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So, You’re Thinking About Classical Christian Education. Think Twice.

Written by Gary North on July 12, 2014

I believe in honesty in advertising.

To demonstrate my commitment to this principle, I have written a promotional sales letter for a classical Christian curriculum. I am authorizing all headmasters of schools that promote the classical Christian curriculum to use this to send out to prospective parents. It is especially relevant to mothers, since they want to understand what classical studies are.

Because of the true nature of what classical history was — above all, in Athens — I thought this would help Christian mothers understand what the foundation of classical education was from the beginning.

This promotional is for the real deal, not the whitewashed version given by headmasters to the students.

I have written about this for 20 years. Start here: http://www.garynorth.com/public/3155.cfm. You will then be ready for this.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Dear Christian Parents:

We teach classical Christian education.

Classical Christian education must begin with classical culture. We are committed to a faithful presentation of classical culture to your children, no later than puberty.

You have heard that classical civilization left a great legacy to the West. We are dedicated to teaching children what made classical civilization great. That is why our curriculum is built on the five pillars of classical culture.

1. Polytheism: the dead spirits of male family heads, plus fertility gods
2. Slavery, which alone made classical culture possible
3. Warfare, with The Iliad as the central cultural document
4. Human sacrifice
5. Pederasty, which brought teenage boys and mature men together (the gymnasium)

Polytheism was basic. This began with the home fire. The wife kept it burning. This was the family’s secret fire. It was not allowed to go out. It honored the deceased male heads of household: household gods.

Then there were food offerings and wine offerings to the dearly departed males. If these were not offered, the ghosts of the dead would bring negative sanctions on the family. This is covered in the great book by Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City. It has been common knowledge among classically educated people ever since 1864.

Fertility gods were basic to classical religion. We start with the statuary of Greece. The best place to begin, we believe, is with Priapus. Here is a Wikipedia article on this god. There are lots of pictures. We make sure that our teenagers get access to these pictures, including the girls. We teach classical religion here. We make sure the kids read this. Check out the statue on page 55. Of course, we talk about the statues of Hermes that were everywhere: crossroads, temples, front doorways, etc. These statues were a head, a square torso, and a smaller head, so to speak. You could not go anywhere in Greece and Rome and not see what mattered most in classical religion.

Slavery, of course, was basic to the ancient world. Classical civilization believed that you can’t have a civilized culture without widespread slavery. Athens knew this. So did Sparta. So did Rome. We read on Wikipedia:

It is certain that Athens had the largest slave population, with as many as 80,000 in the 6th and 5th centuries BC, on average three or four slaves per household. In the 5th century BC, Thucydides remarked on the desertion of 20,890 slaves during the war of Decelea, mostly tradesmen. The lowest estimate, of 20,000 slaves, during the time of Demosthenes, corresponds to one slave per family. Between 317 BC and 307 BC, the tyrant Demetrius Phalereus ordered a general census of Attica, which arrived at the following figures: 21,000 citizens, 10,000 metics and 40,000 slaves.

(For the rest of my article, click the link.)

Continue Reading on www.garynorth.com

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25 thoughts on “So, You’re Thinking About Classical Christian Education. Think Twice.

  1. Our grand children are enrolled in in a Classical Conversation Curriculum and It does not incorporate any of these non Biblical tenets.
    To the contrary, it seams very fundamental to Biblical doctrines and the students or out performing their public school piers by at least 2 grade levels at age 10 and 12. They can now speak a second language and are both in second year Latin [High school level]. They are active in community sports, orchestra, and martial arts. Listing more would sound like bragging.

  2. AD Roberts says:

    This article was nebulous at best. But I believe that there was some deception by NOrth.
    There is no indication of where this, "Classical Christian Education" is being taught. There is no proof that what he terms CCE is what the private schools are teaching.
    I am fairly certain that ANY parent who has gone to the expense and trouble of putting their kid in a Christian school should be looking at what they are being taught.
    No, North, I don't believe you.

  3. AD Roberts says:

    Contrary to North, you seem to have FIRST HAND KNOWLEDGE.

  4. Thank you, Gary, for setting the record straight as to what we're really buying into when we wholeheartedly accept the tenets of Greek and Roman thinking. Yes, to answer the above two respondents, these two civilizations did make valuable contributions to human knowledge. But from a Biblical standpoint, it's necessary to understand that their philosophical and spiritual foundation is anti-Biblical. This will no doubt elicit the response that the Bible is a retrograde influence, since it counters presuppositions of those cultures with truth. That's okay. We're "in the world but not of the world".

    No, the private schools are NOT teaching the things Gary enumerates in this article. He just wants to make sure we understand the cultural and spiritual background of Greece and Rome apart from Christianity. The Western world some centuries ago became very enamored with these two civilizations. They attempted to lay the building blocks of classical culture on the foundation of a Biblical worldview without, in many cases, seeing the contradiction.

  5. maryfrommarin says:

    As a Christian, an educator, a former homeschooling mother, and a proponent of classical Christian education, I am appalled by the misinformation and misdirection in this article.

    "Classical Education/Classical Christian Education" is not built on "classical culture". Mr. North has started off with an entirely erroneous premise and takes off from there into an argument which is slandering of both classical education and Christian educators.

    Classical culture and classical education are NOT synonymous. That is a basic and fundamental fact. Classical education teaches many things about classical culture, but definitely not in the wholesale acceptance/assimilative manner that Mr. North is claiming.

    As one example only: it is beyond ludicrous to claim that Christian educators should teach that slavery, pederasty, and human sacrifice were good and laudable things. In fact, true Christianity teaches against these evil practices. Mr. North should know that; I wonder why he claims otherwise?

    If this was meant as a parody, it is a total fail. Instead, it is incredibly and unwarrantably damaging to a style of education which I believe has immense benefits for our culture.

    If the reader wishes to know a more honest assessment of classical education, I would strongly suggest "The Lost Tools of Learning", an essay by Dorothy Sayers.

  6. Cheryl Pass says:

    Very curious article. I did wonder at first if this was a parody, but then I decided he is serious. There is no discussion of the level of understanding of age appropriateness of this exposure to the debauchery of previous civilizations. A student not knowledgeable about the Bible or Christian morés would not have a basis to judge or compare Rome / Athens to anything else. He gives this no teaching chronology, as if all should be taught the same with the same emphasis.

    No idea why North thought this would be of interest to those interested in Classical Christian Education. He must have had something in mind….but it isn't evident to the reader.

  7. Interesting point is that Christianity is still alive and growing….the Roman and Greek "classics" are not. Why study in such depth the depravity of the former versus the truth of the later…Christianity.

  8. I think Dr. North, once again, is trying to bash on an educational approach he doesn't understand. Perhaps so he can sell more Ron Paul curriculum. : )
    CCE is a fine choice for those of us who choose not to homeschool. Stop being such a crank Gary!

  9. Cedric Klein says:

    I would like to know when the Tenach-He Kaine Diatheke based Christian Homeschooling curriculum designed by James B. Jordan & his Biblical Horizons circle is coming out, which would be a corrective to whatever problems may be in the classics. (Of course, I also want the Through New Eyes Study Bible too.)

  10. Robert What? says:

    I’m not exactly sure of the point of this article. It would fit quite well in the syllabus of a leftist college professor who was trying to prove how evil those dead white European males were and how much better and just was the African, Mayan, Aztec – take your pick – culture.

  11. Uh, what's the connection between the wickedness of classical culture and what today's "classical Christian education" actually teaches? This article does fine at exposing Greco-Roman sin. What are today's cCe-s actually doing, and how does it connect to the sins mentioned?

    I understand cCe to use trivium/quadrivium, which seems no worse than using logic from Aristotle or geometry from Euclid however evil Aristotle or Euclid may have been, and to emphasize Latin; I'd prefer Greek–if it was good enough for Jehovah incarnate and the new covenant scripture, why not for us? and Hebrew, which MAY have been Adam's original language, and which James Jordan would prefer to make basic, but triune Jehovah can be glorified in Latin as well.

  12. Isn't the only education for an aspiring Christian the Bible as well works by famous Christian theologians such Thomas Aquinas?

  13. It's a great choice for those of us who do homeschool too! Great classical homeschool curriculum out there from a thoroughly Christian perspective and worldview. I'm involved with this myself: http://www.oldwesternculture.com

    The Christians used the Pagan epics so effectively to promote the Gospel that the pagan Emperor Julian forbade Christians to teach the classics in their schools! Small example. All our founders were classically educated as well. John Adams wrote to his son, exhorting him to read Thucydides. It is said Washington kept the Bible and a book of Cicero on his bedside table.

  14. One of the reasons to acquire a classical education is to understand the bible. The NT was born into a Greco-Roman world. Practically every great theologian was classically educated: Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Milton, Athanasius, to name a few.

  15. AmericanPatriot says:

    Frankly I cannot see any honest Christian education teaching any of those except possibly 2,3 and 4 as applied to Israel and the USA and still calling themselves Christian teachers or schools. It sounds highly secular and maybe even atheistic. However I would certainly ASK what was taught first.

  16. ncbill12 says:

    Cute – reminds me of "A Modest Proposal"

    On a serious note, our private Christian school uses a shall we say, 'modern classical' approach and we are very happy with its results.

  17. I spent 12 years, at my parents insistence, in a Christian school, and was never taught any of what North alleges. The only mention of it at all was in a negative light. — Something that was diametrically opposed to Christianity.

  18. As others have pointed out, I think GN is confusing method with content.
    http://www.welltrainedmind.com/classical-educatio

  19. Vernon Wooden says:

    I would expect most people educated by the State system of education to have missed the point entirely. But the fact that many proponents of "Classical" Christian education don't even know that there can be no such thing without some serious re-definition of terms, is truly sad. Almost all of those who responded were oblivious as to what constitutes a classical education, even to the dismally laughable distinction between classical culture and classical education. This reminds me of Humpty-Dumpty in Lewis Carroll's "classic," when he says that words mean what he wants them to. Such arbitrary mindlessness is almost enough to make one become a Christian Zarathustra, another contradiction in terms.

  20. Phillip the Bruce says:

    Dead on, Mr. Wooden. Thank you.
    Dr. North is making the point that hardly anyone understands what "Classical" education means, and most would not promote it if they did. As he says, it is false advertising, similar to homosexuals calling themselves (and expecting others to call them) GAY. Or Governments defining homosexual relationships as "Marriage."

  21. I think proponents of Classical education are trying to have some of the prestige some of the older pagan cultures ostensibly had without actually teaching what they taught. If you do not teach what they taught, why call it Classical? If you use the Bible to determine what is acceptable and what isn't acceptable in classical culture and teachings, is it still then a "classical" education? I have no problem junking the term. I would much rather call it a Biblical education.

  22. My children are being taught what is being called a Classical Education program. They are not being taught that polytheism or pedophilia or anything of the like is ok. They do read some of the classics. However, Christ and the Bible are central to every discussion. Does anyone know of a program calling itself a Christian Classical Education program that teaches that pagan things are ok? Or are Gary North and others simply trying to "educate" the "ignorant" that what they are teaching is not really a classical education? If that is the case, why not just say that? That however would not be a very long article. I seem to also remember Gary North bad mouthing the A Beka program. I would be curious as to what the perfect program is? Until, I find that, I will joyfully and "ignorantly" continue to educate my children with the program they are in, whether misnamed or not.

  23. @geneww39: please tell us how your children use and befit from learning Latin, a dead language. Perhaps you did not read the full article upstream of this one where Rushdooney lays out a strong argument against Classical education and why in detail. It is worth the long read. I am making a copy for a friend who pays dearly to send his two children to a “Classical Christian Education” school in Meridian, ID.

  24. Exactly it was very clear to me what he said, notice I didn't say what he is trying to say. If his point isn't clear to his readers then it's the readers with the problem not the writer.

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