Worth Doing Well
That late, great Anonymous once said, “If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.” But as with many things, we must say yes and no. Applying this to education in particular, one of the great concerns I and others have with the Classical Christian School movement (I speak as one from within the movement) is the possibility that we are inoculating our students to literature, history and classical languages. In other words, many classical Christian schools seem to have the, “if one’s good, two is better” mentality when it comes to classical studies. Of course sometimes this is true. God apparently liked a number of things to come in pairs, if one arm was good, two was certainly better. And other things like fingers and hair certainly came packaged in greater quantities. But two heads is not better than one. And so it is with classical education. If Latin is good, perhaps Latin, Greek and Hebrew is better. Perhaps if 200 pages is good, 2000 is better, but not necessarily.
And for this reason, I would want to argue that in an important sense, especially when children are young, less is more. If education is worth doing, and it is, it is worth doing well. And in some areas, it would be far better to let things go, if it would mean doing them badly if we tried. It is far more important teach our students love for truth than for them to know the entire history of Rome. It is more important for our students to love beauty than for to know the history of Western Art from the Minoans to the present. It is far more important for our students to love the goodness of God than to remember who came first Odysseus or Othniel. They will not remember all the details of the Odyssey from when they were 10 or 11, but they will remember how it felt. Do their eyes light up and their imaginations wander, or do they roll their eyes and wish they were still at home playing Halo 2? My fear is that many schools are turning the greatest books and the classical languages into vaccinations. Are we igniting flames of imagination and excitement and wonder? Or are we ensuring that they never need another drop of Latin, thank you very much.
I am more and more convinced that how we interact actually creates the what. The method creates the content. When students are introduced to the world of history and literature, we should want them asking for more. It should be like so many evenings I remember when I was young, when Dad would come to the end of another chapter, and we would all beg for him not to stop. That kind of joy and anticipation is true Christian Education.
Douglas Wilson spoke this morning in Greyfriars Hall about the need for evangelists to have a deep awareness of the sovereignty of God. And I think the same is true for teachers and educators. This is not to say that it doesn’t matter what we do ‘cause, heck, God’ll fix whatever messes we make. Sure, God will do that too, but more importantly, we can be free to love our studies, love our students, and encourage them in their pursuits, not over anxious for their souls, not finicky about whether they ‘got it all’. Because, of course, they didn’t get it all and they won’t here and now. But God is faithful, He’ll make sure they do eventually.
And this is why less is more. If a class can handle 200 pages, a great teacher will assign 150. If students could enjoy a forty minute lecture, a great teacher will lecture for 30. The greatest teachers are not only concerned to impart wisdom; they are also concerned to impart the desire for wisdom. And thus, less is more: if we can give our students just a taste of the glorious story of history, just a glimpse into the beauties of Scripture, just a line of some silly song in Latin it is possible that they will come begging for more, hungry to learn, hungry for wisdom.