Recently, World Magazine published an article titled, “Classical Conflict,” which asked the question, “Will classical public charter schools lure Christian parents away from schools that acknowledge Christ as the center of all things?”
The piece details how some schools – particularly in the southwest part of the United States – have adopted a classical curriculum in a push for educational excellence, which is to be commended. The article tracks
the explosion of classical education across the country, among Christian schools, homeschooling groups, and, increasingly, public school charters. Several charter groups, including Arizona-based Great Hearts and the Barney Charter School Initiative at Hillsdale College, are expanding rapidly in charter-friendly states. Just like classical Christian schools, the charters aim to teach students to embrace truth, goodness, and beauty as virtuous citizens. But there’s one key difference: the logos they teach doesn’t have its foundation in the way, the truth, and the life of Jesus the Christ.
As the article recounts,
Teachers in these schools talk about Jesus as a historical figure and acknowledge that the Western tradition is steeped in Christianity. Students learn how large the faith of many of the Founding Fathers loomed as they struggled to get the American experiment right. Although students would never be invited in an assembly to profess faith in Jesus, they learn to think and reason. Any who eventually acknowledge Christ as Savior won’t do so flippantly, but will have a true understanding of who God is—with the rhetorical tools to defend their belief.
This is progress, isn’t it? Perhaps, or perhaps not. David Goodwin, president of the Association for Classical Christian Schools (the association of which Petra is an accredited member), is quoted in the article and insists “a classical education without Christ just creates a hole begging for an answer.” Proponents of secular classical models might argue that’s the goal, allowing parents to fill the gaps at home and at church, but Goodwin is skeptical.
Classical charter schools turn out students who believe truth can hang freely suspended in space. Or worse, that truth and faith are separable, as you have an idealistic education looking for truth, but the source of truth has been expunged.
Let there be no question as to the source to Whom we at Petra look for truth, goodness, and beauty. Our statement of mission is clear:
Recognizing our need for God’s grace, Petra Academy strives to awaken love and wonder in our students by teaching them to observe with humility, think with reason, and articulate with charity for the flourishing of humanity and the renown of Jesus the Christ.
As I like to tell prospective parents, Petra is classical and we’re Christian, but we’re not mad about either. On the contrary, we take great joy in introducing and enveloping children in the love and wonder of Christ, his Word, and his world, and we’re grateful for each and every opportunity to talk about Jesus not just as a great teacher nor as just another historical figure, but as the One that the Nicene Creed reminds us,
is the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made; who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge both the living and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
(For more on the difference between Christian and secular classical schools, read “Classical Schools: When Christianity Is Silenced,” in the winter edition of The Classical Difference, published by the Association of Classical and Christian Schools.)