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No matter what someone might say, education cannot be neutral, and all education is fundamentally religious. Christian educators aim at preparing Christian children to imitate their Lord. But even the materialist, atheist, or simple unbeliever recognizes education as a process whereby students are directed to become a particular kind of people. By teaching in such a way that God is dismissed as irrelevant, materialists reinforce their religious view that material alone matters. Problems arise, of course, when those students begin to look for moral direction in a worldview that denies them any standards or absolutes. When everything is relative, and when chaos is the god towards which education is aimed, we shouldn’t be surprised when both societies and individuals unravel from the inside out.

In classical Christian education, we affirm the timeless wisdom of the ages in so far as it accords with the authority of Scripture. All of this starts with anthropology: who we say humans are. Are we the products of random chance, or are we reflections of the Creator? Are we beholden only to nature’s impersonal forces, or do we owe allegiance to a personal God? Are we basically good progressing to a utopian society, or basically sinful and in need of rescue from ourselves, restored to God through the atoning death of Jesus Christ alone? Even the pre-Christian philosophers recognized man’s need for virtue and his propensity to fall into disorder. Classical Christian education works with students through ever-repeated cycles of repentance and reorientation towards the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, to Christ Himself.

The differences in these two models of education run far deeper than we realize, all the way to the foundational reasons we do anything at all. As we aspire to grow in our understanding of classical Christian education, we should be constantly asking ourselves where our ideas came from and what they speak about the realities of our relationship with God and with one another. In the end, every textbook, every work of literature or science, and every math problem points in one direction or another. And since nearly all of us at this point are still products of the other kind of education, we have a lot of work left to do. God wins in the end, and so will His wisdom in education.