To what end, Classics?

Posted on October 4th, 2007 by

A recent article in the New York Times Magazine:

Onward Christian Soldiers

The students and teachers call what they are doing “classical Christian education.” They believe it’s much more than memorizing Latin declensions and Aristotle’s principles of rhetoric, though they do plenty of that. Doug Wilson, 54, the pastor who spearheaded New St. Andrews’ founding, puts the college’s purpose simply: “We are trying to save civilization.” He’s not alone in his mission. The C.C.E. movement began in the early 1980s among Protestant evangelical private schools and home-schoolers who scorned most conservative Christian colleges, which were long on classes in business management and Bible prophecy but short on history, literature and ideas. …Evangelicals at New St. Andrews are using dead languages and ancient history to reinvent conservative Protestant education. As Matthew McCabe, an alumnus, puts it, “We want to be medieval Protestants.”

The curriculum is modeled on the vision of “New England’s First Fruits,” a 1643 Massachusetts Bay Colony pamphlet describing the college lately founded in Cambridge. Besides required coursework in Latin and Greek, students at N.S.A. study natural philosophy (mostly taxonomy and creationist science), the Western literary canon, Euclidean geometry and theology; they also practice public speaking at a weekly declamation.

The college handbook forbids students to embrace or promote “doctrinal errors” from the 4th through the 21st centuries, “such as Arianism, Socinianism, Pelagianism, Skepticism, Feminism.” If drawn to such ideas, they must “inform the administration immediately and honestly in a letter offering to withdraw from the College.”

Some things to ponder as you read the article:

Why do you think people turn to Classics to promote
their viewpoints?

How else has Classics been put to use over the centuries?

How does Classics function as part of the educational and religious mission of Gustavus?

**Bonus point for those who catch the humungous Latin error. Let that be a lesson to anyone who, motivated by an irrepressible love of Latin, is pondering a Latin tattoo. Make sure it’s right!


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