Classical Education Can Fight “Wokeness”
I remember helping a sophomore high school student with an essay for her honors English class. She was given an assignment about The Autobiography of Malcolm X and how the activists’ writing furthered the Black Lives Matter movement. Malcolm X, a controversial figure of the Civil Rights Movement, is used by many today to justify the pervasiveness of white privilege and systemic racism. I found myself puzzled, wondering what happened to the days where students read classics such as The Count of Monte Cristo and Shakespeare as I did.
In The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis wrote, “The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.” Yet, many public schools are now canceling great literature for ideology, championing critical race theory as the greatest good. A Twitter movement called #DisruptTexts sought to remove the Odyssey from curricula in America. Last year, the Burbank School District banned teachers from teaching To Kill a Mockingbird in effort to quell racist sentiments. Sadly, students are increasingly forming a disdain for the past, their country, and what came before them.
The National Education Association, a teacher’s union, recently committed to implementing a critical race based theory curriculum in 14,000 school districts across the country so students can critique white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism, and other forms of “oppression.”
Students cannot be manufactured by public schools into social justice warriors who all believe they are oppressed. Rather than becoming tenets to an ideology, students must learn what truth, virtue, and justice are, which lies in studying the great works of the West. To accomplish this, we must bring back classical education.
Classical education equips students to read the greats through the tools of grammar, logic, and rhetoric from the middle ages. It is rooted in the liberal arts and is meant to educate the whole person going back to the rich cultural heritage of Athens, Jerusalem, and Rome. It enables students to learn apart from political or economic coercion and keeps the ideas of a free society alive by encouraging students to seek truth, beauty, and goodness.
Growing up in a public school, I was never immersed in this form of education. Consequently, I didn’t understand its pivotal importance until I came across classics through self-education. Through reading works such as Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and Plato’s Republic independently, I realized the value of a free society and the role of virtue and moral excellence.
If our future generations are to understand what the ethos of America is and the ideals it stands for, we must recover the wisdom of the past rather than discarding it as academics want to. Children cannot be raised in a society like George Orwell’s 1984, where civilians are brainwashed into believing “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength” to serve the party.
Through studying the classics, students are better equipped to grasp the beliefs that shape the world they live in and may even reach a “liberation from the unconscious submission to ideas“ that influence modern education, including critical race theory.
Fortunately, a wide range of opportunities exist for parents to provide their children with a classical education. For example, the Barney Classical Charter School Initiative, run by Hillsdale College, starts classical schools nationwide, educating more than 14,500 K-12 students. Classical Conversations, Circe Institute, The Institute for Classical Education, and many other organizations also provide homeschool curriculum materials and seminars for parents and educators.
However, real change for classical education lies in pushing for school choice. States should lift the cap on charter schools and expand education savings accounts and vouchers. ESAs allow parents to use the funds they would typically pay in tax dollars for public schooling towards an education of their choice and curriculum materials, including classical education programs. States such as Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, etc., have already started implementing ESAs, revolutionizing how children are educated for the better.
Education should exist to build students up and lead them to success, teaching them to be morally upright, which starts with foundational principles found in the classics. Not to tear students down or to use them to serve a radical political ideology.Students must once again believe that 2+2 does equal four rather than being brainwashed by a dangerous agenda-driven curriculum that seeks to undermine our country.