Classical and Orthodox: An Essay of Education’s Permanent Things
Part I- An Introduction
Undeniably, there has been a shift over the last century in what schools teach as well as the way they teach. The product of this shift should cause all of us to pause, for the results are students who are uninspired, grossly undereducated, and barely literate. Many can and do go on to function well in society, but their knowledge base and general literacy are miles behind their predecessors even 50 years ago. Much more disconcerting is the general lack of basic knowledge and skills which, until recently, were standard in identifying a well-educated mind. It is for this reason that classical schools developed and why they continue to flourish, in spite of what modern departments of education continue to posit as “necessary for intellectual formation.” Therefore, this is the first of a series of essays which will explore these concerns as well as how a classical and Orthodox school addresses these problems in the world today.
The Educational Landscape Today
There are several schools today which call themselves classical, but if you were to ask their teachers, staff, administration, or families what classical education is, you’d likely get a number of different responses. This is not to say that one or all of them are wrong, but rather that the term is broad and can include or exclude different things depending on the type of school with which you are working.
Classical schools have become all the rage over the last 20 years, and this is a good thing. With the decline of many public and parochial schools over the last century, parents want their children to study real things, and they are convinced that classical schools offer something substantive that non-classical public and private schools cannot. This is not, however, to knock all public or private schools, as one can find good schools in both the private and public sector which teach students real things. But generally, most schools today are built upon principles which reject the premise that children are born into a fallen world in which knowledge and wisdom are obscured, so thus process of learning is difficult and requires a vigorous application and firm foundation in first principles in order to find truth.
What is Classical Education– A Glimpse…
But what is classical education and how is it done in classical schools? For purposes of this essay, I will not address what is termed classical pedagogy or the manner in which content is delivered since most discussions using classical and pedagogy together spiral into ridiculousness. Next week, I will begin to discuss what is different about classical schools, what classical schools teach, and how St. Constantine School of Lehigh Valley will be unique among these schools.
John W. Heitzenrater II A.B., M.H.M