Without demonizing the idea of “the public,” author Wendell Berry nevertheless asserts that even though “a public government, with public laws and a public system of justice, founded on democratic suffrage, is in principle a good thing,” it is still a very different thing than “community.” While the two may be perfectly compatible, the one cannot guarantee the health and preservation of the other. He writes:
A community, when it is alive and well, is centered on the household—the family place and economy—and the household is centered on marriage…A household according to its nature, will seek to protect and prolong its own life, and since it will readily perceive its inability to survive alone, it will seek to join its life to the life of a community.
With the now politicization of most everything, and with “the public” pressing deeper and deeper into the fabric and terms of community life, Berry makes a shocking statement about the viability of our covenanting together in the future:
It is therefore possible that the future of community life in this country may depend on private schools and home schooling.
Here we find the rediscovery of culture—of all that is pre-political. Here we find the kind of faithfulness rooted in a bedrock of moral principles that preserves norms of community life. The time and treasure of our families here at The Academy of Classical Christian Studies are aimed at ethical and cultural targets. It’s not that Truth, Goodness, and Beauty can be conveniently contained, managed, bridled, and packaged for students; it’s that the inevitable enlargement of soul that comes from classical education not only makes for a great curriculum but also irrigates cultural and communal deserts.
Grammar, logic, and rhetoric, three of the tools or arts in our educational philosophy, require the proper climate and nutrients for flourishing. To use a list from Berry that I will doubtless use again, our young Academy scholars need a climate of clearly defined values, principles, and expectations fostered by the nutrients of a well-fed memory and understanding. These taken together add up inwardly to character, and outwardly to culture.
All of the aspirations in classical Christian education, whether it be creation of life-long learners, the preservation of the record of God’s providence, the reformation of morals and manners, or the transformation of culture—each is dependent upon the attention given to value, restraint, principle, expectation, familiarity, and understanding by a community. It’s this kind of knowledge, writes Berry, that includes information, but is never the same as information.
All quotations taken from Wendell Berry’s essay, “Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community.” For more on this idea, read “Why Classical Schools Just Might Save America” (originally published by The American Spectator) at The Circe Institute.