From the Director

Dear Reader,

Over 25 years into the classical liberal arts revival, we are launching into a period of accelerated growth. My sense of this has been confirmed by recent participation in the Transforming Culture Symposium at Benedictine College in Kansas, and an Alcuin Retreat for classical education leaders at the University of Virginia on the theme of “The Academic Return of  the Great Tradition.” Mainstream education today is looking worse and worse, while veterans in the movement have founded institutions that are now very good at offering parents, educators, administrators, pastors, and social leaders the aid they need to build or re-build school communities with a high rate of success.

Recently I was asked, “If classical education were to increase tenfold, what would the future look like in two generations?” “Who knows?” is the truest answer. The present is so uncertain; we stand in real danger of losing the freedom and social stability necessary for education. Still, it’s interesting to muse. “Classical education” means different things to different people; those who have been involved in the renewal for some years are now trying to sort through these different ideas. If we take it to refer generally to a serious education grounded in the best of Western cultural traditions and ordered to the true, good, and beautiful, today’s growth gives hope of great fruit in fifty years. The demand is certainly there, and growing; if we can meet it while providing all the necessary teacher formation, which is the most important part of the work, and avoiding the teacher and student burnout that can afflict networks that grow too quickly, then we would be graduating several hundred thousand each year, between 5% and 10% of the total high school graduates. In 30 years or 40 years perhaps 10 million adults will have been nurtured in serious, often joyful, learning communities, with a high rate of alumni devotion. They will be grounded talented well-formed people, a good chunk of whom will have significant life experience under their belt. And that’s only in the United States. Many around the world are seeing what is happening in the US, and doing all they can to begin movements in their countries.

Is that a critical mass large enough to topple the hollowed out husks of the educational and cultural institutions already showing signs of eventual collapse by providing real, workable, worthwhile alternatives? At least it should be enough to pass on in a beautiful way the best of Christian Western civilization in the midst of general cultural collapse. Maybe, it will even bring about in some form a new birth of wisdom, which we so desperately need. We need our knowledge of the truth to blossom into wisdom, we need our preservation of the beautiful to create profundity, we need our love of the good to produce statesmen.

Our society is plagued by a lack of wisdom; the modern era was grounded on a complete rejection of the possibility and desirability of wisdom. We need wise educators, creators, and leaders to inspire us, persuade us, instruct us, and show us the way. The larger the number of those well-educated, the more likely we are to produce these great people, especially as we foster those special souls who give themselves over to the pursuit of wisdom with a passionate life intensity, and as we develop a greater diversity of thoughts and practices among those who love those things and are able to argue about them, for in a real way wisdom is born of deep and serious questions.

In this edition of our bulletin, we can see the fruits of Abraham Lincoln’s education in serious grammar study and reading Shakespeare, the King James Bible, Euclid, and Blackstone, as we mine the deep spiritual wisdom expressed beautifully and powerfully in his Second Inaugural Address. Boethius Fellow Joseph Tabenkin shows how his openness to art allowed a powerful sculpture to fulfill his experience of Normandy Beach.