How Home Schooling and Classical Christian Education Could Alter the Leadership of the Future
Could society’s leftward lean ever reverse itself? Could our culture’s leadership regain its common sense, and a sense of character? God is still God; therefore it’s always possible. But there’s also some reason for hope on a visible, human level. We see that in the large numbers of young people today who are being home-schooled or attending Christian schools using classical curricula.
I could see that turning the tide. The reason? These students are learning how to think and to communicate. Hardly anyone else is. And that could well give them the advantage in coming years.
Unreason Running Rampant
Public schools simply don’t teach students how to think. Today’s irrationality regarding sexual identity, socialism and atheism can be traced in part to that failure.
Peter Boghossian, for example, teaches Critical Thinking courses at Portland State University. He’s also the author of A Manual for Creating Atheists, a book badly beset with logical blunders. Seems rather contradictory, doesn’t it? Critical thinking should include the ability to reason well. Yet atheist leaders endorsed Boghossian and his book. He has disciples roaming the campuses doing “street epistemology” — sophistry, reality — to undermine believers’ faith. And yet atheists themselves claim to be the reasonable ones!
Why? And how are they getting away with this nonsense? It’s because too few of us know how to tell manipulative persuasion from sound reason.
Reasoning and Rhetoric
We all need a good, solid education in reasoning and rhetoric.
We need to learn logical reasoning — the ability to follow a line of thought from its starting point (evidence and premises) to its conclusion, without falling into fallacy. It starts with knowing the three basic logical principles of identity, non-contradiction, and the excluded middle. (If those are unfamiliar, Google can be a great friend.) Logic extends to the art of constructing sound arguments, spotting common fallacies.
How many public schools, or even colleges, require this?
We need to learn the art of rhetoric: speaking and writing to persuade. Rhetoric is all about being effective in the use of language. It includes logic, or at least it should, along with imagery, emotion, empathy and more. It’s a basic skill we all need in order to be able to get our points across, ethically and legitimately. And also so we can recognize when others are putting their points across unethically and illegitimately.
How many public schools teach this? How many elite universities, even? But it’s a standard feature of classical Christian education, as well as many standard home school curricula.
So imagine a student who leaves school knowing how to use logic to reason truly. She can reach right conclusions based on evidences and premises. She can accurately discern truth from falsehood. Imagine her knowing how to persuade others through powerfully effective rhetoric.
Compare that to the public school grad who — through no fault of her own — has been taught none of this. Which one is more likely to succeed? Who will have the better skills for leadership and influence? Which would you rather have working for you?
The Crucial Factor of Christian Character
Caution: be careful how you answer that last question. You might fall prey to a rhetorical device I’m trying to pull on you myself. What if this well-trained logical rhetorician is a dishonest manipulator? You wouldn’t hire her in a hundred years; not unless you were looking to run a business that way, which I trust you aren’t.
Logic and rhetoric can be very effective tools: effective for any persuasive purpose whatsoever. Used for good purposes, they’re very good. Or they can be smooth words in the mouth of a corrupt politician. They can make for deceptive advertisements. They can be used by a professor writing about how to create atheists.
So there’s a third reason I hope Christian homeschooling and classical education will produce the leaders of the future. It’s because they also have more potential to produce students with real Christian character. Not that great people never come from public schools. My own two kids, now adults, went to public schools, and I’m as proud of them as I could be. It’s just that if they do come out strong, it’s more likely to be in spite of the school than because of it.
But if there’s anything we need more than skills in logic and rhetoric, it’s the wisdom that comes with true character.
And that’s where these students may find themselves paddling upstream, in a culture turning increasingly anti-Christian. I keep hearing reports of colleges turning away Christian applicants — both as students and as professors. I’m starting to hear of businesses doing the same. Skills in reasoning and rhetoric won’t automatically gain anyone entry into leadership.
Yet I’m speaking my hopes in this article. It’s not just that I think better education could produce better leaders; it has to. We desperately need people of skill and character leading the next generation.
Will some of them be educated in public schools? Of course. Overall, though, the advantage will be with those who learn to think, to communicate and to have character through more intentional education at home or in classical Christian schools.
Adapted from an article previously published at Breakpoint.
Tom Gilson (@TomGilsonAuthor) is a senior editor with The Stream, and the author of A Christian Mind: Thoughts on Life and Truth in Jesus Christ and Critical Conversations: A Christian Parent’s Guide to Discussing Homosexuality with Teens, and the lead editor of True Reason: Confronting the Irrationality of the New Atheism.