If classical Christian education is to survive, it has to reject the foolishness of our age and embrace Christ’s way alone. Christ’s church favors neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free…We are Christ’s. We are classical. Those who want to be loved by the spirit of our age will become intoxicated by it, and slowly die of its poison.
It’s been a good year for classical Christian education. New school starts are up threefold, a book on classical education became No. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list, and on Jan. 26, Fox Nation will release season two of a popular series on classical Christian education, “The Miseducation of America.” Of course, with growth comes attention. What is unusual this time is that someone with ties to our movement — one of our own — draws focus to a growing divide.
On Jan. 12, in the online journal Current, Jessica Hooten Wilson asked, “Is White Supremacy a Bug or a Feature of Classical Christian Education?” It should come as no surprise that, within her mainstream academic ecosphere as a scholar at Pepperdine University, she gets pressure. “I experience regular pushback from those who perceive [classical Christian education] as white, Western-only, and male-dominated.” Her thesis is: “If the classical Christian school movement is to survive — let alone flourish — we must oppose all forms of racism and misogyny and stand with the beauty, goodness, and truth that we hold up for our students.” I’ll take her up on that charge.
Hooten Wilson is a staccato note at the end of a new tune within our circles. Her article praises those groups she believes are taking the right steps. So far, I’ve heard no one publicly state the thesis so clearly as she does: “We should peruse the authors of the works and, if applicable, the editors or introductory writers to ensure an assortment of voices … as well as an equality of both sexes. If we look at the table of contents of a textbook or a reading list for a semester and find not a single woman or person of color in that list, then that curriculum is misrepresenting the classical Christian tradition.”
Choosing the Classical Canon
For the better part of three millennia, philosophical, theological, and literary authors labored to create the classical canon, representing countless cultural influences. Over much of this same time period, learned scholars have made lists of those that deserve “canon” status. It is unclear if there are minorities or women in Cassiodorus’ list of authors (400 A.D.), or Leonardo Bruni or Battista Guarino’s lists (humanists from the 1400s) — they don’t use those categories. Mortimer Adler and his team of about 40 renowned scholars chose the most widely recognized list of books in our time based upon their contribution to “the great conversation.” Adler’s merit-based criteria required a work to have changed the course of history and to have developed the collective Western mind. What Adler’s team did not do is look to race or sex as criteria.
The Western classical tradition has long included people of every race and sex in a particular way: The tradition deals with a body of texts that address the universal truths about the human condition, rising above our culture’s current quest to silo everyone into an intersection of identity.