Fr. James Thornton outlined the benefits of a classical education in an article written this summer at The New American. We thought we’d share the highlights with you:
First, let us consider the objectives of classical education. The first objective is to transmit to our progeny, that is, to future generations, the knowledge, culture, and traditions preserved and passed on to us by our forebears. This is in contrast to so-called progressive education, which focuses on the flaws of the past (e.g., slavery) while ignoring the progress (e.g., the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and the elimination, in America, of an institution that had existed throughout human history).
Second, classical education aims to provide students with the tools that will enable them to become their own teachers throughout their lifetimes. A vast, inexhaustible world of learning is opened and, furthermore, the student is equipped to discern between that which is wholesome — contributing therefore to the uplifting of the mind — and that which is corrupting or debilitating. In other words, the student will be able to think critically and independently. Progressive-minded teachers in government education, of course, despite claiming to support diversity, propagandize instead on behalf of a humanist, statist doctrine.
Third, classical education is, by its very nature, broad-based. The renowned Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset and the American philosopher and historian Richard M. Weaver both decried the excessive specialization that, in modern education, produces men and women who are educated in one field only, and who are, in other fields, largely ignorant. Weaver referred to this as the “fragmentation” of knowledge. Classical education produced scholars who, he wrote, “stood at the center of things because [they] had mastered principles,” whereas “progressive education” produces people who have “acquired only facts and skills” and who are thus unable to achieve a general synthesis, that is, to integrate data from various fields into a cohesive whole.