What Christian Parents Must Know About Education

“I am much afraid that the universities will prove to be the great gates of hell, unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures, and engraving them in the hearts of youth…I advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount. Every institution in which men are not unceasingly occupied with the Word of God must become corrupt.”[1]

                                                                                    -Martin Luther


            Martin Luther believed sending one’s children to a school where the Scriptures do not reign supreme was akin to walking them straight to the gates of Hell. Is this hyperbole? I don’t think so. In the last few generations, the vast majority of American Christians have attended secular schools run by the government. Where has that left us? According to the Barna Group:

  • 64% of 18 to 29-year-olds in the US who grew up in the Church reported they had “withdrawn from church involvement as an adult after having been active as a child or teen.”[2]
  • Only 43% of Millennials that self-identify as Christians believe “the Bible is totally accurate in all of its teachings.”[3]
  • About half of Millennials that self-identify as Christians believe “it is wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes that they will one day share the same faith.”[4]

In summary, Millennial Christians are abandoning the Church, most do not believe the Bible is accurate, and nearly half completely ignore the Great Commission.[5] And it’s not just Millennials; these numbers do not get much better for the older generations alive in America today.[6] Martin Luther might have been on to something.

In this book I will argue that the abysmal state of Christianity in America is the result of generations of Christian parents not educating their children in accordance with the scriptures. If you are suspicious of this statement, I beg you to give me a chance to prove my points before casting this book aside. If you read this and I fail to convince you, you will only have lost a bit of time (it’s a short book). If I am right, however, and you cast this text aside now, your children may miss out on receiving education as God intended his children to receive.

The Biblical Mandate for Christian Education

“Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another. Whatever the soul is like, it will have to be passed on somehow, consciously or unconsciously; and that transition may be called education.”[7]

                                                                                                     – G.K. Chesterton

“Education is a completely religious endeavor. It is impossible to impart knowledge to students without building on religious presuppositions. Education is built on the foundation of the instructor’s worldview (and the worldview of those who developed the curriculum). It is a myth that education can be nonreligious.”[8]

                                                                                                – Douglas Wilson

            Arguably the biggest problem with education among Christians in this country is abdication. By abdication I mean the “act of abandoning or discarding a right, [or] responsibility.”[9] All across this country, Christian parents have abdicated their God-given duty to provide an explicitly Christian education for their children. Parents have stepped aside and given this responsibility to the government schools—public and charter—that teach an explicitly anti-Christian worldview.[10] Let’s explore my assertion in light of two Biblical passages, one from the Old Testament and the other from the New Testament.

We find the first passage in Deuteronomy 6. This passage is part of a sermon Moses delivers to the Israelites on the borders of the Promised Land after forty years of wandering in the wilderness.[11] Here Moses exhorts the Israelites to faithfully obey the covenant laws that were delivered to them at Mount Sinai.[12]

“Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey. Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”[13]

If the Israelites are to live good lives, if they are to live long years, and if they are to multiply greatly, then they must love the Lord with all their heart, soul, and might. If they are to do this they must keep the commandments in their hearts constantly. If they are to keep these words in their hearts constantly they must teach the commandments diligently to their children—at home, on the road, before bed, when they rise. They must bind the commandments to their hands and heads, and they must post them on their homes and gates. What this figurative language conveys is that the Israelites are to teach their children about God during “…any and every time, place, and activity.”[14] The command is clear. But does this Old Testament commandment apply to Christians in the 21st Century? Let’s move now to the New Testament.

In Ephesians 6:4 Paul says to “…bring [your children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”[15] The Greek word that is translated into English as ‘discipline’ in this passage is paideia (παιδεία): “the whole training and education of children.”[16] This word is closely related “to the cultivation of mind and morals.”[17] According to Davies Owens, paideia can be thought of as “the key ingredient in each of our hearts and minds that sustains our culture, motivates the choices we make, [and] determines how we see the world.”[18] In the passage, Paul also exhorts us to raise our children in the Lord’s ‘instruction.’ The Greek word used here is nouthesía (νουθεσία): “warning through teaching.”[19] This sort of instruction “improves a person’s reasoning so they can reach God’s solution…by going through His thought-process.”[20] What all of this means is that Christians are supposed to raise their children to have a thoroughly Christian worldview. Every decision we make, how we interact with the culture around us, and how we live our lives is to be absolutely rooted in Christ.

This Biblical reality should force every God-fearing parent to ask him or herself the following question: “can I fulfill this Biblical mandate while sending my children to a non-Christian school?” I believe, in the vast majority of cases, the answer is “no.” For most parents, sending a Christian student to a public (or charter) school would be akin to the Israelites sending their children to be educated by the Philistines. I believe this to be true because of 1) the explicit and implicit indoctrination encountered in secular schools, 2) the lack of Christ-like teachers in secular schools, and 3) the fact that students will spend upwards of 12,000 hours in K-12 schools, which leaves little time for the falsehoods taught there to be corrected. Let’s take these points one by one.

State School Indoctrination

“We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”[21]

– C.S. Lewis

Explicit Indoctrination

I will argue that it is nearly impossible to raise one’s child in the paideia of Christ while sending him or her to a state school (public or charter) due to the explicit and implicit indoctrination encountered at such schools. As an example of explicit indoctrination, here is an excerpt from the mainstream world history textbook I had to teach from at a secular school. While this is just one example, please understand that this is not an exceptional case; this sort of indoctrination is commonplace in today’s state schools:

“Neither Jesus nor the Buddha had any intention of founding a new religion; rather, they sought to revitalize the traditions from which they had come. Nonetheless, Christianity and Buddhism soon emerged as separate religions, distinct from Judaism and Hinduism, proclaiming their messages to a much wider and more inclusive audience. In the process, both teachers were transformed by their followers into gods. According to many scholars, Jesus never claimed divine status, seeing himself as a teacher or a prophet, whose close relationship to God could be replicated by anyone.”[22]

Did you catch it? Dr. Strayer would have us believe that Jesus never claimed divinity—his disciples transformed him into a god after his death. The only attempt Dr. Strayer makes at academic honesty here is his tacit admission that not all scholars hold this view, just “many” scholars. Yet, he never goes on to say anything like, “Many scholars, however, ardently believe that Jesus Christ did claim to be divine. These scholars argue that Jesus’ disciples would be unlikely to accept death as martyrs—as most of them did— if they did not believe Christ was truly the Son of God.” This statement would have at least made the passage academically fair, but nothing of this sort is found in the textbook.

            Now, when I had to teach from this book, I stopped my class and explained to my students why this particular account was biased. But what happens when a Christian student is eagerly fed this great lie by a non-Christian teacher? Probably, the student will go home and tell their parents. Will their parents be able to counter this false assertion? Perhaps. Will a lot of parents struggle to adequately explain why the teacher and the distinguished historian (with a Ph.D.) are wrong? Probably. Speculation aside, what undoubtedly has happened is a war for the very soul of the student has been initiated and that student’s relationship with Christ will be at risk. What a risk to take with one’s children!

            Now, please do not misunderstand me. I am not advocating that we keep our Christian students ignorant of the challenges to Christianity. What I am arguing for is this—that those challenges should be introduced and then countered by Christian teachers. Instead of a (possibly) untrained parent trying to refute Dr. Strayer around the kitchen table after a long day’s work, why not have a Christian teacher facilitate a deep historical and scriptural exploration of Jesus’ claims of divinity? I hope I have made my point. Let’s move on to implicit, or hidden, indoctrination.

Implicit Indoctrination

Implicit indoctrination is indoctrination most are not even aware of. It’s in the shadows, below the surface indoctrination. This makes it exceptionally dangerous. How do you defend against an attack you are unaware of? C.S. Lewis wrote about this exact problem in The Abolition of Man, which is a book about the dangers of our modern education system. Here we join Lewis as he discusses an English textbook written by Gaius and Titius (pseudonyms):

“In their second chapter Gaius and Titius quote the well-known story of Coleridge at the waterfall. You remember that there were two tourists present: that one called it ‘sublime’ and the other ‘pretty’: and that Coleridge mentally endorsed the first judgement and rejected the second with disgust. Gaius and Titius comment as follows: ‘When the man said That is sublime, he appeared to be making a remark about the waterfall… Actually…he was not making a remark about the waterfall, but a remark about his own feelings. What he was saying was really I have feelings associated in my mind with the word “Sublime,” or shortly, I have sublime feelings.’ Here are a good many deep questions settled in a pretty summary fashion. But the authors are not yet finished. They add: ‘This confusion is continually present in language as we use it. We appear to be saying something very important about something: and actually we are only saying something about our own feelings.’”[23]

The definition of “sublime” (as an adjective) is as follows: “tending to inspire awe usually because of elevated quality (as of beauty, nobility, or grandeur) or transcendent excellence.”[24] So, is the waterfall sublime, is it merely pretty, or is it up to the viewer to determine the value of the waterfall?

I will argue that the waterfall meets the definition of sublime, because, as a beautiful part of God’s good creation it displays “…his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature…”[25] Therefore the waterfall is a testament to God himself. Gazing at it forces us to contemplate its beauty, its grandeur, and it points to a transcendental Maker. Yet Gaius and Titius (and most postmodern teachers today for that matter) will have us believe that this very fingerprint of God is not objectively sublime—the viewer’s feelings determine the value of the waterfall. It could be sublime to one, pretty to another, or abhorrent to yet another. This may seem like a trivial distinction, but clue in on what has happened here. What Gaius and Titius have actually done is they have assaulted the idea objective value in the minds of their young readers and they have smuggled in (purposefully or not) the idea that value is relative.

For Lewis—and I must say I wholeheartedly agree with him—this sort of teaching is catastrophic. This sort of teaching assaults the core of what God designed men and women to become:

“Until quite modern times all teachers and even all men believed the universe to be such that certain emotional reactions on our part could be either congruous or incongruous to it—believed, in fact, that objects did not merely receive, but could merit, our approval or disapproval, our reverence, or our contempt. The reason why Coleridge agreed with the tourist who called the cataract sublime and disagreed with the one who called it pretty was of course that he believed inanimate nature to be such that certain responses could be more ‘just’ or ‘ordinate’ or ‘appropriate’ to it than others….St Augustine defines virtue as ordo amoris, the ordinate condition of the affections in which every object is accorded that kind and degree of love which is appropriate to it. Aristotle says that the aim of education is to make the pupil like and dislike what he ought. When the age for reflective thought comes, the pupil who has been thus trained in ‘ordinate affections’ or ‘just sentiments’ will easily find the first principles in Ethics: but to the corrupt man they will never be visible at all… Plato before him had said the same. The little human animal will not at first have the right responses. It must be trained to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likeable, disgusting, and hateful. In the Republic, the well-nurtured youth is one ‘who would see most clearly whatever was amiss in ill-made works of man or ill-grown works of nature, and with a just distaste would blame and hate the ugly even from his earliest years and would give delighted praise to beauty, receiving it into his soul and being nourished by it, so that he becomes a man of gentle heart.’”[26]

This will not be so for the pupils that are instructed by Gaius and Titius. They will not be taught to love the good. They will not be taught to despise evil. They will not be taught to appreciate beauty. They will not recognize truth as truth. In short, they will not be taught to view the world as God would have them view it. They will be unable to set their minds upon “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable…”[27] For Lewis, this type of education is tragic. But before we get to the final result of this sort of education, I would like to pause to address a concern or doubt some of you may have with my argument thus far.

 I am sure some readers out there will say, “but surely you are placing far too much importance on this one interaction in an English class. This one passage cannot really derail a Christian student from following Christ.” First, I would say that we are not really talking about one passage in an English textbook. This sort of postmodern thought pervades the curriculum in all classes in the government schools. Students are hit with this every day. Second, I agree it is unlikely that a Christian student will read the Gaius and Titius passage, go home, renounce Christianity and become an atheist. But with this implicit indoctrination what is really concerning is what exposure to this thought does over time. Lewis again:

“I do not mean, of course, that he [the student] will make any conscious inference from what he reads to a general philosophical theory that all values are subjective and trivial. The very power of Gaius and Titius depends on the fact that they are dealing with a boy: a boy who thinks he is ‘doing’ his ‘English prep’ and has no notion that ethics, theology, and politics are all at stake. It is not a theory they put into his mind, but an assumption, which ten years hence, its origin forgotten and its presence unconscious, will condition him to take one side in a controversy which he has never recognized as a controversy at all. The authors themselves, I suspect, hardly know what they are doing to the boy, and he cannot know what is being done to him.”[28]

So, what is being done to the boy? Though Lewis does not use this phraseology, what he means is that they are being robbed of the paideia of Christ—the way God wants us to view, interact with, and respond to the world. In Lewis’ terms this sort of education produces “men without chests.”[29] It rips out their soul and deforms it. Parents beware!

The Teacher Problem

In this section, I will argue that non-Christian teachers are reason enough to pull one’s children out of public and charter schools. That may sound extreme, but I think the move is actually quite practical if we understand what a teacher is in the context of K-12 education.

Let’s go back to Ephesians 6:4: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline (paideia) and instruction (nouthesía) of the Lord.” Remember that paideia means “the whole training and education of children.”[30] Now, who is responsible for educating children in the paideia of Christ? The answer, of course, is clear. Fathers—I think it is safe to say “parents”—are responsible for the education of their children. The state is not responsible. The school district is not responsible. Teachers are not responsible. The command is clearly given to parents, and parents will ultimately be held accountable for obeying or disobeying this commandment.

It follows, then, that for Christians, a teacher in a school should be the designated agent of the parents. It also follows that parents are responsible for choosing an agent who will help raise the child in the paideia of Christ. Unfortunately, most Christian parents take no part in determining who will act on their behalf—who will parent their children—in the classroom. Ironically, while most parents do not realize that by sending their children to school they have delegated some of their parental authority to teachers, the government absolutely realizes this.

You see, as soon as your child steps onto campus in the morning, the government sees itself as your child’s parent. It teaches them, it disciplines then, and it gives them a worldview. This mindset has actually been codified, and firmly supported by the Supreme Court.[31] It’s called in loco parentis, which means “in the place of a parent.”[32] Thus, when Christian parents send their children to government schools they are allowing the state to raise their children in their place, to a certain degree. This would not be bad at all if the state would help parents raise children in the paideia of Christ. But clearly, this is not the case. The state raises children in the paideia of the state. It remakes children in its own image—an atheistic, postmodern image that laughs at absolute truth, goodness, and beauty. So what should parents be looking for in teachers?

It’s quite simple. At minimum teachers should be Christians that firmly believe in the truth of the Apostle’s Creed and the inerrancy of scripture. Beyond this, the fruit of the spirit should be evident in the life of a teacher. They should be someone committed to imitating Christ because it is very likely that students will imitate their teachers (for better or for worse). For the Christian parent, all of the above makes secular schools a nearly untenable choice if they are to obey the command given Ephesians 6:4.

This brings me to the last reason why I feel it is nearly impossible for Christian parents to raise their children in the paideia of Christ while sending them to a secular school; the massive number of hours students spend in schools.

12,000 Hours of K-12 Education

Having read this book thus far, some parents will probably maintain that they can still meet Biblical education requirements while sending their children to a government school (and to be fair, I do believe a very small minority of parents can). They will say “we will simply counter the false teachings of the secular school at home.” I would strongly urge such parents to consider the numbers before making this decision (I would also ask them to review the statistics from the Barna Group at the beginning of this book). Our students will receive about 12,000 hours of school-based instruction between kindergarten and 12th-grade.[33] As has been stated, during these 12,000 hours our students are being fed a constant stream of explicit and implicit indoctrination, and they are being parented by teachers who (in many cases) think Christianity is utter foolishness. How many hours per week can parents really devote to countering this storm of falsehood? How much time is left to counter explicit indoctrination after dinner is eaten and homework is done on any given night? And how is a parent to counter implicit indoctrination, which by definition is below the surface and difficult to spot? Perhaps some readers will concede this point, but of course, the next thing they will say is “but surely all teachers are not bad, there are many Christian teachers in the government schools.”

First, I would pause to thank the Christian teachers in public and charter schools for what they are doing. They are serving as missionaries in a hostile environment, and certainly, God can use them where they are to impact students and their schools. That said, I can tell you from experience that such teachers can do very little to counter the anti-God indoctrination that has almost completely permeated the culture and curriculum of our schools. About all a Christian teacher can do is do their best to love students in a Christ-like manner while hoping and praying that students will come and privately ask about Christ. Any more than this and parents will complain and your job will be at risk. No, the Christian teacher in a secular setting is fighting an uphill battle against the forces of secular indoctrination with one hand tied behind his or her back. Perhaps now I have convinced more of you, but still, some will counter with, “well, the church balances out secular schooling, our hope is in the church.”

The church’s attempt to counter this indoctrination of our youth tends to consist of one children’s or youth service per week plus a yearly camp. A rough (and generous) estimate of yearly instructional time would be about 80 hours per year—or about 1,040 hours from kindergarten to 12th grade. This instruction is primarily seeker-friendly (and understandably so) and basic in nature (what I mean here is that the Church is not teaching students to conduct rigorous exegesis, etc.). Most of the service time is, however, not even devoted to instruction, but to music and fun activities. Please do not mistake me here, I do not mean to attack the local youth group and how it is run. I’m just pointing out that most youth groups do not offer serious education. And even if they did, it would still be about thirty-nine fewer hours per week than students are receiving in government schools.

In my opinion, this is not nearly enough to counter the indoctrination of the public school system (not to mention the worldview indoctrination that is constantly conveyed through mass media and entertainment, which we could have spent pages on). One will (typically) not find youth groups engaging in the expository study of scripture, the discussion of great Christian works (such as the works of Bonhoeffer, Augustine, or C.S. Lewis), or the study of apologetics. Yet all of this and more is needed to counter the postmodern worldview that has taken American government schools by storm.

All of the above has led me to believe that sending our children to be indoctrinated in secular schools is often tantamount to a complete abdication of the God-given parental authority in education for most parents. Now it’s time to discuss the solution.

The Solution: Classical Christian Education

No doubt many readers will have guessed from the beginning that we would end up here—advocating for private Christian schools (or at least private Christian homeschool co-ops). It would be a safe bet, however, to assume that many readers feel let down at this ending point. I say this because I have torn down (or at least attempted to tear down) the public and charter schools as a viable option, but private Christian schools have their own faults and there already seems to be a plethora of such institutions in existence. Rest assured, when I advocate for private Christian schools I am not advocating for a replication of the private Christian school you know of down the street. This is because your run of the mill private Christian school has simply taken the dead educational model of the public schools (what I will call the modern model), and added a Bible class or chapel service to the curriculum. This is not good enough. What I am talking about is a classical Christian school. Allow me to explain both the “Christian” and “classical” in classical Christian education.

Christian Education

In his book, Repairing the Ruins, Douglas Wilson expertly differentiates between the different types of private Christian schools in the United States today.[34] The first type, says Wilson, resembles a refuge or monastery. Reactionary Christians at these schools see their schools as a refuge “…from condoms, knife fights, drug deals, racial tension, overtly atheistic teaching, and all the rest.”[35] Wilson rightly rejects this version of a Christian school because it seeks to wall students off from the wider world instead of teaching them to live powerful spirit-fueled lives in (but not of) the world. Because the impetus behind these schools is simply reactionary, these schools tend to produce poorly on the academic front. The goal is simply to build a wall and keep children behind it.

Wilson’s second school type I will term the “government school + Jesus model.” These schools error because they view many academic subjects as neutral. They use many secular textbooks and curricula and they sprinkle in Jesus as a condiment via a Bible class or chapel service (C.S. Lewis already taught us why this approach can be fatal through The Abolition of Man). They make the catastrophic error of viewing Jesus as simply another subject, instead of the Light by which all other subjects can be seen. Wilson puts it this way:

“Some Christian schools take this…approach by using the same fundamental curriculum as do the government schools, but then adding prayer, a Bible class, or chapel. Christian education is seen as distinct because of the addition of a new planet to the preexistent solar system of knowledge. But true Christian education is a Copernican revolution which comes to see Scripture as the sun, which sees Scripture at the center. And that sun, that light, provides the light in which we see everything else. Without that sun, we do not have objectivity; we have darkness.”[36]

The third type of Christian school is simply a Christian school that has been so watered down by the world it can hardly be called a Christian school. At these schools, “Christianity is a perspective; it is not the truth.”[37] We need not spend much time discussing this sort of school. We reject it outright.

The fourth type is “that of the genuine biblical worldview… [this school seeks] to establish scripture at every point as the foundation on which to build all knowledge.”[38] The administrators and teachers at this school are regenerate Christ-followers who believe Jesus Christ is the Word (logos), the Way, the Truth, and the Life.[39] The leaders at this school seek to make every thought captive to Christ Jesus.[40] The Spirit is active in this school among the faculty and the students. And lastly, this school pursues academic excellence, or the best possible education for each of its students. This is because the leaders of this school recognize that, “the greatest commandment includes the requirement that we love the Lord our God with all our brains. The truth of God revealed in Christ is something we must comprehend.”[41] Because of this commandment, the leaders at this fourth type of school have selected the educational model that they believe develops the heart, soul, and mind of students unlike any other—the classical model.

Classical Education

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”[42][43]

                                                                                     – Paul the Apostle

The first thing I should mention when discussing classical education is that this is not some new fad. A classical liberal arts education has been a hallmark of the West since the days of Socrates, at least. Classical education was the primary educational philosophy used in the West from the Late Medieval Period until the progressive (or modern) philosophy eclipsed it in the early 20th Century.[44] Most of the great names we know from Western history received classical educations including, Copernicus, Martin Luther, the American founding fathers, etc. Thus, I am not arguing for something new here. I am arguing for a restoration of education as it should be.

Now, while a classical education certainly involves the study of Greece and Rome, the term can be somewhat confusing because it encompasses so much more than that.[45] Here is a succinct comparison of the classical and modern models of education:

  • Classical education aims to help shape students into virtuous, moral people who love truth, goodness, and beauty. This is the cultivation of the affections Lewis refers to in The Abolition of Man. The goal of modern education is to produce loyal citizens and workers who can be successful economically.
  • Classical education strives to teach students how to think critically, articulate eloquently, and vigorously pursue the truth. Modern education seeks to train students to memorize vast sets of information.
  • The classical classroom has much less didactic (lecture-based) instruction than a modern classroom. Instead, classical students refine their reading, speaking, and critical thinking skills in Socratic seminars. Let us highlight this difference further through an example. In a modern classroom, a history teacher will put a PowerPoint slide on the screen that informs students that Thomas More wrote Utopia. A few facts will be on this slide and students will be told to memorize them for the next test. They will cram those facts and then promptly forget them after the test. In a classical classroom, students will spend a week reading and discussing Utopia and their teacher will ask them key questions to help them unlock and understand the text. Through reading and discussing the work students will gain deep insight into the world of 16th Century England and the political, social, and moral issues of that day. They will then be able to use that knowledge to better inform themselves of the political, social, and moral issues of our day.
  • Classical education involves close study and discussion of the Great Books. Through the Great Books, classical students interact with the greatest minds of humanity. Modern students have little need for the wisdom of the ages found in the Great Books.
  • Classical education seeks to instill a love of learning into students. Classical students learn to love to read and grow intellectually. Thus, classical students learn for the rest of their lives. Modern education tends to produce students who hate school and learning. Once school is complete, learning ends. Thus, classical education teaches students to use their leisure time well. Classical students use much of their leisure time to learn while modern students are likely to waste much of their leisure time engaged in frivolous activities.

The result of all of these differences can be summarized quickly in the following C.S. Lewis quotation. In the quotation, Lewis uses the term “education” to refer to classical education and he uses the term “training” to refer to our modern education:

“The purpose of education has been described by Milton as that of fitting a man ‘to perform justly, skillfully, and magnanimously all the offices both private and public, of peace and war.’ … Aristotle would substantially agree with this, but would add the conception that it should also be a preparation for leisure… Vocational training, on the other hand, prepares the pupil not for leisure, but for work; it aims at making not a good man but a good banker, a good electrician, a good scavenger, or a good surgeon. You see at once that education is essentially for freemen and vocational training for slaves… If education is beaten by training, civilization dies.”[46]


This has been a crash course on the problems of our modern educational system and an introduction to the solution to the problem. In this short work, I have aimed to introduce parents and students to this problem-set without inundating them with information. I have, therefore, left out more than I have covered. I have not, for example, discussed the abysmal academic performance of the government schools, I have not discussed homeschooling in any detail, I have not gone into detail concerning the classical Christian School movement, and I have not discussed the role the Church must play in restoring Christian education in this country. My hope, however, is that this work will make you want to explore all of this and more.

If you want to learn more about classical Christian education, please visit Appendix A: Resources.

Appendix A: Resources


You may contact the author at bbakerone@gmail.com.


As I said in the conclusion, this book is just a short introduction to this topic. I highly recommend the following books (in the order I would read them) to any parent concerned about their children’s education:

Wilson, Douglas. Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning: an Approach to Distinctively Christian Education. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991.

Lewis, C.S. The Abolition of Man, Or, Reflections on Education With Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools. San Francisco: Zondervan Publishing House, 2001.

Guroian, Vigen. Tending the Heart of Virtue: How Classic Stories Awaken a Child’s Moral Imagination. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998 (This text is especially critical for parents of young children).

Internet Resources

The Base Camp Live podcast. This is a classical and Christian podcast for parents and it is a must listen!

My podcast, the Areopagus Education Podcast.

[1] D’Aubigné, JH Merle. History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century. 1846. Pg. 190

[2] “Year in Review: Barna’s Top 10 Releases of 2019.” Barna Group. Accessed December 31, 2019. https://www.barna.com/research/top-10-releases-of-2019/.

[3] Bara Group 2019

[4] Bara Group 2019

[5] Matthew 28:19–20

[6] Bara Group 2019

[7]Chesterton, G.K., “Small Property and Popular Government: July 5, 1924,” in The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton: Volume XXXIII: The Illustrated London News 1923-1925, ed. Lawrence J. Clipper, (San Francisco CA: Ignatius Press, 1990), 362.

[8] Wilson, Douglas. Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning: an Approach to Distinctively Christian Education, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991), 59.

[9] “Abdication.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster. Accessed December 26, 2019. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abdication.

[10] I recognize that some charter schools do not engage in wholesale anti-Christian indoctrination. I believe these schools to be part of a small minority, however.

[11] Barker, Paul. “Introduction to Deuteronomy”. In the ESV Study Bible, ( Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2008), 325.

[12] Barker 326

[13] Deuteronomy 6:1-9

[14] Barker 342

[15] “Ephesians 6:4 (ESV).” Blue Letter Bible. Accessed June 09, 2019. https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/eph/6/4/t_conc_1103004.

[16] Strong’s Greek: 3809. παιδεία (paideia) — the Rearing of a Child, Training, Discipline. Accessed June 09, 2019. https://biblehub.com/greek/3809.htm.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Owens, Davies. “An Ancient Future Education.” Speech, Repairing the Ruins: ACCS Conference 2018, Texas, Frisco, June 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ue5EwHF06Is.

[19] Strong’s Greek: 3559. νουθεσία (nouthesia) — Admonition. Accessed June 09, 2019. https://biblehub.com/str/greek/3559.htm.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Lewis, C. S. The Essential C.S. Lewis. Edited by Lyle W. Dorsett, (New York: Scribner, 2014), 438.

[22] Strayer, Robert. W. Ways of the World: A Global History With Sources, AP Edition, (Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2011), 188.

[23] Lewis 429

[24] “Sublime.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster. Accessed December 29, 2019. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sublime.

[25] Romans 1:20

[26] Lewis 433-434

[27] Philippians 4:8

[28] Lewis 430

[29] Lewis 438

[30] Strong’s Greek: 3809. παιδεία (paideia) — the Rearing of a Child, Training, Discipline. Accessed June 09, 2019. https://biblehub.com/greek/3809.htm.

[31] Stuart, Susan P. “In Loco Parentis in the Public Schools: Abused, Confused, and in Need of Change.” ValpoScholar: a Publication of Valparaiso University School of Law, 2010. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/1907/65c85077f11e64ebb66f1398534699953b90.pdf.

[32] Stuart 970

[33] “Time in School: How Does the U.S. Compare?” Centerforpubliceducation.org. Accessed June 07, 2019. http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/research/time-school-how-does-us-compare.

[34] Wilson, Douglas. Repairing the Ruins: the Classical and Christian Challenge to Modern Education, (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2006), 13-16.

[35] Wilson, 2006, p.14.

[36] Wilson, 2006, p.14.

[37] Wilson, 2006, p.15.

[38] Wilson, 2006, p.15.

[39] See John 1 and 14

[40] 2nd Corinthians 10:5

[41] Wilson, 2006, p.15; Matthew 22:37

[42] Philippians 4:8

[43] According to New Testament scholar Grant Osborne, when Paul speaks of excellence in the passage he “invokes one of the most important virtues in Hellenistic ethics, using a Greek term (areté) encompassing all things considered good or excellent, whether human, animal, or even human-made (such as works of art and architecture). In the context of human virtues, this primarily points to moral excellence, which for Paul meant spiritual and ethical excellence in the sight of God.” Osborne, Grant R. Philippians: Verse by Verse, (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2017), 175.

[44] Howe, Daniel Walker. “Classical Education in America.” The Wilson Quarterly. Spring 2011. Accessed June 10, 2019. https://wilsonquarterly.com/quarterly/spring-2011-the-city-bounces-back-four-portraits/classical-education-in-america/.

[45] Miller, John J. “Back to Basics.” National Review. October 01, 2015. Accessed June 10, 2019. https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2015/10/19/back-basics-2/

[46] Mosteller, Timothy, and Gayne John Anacker. Contemporary Perspectives on C.S. Lewis’ ‘The Abolition of Man’: History, Philosophy, Education, and Science. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018. Pg. 77

Copyright ©2020 Bryan Baker

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Cover Art: Rembrandt’s Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee, 1633

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