Classical Christian Education

Comparison Between Most Modern and Classical Christian Education

EGALITARIAN – Every student should attain the same level of achievement. EXCELLENCE – Take each student to their highest possible potential, encouraging learning enrichment.
MULTICULTURAL – Critical of Western Civilisation and emphasising the negative aspects of the British past, undermining Australia's Christian and Western heritage. WESTERN – Recognises the great contribution of Western culture -including the unique British heritage - to Australia and the world. Acknowledging the West's triumphs and failures, while also recognising the beauty in other cultures.
RATIONALISTIC – Emphasises mathematics and science at the expense of art, literature and history. UNIVERSAL – Emphasises the humanities, arts and sciences to bring a richer, more comprehensive perspective.
SECULAR – Holds the ‘spiritual’ as personal and separate from education. Avoids deeper philosophical issues. INTEGRATED – Holistic approach to education appreciates the framework of philosophy and religion for all subject areas. 
RELATIVISM – All moral positions are relative and hence all positions must be appraised equally. CHRISTIAN WORLDVIEW – Standards of right and wrong exist in all subject areas. Students are encouraged to be discerning and make judgements accordingly.
FRAGMENTED CONTENT – By separating knowledge into distinct subjects, it can be more easily understood and taught by “specialist” teachers. INTEGRATED SUBJECTS – Content should be taught in an integrated way enabling students to understand continuity across the spectrum of subjects.
TEACHES FACTS AND FUNCTIONAL SKILLS – Students primarily learn about subjects focusing on the ones that help them ‘get good jobs’. TEACHES CRITICAL THINKING – Students learn to think beyond subject-matter to evaluate it. Knowledge is not the primary goal - wisdom is.
PROGRESSIVE – Always experimenting with new techniques, ideas and methods, because of a belief that “old fashioned” is defunct and out of date. TRADITIONAL – Conserve educational standards that have a clear record of success, while appreciating advances in technology etc.
ENTERTAINMENT LEARNING – Engaging students in the learning process with entertainment. ENGAGE AND CHALLENGE – Students thrive with the challenge of a rigorous curriculum and enjoy the sense of true achievement.

What is Classical Christian Education?

Classical Christian education uses time-tested Trivium teaching methodology, which naturally appeals to students as they develop through the three stages of learning namely: Grammar, Logic (Dialectic) and Rhetoric.

There is an emphasis on Biblical wisdom and character development in classical Christian education not just on teaching facts and skills. Students cultivate an interest in first principles and truth, and an appreciation of beauty and a standard of excellence.

Classical education involves understanding the present by learning about the past through history, philosophy, theology, literature, art, Latin, Greek, logic and rhetoric. Students see an integrated big picture of Western Culture from a Christian worldview – which has a strong moral code and traditionally a high benchmark of excellence and appreciation of beauty, as well as a foundational belief in absolutism; there is a right way and a wrong way. Maths and Science, reflecting God’s character, are also strongly integrated into this big picture, distinguishing classical education from a liberal arts education.

Subject integration with rich content, Socratic teaching, debate, and written and oral defence provide mental stimulation to cultivate powerful minds who know why they believe and are equipped to give an account of it (1 Peter 3:15).

The final result is students who understand virtuous character, who are able to think and articulate their Christian Worldview by accurate and informative argument. They understand the philosophical challenges of the culture in which they live, and appreciate their Western cultural heritage for its Christian and Classical roots.

    The Lost Tools of Learning: The Trivium – Dorothy Sayers

Dorothy Sayers exposes the dumbing-down of contemporary education while explaining the rigor, but success, of teaching the trivium in her essay pdfThe Lost Tools of Learning. Read this and you’ll wish you could go back to Kindy!

Summarising the Trivium:

    Grammar Phase: Young children (up to approximately grade 6) thrive on memorisation and are good at it! Teaching methods, including chants and drills, songs, jingles and verse, during this phase can use and develop these memorisation skills to teach an enormous amount of information. As with many skills, if not developed, memorisation, as most adults know, becomes increasingly difficult. Classical education engages minds and inspires students to investigate, contemplate and pursue knowledge. Resources for this stage are chosen for their ability to lay a solid foundation.

    Logic (Dialectic) Phase: Ever noticed how argumentative early adolescents (around grade 7-8) can be and how they think they know everything? Children of this age develop the ability to link and draw conclusions from a series of facts, and want to know why. Formal logic, logical fallacies and reasoning skills are introduced at this stage of the classical trivium using tools like the Socratic method and Aristotelian logic. When learning in community, students practise the science of accurate thinking; sharpening their critical thinking skills, challenging the philosophies of their peers to discern Truth. Students use the knowledge which they have gained previously during the Grammar Phase to draw conclusions and enjoy debating.

    Rhetoric Phase: High school students become increasingly self-aware and concerned with how others perceive them and what their peers think. They want to formulate and express their own ideas, and are idealistic and interested in justice and truth. Students at this level in the classical trivium are taught how to speak and write well, and communicate effectively with clarity and persuasion. Understanding your audience, as well as eloquence, is essential for effective persuasion.

Now you know why we (parents) need to go back to Kindy! – at least so we can win the occasional argument!

    Subject Integration

From a Christian worldview, students can be consistent in integrating all subjects, including Maths, Science, Philosophy, History, Art, Music etc. into this framework. Christian students have a consistent perspective from which to address any issue. Faith and rational thinking are not mutually exclusive, nor is Truth relative; and classical Christian education teaches this perspective unlike any other form of education.