In an age where technology is constantly advancing and progress and change are among the most highly valued ideals, why does classical, Christian education place emphasis on studying ancient cultures and the history of Western civilization? It has been suggested that modern education should focus on computer skills, advanced technology and training students with the latest techniques, but Solomon reminds us that “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
PCA believes that there are numerous benefits to diligently studying our Western heritage and digging deeply into the classic works of scholarship. We have chosen four compelling reasons to further discuss here:
- The classical method of learning and the ideas of Western civilization have been tried over time, tested, and found to be successful. We believe there is great value in implementing a method which has shown itself to be effective for hundreds, even thousands of years. Modern theories may be disproven in a short amount of time or they may be found excellent- the trouble is that they remain untested. Although we believe that education is an ongoing and lifelong process, only one foundation can be laid in the early formative years. The classical foundation is known to be strong. We should study the men, women and cultures which have come before so that we can learn from their successes and their failures. As George Santayana once remarked, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
- Our own civilization was built upon the principles and great ideas of Western civilization. As Americans, our cultural heritage is Western civilization. The ideas of ancient Greece and Rome directly shaped the founders of this country and the concept of a democratic republic upon which this country was built. We cannot fully understand the culture in which we live if we do not trace its roots in history and understand the seed from whence it came. Being a student of history gives one wisdom for the future and a greater perspective of the world in which we live.
- Studying great works of scholarship and the richness of ancient cultures teaches children what excellence really “looks like.” The word ‘classic’ describes something of “the highest quality” or something which “serves as a standard or guide.” Classic pieces of literature, philosophy, art and music have earned the descriptor ‘classic’ because their excellence, relevance and appeal have withstood the test of time. Such works are a model for others to follow. PCA believes that introducing students to such renowned ideas and pieces of craftsmanship will cause them to strive for such excellence and greatness in their own thinking and work. We believe it will cultivate an appetite for truth, beauty, and goodness because they have tasted that which is true, good and beautiful.
- In God’s providence, He chose to build His church and to spread His gospel through the Hellenistic culture and the expansive realm of the Roman Empire. He ordained both the time and place in which the New Testament Scriptures were written, and that they would be written in the Greek language. We believe these occurrences were not by chance, and we have much to gain spiritually from studying the culture in which Christ Himself lived.