The Sanity of Classical Christian Education
This e-mail, from a reader, is encouraging:
I just read your “Exiles from the Academy” blog post. I wanted to let you know that I, too, am an exile.
You might remember my email from back in April when I told you I was leaving my PhD program in English because I couldn’t stand the politicized environment. Once I left, I wasn’t sure what I would do (one struggle was that while my wife made decent money as a nurse, we had a newborn at home that she would have rather been with–I needed to find a way to support us), but I ended up as an 8th Grade Humanities (Literature, History, and Theology) teacher at [a classical Christian school].
Anyhow, I wanted to encourage you (and perhaps your readers) in a couple of ways:
First, your blog was a lifeline for me when I was looking for Goodness, Truth, and Beauty while drowning in the ideological bullshit governing my intellectual life in the Academy. I mean, I certainly was reading good books on my own, but your blog helped provide a space where I found intelligent people actually discussing things that mattered. I found, albeit in a reduced form because it wasn’t in person, an intellectual community that helped sustain me. And I learned that I wasn’t crazy, that I wasn’t the only one in the Academy (sometimes it can feel so lonely) who resisted the brainwashing and groupthink of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
Second, there are places out there willing to take in academic refugees, give them a good home, and set them up doing good work. My wife told me the other day that she noticed that I have been happier and less anxious than I’ve been since she’s known me. She attributes this to me now having good and meaningful work as a Humanities (Literature, Theology, and History) teacher at Classical and Christian school where I can put my knowledge and talents to good use. Aside from a) making decent money (not a paltry TA stipend) and b) having regular work hours, it has been working with colleagues, students, and parents who share my devotion to Christ and who are drawn to the Great Books and to the Good, the True, and the Beautiful that has done wonders for my soul. Being able to teach my students about courage and loyalty in Beowulf rather than writing about how Star Wars is horribly racist (for example) has liberated my spirit and has reawakened in me the love of story that first prompted me to become an English major.
Eventually I’ll probably finish a PhD (I’m not sure I can stay away from school), but I will do so somewhere (like the University of Dallas) that actually loves our cultural and literary heritage.
We need to talk more about this. Classical Christian education is something people of faith ought to be paying a lot more attention to — and something that Christian philanthropists ought to be thinking about supporting. One problem with it right now is that it is often too expensive for average families to afford. Seems to me, though, that there has to be some way to bring tuition costs down if a significant number of parents opted for it.
St. Jerome Academy in Hyattsville, Maryland, revived a dying Catholic parish school by adopting the classical model, in a Catholic way. Why can’t dioceses all over the country experiment with this model in at least one of their schools? I’m not sure what the situation is for Protestants (the letter-writer teaches at a Protestant school), but we need smart, energetic, and entrepreneurial people to think about it. Here’s a great model: Sequitur Classical Academy, the classical Christian tutorials that our son used to participate in, was a start-up project of a couple of energetic Reformed guys, and it has really taken off. Istrouma Baptist, a Baton Rouge megachurch, has partnered with Sequitur, and lets them hold classes there. Sequitur is a homeschool co-op where the classes are taught by professional educators.
You can do this where you live! And you should. Curse the darkness, sure, but understand that there are people right now who are lighting candles. What’s needed is vision, resources, and a sense of entrepreneurship.
UPDATE: From a Catholic high school teacher:
I’m sure your inbox is being inundated with university horror stories, but I’ve noticed a real shift in the last three years or so with my students as they go off to college. I used to be able to count on a number of my kids going off to the elite universities and holding on to some semblance of coherence. Not conservative, per se, but decidedly grounded. The last several years have been marked with a fairly radical turn. They are being re-educated in a remarkable way, and at an alarming rate.
It’s rather disheartening. I know these kids very well. I used to joke with one of my kids who went off to [an Ivy League college] that when the revolution comes, please remember your dear old Catholic professor and NOT kill him because he’s a Christian.
I feel like I should call him up and get that in writing now. He is, of course, an off-the-rails socialist, atheist, materialist, looking to go to grad school in philosophy.
By the way, The CiRCE Institute is a great resource for classical Christian education.