Everyone is in favor of education, but not everyone can say exactly what they mean by the word. To some, education consists of training in practical skills that can lead to a job; to some it is preparing for tests that will increase the likelihood of getting into a good school; to others it increasingly means indoctrinating children into certain political ideologies.

This is why there are so many disagreements on teaching pedagogy and curriculum: How you educate depends on what you think education is and what it is for.

If you think the goal of education is to get a job, then your curriculum will look like a job training program. It will be short on content and long on “critical thinking skills.” The job of the teacher will not be to familiarize students with any particular body of knowledge, but rather to develop certain narrow technical skills. One side of the curriculum—math and the sciences—will be privileged over the other—the humanities.

If you think the goal of education is to get students into the best schools, then your curriculum will be heavy on test preparation, and the job of the teacher will not be to widen the perspectives of students through literature and history, but to teach how to take tests.

If you think the goal of education is to make students politically active, environmentally aware, and socially conscious, then your science courses will stress fashionable topics like climate change and social studies will emphasize world peace. Math will have less importance, and literature classes will be retooled to emphasize race and gender.

But if your view of education involves something broader and more comprehensive—like how to become a better human being through an understanding of the good, true, and beautiful—then what you teach and how you teach it will reflect that too.

In an educational approach that focuses on the fundamental development of human beings, the curriculum will focus on the best that has been thought and said about the good, the true, and the beautiful, and will teach students the broad intellectual language and mathematical skills they will need no matter what career they pursue.

Such an approach to teaching will need to suit the age of the child and the subject that is being taught.

Younger children require order and clarity, so lower grades will need to reflect this in the more directive approach of the teacher that is appropriate to the nature of the more basic subjects being taught and the more basic developmental state of students.

Older students will also require order and clarity, but it will manifest itself differently given the more sophisticated nature of the subjects and the maturity of the students, who will be required to be more actively involved in class discussions and expected to do more independent work.

Classical Christian education will create aspirations that are not limited to college or career or political opinion, but will encompass the more fundamental concerns of personal character, right action toward others, responsible treatment of the created things of the world, and faithfulness to God—things that make one a better person and more responsible citizen no matter what college a student ends up going to or what career he or she pursues.


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