Do You Know Who Is Influencing Your Classical School?

The Association of Christian Classical Schools is a national organization headquartered in Moscow, Idaho. It was founded by Douglas Wilson in 1994, and “provides accreditation for CCE [Classical Christian Education] schools” (see “Classical Christian Education and Doug Wilson” and the Christianity Today September 2019 cover story “The Rise of the Bible-Teaching, Plato-Loving, Homeschool Elitists“).

At present (March 2021) there are over 300 schools listed in their nationwide directory. A number of colleges and businesses are listed as “affiliates” and number of prominent evangelical figures “stand with ACCS” in including Albert Mohler, Eric Metaxas, John Piper, and Rod Dreher, as well as ministries like the Nehemiah Institute, and Desiring God.

In 2002, Preston Jones, professor of history at John Brown University, published an article on classical Christian schools (“Christian Classical Learning” pp. 12–13). Jones noted Wilson’s role in the classical Christian education movement and the founding of ACCS, but suggested that “If the Christian classical schools movement is going to be taken seriously in the academic world in the long run, its members would probably do well to distance themselves from some of their current leaders.” He noted Wilson’s views on southern slavery, and the book Southern Slavery as it Was, co-authored by “a neo-Confederate Presbyterian minister and League of the South leader named J. Steven Wilkins.” This book, published by Wilson’s publishing house Canon Press, “maintains, among other things, that the antebellum South was, literally, a holy land and that slavery bred mutual respect between the races— indeed, that relations between blacks and whites were never better than in the South before the Civil War.” Read more»

Daniel Kleven | “Doug Wilson and the Association of Classical Schools” | March 3, 2021

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8 comments

  1. I’ve been waiting for an article specifically on the ACCS. I am persuaded that this title and the idea of a “classic” education (see Dorothy Sayers) have great appeal for my conservatively oriented and/or Christian friends. This is especially true now, in light of the monstrous, wicked curricula and behavior in much of the public school system. I am also persuaded that this is an exceedingly wily and clever Muscovite exploitation of weakness in Christian discernment. And fundamentally you should pardon the expression, I am persuaded that the spring of ACCS is poisoned at the source, perverting the Gospel and the classical curriculum. There may be glimpses of sound teaching here and there, but the whole is not sound and must be subject to biblical discernment. Once again, I thank The Heidelblog and Dr. Clark for making information available to aid in thinking Christianly.

  2. Classical Christian Schools are anachronistic, imo. Even apart from the questionable pedigree of this org. We should learn from the past, but we can’t recreate it — nor should we try. I particularly think teaching Latin to elementary schoolers is highly overrated.

    Let’s just focus on providing a solid, affordable, virtue-based education that presents challenging and high quality stimuli to engage children. If we could just do that, we’d already be light-years ahead of the current public alternatives.

  3. I definitely don’t think throwing out the tried and tested techniques of classical education is the correct response to this problem.

    • Benjamin,

      I agree. There are some interesting competitors to the classical model but I’m strongly attracted to the parrot, pert, poet model. I’ve been using and adapting it for more than 25 years and the fruit has been good.

    • I think the models and techniques are very useful and should definitely inform our pedagogy.

      But let’s be honest: few to none of those promoting “Classical Education” as such are really providing a truly Classical education. We just don’t live in that world anymore.

    • Andrew,

      Kids can’t memorize or learn Latin or grammar, logic, and rhetoric? My kids did. Lot’s of kids are doing it. The outcomes have been marvelous. I wish I had a classical education.

    • Dr. Clark,

      My understanding is that what you are describing is a traditional liberal arts education. A “Classical Education,” such as carried out in Ancient Greece or Rome, would look quite different.

      Maybe this is all just a disagreement over a term, though. But from what I understand, a great many purveyors of CE don’t have a solid idea what exactly it is either — apart from the famed Dorothy Sayers essay, which the Classical world didn’t have. 🙂

      I’m kind of radical, though, in the sense that I think any system that controls for rigor and conscientious parents will likely have pretty good outcomes (and to some degree genetics, but we’d best leave that be). Whether that’s learning Latin or Old Chinese is somewhat incidental.

    • Andrew,

      I appreciate pedantry as much as the next guy but what Sayers was describing pre-dates her experience by millennia. She was a fairly serious medievalist after all. I see evidence of the PPP approach in the Fathers too.

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