(This is part 2 of Mr. Wedel’s “Uncommon Vision and Common Core.” To read part 1, click here.)
Classical schools, as well, can fall into this mindset. In some minds, there is “truly Classical,” a narrow definition which anything claimed as “Classical” that does not fit is at best heterodox and at worst Classical heresy. The impulse here, as well, is to provide a guard against error, here educational error. The definition becomes, again, one of negation, and the end becomes creating students who are Classicists, knowing much of Classical education but perhaps missing the end to love and pursue Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.
I do not here speak against schools in either of the two previous camps; they are filled with and often formed by men and women far godlier than I. Their efforts are well-intentioned and are used by God as positive forces in the world.
The same, though, may be said to be true of Common Core. Many Christians have had their hands in guiding Common Core, in advocating for its adoption, for being teachers to bring it to implementation. Nonetheless, it remains a bankrupt system, whatever the good intention.
Our desire at The Academy of Classical Christian Studies is to be Classical and Christian, but, as our Head of School is fond of saying, not mad about either. Instead, we desire to be humble inheritors, heirs of the Kingdom to come and coming manifest here and heirs of the Western tradition, the story the King has written and is writing of us.
So, if the above paths are not for us, as laudatory as elements from each may seem, what is our call? What is our path?
A metaphor is perhaps the most helpful indicator of our way forward. A consistent refrain for Classical education is the image from Exodus of “plundering the Egyptians” (see Exodus 11). As the Israelites are leaving Egypt, God places the fear of them among the peoples, who gift the Israelites with gold, silver, and other previous metals and materials. Thus pagan culture is “plundered.” And to what end? These are the basic materials that will be used in the construction of the Tabernacle. Pagan culture is transformed to the glory of God.
On a personal level, Moses is trained in all the ways of the Egyptians, most gifted in speech among his generation. To what end? Not only to the purpose of opposing Pharoah and leading the people of God, but to the purpose of composing the Holy writ of the Pentateuch, whose narrative structure and formation finds interesting similarities with the stories and tales of the Egypt in which he learned.
The narrow road, then, leads not away from Common Core, nor towards it, in a totalizing direction. The narrow road passes always through the desert in full faith in God’s presence and persistent leading.
Four practical outworkings:
- We will not adopt Common Core as a standard; this would be akin to the Israelites returning to Egypt, to slavery to a system of oppression whose end is not God.
- We will not avoid adopting texts, resources, even metrics simply because they align with Common Core. Those that easily align or which match already what we are doing or desire can and will be considered.
- We will be aware of the more subtle ways Common Core will impact the educational establishment. Textbook publishers will be under incredible pressure to create editions or simply make their current editions align with Common Core standards. Aware of these effects (and others), we will evaluate our decisions in line with our vision and mission, not with any other arbitrary standard of measure.
- We will be aware of the political pressures and conflicts that would, perhaps, seek to see Common Core imposed even upon private schools and work with like-minded individuals to provide what influence we can to ensure educational freedom not only for us but for all who would desire to see education reclaimed.
If we keep our eyes fixed upon Him who is the author and perfecter of our faith, the author and finisher of all knowledge, wisdom, and insight, following the steps of the great men and women who have come before, the great tradition we hope to impart to our students, then we need only to remain faithful. Jesus Christ is the One who subdues all His enemies and ours.