Question: I am interested in classical education but am concerned about a few things. I have heard several speakers recommend books by secular authors. One classical educator even recommended reading Hitler’s Mein Kampf. There also seems to be a large focus on mythology. It seems everyone I know who teaches classically uses books or materials which have questionable material in them. My children are young, and although I want them to be well educated, I also want to protect them from questionable influences. Is there a way to teach classically without exposing children (or ourselves) to what God says is an abomination?
Answer: You are not alone in your concerns. We must distinguish the classical style of education from the classical humanist literature which is often associated with it. The classical humanists are not the source of all wisdom. Indeed, they are the source of much sophisticated folly. The only true source of wisdom is Scripture. It is true that the classical humanists have greatly affected the world we live in. It is also true that a certain knowledge of them can be useful. It is not true that an easy familiarity with them is necessarily good or desirable. A few people may be called to this degree of knowledge, just as a few people are called to special knowledge in other areas of learning. Sadly, some have sought such knowledge out of classical snobbery and parental peer pressure. This should never be our motivation.
The ancient historians, geographers, and biographers are the primary sources for what we know of ancient times. They are written from a secular point of view, which must be countered, and they contain occasional statements which many parents will not want their children exposed to, so we need to pre-read these in the same way that we might preview a movie. The ancient philosophers are clever men filled with many vain thoughts. Lest someone become entangled in one of their labyrinths of reasoning, we recommend that mature Christians be guided on a tour through the philosophers by someone who is well grounded in Christian thought. The ancient poets, satirists, tragedians, and comedians are, with few exceptions, filled with questionable and graphic content. To handle these, we must first put on our chore boots, and afterwards take a good shower. Generally speaking, they are better left alone.
Whatever we do, we must remember that the classical must always submit to the Christian. We must be prepared to take captive every category of knowledge including classical knowledge and make it serve our Lord Jesus (Second Corinthians 10:4,5). Remember, these things were originally written in order to propagate a non-Christian worldview. Unless we take appropriate counter measures, this is exactly what they will do.