Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning

“An Approach to Distinctively Christian Education”
This book has a lot of interesting information, still applicable to schooling today even though it was written in 1991 (lest you think I'm judging time harshly, a lot has happened in the last 17 years in homeschooling and education!). The book discusses education in general, with a focus on what Christian Education should be, in the framework of the Classical Education model.
Classical Education divides grades 1-12 into 3 stages referred to as the trivium. Grades 1-4 are spent absorbing facts and learning basic skills that will be foundational in later learning. Grades 5-8 expand on those facts by figuring out how things relate to each other and learning to ask questions and delve deeper. Grades 9-12 are the time for a student to learn how to express themselves in speech, writing and debate. There is a large focus on reading classics, world history, and joining The Great Conversation. Academics are structured and accelerated in some areas, and will typically include the study of Latin at a fairly young age.
I really appreciated the depth of the discussion about what Christian Education should be. Much of the book was spent comparing a Christian Education to a Humanistic Education, exploring exactly why they are different. Basically, one must realize that a complete Christian Education is not accomplished by adding prayer and bible study to a Humanistic course of study. Christian Education is built on the framework of knowing that all study is connected to the Creator—they are not individual disconnected areas of study. Because everything relates back to God, there is a connection and a purpose behind the study. Without this, education is lacking true understanding and meaning, it is simply acquiring chunks of information.
As much as I enjoyed and agreed with most of this book, I have to say that I remain unconvinced that a complete Christian Education is the only way to reform education in America simply because this is not the method employed by other countries whose educational systems far exceed that of the United States. It is probably true that countries whose students perform better academically do so in part because of societal expectations. Therefore, in a broader sense I suppose the argument could be applied that Christianity is (or was, or should be) America’s framework for such expectations. In that case the breakdown of the Christian faith in America would account for a degeneration of academic and moral expectations. I tend to think, however, that the problem is more likely to lie in the fact that we are a nation of immigrants tied together by the idea of freedom. Without any other unifying moral framework this ideal has evolved into a sense of entitlement which has had a detrimental affect on many different aspects of our country and government.
I don’t think that the answer to government sponsored education is to attempt to make it distinctively Christian. I do think, however, that it could make a huge difference for Christians. It would benefit Christian families to put more thought into the issues that Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning raises. Overall, I have to say that it was an enjoyable, well written book. If you are in the mood to refine your educational philosophy, I suggest you pick up a copy and see where it takes you!

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