A CASE FOR CLASSICAL CHRISTIAN EDUCATION

SOME THOUGHTS BY
GARY RAY BRANSCOME


    It is written, "Ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls." (Jeremiah 6:16)

 
    Near the beginning of the last century (about 1914) a radical change took place in American education, as most universities replaced the classical curriculum (which had been the basis of education for centuries) with the so-called modern or scientific curriculum. Since that change took place, our universities have, to a great extent, changed from respected halls of learning into ideological indoctrination centers, and institutions that once stood for moral, spiritual, and academic excellence have become hotbeds of spiritual and moral degeneracy. In fact, the morality (or lack of it) now dominant in our universities is the morality that was formerly associated with the most poorly educated members of society (tobacco row).

    What needs to be understood, is that real education involves much more than just training people to do a high paying job. It requires a disciplining of the mind that enables a man to lift his thoughts above the ideologies and passions of the hour. To that end, the classical curriculum required students to learn the classical languages, and by so doing, helped them to better understand the English language, and, thus, to think in clearly defined concepts. In fact, without that mastery of language modern scholars are severely handicapped. For example, very few college graduates now understand the difference between a republic and a democracy, yet the words “republic” and “democracy” are entirely different in their origin, and their meaning is as different as the governments of Rome and Athens. In contrast, the men who founded our government had a clear understanding of the difference between a republic and a democracy, viewing democracy as the worst form of government and a republic as the best.

    In addition to helping the student think more clearly, the classical curriculum enabled the student to expand his thinking beyond the thought forms popular in his own era. Through familiarity with the great thinkers of the past, he was able to lift his mind above ideology in order to see things from another perspective. As a result, those who received a classical education were not easily swayed by every wind of ideological doctrine. Instead, they were able to view popular trends and opinions in their historical perspective, and to know where various ideas originated, what their consequences were, and how they reappeared from time to time with slight alterations. At the same time, the Word of God provided them with a standard for evaluating those ideas.

    For example: In Plato's account of the death of Socrates we find that Socrates believed that our sense of right and wrong had its origin in civil law, rather than in the law God inscribed upon the heart (Romans 2:14). In other words, instead of seeing the moral law as basic to the political law he saw the political law as basic to morality. And, that view is known as “statism.” However, while it is true that the political law is often needed to reinforce and support the moral law, those who assume that our ideas of right and wrong come from the political law, wind up thinking that they can change morality (and, thus, human nature) by changing the political law.

    The science of economics originated with Adam Smith’s book  “The Wealth of Nations.” However, while many of the observations noted in that book are still valid, one assumption that was later rejected is the idea that the value of a product is determined by the amount of labor it takes to produce it. Although that view may seem reasonable on the surface, is does not explain many things, such as why iron and gold, which require a similar amount of labor to produce, are so different in price. That is why economists now believe that value is subjective, and is conditioned by supply and demand. Nevertheless, some of the early economists (who had accepted Adam Smith’s theory) wrongly assumed that rent, interest, and even profit was unjust because it added no labor to the product yet demanded greater value.

    The concept of evolution occurred to naturalistic philosophers long before Charles Darwin was born. Darwin simply took their philosophy and interpreted certain facts of nature to support it, while offering “survival of the fittest” as an explanation of why it took place. However, even though he led his readers to believe that the theory was supported by observable data, that is not the case at all. For example, no one has ever observed one species changing into another, and there is genetic evidence that such a change is impossible. For that reason, Darwin’s theory it is not actually science, in the strict sense of the word. Nevertheless, it has become popular, and one reason for its acceptance had to do with the fact that it gave credibility to popular belief in the perfectibility of man and society. [I might also add, that it was the philosopher Robert Owen (the father of modern socialism) who popularized the theory of the perfectibility of man. Among other things, he denied that human nature was basically sinful, while assuming that it could be improved by changing the environmental influences upon it.]

    Communism brought together the mistaken doctrines that I have just mentioned, and forged them into a secular religion. That religion denies the existence of God (and therefore of morality), while assuming that profit is immoral, and that human nature can be changed by the state (statism). On the basis of those beliefs, that religion then proposed to alter human nature in a way that would make everyone willing share the fruit of their labor with others. It proposed to accomplish that goal by first establishing a dictatorship that would change morality (and thus human nature) by requiring people to live according to communist ideals. However, even though history has shown the world what a dismal failure communism actually is, it had to cause untold suffering and the death of millions of people, before the pseudo-scholars that dominate our universities would admit that it does not work, and some still will not admit it.

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS


    I know of one woman who views herself as intellectual, pluralistic, and tolerant. Yet, she worked long and hard to pass legislation aimed at forcing her feminist views on everyone else. Moreover, upon learning that the congregation I attended held to the traditional roles of men and women, she urged the women to rebel. Her university training had obviously not brought her to the point where she could appreciate or tolerate opinions that were not in accord with her own way of thinking.

    In his book “The Closing of the American Mind”, Allen Bloom laments the almost tyrannical narrow mindedness common on many university campuses. Sadly, government support for modern education tends to institutionalize that narrow mindedness. Moreover, because many highly influential (but narrow minded) graduates are working to impose their feminist views on us by force, my daughters may have to leave the country if the government ever tries to draft them and send them into combat. So far, true patriots have held off feminist attempts to subvert freedom, however, the feminists have no intention of giving women a choice when it comes to combat. And, I see no real hope for change until this nation returns to God and to a classical curriculum taught in accord with God's Word.
 

CONCLUSION


    Throughout history there have been certain people who view themselves as superior to others, and imagine that all of the problems of society would disappear if everyone would simply think like them. Moreover, time after time these people have wormed their way into positions of power and influence, and then used their position to tyrannize others. That is where a knowledge of the classics, including a knowledge of history and of how these people have worked in the past, would be useful in preventing tyranny, including the kind of tyranny now being promoted by the universities.