Classical education vs. traditional education

An important distinction noted at the CIRCE conference, from Andrew Kern: Classical education is NOT the same as the traditional education of the 19th century one-room school house. Here is an overview of the history of American Education:

Colonial era-1810. Classical Christian Education.

1810-1890. Traditional Education. Or, more technically, “secular democratic education.” Retained the classical emphasis on content and a broad curriculum, but, in reaction against “European” elements, moved away from classical subjects. The classical emphasis on “community” was replaced by an emphasis on “society” (see the difference?). Theologically, love of neighbor was replaced by love of country. Education became compulsory, shifting the authority in educational matters from the parents to the state. Secular democratic education was also utopian (“Protestantism without faith”), Hegelian (history seen as a progression culminating in today), and Prussian (drawing on that militaristic state’s innovations in regulation).

1910-today. Conventional Progressive Education.

Many people on all sides of the education debates today confuse classical education with traditional education. Some are saying that to get back to classical education, we may need to go through traditional education first. But the two seem so different, especially since the classical goal was to form free citizens, as opposed to controlled citizens.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17639370291865261582 Cindy Ramos

    Thanks for the details on this distinction. I had been fuzzy on this.

    I’m still struggling to figure out how to explain classical education in thirty seconds to someone who’s never heard of it before. Anyone have ideas?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17639370291865261582 Cindy Ramos

    Thanks for the details on this distinction. I had been fuzzy on this.

    I’m still struggling to figure out how to explain classical education in thirty seconds to someone who’s never heard of it before. Anyone have ideas?

  • tammy

    I say, “Secular ed. is like giving a child a whole set of encyclopedia and teaching them a little out of each book while classical ed. dives deeper giving the child a solid foundation in education.”

    From there the person usually asks, “What do you mean?” in which I respond with telling them about the trivium and how it makes the most out the learning stage the child is in.

    That is about the easiest way I have learned.

  • tammy

    I say, “Secular ed. is like giving a child a whole set of encyclopedia and teaching them a little out of each book while classical ed. dives deeper giving the child a solid foundation in education.”

    From there the person usually asks, “What do you mean?” in which I respond with telling them about the trivium and how it makes the most out the learning stage the child is in.

    That is about the easiest way I have learned.

  • Steve Rowe

    Hello Gene
    Can you illuminate me (a public school educated layman who does not move in home schooling circles) as to what exactly is meant by the term”Classical Christian” education. It seems to me that while Classical and Christian values are often complementary they are not the same (I am thinking specifically of the role the reason plays in traditional Roman catholic theology as apposed to some more radically reformed view of it). My fiancé attended traditional Anglican schools in England and Rhodesia and it seems to me that the education that she received had more to do with the enlightened project of “civilizing” and “domesticating” religion than any understanding I have of the biblical gospel. I know that this is not you or your colleges’ intention but I wonder if there is something in the peculiar synthesis pagan and sacred wisdom that is traditional Christian Classical education that leads to the ultimate dilution of the radical message of Christ.

    Thanks

    Steve

  • Steve Rowe

    Hello Gene
    Can you illuminate me (a public school educated layman who does not move in home schooling circles) as to what exactly is meant by the term”Classical Christian” education. It seems to me that while Classical and Christian values are often complementary they are not the same (I am thinking specifically of the role the reason plays in traditional Roman catholic theology as apposed to some more radically reformed view of it). My fiancé attended traditional Anglican schools in England and Rhodesia and it seems to me that the education that she received had more to do with the enlightened project of “civilizing” and “domesticating” religion than any understanding I have of the biblical gospel. I know that this is not you or your colleges’ intention but I wonder if there is something in the peculiar synthesis pagan and sacred wisdom that is traditional Christian Classical education that leads to the ultimate dilution of the radical message of Christ.

    Thanks

    Steve

  • http://www.simdan.com SimDan

    As someone who spent his education in public schools and one of the Concordias, I would certainly like to know more about classical education. More specifically, how can an adult who did not receive such an education as a child apply it to themselves now? Where would an adult begin with such a task?

  • http://www.simdan.com SimDan

    As someone who spent his education in public schools and one of the Concordias, I would certainly like to know more about classical education. More specifically, how can an adult who did not receive such an education as a child apply it to themselves now? Where would an adult begin with such a task?

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Well, since this started from a CIRCE conference, let me cite that organization’s website, which you can click through to answer a number of these questions. You could start here:
    http://www.CirceInstitute.org/definitions.shtml

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Well, since this started from a CIRCE conference, let me cite that organization’s website, which you can click through to answer a number of these questions. You could start here:
    http://www.CirceInstitute.org/definitions.shtml

  • Steve Rowe

    Thanks for the link Glen but could you alaberate further on how classical values differ from enlighten values? It seems to me that one proceeds from the other.

    Thanks
    Steve

  • Steve Rowe

    Thanks for the link Glen but could you alaberate further on how classical values differ from enlighten values? It seems to me that one proceeds from the other.

    Thanks
    Steve

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Here’s a good start, Steve.

    http://www.gbt.org/text/sayers.html

    Here’s a good place to continue:

    http://www.amazon.com/Recovering-Lost-Tools-Learning-Distinctively/dp/0891075836

    And here’s a work I’ve found very helpful in trying to implement it:

    http://www.amazon.com/Well-Trained-Mind-Classical-Education-Revised/dp/0393059278/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1217349008&sr=1-1

    Our gracious host also has a book out on this subject–look to the lower right.

    In a nutshell, “classical” education is what the “liberal arts” truly are, and used to be. Grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric form the Trivium (three roads), and that’s supplemented by a Quadrivium (four roads) of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music, if I remember correctly.

    A lot of what’s taught in a classical education looks a lot like a “traditional” education, but the key difference is how things are organized and understood. Are we “filling young skulls full of mush,” as Rush would say, or are we training minds to approach any topic? The former is the traditional approach, the latter is the classical, liberal arts approach.

    (which has little, if anything, to do with most “liberal arts” colleges and degree programs today, sad to say)

    And regarding another question, the “classical” education is not supposed to put classical values vs. enlightenment values per se, but rather to give people the tools to evaluate each critically.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Here’s a good start, Steve.

    http://www.gbt.org/text/sayers.html

    Here’s a good place to continue:

    http://www.amazon.com/Recovering-Lost-Tools-Learning-Distinctively/dp/0891075836

    And here’s a work I’ve found very helpful in trying to implement it:

    http://www.amazon.com/Well-Trained-Mind-Classical-Education-Revised/dp/0393059278/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1217349008&sr=1-1

    Our gracious host also has a book out on this subject–look to the lower right.

    In a nutshell, “classical” education is what the “liberal arts” truly are, and used to be. Grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric form the Trivium (three roads), and that’s supplemented by a Quadrivium (four roads) of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music, if I remember correctly.

    A lot of what’s taught in a classical education looks a lot like a “traditional” education, but the key difference is how things are organized and understood. Are we “filling young skulls full of mush,” as Rush would say, or are we training minds to approach any topic? The former is the traditional approach, the latter is the classical, liberal arts approach.

    (which has little, if anything, to do with most “liberal arts” colleges and degree programs today, sad to say)

    And regarding another question, the “classical” education is not supposed to put classical values vs. enlightenment values per se, but rather to give people the tools to evaluate each critically.

  • Veith

    The Enlightenment rejected the past (as if all were dark before the modernity age of scientific reason), whereas Classicism treasure the past. The Enlightenment use of reason was very different from that of the ancients, indeed, opposed to it.

  • Veith

    The Enlightenment rejected the past (as if all were dark before the modernity age of scientific reason), whereas Classicism treasure the past. The Enlightenment use of reason was very different from that of the ancients, indeed, opposed to it.

  • http://www.lsaels.org Rev. Joel A. Brondos

    Not only is “classical education” not to be equated with “traditional education.” It isn’t a repristination of the “classical” education from previous centuries either. There are, in fact, various kinds of classical education(s).

    Among the people I serve, “Classical Lutheran Education” teaches children to look to God in faith (justification) and to care for one’s neighbor in love (vocation) following the Six Chief Parts and the Seven Liberal Arts.

    It holds that “freedom” (i.e. liberal) isn’t merely formed from the crucible of ancient democracies but is fashioned rather in terms of Luther’s work “The Freedom of a Christian,” the paradox wherein a Christian “is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; and is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to all.”

    We not only teach children to read well; we teach them to be well-read. We believe that teaching content is just as important as teaching skills and that teachers must not merely be masters of methods but shall have mastered the subject matter.

    We teach what it means to be human, selecting literature not merely on the basis of whether it has a controlled vocabulary or has been a cultural favorite but rather in terms of what it teaches us about the human condition.

    And when it comes to teaching science and mathematics, we also teach about the lives of scientists and mathematicians, so that children know that math is not merely cold calculations but the awesome discoveries of geniuses.

    We don’t try to entertain children or excite them, but rather we strive to fascinate them, directing their curiosity by means of disciplines so that their future creativity draws on the wonders they have observed and learned with a keen eye.

    We teach Phil. 4:8, “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” even as we teach children not to be “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph. 4:14).

  • http://www.lsaels.org Rev. Joel A. Brondos

    Not only is “classical education” not to be equated with “traditional education.” It isn’t a repristination of the “classical” education from previous centuries either. There are, in fact, various kinds of classical education(s).

    Among the people I serve, “Classical Lutheran Education” teaches children to look to God in faith (justification) and to care for one’s neighbor in love (vocation) following the Six Chief Parts and the Seven Liberal Arts.

    It holds that “freedom” (i.e. liberal) isn’t merely formed from the crucible of ancient democracies but is fashioned rather in terms of Luther’s work “The Freedom of a Christian,” the paradox wherein a Christian “is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; and is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to all.”

    We not only teach children to read well; we teach them to be well-read. We believe that teaching content is just as important as teaching skills and that teachers must not merely be masters of methods but shall have mastered the subject matter.

    We teach what it means to be human, selecting literature not merely on the basis of whether it has a controlled vocabulary or has been a cultural favorite but rather in terms of what it teaches us about the human condition.

    And when it comes to teaching science and mathematics, we also teach about the lives of scientists and mathematicians, so that children know that math is not merely cold calculations but the awesome discoveries of geniuses.

    We don’t try to entertain children or excite them, but rather we strive to fascinate them, directing their curiosity by means of disciplines so that their future creativity draws on the wonders they have observed and learned with a keen eye.

    We teach Phil. 4:8, “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” even as we teach children not to be “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph. 4:14).

  • Steve Rowe

    Thank

    God Bless

    Steve

  • Steve Rowe

    Thank

    God Bless

    Steve


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