The Classical Approach

“For the sole true end of education is simply this: to teach men how to learn for themselves; and whatever instruction fails to do this is effort spent in vain.”

Dorothy Sayers, “The Lost Tools of Learning”

What is Classical Education?

“Classical education” refers generally to a philosophy of education that aims to train students to think well and express themselves powerfully and persuasively.  For more than 2000 years, the men and women with the deepest, most enduring impact on our culture were classically educated. Alexander the Great, Caesar Augustus, the Apostle Paul, the early church fathers, those who led the development of the modern university, the Reformers, Queen Elizabeth I, William Shakespeare, Isaac Newton, the Founding Fathers of our political system, William Wilberforce, Emily Dickinson, Susan B. Anthony, Fredrick Douglas, Marie Curie — classical education has historically equipped people to understand the challenges of their time and address them with creativity, innovation, and wisdom.

In the vocabulary of classical education, the philosophy is based on the three components of Grammar (factual knowledge), Logic (analytical understanding), and Rhetoric (creative expression).  In the early years of life, children are perfectly suited to soak up facts about the world.  As they grow, they become more developmentally equipped for critical thinking.  And in the teenage years they’re ready to express their learning in powerful ways.  What’s more, every subject of study has its own essential fact base, the rules and principles that make it work, and a host of opportunities for creative, real life application.  The classical approach intentionally focuses learning around these three basic components equipping students with the tools to become life-long learners and problem-solvers.

Here at Covenant, we intentionally practice this same educational philosophy.  Where most contemporary schools train students to assimilate into current social and economic trends, a classical education trains them to influence and change those trends.  We believe that pairing the classical model with a Biblical view of the world develops students who are sharp tools in God’s hands as He builds His Kingdom in them and through them, preparing them for future leadership in their homes, in their churches, and in society through the vocation to which God calls them.

To learn more about classical Christian education, check out these additional resources:

  • Association of Classical Christian School (ACCS acts as an accrediting agency and resource for classical Christian schools, collecting a wealth of statistical data, offering a free monthly publication to the families in member schools, and hosting a variety of professional development opportunities for teachers and administrators of classical schools.)
  • Classical Academic Press (Classical Academic Press is one of many publishers of high quality tools for teaching classical subjects creatively.)
  • “The Lost Tools of Learning” by Dorothy Sayers (Dorothy Sayers studying with J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis during her time at Oxford afterward made a good living as a writer, primarily of popular mysteries.  She delivered “The Lost Tools of Learning” as a short lecture at Oxford in 1947.  It has since endured as one of the most concise criticisms of modern education, which she felt taught children “everything but how to think.”)

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