What is Classical Education? Part I

“Education” is a hard word to define.  Even “Christian” is hard to define.  And certainly “classical” is a tough word.  Put all three of these words together and you have a three-layer cake that is very hard to eat.  I have read a lot of books about education, and find it remarkable just how many different “aims of education” exist among educational writers.  Read ten books on education and you will find at least five different “purposes” for education.  And simply because a school calls itself Christian doesn’t mean you can know a whit about what way the Christian faith comes to bear on the culture, curriculum and pedagogy of the school. We Christians have to constantly qualify what kind of Christians we are and have trouble doing so.  Words like “fundamentalist,” “conservative,” “liberal” and even “evangelical” have become stretched, ballyhooed and therefore problematic.  I call myself a “classical protestant” which avoids the confusing connotations of other adjectives, but still leaves the listener wondering just what kind of animal I am.  Alas, it usually means further conversation when we want to classify each other quickly and move on.  It is no surprise that classical Christian schools find it challenging to define themselves well.

Classical Christian education (CCE)  cannot be classified too quickly.  Sure, we can offer a decent first level definition of CCE like the following ones:

  • CCE is a form of education rooted in the best educational practices of the past.
  • CCE is the cultivation of wisdom and virtue by nourishing the soul on truth, goodness, and beauty.
  • CCE is is an educational approach rooted in Christian conviction and theology employing the historic curriculum and pedagogy of the liberal arts in order to cultivate men and women characterized by wisdom, virtue and eloquence.

All of these are good definitions, yet they are by no means the only legitimate ways of crafting a definition.  Definitions can be short or long, they can include multiple sub-definitions or connotations.  One level down from a “dictionary” definition is a paragraph statement (which many classical schools have); the next level might be an essay or and encyclopedia article.  Finally, we arrive at the level of a book on the subject, and of course such books do exist–short ones and long ones.

I have written a short book of 45 pages (a pamphlet?) on CCE and given frequent seminars on the subject.  I will be writing more about defining CCE on this blog, but here is audio link to a seminar I presented on the topic of “What is CCE?” It is edited and 16 minutes long.  Those interested can also download a free ebook of my pamphlet An Introduction to Classical Education: A Guide for Parents by going to the following web page: ICE Book Download

Here is the audio clip:

What is Classical Education

Ideas for effectively defining classical Christian education…are welcome.

3 Responses to “What is Classical Education? Part I”

  • dawn:

    Dr. Perrin! I’m so glad you’re offering your book as an ebook! After I read WTM and Wisdom and Eloquence, I was *very* confused. Your pamphlet (a friend and I studied it!) helped so very much. I recommend it all the time as one of my favorite books on what is a classical education and read through it occasionally.

    Thanks you!

  • The three-layer cake is hard to eat. Try putting Christian, Classical Education in a Middle Eastern context teaching Muslims! Servant Group International (http://www.servantgroup.org) is implementing this type of education in the area of Kurdistan.

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