The world has lost its story and therefore its understanding of what life is about; at classical Christian schools whole learning communities reclaim it.
The story of life was once shared by half the world as a gift from God the Father, Maker of heaven and earth. Everyone knew its original beauty was lost when Adam fell, and the creation fell with him. Yet a consensus knew redemption brought the process of restoration through our Lord and Savior giving hope and meaning to life, work, and leisure. Humankind in all its struggles gained comfort, and teaching as the Holy Spirit gave all it needed including the hope Jesus would come again to fully restore the creation of the Father. It was as though everyone sat upon the same fixed star and could understand life together.
Most modern people have forgotten, or at least do not live as though this is the dominant metanarrative of life. Rather, many redefine the world in economic terms; GNP and the power to consume. Their hopes and fears roil like a stormy sea based on the DOW, consumer confidence, and faith in the future of the financial world. They rely on a central government to nurse the world back to frenetic health rather than heal it themselves with the gifts of God.
Most schools prepare students for just such a world. Their main objective is to train the student for his/her place as part of a great global machine; at best, the end of the child’s education might be access to the best possible college to advance as the best possible part in that machine. This impersonal goal is far from the original context of the original story and destines such ill prepared students for the scrapheap of disillusionment, despair and destroyed lives.
On the contrary, at classical Christian schools, our main objective is to prepare the child to live for God in the world but not of it; not to conform to the world but to transform it little by little into the garden it ought to become once again. We seek to continually add knowledge, and understanding of God’s great story; for each student to know who God is, where he/she came from, and to understand his/her place within that great story. It is our prayerful hope, and constant labor to help the student prepare for a good life of good work in family, church, and community. Additionally, some will work out their respective callings as elders, and ministers of God’s Word, as farmers and orchardists, entrepreneurs, legal, and medical professionals, as well as defenders of our country’s peace. But they will each know to do this Coram Deo, in the presence of God, and with the hope of His constant redemptive input.
There is no doubt that along the way each student learns the skills that will help him/her “leave the world a better place,” as my father’s life-motto echoes in my own mind, until Jesus comes to restore all things. Yet he/she also competes well in the techniques of life with the student that graduates from the school across the street that is modeled after the modern industrial factory. Those are schools where learning is not contextualized within the metanarrative of God’s story; where the teachers are not supposed to tell the students where they came from, or where they are going, or who it is that superintends all. I do not know why one wonders why so many of these students end up lost, or why a Christian parent would knowingly choose such an education for his child. Nor do I understand why anyone would be jealous of the trappings of facilities, and specialty programs that masquerade as quality education, while young minds molder in intellectual indifference.
Daily, classical Christian schools are tugged and jostled to look like, and behave like these factories because so many of us live of the world, not in it to transform it. To the untrained eye, we might not yet look like a “City on a Hill” until our buildings externalize our inward quality. As adornments to a rich and rewarding culture of Christian learning they are enjoyable, but as ends great buildings, gleaming laboratories, proms, and undefeated sports seasons can be deceptions; replacements for the real meaning of education; the preparation of a life for service to God. The factory is not the “City of God” Augustine imagined, but the common “city of man” we see everywhere.
Nevertheless we practice the adage,
“The education of children for God is the most important business done on earth. It is the one business for which the earth exists. To it all politics, all war, all literature, all money-making, ought to be subordinated; and every parent especially ought to feel, every hour of the day, that, next to making his own calling and election sure, this is the end for which he is kept alive by God—this is his task on earth.” —R.L. Dabney, On Secular Education
We can, do, and should always do better when educating youth for God lest like millions of others they learn by atrophy, in the midst of learning cultures where God is irrelevant as said Jean-Paul Sartre in schools where,
“God is dead. Let us not understand by this that he does not exist or even that he no longer exists. He is dead. He spoke to us and is silent. We no longer have anything but his cadaver. Perhaps he slipped out of the world, somewhere else like the soul of a dead man. Perhaps he was only a dream…God is dead.” (—Jean-Paul Sartre / 1905-1980 / Situations 1 / 1947).
Rather, at classical Christian schools, we seek to inculcate genuine convictions in the minds of youth that will inform their interpretation of life, and their restoration of the story of life. Anywhere that educates otherwise, that teaches outside the context of a clearly defined Christian world and life perspective flirts with the destruction of a generation. I am amazed when our goals are questioned in contrast, when those seeking to prepare their children for life send their children to such institutions.
As the inimitable G. K. Chesterton said,
“. . . it is quite an error to suppose that absence of definite convictions gives the mind freedom and agility. A man who believes something is ready and witty, because he has all his weapons about him. He can apply his test in an instant. Moreover, a man with a definite belief always appears bizarre, because he does not change with the world; he has climbed into a fixed star, and the earth whizzes below him like a zoetrope. Millions of mild black-coated men call themselves sane and sensible merely because they always catch the fashionable insanity, because they are hurried into madness after madness by the maelstrom of the world.” —G.K. Chesterton.
It is worth every dime, every drop of sweat, and blood, every denial of worldly value, and furnishing, and every opportunity to train youth as ethical leaders, and wise thinkers who have the spiritual, and intellectual horsepower to shape culture for the glory of God, who with Chesterton, know their place on the fixed star and live the great metanarrative of life, Coram Deo.