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Bad Argument for Classical and Christian Education

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Sometimes the best thought experiments for coming up with good ways of arguing are to identify the bad arguments that one is tempted to make through hasty or slothful thinking. Educators serve on the vanguard of battling against the dehumanizing effects of modern education and advancing the humanizing effects of classical and Christian education. In this battle it is tempting to resort to the tactics of the opposing educational system because we see such tactics winning over parents and families--even those parents and families that would fit best within our schools or co-ops. In an effort to avoid the traps of using bad arguments for a good cause, this thread intends to catalogue some common bad arguments that classical educators use to defend or advance the cause. Here's a procedure I propose:

1. State the bad argument (in its common, but clearest form)

2. Identify at least one major flaw in the argument.

3. Propose an alternative argument to replace it.

I'll get things going:

1. Bad argument: Classically educated students score higher on SAT and ACT tests than other students, therefore they have a better chance to earn scholarships to Universities.

2. One major flaw: While this argument is true, and highly relevant to parents, it contains a hidden assumption about what ought to motivate parents to have their children classical educated. The goal of classical education remains drawing humans into the divine, and few Universities continue to promote that same goal. By emphasizing tests scores and scholarships, classical educators implicitly promote University education, which in most cases stands diametrically opposed to classical education.

3. Alternative: Classically educated students perform well in a variety of assessments because they are submitted to wisdom beyond their own limits and the limits of their age; cultivating perspective that allows them to see their own flaws and mistakes, and solve them with truths and habits that draw them and those around them into a more excellent way.


Your turn!

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Wow! I love the alternative argument. I've always resisted the standard SAT/ACT argument because of the presuppositions, but never thought to create a positive statement which promoted actual classical benefits as well. Thank you!

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Here's another one:

1. Bad argument: Classical and Christian education provides a safe place for children to grow and learn instead of being subjected to the bullying and secular conditioning of public schools.

2. One major flaw: While it is true that Classical and Christian education is safer from violence and bad influences than public schools, being motivated by fear of alternatives does not provide the impetus to receive the goods that Classical and Christian education offers. Treating Classical and Christian education as a haven turns it into a place of retreat or refuge, instead of viewing it as a calling to guard and advance Western Christian heritage.

3. Alternative: Classical and Christian education forms humans in the forge of Western Culture: firing them in time-tested truths, tempering them in the wisdom of our forefathers, forging them in beauty, galvanizing them in goodness, that they may bulwark against buffeting winds of cultural change and break the vices that constrain the glory of man.

Edited by JTB_5

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1. Bad argument:

Christian Classical Education avoids the latest "-isms" and explicit materials of modern and politicized education, insulating children to the Christian worldview and conservative curriculum.

2. One major flaw: While it is true that classical education is going to have as it's curriculum books that have been tested over time and assessed as essential to the formation of virtue, these books are not all what would be considered "Christian" or non-explicit. Not all pagan, or even atheistic writings are harmful. Some are needful to understanding the direction in which western civilization has gone. And not all are completely wrong. 

3. Alternative: Classical Christian education should include how to be in conversation with alternative ideas without losing the conviction of Christ. We need to learn how to engage with ideas across times and cultures to strengthen our articulation of Christ to our own time and culture. This must include engaging works that are outside of our current Christina culture. 

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