit; he just wanted ice cream and would jump through any hoops to get it. Because the child only valued ice cream, the reward short-circuited genuine habit formation.
I’ve come full circle in many ways throughout the redeeming and re-enchantment of my own education. I have swung left and right with the pendulum and now, as I enter mid-life, I want to walk the balanced road - not of compromise but of wisdom.
I’ve definitely arrived at the place in my life where I want to have learned and embraced the meaning of living in the world but not being of it - and none more than in the area of technology and its place in our lives, homes, and...schools.
Previously, I developed the idea of the latent tension between the active and contemplative life. We must live in the world and work for our bread, but there are higher things than food and clothing. This is how Jesus directs his hearers in the sermon on the mount. “Do not lay up treasures on earth… but in heaven.” “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Classical education prizes the goods of the soul above goods of the body and rightly orders loves by placing them in their proper hierarchy.
“When am I ever going to use this?” This question has plagued educators for generations. Students constantly demand a justification for the utility of their studies. No subject is immune from this assault. Technocrats would rather replace Algebra II with Microsoft Excel. Grammar can be shortened or eliminated because we learn to speak before learning grammar. The fine arts are especially vulnerable to the “starving artist” trope; you can’t eat art. Yet a true education will resist this creeping pragmatism and reach for higher ends.
“And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God?