I’ve really been enjoying Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians In a Post-Christian Nation. Dreher calls for Christians to prepare for the America to come – an America where many institutions and professions will be closed to Christians because of our beliefs and values. The Benedict Option says that Christians must “develop creative, communal solutions to help us hold on to our faith and our values in a world growing ever more hostile to them.” We must “choose to make a decisive leap into a truly countercultural way of living Christianity, or…doom our children and our children’s children to assimilation” (p. 2).
While reading his chapter on education, I found myself saying “Yes!” time and again. Here are some choice quotes:
Quote 1: Dreher’s Prescription (p.146)
Rather than letting their children spend forty hours a week learning “facts” with a few hours of worldview education slapped on top, parents need to pull them from public schools and provide them with an education that is rightly ordered – that is,one based on the premise that there is a God-given, unified structure to reality and that it is discoverable. They need to teach them Scripture and history. And they should not stop after twelfth grade – a Christian plan for higher education is also needed.
Quote 2: God-Centered Education (p.147)
For serious Christian parents, education cannot be simply a matter of building their child’s transcript to boost her chance of making it into the Ivy League. If this is the model your family follows (perhaps with a sprinkle of God on top for seasoning), you will be hard-pressed to form countercultural Christian adults capable of resisting the disorders of our time.
The kind of schooling that will build a more resilient, mature faith in young Christians is one that imbues them with a sense of order, meaning, and continuity. It’s one that integrates knowledge into a harmonious vision of the whole, one that unites all things that are, were, and ever will be in God.
Quote 3: The Loss of Purpose (p.148)
Today our education system fills students’ heads with facts, with no higher aspiration than success in worldly endeavor. Since the High Middle Ages, the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake has been slowly separated from the pursuit of virtue. Today the break is clean.
Quote 4: The Loss of Education Proper – quoting Martin Cochran (p.148-149)
“The classical education of the pagans that was transformed by the church attempted to inculcate in each new generation an idea of what a human being should be, through constantly having examples of ideal humanity set in front of it, and by studying the great deeds of great men,” Cochran told me. “This was a culture with a definite and distinctive goal: to pass on the wisdom of the past and to produce another generation with the same ideals and values – ideals and values based on its vision of what a human being was.
“That’s what education was for over two millennia,” he continued. “It is now something that retains the old label, but is not the same thing. It is not even the same kind of thing. It has been abandoned in the modern school – including many Christian ones. Even many Christian parents who do not accept the political correctness of today’s schools have completely bought into the utilitarian concept of education.”
Quote 5: A Personal Testimony (p.154)
I am a college-educated American. In all my years of formal schooling, I never read Plato or Aristotle, Home or Virgil. I knew nothing of Greek and Roman history and barely grasped the meaning of the Middle Ages. Dante was a stranger to me, and so was Shakespeare.
The fifteen hundred years of Christianity from the end of the New Testament to the Reformation were a blank page, and I knew only the barest facts about Luther’s revolution. I was ignorant of Descartes and Newton. My understanding of Western history began with the Enlightenment. Everything that came before it was lost behind a misty curtain of forgetting.
Nobody did this on purpose. Nobody tried to deprive me of my civilizational patrimony. But nobody felt any obligation to present it to me and my generation in an orderly, coherent fashion. Ideas have consequences – and so does their lack. The best way to create a generation of aimless know-nothings who feel no sense of obligation beyond themselves is to deprive them of a past.
Quote 6: Get Out of Public Schools (p.155)
Because public education in America is neither rightly ordered, nor religiously informed, nor able to form an imagination devoted to Western civilization, it is time for all Christians to pull their children out of the public school system.