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Classical Christian MovementSCL Updates

SCL Movement Leadership Distinctives, Part IV: The Aims of CCE

By February 20, 2024No Comments

*The Aims of Classical Christian Education

As we delve into the intricacies and challenges of sustaining movements, as outlined by Steve Addison, we encounter the pivotal question of how to maintain momentum without succumbing to the pitfalls of short-lived trends and superficial successes. This brings us to a crucial juncture: understanding the deeper, enduring aims of Classical Christian Education. Unlike fleeting movements that rise and fall, CCE is anchored in timeless ideals that transcend cultural shifts and sociological trends.

Thus, it is important to understand the nature of our work and calling as it relates to movement dynamics. To preserve and propagate the ends we ultimately desire, we need to understand our context and purpose, which brings me to my second point. Classical Christian education is rooted in ideals that transcend cultural trends and passing sociological phenomena that define movements. The aims of education are deep, formative, relational, and long-term in their orientation. Therefore, we must be more focused on long-term faithfulness and influence rather than the short-term impact of a movement. 

Andy Crouch, in an interview entitled, The Impact Fetish, said, “We are not the architects of impact.” Impact, Crouch says, is high force exerted over a short period of time. American non-profits are obsessed with this idea. We want to see that our work is worthy of support, so we feel compelled to generate impact statements and data. And as Americans, we want to prove our cause is the best, which usually means seeking to do our work on a large scale… as quickly as we can. We want impact!

Yet, the tradition we have inherited resists the impact impulse. The West has developed over centuries. It has been formed and endured through the most perilous of circumstances, as Spencer Klavan catalogs in his book, How to Save the West. Thus, we must orient ourselves to the work we are called to do. The political and social battles will continue. Some will be won and some lost. The popularity and interest of classical education will wane at some point. However, focusing on the truths and practices that define our work, will keep us from latching on to the temptation of short-term wins and the dopamine hit of movement impact. Instead, we will be grounded and committed to generational, kingdom-minded influence and leave the results to God.

Mortimer Adler, the champion of classical education in the twentieth century, once wrote, “The fundamental ideas and concepts upon which education should be based are not merely the mores and beliefs which happen to be current in 20th-century America. They are universal truths about what constitutes a good education for all men, at all times and places, simply because they are men.” This is why Adler argued that “…the best schooling for the few should now become the schooling for all.” Adler’s arguments for classical education are not based on a particular era, century, individual, or geography. No, the starting point of classical education is that there are fixed, objective principles and truths that should be pursued regardless of the changing variables and audiences. The truths apply to all equally, at all times; not merely because they are popular at a given time or with a particular group.

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* This article is part of a series on SCL distinctives and the CCE movement. Next week, I will argue that classical Christian educators need to maintain a multi-generational vision. Read the last two installments here.

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