Why Classical Christian?

Why Classical Christian? by Matt Mitchell, NHCS  Former Head of School

At the University of Oxford and in the year 1947, Dorothy Sayers presented "The Lost Tools of Learning," a groundbreaking essay that began an exciting educational renaissance.  Among the first to identify and openly challenge the emerging weaknesses in the modern educational system, Sayers suggested that the progressive educational reforms of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries had created a culture of students who could no longer think deeply or thoughtfully.  “Progressive education" (a self-ascribed label that liberals used to identify their efforts) was a movement to replace the traditional forms of education that prevailed for more than 2,000 years).  Sayers commented on what she saw as the problematic fruits of the progressive reforms, noting “…although we often succeed in teaching our pupils ‘subjects,’ we fail lamentably on the whole in teaching them how to think: they learn everything, except the art of learning.”   

Sayers’ sentiments ring even truer today than they did in the 1940’s.  While most of us received schooling that provided skills needed to become productive members of the workforce (as educators, electricians, physicians, plumbers, or accountants), it does not take much reflection to realize that most Americans are not particularly well-educated and few possess the tools needed in order to become lifelong learners.  Lamentably, we have become the generation that has, to use Sayers’ terms, “lost the tools of learning.”  Sadder still is the fact that, out of ignorance, we are largely doomed to pass a similar legacy on to our children.

Yet, there is an alternative.  Since Sayers presented her essay, great educators and thinkers have called attention to the fact that the “progressive experiment” is not simply failing our society, but that it also supplanted an established educational approach that was rich, impactful and, indeed, very effective.  From the outset, it should be noted that, for many, the thought of returning to one form of education that was superseded by another seems primitive.  “How can we go forward by moving backwards?”  “How could a classical education meet the needs of a twenty-first century student?”  There are no brief answers to these questions, but I have attempted to unpack them as concisely as possible.  As you read, please understand that my thesis is not simply that we must move forward by looking back.  Rather, I am suggesting that it is absolutely critical for us to return to the former paradigm if we are to have any hope of producing a generation that is fully prepared to preserve our American heritage, our Christian values and faith, and to tackle the cultural, economic, and social challenges that lie ahead. 

The Progressive Educational Reforms

In order to fully understand such a claim, it is imperative to first grasp a bit of the history of education in America.  Proper examination of the historical roots of the progressive reforms is best set against a backdrop that probes deeper into history, beginning with the ideas of Thomas Jefferson. 

Fundamental to Jeffersonian thinking about American society was an understanding that the fledgling democratic republic of the United States of America was experimental.  Prior to the time our great country was constituted, no other land had attempted to create a “melting pot” of divergent cultures, religious views, races, and ideological perspectives.  Jefferson believed that, for the pluralistic society to function peaceably, citizens needed to develop a common national ethos.  In order for that ethos to emerge, he believed, the public sector (including schools) needed to be neutered of “speculative subjects” that might detract from it.  This included the study of subjects such as theology, philosophy, and the arts. 

Jefferson’s own educational experience was purely classical – consisting not only of mastery of five languages, history, the fine arts, sciences, philosophy, and mathematics, but also of biblical theology.  Jefferson simply rejected his theological training in favor of a deistic worldview. (Many will recall that “The Jefferson Bible,” which remains on display in the Smithsonian, is a physical reminder of Jefferson's hostility towards orthodox Christianity.  Jefferson literally used scissors to remove the supernatural activity of God, leaving only the “great moral teachings” intact).  For the most part, Jefferson valued the education he received.  Yet, his ideas are invariably linked to the decline of classical schooling, providing grist for the mental mill of the progressive thinkers and educational reformers who would follow him in history.

Among the most influential of such reformers was Horace Mann, who is generally recognized as the father of the common school.  Until the common school took hold in Massachusetts in the late 1800’s, many impoverished Americans remained uneducated.  Mann not only concurred with Jefferson’s ideologies to create a common national ethos out of a pluralistic society (“E Pluribus Unum”), but he also built upon Jefferson’s thinking.

An advocate that all citizens of the United States must be educated, Mann saw education as “the great equalizer” in society – a savior of sorts.  If everyone could be properly educated, Mann believed, it might be possible to eliminate poverty, crime, and social injustice.  As a result, school attendance eventually became compulsory across the United States (hence, the name “common” school).  Further, he advocated for a curriculum that would find "common denominators" among social classes and that would enable students to understand their respective roles in society.  In fact, Mann's ideas precipitated the eventual replacement of the study of "history" with "social studies," a curricular change to something more grounded in answering the question, "Who should I be as an American citizen?" than in educating children on the unfolding of God's pattern for history.

Mann’s and Jefferson’s ideas were given further impetus by the needs of the Industrial Age.  Faced with a growing demand for skilled laborers, businesses turned to schools to equip future workers with skills that would enable them to become productive contributors to society.  John Dewey (1859-1952), arguably the most radical and noted educational reformer of all, seized this opportunity to re-develop the education system around the needs of an exploding industrialized democracy.  Dewey strongly believed that the schooling experience must be more child-centered, and focused upon socializing children more than upon educating them.  To take it a step further, he viewed the reigning paradigm of "intellectual education" (classical schooling) as an "imposition" upon childhood.  Dewey also picked up Jefferson’s thread of removing religion from education, citing his belief that God was only necessary to explain the "gaps" in human understanding.  In other words, Dewey believed that God was only needed for the questions to which human reason and intellect had not yet discovered an answer.  He argued that the goal of a good education must be to eliminate the need for the “God of the gaps.”  Dewey’s works still provide a rudimentary text for almost every educational training program in the United States, and the outcome of his ideas has been the creation of a generation that is largely ignorant and godless.

By this point in history, the school was no longer the caliber of educational institution that had existed in prior centuries.  It had become a “social regulator” (Jefferson), a “social equalizer” (Mann), and “equipper of a skilled labor source” (Dewey).  More dramatically, by federal mandate, the schoolhouse became inherently atheistic.  By the 1900’s – and almost entirely by 1950 – the classical form of education had fully eroded.  A paradigm that had largely reigned since 600 B.C. was replaced with the progressive model, encompassing and fulfilling the visions of Jefferson (and other Enlightenment thinkers), Mann, Dewey, and other progressive reformers.

There are few who would suggest that classical schooling must have been high quality because the paradigm reigned for so long.  Rather, most who are familiar with this approach would suggest that the classical paradigm for education reigned for so long because it was high quality.  Yet, not all of today’s classical educators would advocate a complete return to former times.  Is it not a positive development, for instance, that even the poorest Americans can receive an education?  But, let us not allow our democratic ideals to cause us to lose sight of the beauty that was lost with the intentionally shifting paradigm.  Our brief look at this history of American education provides a useful backdrop against which we might examine how classical schooling can effectively be applied to students in the twenty-first century.

The Need for Classical Schooling

In his book entitled “A Thomas Jefferson Education” (which is a title that suggests returning to the form of education that Jefferson received; it is not an examination of the Jeffersonian ideas we have discussed here), Oliver Van De Mille notes that, prior to Mann, education took on three primary forms: 1) Leadership education, which was generally offered by private paid tutors and provided only to the wealthy.  This form was purely classical, and was designed to produce social leaders and statesmen.  2) Apprenticeships or university studies, which is generally what we think of today as education that provides training for a specific vocation.  In centuries gone by, this would have included both technical roles as well as “professional” ones, such as teaching, medicine, and law.  3) Public education, which was widely available, but not required of everyone.  This form of education was generally established to ensure that the poor could obtain basic literacy if they desired it, although it still used some of the classical elements that benefited the children of wealthy families.

Ask most any college professor and he or she will tell you that today’s young people are ill-prepared for the academic rigors that our colleges wish to create.  Young college students struggle with a profound inability to reason and to express their thoughts in a coherent manner (never mind an articulate one!).  Ask most any business leader and he or she will tell you that the thing that is lacking in today’s employees is the ability to think – both collaboratively and independently.  When one realizes that today’s “common school” (public education) was designed around and specifically for society’s poor and that the model focuses upon “the least common denominator” (Mann's great equalizer), the question begs to be asked, “Is it any wonder that today's citizens are generally under-educated?”

With Van De Mille, classical educators generally believe that today’s educational paradigms have lost the element of “leadership education” that existed prior to the last 100 years.  Further, schools have drastically blurred the line between an “education” and “training.”  In his book, “An Introduction to Classical Education: A Guide for Parents,” Christopher Perrin notes,

“Ultimately the Greeks passed down their concept of paideia, their view that man is to be crafted like a work of art by a standard of excellence (arête).  As such, education is the making of a man, not the training of a man to do things (vocational training).” 

Perrin is correct: We have lost the concept of "making a man" before we train him.  So, many classical educators advocate that, even if a student is to pursue a vocational or technical career, a classical education is both desirable and useful.

The Terminology and Distinctives of Classical Christian Schooling

So, what does the phrase “classical schooling” mean?  For many, the phrase will conjure up images of dusty, boring old books.  For others, it will seem synonymous to studying the classical age of the Greeks and Romans. 

So, let us begin with what I do not mean in using the term “classical."  Although it does place heavy emphasis upon the great works of Western Civilization, classical schooling is not defined by the classical period or by the study of ancient works.  Rather, as we will use the term, it refers to works that have withstood the test of time, transcending history and being universally recognized as beautiful, of high quality, and reflective of the excellence of our Creator’s world.  There are both modern and ancient classics, all of them deserving of our students’ attention.  Classical schooling is also not 'stuffy' or 'boring.'  While there is most certainly a higher degree of rigor involved in classical learning, the materials used are far from boring if properly introduced.  More on that later. 

Aside from an emphasis upon our Christian faith and subsequent walk with the Lord, the most significant defining point for all classical schools has to do with a commitment to the study of the seven liberal arts.  In modern times, the term “liberal” is often understood as a reference to a particular political, moral, or theological perspective.  However, in this case, it is meant to define the subject areas that are studied.  Historically, “liberal studies” referred to subjects viewed as essential for the proper education of a “free” person – someone not held in the service of slavery.  In the medieval times, “liberal studies” was more closely defined to hone in on the study of the “Trivium” and the “Quadrivium.”  These terms (particularly the use of the term “Trivium”) are closely tied to the modern renaissance in classical Christian schooling, so it is worth taking a moment to explain them in at least cursory fashion.

“Trivium” literally means “the three ways.”  The use of the word was popularized when Middle Age scholars set out to systematize and organize the tremendously diverse and expansive body of knowledge, subjects, and approaches that were introduced by the Greek and Roman philosophers and intellectuals.  For now, it is helpful to simply know that the Trivium is the study of three subjects: 1) Grammar, or pieces of language and knowledge, 2) Logic, or the organization of language and knowledge into argumentation, and 3) Rhetoric, or the expression of language and knowledge into oral and written form.  The term “Quadrivium,” or “the four ways,” includes the study of the quantitative arts – mathematics, geometry, music, and astronomy (the last of which included extensive study of all sciences).  Together, the “Trivium” and the “Quadrivium” comprise the seven Artes Liberales, or “Liberal Arts.”  Medieval thinkers formalized the liberal arts largely in response to a decline in intellectualism during the Dark Ages.  For a more thorough and expanded treatment of the warrant and profound intellectualism for using Greek and Roman culture, I commend to you Perrin’s book, “An Introduction to Classical Education: A Guide for Parents,” as my treatment here will be more limited to how these terms apply specifically in today’s classical Christian Schools through an explanation of Sayers' interpretation of the Trivium.

Sayers’ Interpretation of the Trivium and Developmental Alignment in Classical Schooling

In her essay, Sayers suggested a new model for the historical delivery of a classical education.  Until her presentation at Oxford, classical education was largely defined by the content of the Trivium and Quadrivium, or the rigorous study of the liberal arts.  Admitting that she was not an educator, Sayers was the first to suggest that the three subjects of the Trivium (grammar, logic, rhetoric) align nicely with the developmental stages of children.  She noted that all subject areas in schools – not just English – contain “grammar” (pieces of factual information).  Likewise, “logic” involves the ordering or “putting together” of the grammar through questioning, argumentation, and organization of thought.  “Rhetoric” involves expression – either written or verbal – of ideas that have been carefully considered.  Sayers proposed that the Trivium might be applied to learning in a way that would act in harmony with the developmental stages of young children (grammar stage), early adolescents (logic stage), and older adolescents (rhetoric stage). 

While children are young – and while they enjoy singing, chanting out facts in unison, repetition, and memorization of facts (the “grammar”) – Sayers argued that they should be immersed in as much factual information as the teacher can provide. In turn, most classical schools have a “Grammar School” that ranges through sixth grade.  Although very young students may not fully understand everything they learn as they decline nouns and memorize parts of speech set to song, instructors take advantage of their “sponge-like” propensity for memorization, ensuring that many of the facts needed for future learning are presented at this stage of development.

Likewise, Sayers noted that once they reach grade six or seven, students enjoy testing boundaries, asking “Why?” questions, and developing their understanding of the way the world works.  She argued that teachers of students at this age should shift to an approach that involves more focus on logic.  According to Sayers' recommended paradigm, methods employed at this age might include learning through discussion, debate, or Socratic questioning.  Students who are in classical schools at this age also often take courses in formal logic where they will learn to argue, debate, and reason effectively.

When students reach the school of rhetoric (roughly grades 10 - 12), Sayers would suggest that they generally enjoy and are prepared for more deeply emotional, theatrical, or expressive learning.  So, students are taught to express themselves articulately and with eloquence.  Emphasis is given to written and oral expression, discussion, setting forth new ideas in an eloquent manner, and critiquing those ideas set forth by others. In many classical schools, students at this age will also take formal courses in rhetoric, which focus upon studying history’s greatest rhetoricians, providing opportunities for students to hone their expressive abilities.

Although Sayers' essay and ideas are widely respected among classical Christian educators, they are not without respectful but appropriate criticism.  Littlejohn and Evans note that Sayers was inaccurate in her characterization of grammar, logic, and rhetoric as stages of learning rather than as the specific subjects of learning, as they were historically defined.  Further, the authors challenge the notion that these subjects should be taught only in the years with which Sayers' aligns them, believing that students must learn grammar, logic, and rhetoric throughout their educational experience. On the other hand, Littlejohn and Evans pay honor to Sayers for drawing attention to the importance of alignment of learning with the developmental stages of children.

In the final analysis, Sayers' thought process has made a profound and often helpful impact upon the pedagogy of classical Christian schools.  Although her suggested paradigm must be thoughtfully approached, the rationale behind it has merit and properly places the developmental needs of children at center stage.  As Perrin puts it, “…classical educators teach children what they want to know when they want to know it.”  Sayers did not intend her understanding of the Trivium as an analogy for learning, but one might argue that it is helpful to read it as such.  She provides classical educators with helpful insights into the link between students' learning and child development; a wise reader will embrace those insights while acknowledging the imperfection of the analogy and the faults in historical accuracy, being careful to avoid the potential pitfalls those imperfections and faults might otherwise create.

A Case Study in Introducing the Trivium as a Model for Learning at North Hills Christian School

As an anecdotal piece of evidence that classical pedagogy is effective, the introduction of the Latin program in grades 1 -12 at North Hills provides a great case study.  In the year it was introduced, elementary students attended Latin class once a week, and middle school students were in Latin three times per week for 45 minutes – nearly five times as much time - and with the same teacher.  By the end of the first year in the program, the elementary students had learned more than the middle school students.  Why?  Because elementary students were prepared to absorb memorization through song, chant, and repetition; middle school students were ready to move onto the “meat.”  All learning of Latin begins with memorization, so the middle school students were at an immediate disadvantage since they had somewhat passed the period in which they were eager to memorize.  Today, as those same elementary students who have already achieved the memorization become middle school students, they are far more prepared than were our first middle students to go through the program.  The developmentally sensitive approach to learning that is used in most classical schools is not only logical, it is effective!

Christ-Centeredness

Although the Enlightenment Age offered many benefits to modern civilization, it has also caused a great deal of damage to Western society – particularly insofar as the fact that, in a post-Enlightenment world, the authority and Lordship of Christ over His creation is viewed as suspect at best.  When progressive schooling emerged and conquered the twentieth century schoolhouse, Christian worldview was squeezed out.  In the centuries immediately prior, Jesus Christ was the source of all knowledge and wisdom.  However, in the modern age and under the paradigm of progressive schooling and Enlightenment thinking, the source for knowledge was now science and reason, not God.  In today’s postmodern age, we have seen another shift.  Today, most schools of higher learning espouse that the source of knowledge and wisdom is personal experience and feelings.  The often used phrase, “What is right for you may not be right for me, and that’s okay” reflects this paradigm; there is no source for absolute truth outside of oneself.

First and foremost, classical Christian schooling’s aim is to teach students to put Jesus Christ back on the throne of their hearts, lives, and intellect, thereby rejecting the damage done by Enlightenment thinking.  Today’s classical Christian schools place heavy emphasis upon the deep and thoughtful study of Scripture and theology, as well as emphasis upon the Lordship of Christ over all of His creation.  Classical Christian teachers teach all subjects through the lens of Scripture and with Christ as the one whose perspective on those subjects matters most.

Likewise, classical Christian education does not shelter children from the full story of human history.  As students study core subjects such as history, the arts, and literature, they are taught those subjects in harmony with Biblical history and theology.  While they read about Mesopotamia, they also learn about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  When they study Egypt, they learn about Moses and the Ten Commandments.  When they encounter the Roman Empire, they learn about how Paul’s citizenship was first a heavenly one, and only secondarily a Roman one.  And, when students study the first thousand years after the death of Christ, significant attention is given to the emergence of the church, including the various historical turning points in church theology that shaped the body of Christ of which they are a part today.

Higher Learning and the Classical Education

Although I readily help students apply for admission so they might be accepted to some of the region’s most elite colleges and universities, it is generally because it is what they or their parents desire for them.  I must confess that I am largely underwhelmed by the academic, social, cultural, and moral standards that are set forth by most of today’s most selective institutions.  Without a doubt, there has been a specific liberal agenda to lay hold to those institutions so that the liberal intellectuals of our country might promote an agenda that is often hostile to morality, absolute truth, and the Christian faith.

However, there was a time when these institutions were grounded not only in conservatism, but also in the Christian faith.  Harvard received its notoriety largely because it began with a non-elective classical Christian approach.  In fact, in the original statement of purpose, Harvard’s founding trustees noted:

“Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well that the main end of his life and studies is this: To know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life and therefore to know Christ is the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.”

Today, Harvard’s Divinity School is known more for undermining the Word of God than for upholding it.  Likewise, the faculty of the school of law regularly undermines the United States Constitution; the school of economics teaches Marxism as a paradigm towards which we should aspire; and the list goes on.  Unfortunately, most of the nation’s institutions of higher learning have been hijacked and followed suit (Did you know, for instance, that the chairman of the religion department at UNC-Chapel Hill is a world-renowned atheist?).

My point is this: I am convinced that Christian Schools must be intentional if they are to produce the kinds of Christian thinkers who can go out into that world and engage with and transform that world rather than finding that the world has instead transformed them.  George Barna, a well known and respected researcher, has noted that two out of three students who claimed to be “born again believing Christians” when they were surveyed as college freshmen denied their faith by the time they graduated college four short years later.  What is happening?  Our children are ill-prepared to engage the secular, humanistic culture.  I emphatically believe that we must do more to lay the framework while they are in our homes and schools!  I am also convinced that classical Christian Schools are precisely the kinds of institutions that can produce the scholars who will reclaim culture and make a Kingdom impact.

What the Data Tell Us

For those who see the world more through a pragmatic lens, I take a moment to share some data that demonstrates the quality offered by classical Christian Schooling. 

  • Among high school students enrolled in classical Christian Schools, the average high school SAT score in reading was 629 in 2011.  That compares to a national average of 494, creating a spread of 135 points on this section alone.
  • The score in mathematics for classically educated high school students was 599, compared to a national average of 506 (93 point spread).
  • The average writing score among classical Christian schools was 613, compared to 483 nationally (130 points).
  • All totaled, classically educated students scored 358 points higher on the high school SAT than did their peers in public schools. 
  • This difference is staggering enough but, when compared with only independent schools (which was formerly considered the “apex” of quality education, typically comprised of a more selectively chosen student body), classical schools still claim a wide margin of a 171 gain over their independent school counterparts. 
  • The spread for ACT scores is equally staggering with classically educated students averaging a 26 and a national average of 22. 
  • For those who may be skeptical about the ability of a liberal arts education to provide a rich mathematical and scientifically-based education, the scores were 25 to 21 (mathematics) and 24 to 21 (science).

Science, Mathematics, and Technology in the Classical School

When asked if I believe classical schooling wrongfully neglects the twenty-first century demand for skills in science, technology, and mathematics, I am first struck that the question reflects a lack of understanding that the Trivium and Quadrivium (liberal arts) include an extensive study of science and mathematics.  Many of our forefathers are, themselves, examples of the incredible scientists and mathematicians that can be turned out by a classical education.  Were Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, and Thomas Edison not both prolific scientists and mathematicians and amazing linguists, historians, and theologians?  Why must the thorough and rigorous thinking that is involved with a study of humanities be placed on the opposite end of a paradigm from science, mathematics, and technology?  Classical Christian Schools produce some of the most gifted mathematicians, engineers, computer programmers, and scientists in the country.  So, to the charge that classical education may be past its prime, I raise the question, "Since when did becoming a well-educated intellectual thinker become irrelevant and outdated?"

Academic Rigors and “…impacting the world for Christ”

The transition of North Hills Christian School towards classical education is centered around and grounded in the school’s mission statement.  Allow me to explain.

In his book, “When Nations Die,” Jim Black notes that the decline of great nations and cultures are often signaled by decay in three areas: faith, culture, and morality.  One does not have to be a theologian to note that modern America, which excludes God from the public square by federal mandate, is increasingly hostile to our God.  Further, as believers continue to abandon the orthodox Christian faith in favor of a universalistic gospel of tolerance and relativistic worldview, it is clear that the church as an institution is weakening.  In a culture where cohabitation of unmarried couples is commonplace, homosexuality is considered acceptable, and an “if it feels good, do it” slogan is eagerly embraced, one could build a strong argument that our nation’s morality is declining, as well.

Yet, as prominent as these two signals are, I fear that the third is less obvious: our culture is crumbling.  Sadly, today’s generation is more interested in being entertained than in engaging in the “Great Conversation” of ideas that have shaped who we are.  Our discussions about Jesus Christ and the need for a meaningful walk with Him are not untouched by this decay.

It is often stated that if we do not study history carefully, then we tend to repeat it.  I am reminded that at the center of every great fallen society throughout time stood either a real or symbolic coliseum.  Historically, when an “entertain me” society has displaced the thoughtful and culturally rich environment of a great civilization, that civilization will have seen its last days.  While entertainment that stimulates the mind, soul, and body may be good, today’s obsession with Hollywood, the god of sport, and the screens that hold our children captive in our own homes (all of which can be redeemed and used for good) are often overly indulged.  In turn, I am convinced that we are losing a generation.  Moreover, we are losing a great nation.

Our school’s mission statement is “to equip hearts and minds of students to impact the world for Christ.”  With authors Littlejohn and Evans, I concur that the goal of a sound education must be to produce students who possess the tools of “wisdom and eloquence” so that they are fully prepared to make the "impact" towards which our school aims.  We need intellectual believers who can engage a dying culture and provide the salt and light that is needed to restore, reclaim, or reinvent it.  Further, we need believers who are educated enough to plant signposts that point other world changers and culture shapers to the cross of Calvary!

Classical Schooling is Not for Wimps!

The processes of learning and of growing the intellect are not only among the most noble of life’s pursuits, but they are difficult, indeed (particularly as we make the transition towards a model of learning that is boldly counter-cultural, displacing entertainment in favor of learning).  However, I am reminded of my first year in my undergraduate program in college - a period of my life when I felt incredibly intellectually inadequate and inept.  As my classmates and professors tossed around terminology, names, and places of which I had never heard, I struggled to hold back the emotions of frustration.  Yet, by the end of my first year, I had learned an important lesson: in order to grow, one must be stretched.  Since that time, I have developed a passion for learning.  The more I learn, the more I recognize just how much I do not know; it makes me incredibly thirsty for more!  As our students begin to feel the stretch that will come with our transition towards classical schooling, we must cultivate that same sense of thirst. 

I admit that it will not be easy for our students to make the adjustment to the rigors of classical schooling.  Gone are the days of skimming a book and setting it aside.  Too many of today's students (not just at NHCS, but at all schools) want to finish a text as quickly as possible.  We need to re-train them to read deeply and for comprehension.  Further, over time, our students will grow accustomed to reading with a book in one hand and a dictionary in the other!  Eventually, as their minds become more alive, my prayer is that we might stimulate a vivid imagination that will lead them to desire more.

I should also make note that many students will struggle with a society that tempts them to invest their time in saturating their minds with things that have little or no ultimate cultural, social, moral, or eternal value.  After all, who among us is naturally bent towards denying the fleshly desires to be entertained in favor of rigorous exercise of our God-given intellectual abilities?  It takes discipline to turn off the television or video game console and instead pick up a book.  One child's statement reveals the warped perception of this generation, "Reading is what they did before fun was invented" (that is, before television, movies, and other mindless forms of entertainment).

So, I offer a word of encouragement.  The discipline is good for our children and good for us as their parents.  I am reminded of the phrase, “The things that come easy in life aren’t worth having.”  It is so true, isn’t it?  As a child begins to move down this path towards a rich liberal arts education, my prayer is that he or she may discover the joy of learning.  In fact, we hope that you will too!  Exercising the intellect will become the joy and the source of entertainment.  It may take time, but hang with it.  Maybe even develop a daily "family reading time" where you - the parent - turn off the television and embrace the model, and show your children that you think learning is important, too.