Let’s start by saying that I love the classical education model. It has done well for my children. I use it. But, I have observed a few problems and I want those who use the method to be aware of the pitfalls. If I am
Classical education has enormous benefits, and a few flaws.
mapping out a classical education journey for you, I want to also mark the danger spots to help you avoid them.
Classical education can breed arrogance. As a member of a scholarship board that has reviewed hundreds of applications, I have seen a pattern among classically educated students. While pride in accomplishment is certainly warranted, I often see an air of superiority in the essays of these students. I find it interesting to note that a record of service in other classically educated students seems to bring balance and humility. Those classically educated students who get their hands dirty in service to community, family and the world are better equipped to handle the knowledge they have been given. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. I Corinthians 8:1.
Beware of idolizing the ancients. While I have a tremendous respect for Plato, he is just a man, flawed like the rest of us. There exists within classical education a growing revival of Greco-Roman thought. While we should absolutely read these classics, a good dose of history shows us that the Greco-Roman ideals cannot hold up in the way we hope. Our American forefathers based this grand experiment of democracy on a revival of this ancient thought. But Socrates himself outlined the cycle of regimes, telling us that
Look closely at the big ideas through the ages and see where these ideas led.
democracy will turn into tyranny and that democracy bankrupts itself. Roman thought requires domination and war mongering. Classical education is much more useful to show us where we have been and why we think and act as we do. It serves to show us noble examples of the best of men, like my personal favorite, Cincinnatus. It does not give us a governmental system that will usher in utopia.
Many of the classics that we read were written from a humanist perspective. Humanism is inherently self-centered. If your curriculum is faith-based, be like the Bereans and measure everything against the standard of God’s Word. Follow philosophies to their logical conclusion with your students and critique thoroughly. Enjoy your classics and avoid the potholes!