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Wokeness Is Coming for Classical Christian Education


BY: DAVID GOODWIN | JANUARY 20, 2023

Read more at https://thefederalist.com/2023/01/20/wokeness-is-coming-for-classical-christian-education/

classical christian school
Classical Christian education is not ‘racist’ or ‘misogynist.’ Its texts address the universal truths about the human condition.

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DAVID GOODWIN

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It’s been a good year for classical Christian education. New school starts are up threefold, a book on classical education became No. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list, and on Jan. 26, Fox Nation will release season two of a popular series on classical Christian education, “The Miseducation of America.” Of course, with growth comes attention. What is unusual this time is that someone with ties to our movement — one of our own — draws focus to a growing divide.

On Jan. 12, in the online journal Current, Jessica Hooten Wilson asked, “Is White Supremacy a Bug or a Feature of Classical Christian Education? It should come as no surprise that, within her mainstream academic ecosphere as a scholar at Pepperdine University, she gets pressure. “I experience regular pushback from those who perceive [classical Christian education] as white, Western-only, and male-dominated.” She proceeds to cast aspersions on a few people and organizations — including, indirectly, mine. Her accusations become a pretext for her thesis: “If the classical Christian school movement is to survive — let alone flourish — we must oppose all forms of racism and misogyny and stand with the beauty, goodness, and truth that we hold up for our students.” I’ll take her up on that charge.

Hooten Wilson is a staccato note at the end of a new tune within our circles. Her article praises those groups she believes are taking the right steps. So far, I’ve heard no one publicly state the thesis so clearly as she does: “We should peruse the authors of the works and, if applicable, the editors or introductory writers to ensure an assortment of voices … as well as an equality of both sexes. If we look at the table of contents of a textbook or a reading list for a semester and find not a single woman or person of color in that list, then that curriculum is misrepresenting the classical Christian tradition.”

Choosing the Classical Canon

For the better part of three millennia, philosophical, theological, and literary authors labored to create the classical canon, representing countless cultural influences. Over much of this same time period, learned scholars have made lists of those that deserve “canon” status. It is unclear if there are minorities or women in Cassiodorus’ list of authors (400 A.D.), or Leonardo Bruni or Battista Guarino’s lists (humanists from the 1400s) — they don’t use those categories. Mortimer Adler and his team of about 40 renowned scholars chose the most widely recognized list of books in our time based upon their contribution to “the great conversation.” Adler’s merit-based criteria required a work to have changed the course of history and to have developed the collective Western mind. What Adler’s team did not do is look to race or sex as criteria.

The Western classical tradition has long included people of every race and sex in a particular way: The tradition deals with a body of texts that address the universal truths about the human condition, rising above our culture’s current quest to silo everyone into an intersection of identity.

Whatever your identity may be, the long journey toward Aeneus’ destiny amplifies the tension between duty and desire. The hilarity of twins unknown to each other, living in the same city, begets “A Comedy of Errors,” no matter your race or sex. Would Hooten Wilson tell the young women and minorities in our schools that they cannot fully converse with these texts because their voices are not represented in them? Shall our schools sacrifice universal human dignity on the altar of token inclusion? Hooten Wilson limits her criteria to women and minorities. Some, like Kimberle Crenshaw, will not be satisfied with this attempt to diversify our reading lists — there will always be one more disaffected group.

Duped into Old-Fashioned Racism and Sexism

By Hooten Wilson’s standard, we must scrape and scrape until we find a “fair” representation of “diverse” contributors. “I am especially excited about the number of women that we added to the Middle Ages list. … Classical schools should look through their reading lists to make sure women and persons of color are not excluded from their curriculum.” Classical Christian education should not be duped by the spirit of our age into old-fashioned racism or sexism. This spirit was cultivated not by our tradition, as Hooten Wilson claims, but rather by the Frankfurt School.

During the 1930s, a group of cultural Marxist scholars set up shop at Columbia University. The Frankfurt School set out on a mission to end the influence of Christianity in our culture. Their thickly veiled product called critical theory deliberately divides us by whispering one small lie, presented in two axioms: For a person to relate to anything, or gain from anything — in this case an intellectual tradition — it must have elements that “look like them” and match their “identity.” And, a second axiom follows: Thus, if something does not contain “diverse and inclusive” elements, it is racist or misogynist. These fruits of critical theory travel down a circuitous path from the Frankfurt School, to Hooten Wilson’s proposal, to a few classical educators who take incremental steps toward critical theory — all of this under the trendy label of “inclusiveness.”

True Liberation Through Classical Christian Education

Classical education was created to, and has, liberated the minds of countless people groups in history, and it is capable of doing the same in America today — and beyond. It has been at the forefront of the march for freedom and education; for individual rights apart from race or class or sex. If we let the very toxin that infects progressive education get into our classrooms, we’re doomed. This toxin was created and propagated by those who hate our tradition. Should we voluntarily drink it?

My daughter recently graduated from New Saint Andrews College. This is one of the institutions that those in Hooten Wilson’s camp label “misogynist.” The college seeks to uphold and respect traditional Christian femininity, which displeases feminists who seem to hate femininity. Misogyny? When my daughter brought her friends to our home over Thanksgiving, I remember listening to the conversation and thinking, “Where do these women come from? They’re strong, bright, extremely well-read, fluent in ancient languages, and honoring of Christian truth — including their God-given womanhood.” None were weak women. All seemed faithful, happy, and confident. I don’t think any of them would want Hooten Wilson’s prescription for their reading list.

Is Racism a Bug or a Feature in Classical Christian Education?

The Frankfurt School’s purpose was to deconstruct. To do so, they inserted a “bug” in our educational system: critical theory, and all of its descendent forms. Some in our movement now offer a batch of code that has this bug embedded deeply within it — in the form of reading lists. By Hooten Wilson’s reckoning, these groups are heading in the right direction. The rest of us are not. Will our institutions continue to follow her lead by adopting coded terms like “Kingdom Diversity”? Or will we recognize the code as a virus and say, “No thank you. The classical Christian tradition is above all that nonsense — and the nonsense of white nationalists, by the way. May a plague be on all your racist houses.”

If classical Christian education is to survive, it has to reject the foolishness of our age and embrace Christ’s way alone. Christ’s church favors neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free.

The humanities are great because they unite. They are universal. Women and non-Europeans are now, in our present time, contributing to classical Christian education in spades. I work so that all children can rise up and join the great conversation without barriers.

“Identity,” however, won’t fit here. Check it at the door. We are Christ’s. We are classical. Those who want to be loved by the spirit of our age will become intoxicated by it, and slowly die of its poison.


David Goodwin is the editor of The Classical Difference magazine, the president of the Association of Classical Christian Schools, and the co-author of The New York Times no. 1 best seller “Battle for the American Mind.” You can find him at Substack.

Watching Phones Instead of Reading Good Books Is Starving Kids’ Souls


BY: KATIE SCHUERMANN | OCTOBER 11, 2022

Read more at https://thefederalist.com/2022/10/11/watching-phones-instead-of-reading-good-books-is-starving-kids-souls/

young man on his phone

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Consortium for Classical Lutheran Education 2022 conference. It is excerpted here with CCLE permission.

My husband pastors a campus church at a Big Ten university, and we live amongst college students. It is a blessed life, one in which our evenings are longer and our mornings shorter, all because we have the privilege of fostering 50-plus Gen Z-ers in the faith.

What passion and curiosity reside in the hearts and heads of our young people! But do you know what else resides there? Fear and distrust of most everything coming out of the mouth of anyone older than them.

For so many of these students grew up reading, hearing, watching, and absorbing stories that assert that they are omniscient, that no outside source is as trustworthy as their own feelings. They are certain they know what is best for themselves, and anyone who asserts otherwise is an indoctrinated false prophet of the dead past who simply refuses to sing along with Elsa, “Let it go.”

How did these young people come to trust their own corrupted gut more than the wisdom of their parents? I suspect it has something to do with Cinderella, Ariel, Elsa, and Anna; as well as Monica, Ross, Rachel, Phoebe, Joey, and Chandler; and “Modern Family,” “Sex and the City,” “Parks and Recreation,” Marvel movies, and even “Veggie Tales,” for many of our present college students were raised in homes dominated by screens.

Much of their free time was spent absorbing serial television, and while not every televised program, movie, and YouTube channel necessarily tells false stories, much of modern programming follows a storytelling formula that ensures the pet social agendas of screenwriters are always being covered in the plot and in ways that narrate lies surrounding sexual identity, the sanctity of life, the good order of creation and marriage, the strength of men, and the reality of absolutes.

Stories have always been a part of how we pass down what is good and beautiful and true to our children, but depending on the storyteller, this practice can corrupt as easily as benefit. As more and more families turn over the care of their children to institutions, programs, clubs, teams, and devices, parents are no longer controlling the narrative of the stories being passed down to their children.

The loudest, most powerful propagandist holds the bullhorn, and he makes sure the story’s plot fits his personal agenda, no matter if it is evil and ugly and false. This proves especially dangerous in the classroom, where most children spend the greater part of everyday away from their parents.

We now have generations of children raised by bullhorns, and it is commonplace for a child to be occupied by some sort of program every moment of every day, whether it is a daycare program, school program, televised program, sports program, or an arts program — you name it. Many of today’s college students have had few opportunities in life to grow bored, to daydream, and to experience what happens to their bodies and minds and emotions when not occupied. They seem to have missed out on what used to be standard human experiences such as unregulated play, relating to peers of all shapes, sizes, and maturity levels, and making messy, wonderful, formative relationships with imperfect people.

I have observed that when young people are denied the opportunity to share experiences with other real people, they bond with the fake experiences and fake people they see on a screen instead. It is not uncommon for conversations amongst college students to be centered around Disney or “Game of Thrones” or the show “Friends” or countless other streamed programs. Sadly, those Hollywood-scripted shows are the memories peers share, and those designed-to-disorder plots are the common experiences with which they relate to each other.

So, what do we do about it? How do we reclaim the hearts and minds — the attention — of our children? We have to turn off the television, certainly, and power down our devices and pick out the books to be read before bedtime as well as model chastity and charity and temperance and kindness and patience in our own lives.

As Rod Dreher suggests in “The Benedict Option,” “Christians are going to have to become better tellers of our own story,” for the screenwriters are already pitching a relentless campaign for that position, programming our children into an understanding of humanity and of God that is false, an understanding that fools’ men, born free, into living as slaves to bullhorns.

Bo Giertz, the most celebrated storyteller in my own tradition of Lutheranism, writes: “People often think they are free when they put themselves above God’s commands and don’t do what He wants. Actually, they only stop serving one power and begin serving another. Jesus tells us there is only one way to find true freedom: to remain in His Word, listening, receiving, and understanding. Then we perceive truth, and the truth sets us free, truly free.” (“Wednesday after the Third Sunday in Lent,” To Live with Christ, Bo Giertz, 224.)

We need more of this truth that “sets us free” in the stories our children are consuming. We need to read and discuss books with them that teach toward virtue and away from vice, so our youth can recognize tyranny and slavery to sin when they see it.

And they need to know they are not alone. When the time of persecution inevitably comes — when their character and endurance are put to the ultimate test — it is helpful for them to know that they are in good company. They stand with Jesus and the Apostle Paul and Samwise Gamgee and Josip Lasta and Charles Wallace and Katniss and the Rev. John Ames and Robbie Jones and saints and angels and hundreds of years of fictional heroes who have been tested and tried and even triumphed.

Think of it this way. A child is born having no formative memories of virtues and vices. At least, we hope he doesn’t, for firsthand knowledge of tyranny and sloth and intemperance would suggest that the child has been abandoned or deceived by a parent or abused by an adult or has endured some unthinkable suffering.

But a child can still know that patience is a virtue, that joy accompanies charity, that self-sacrifice has its rewards, and that chastity is a beautiful, worthy aspiration, because he has heard the story of Joseph in Egypt and Isaac on the altar and Stephen in Jerusalem and Frodo in Mordor and Bigwig in “Watership Down” and Anne in Avonlea. These characters and stories — fiction or nonfiction — give children memories of virtues before they experience them themselves. These stories teach children into a thought pattern and into a mindset and behavior that is virtuous, that is free.

As Wendell Berry writes in his essay “A Native Hill”: “It is not from ourselves that we learn to be better than we are.” Our children need us to keep telling them good, true stories — especially the true story of their forefathers, both in the family and in the faith — so they can learn to be better than they are. For we have already seen that, if left to the world and its false stories, our children will learn to be worse than they are.


Katie Schuermann is a full-time homemaker, a part-time musician, and a seasonal writer. Find her books and more at katieschuermann.com.

A Timely Poem for Dr. Seuss Day: ‘The List with a Fist’


POSTED BY: FATHER GOOSE | MARCH 02, 2022

Read more at https://thefederalist.com/2022/03/02/a-poem-for-dr-seuss-day-the-list-with-a-fist/

List with a Fist by John Folley

Read Across America Day, also known as Dr. Seuss Day, is March 2. It celebrates both the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel and the importance of reading.

Dr. Seuss can not whine,
Though he was canceled this day,
By President Biden,
And the cold NEA.

Seuss sat there for decades,
His birthday they used,
To encourage kids’ reading,
To instruct and amuse.

Too racist is Seuss,
And too old, dead, and pale,
Too old for the times,
Too cruel and too male.

So all they could do was to
Nix!
     Nix!
         Nix!
             Nix!
And pull Seuss’s books.
Take him out of the mix.

But then,
The Booklist went WOKE!
And how that woke made us choke!

So we looked!
Then we saw the List scatter like glitter!
We looked!
And we saw it!
Like a book list from Twitter!

And it told us,
“Why do you read old books like Seuss?”

“I know they appeal
To every daughter and sonny.
But the joy found inside them
Is no longer funny!”

“I know some new books you can read,”
Said the List.
“I know some new tricks,”
Said the List with a Fist.
“A lot of good tricks.
I will show them to you.
Your parents
Won’t mind at all if I do.”

Then Americans
Did not know what to say.
Moms ‘n dads aren’t librarians
Who take Seuss books away.

But our conscience said, “Woah! Woah!
Make this list far less woke.
Tell the List with a Fist
We don’t want it to stoke
Any fire but love
Between family and friend.
The List is too woke.
It’s designed to offend.”

“Now! Now! Have no fear.
Have no fear!” said the list.
“My tricks are not bad,”
Said the List with a Fist.

“Why, we can have
Lots of good books, if you wish,
With a game that I call
Shut-up-the-conscience!”

“Put me down,” said our conscience,
“As one happy to see
You remove from your List
Ibram X. Kendi.”

“Have no fear!” said the list.
“I will offer much more.
I will offer X. Kendi,
And authors galore!
There’s a book about a Hawaiian girl,
Who sorely wished,
To be androgynous!”
Said the List…

“Look at this!
Look at this now!” said the list.
“Here’s a prince in a dress!
Prince Sebastian with a twist!
He’s Lady Crystallia,
Dressed in drag by night!
He hires a seamstress,
Who sees the light!

And look!
This book is Common Core aligned!
But all that is fine.
Oh, yes.
All that is fine….”

“Look at this!
Look at this!
Look at this NOW!
It is fun to read fun
But you have to know how.
I can hold up these books!
I can hold up another!
Here’s a Muslim sister and brother,
And the sister’s teen, lesbian lover.
They lie to the parents,
But then make them quite sad.
It’s erotic in places,
And old customs are bad.
It’s a confusing, grim tale,
For young teens it’s designed.
But that’s all fine.
Oh, yes.
That’s all fine.”

That is what the list said…
Then it slipped into kids’ heads!
The kids took it, they took it all.
And the American conscience,
It saw the kids fall!

And our conscience fell, too.
It fell into a think!
It said, “Do I like this?
Some of it stinks.
But some of it’s good,”
Said our conscience quite split.
“But I don’t like it,
Not one little bit!”

“Now look what you did!”
Said our conscience to the list.
“You mixed good with bad,
You List with a Fist.
You took things we love,
Like love among races,
Then mostly removed
Any trace of white faces.
You added to friendships,
Trans-sexy things,
When kids need some time
To grow free of such stings.”

“But I like to trans sex.
Oh I like it a lot!”
Said the List with a Fist
As the conscience it fought.
“I will not unmix my list.
I do not wish to change.
And so,” said the List with a Fist,
“So
      so
         so…
I will show you
Another good book that I know!”

And then it went on,
As clever as a fox,
And handed the conscience
An Amazon box.
A cardboard package.
It was clearly a book.
“Now look at this trick,”
Said the list.
“Take a look!”

Then the list shook the box,
With a wink of the eye:
“I call this game Two-in-One-Fun!”
Said the list.
“In this box is a child,
I will show you now:
He’s two things and one child!”
Said the list, with a bow.

“I will open the box.
You will see something new.
One child. And I call “him”
Thing One and Thing Two.
These Things will not bite you.
They want to have fun.”
Then out of the box,
Came Things Two, but Child One!
“See the child was a boy,
Who then dressed like a mermaid.
With lipstick and jewelry
He played and he played.

In his mind the poor boy
Grew out long flowing hair.
Then he dolled himself up
Till his nana just stared.”
But our conscience said, “Woah!
Those things should not be
In this list. Make them go!
They should not be here
When the logic is wrong.
One boy. Two Things?”
Our conscience stayed strong.

“Have no fear, little conscience,”
Said the List with a Fist.
“These Things are good Things,”
With a wink said the list.
“They are good. Oh, so good!
They have come here to free
Every child from the sorrow
Of having to be.”

“Now here is the freedom they like,”
Said the list.
“They like to make lists!”
Said the List with a Fist.

“No, not another list!”
Said the conscience dismayed.
“They should not make a list
With the gender “mermaid”!
Nor Trans Man, nor Two-Spirit,
Pangender, nor Fluid,
Not Transmasculine, Intersex,
Nor Cisgendered Druid!”

The American conscience
Saw new lists unfurl.
With one child called two Things:
Both girl and demigirl.
“Fists! Lists!” cried the List with a Fist,
“Two is one; fun is fun!”

Things Two and Child One!?
It’s unhappy and sad!
It’ll string out one kid.
It’s a dangerous fad.
Encouraging boys
To wear mother’s gown
Will end with far worse
Than a lip-sticky frown.

Things Two in Child One
Will tear him to bits,
Pull his heart this way
And that till it splits!
And America said,
“I do NOT like the way the list plays!
Mother Nature can see that
One child has one way!”

Then our conscience said, “Look! Look!”
And our conscience shook its own fist.
“Mother Nature is coming!
And she has no such list.
Through the flowers she’s humming,
And she’s something to say.
Oh, she will not like it
To find kids this way!”

“So, DO something! Fast!” said the conscience.
“Do you hear!
I saw her. Your mother!
Mother Nature is near!
So, as fast as you can,
Think of something to do!
You will have to get rid of
‘Child One is Things Two’!”

So, as fast as we can,
We’ll get on to the net.
And we’ll say, “On the net
We can help kids, we bet.
We bet, with the net,
We can set things right yet!

“Or better, get kids to set down the net!
Set it down with a PLOP!
And avoid hurtful lists
So the Two Things will stop.”
Said the conscience aloud.
And then with clenched fists,
The Americans said,
“Be gone, mixed up list!”

“Oh dear!” said the list.
“You did not like our game…
Oh dear.
  What a shame!
             What a shame!
                   What a shame!”

Then the list took Two Things
From its list full of books.
And the list went away
With a sad kind of look.

“That is good,” said the conscience.
“The list’s gone away. Yes.
But Mother Nature will come.
She will find a big mess!
And this mess is so big
And so deep and so tall,
But we must pick it up,
Or the country will fall!”

And THEN!
Who was back in the house?
Why, Mother Nature, of course!
“Have no fear of this mess,”
Said the Nature of Things.
“I always heal the list’s nasty stings.

And so…
I will show you a different
Good trick that I know!”

Then we saw her pick up
All the kids that were down.
She called to the merboy:
“Dear, put down that gown,
And the silk, and the necklace,
And the lipstick, and heels.
Use your head and a mirror,
Not your murkier feels.”
And she stood them up fresh,
And free and true.
And she said to each one,
“You know God loves you!”

Then Mother Nature gave way
And a voice from above
Gave a choice to our conscience,
The choice of Love.

And the American conscience,
Now knows what’s at stake:
  “Love what you are,
  Or you’ll love what is fake.”

Should we tell kids about this?
Now, what SHOULD we do?
Well…
What would YOU do
If the list with a fist came for you?

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