What do we mean by “Liberal Arts”?

As Christians recover classical Christian education, they are unearthing old treasures, once the possession of every educated man. Some of these treasures are words and descriptions–terms like “Trivium” and “Quadrivium,” “paideia,” and “liberal arts.” Of all these terms, “liberal arts” lays at the heart of what classical education is all about. So what did our forefathers mean by “liberal arts”?

“Liberal”

The word liberal has nothing to do with our modern use of the word in politics and culture. Liberal means “free,” and historically described the kind of education expected of a freeman–especially one in a position of leadership, like nobility. Our culture has so alienated itself from a historic education that it’s very difficult for us to think of education without thinking of jobs and vocational training.

Dr. Roy Atwood, founding President of New Saint Andrews College, was once asked by a student, “Who are you”? His automatic response was to give his profession: “Uh…I’m a professor.” But the student responded, “No, I don’t mean what you do, but who are you?”[1. Dr. Roy Atwood, Educating Royalty, Reformed Perspective: A Magazine for the Christian Family, Vol. 33, No. 6, April 2014.] We are programmed to answer that question with what we do, with our job title. And we likewise think of education in terms of answering the question, “Will this education prepare me for a job?”. The modern definition of education has the effect of not only defining the education process in terms of pragmatic usefulness, but also defining human beings themselves in terms of usefulness. Like in the world of Thomas the Train which our children didactically watch, our identity is wound up with our usefulness. “Who are you?” asks the modernist? “I do this job” we reply catechetically.

Christians of previous generations viewed education, and themselves, differently. The opening lines of the Westminster Shorter Catechism would have been familiar to nearly every child in early America: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” That is who we are: worshiping beings, who delight in God. Or to use Dr. Atwood’s conclusion to the question “who are you?”, we are royalty, heirs of Christ. And we should educate our children in that light.

Some may object that this identity is a fine thing, but has nothing to do with education. “How does it help you get a job? How is it useful?” In 1646, the founders of Harvard College defined education in their “Rules and Precepts” in this way:

“Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the maine end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3) and therefore to lay Christ in the bottome, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning.”

Christ is both the source and the goal of education.

“Who are you?” We are liberal (free) Christians, pursuing wisdom and virtue through the interwoven arts of theology (study of the knowledge of God) and humanities (study of ourselves and of mankind). “Knowledge of God and knowledge of self” is how John Calvin sets the stage for his Institutes of the Christian Religion, and is also how Harvard and other universities in the United States prior to the 1900s set the foundation for education.

So the term “liberal” points to the purpose of education and our identity. But what precisely does this looks like.

“Arts”

If the foundation of education is knowledge of self and knowledge of God, how might the liberal arts help us in this endeavor? The Liberal Arts are an education in first principles–in the foundations of things. The Western heritage is the cultural soil into which Christ was made flesh, and the common inheritance of all God’s people. This specifically means recovering an education which includes Plato and Aristotle, Aquinas and Dante, Augustine and Boethius, Cicero and Plutarch, Homer and Vergil, Milton and Shakespeare. These and many others are so much woven into the fiber of ourselves and our culture that we cannot truly know ourselves without knowing them. It includes the classical study of logic, rhetoric, grammar, and language. These disciplines inform our understanding of the written and spoken word, the means God gave us for understanding Himself and ourselves.

We may have only recently re-discovered this birthright, but it is not presumptuous to receive this rich heritage as our own. Our culture is in full-blown identity crisis. The liberal arts educate our children in their identity, giving them the tools to understand the world around them in wisdom and virtue. And with this education in first principles–these freeing, liberal arts not defined by usefulness–our children will possess tools of learning that are surprisingly useful in a confused world.

This article is an adapted excerpt from chapter one of A Better Admissions Test: Raising the Standard for College Entrance Exams, published by the Classical Learning Initiative and Mudhouse Press. 

family-square-360x360Daniel Foucachon grew up in Lyon, France where his father was an evangelist and church-planter with Mission to the World. He moved to Moscow, Idaho in 2005 to attend New Saint Andrews College, where he graduated with a BA in Liberal Arts and Culture in 2009. In 2009 he founded a media production company, and was the producer of Canon Wired (the media branch of Canon Press) until 2013. His love for classical education and desire to publish curriculum designed for home education led him to found Roman Roads Media in 2011, which has since produced and published award-winning liberal arts curriculum for high school students. He and his wife Lydia live in Moscow, Idaho with their three sons and one daughter.
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The River Thief, by N.D. Wilson (starring Joel Courtney) | Review

If you’re familiar with N.D. Wilson’s children’s novels, you know you’re in for a treat with The River Thief, his first feature film.

This film breaks from the typical Christian film by telling a good story first and foremost. A lost, father-hungry boy discovering true love. Not the sappy, romantic love of your typical Hollywood flick (this girl wouldn’t have any of that), but rather the kind of love that creates a longing to live or die for someone else (something new for Diz).

A wonderful family film, although there are some rough scenes. My 7-year-old son was spellbound, and somewhat affected by the rough parts. Yet this is the kind of story that is healthy. The emotion, drama, and violence of this *good* story are like emotional boot camp; it allows a young boy or girl to experience these emotions of grief and fear along with the positive life lesson that a good story provides.

As a resident of the Northwest where this was shot, I also appreciated the cinematography, which was outstanding! Beautiful aerial views in particular.
I highly recommend The River Thief!

Could Your Child Enter Harvard In 1869?

What the entrance exam to Harvard university tells us about classical education in America.

In 1646 Harvard University adopted the following words, based on their mission statement, as part of their “Rules and Precepts”:

Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the maine end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3) and therefore to lay Christ in the bottome, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisedome, Let every one seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seeke it of him (Prov. 2:3).

Thoroughly dedicated to Scriptures as the source of all Truth, Harvard sought to equip ministers and laymen with the tools for being effective citizens in the world, to the glory of God. How did they do this? Through classical education.

Some Christians hear about “classical” or “liberal arts” education, and assume it is an ancient, pre-Christian form of education. Historically liberal arts, meaning “freeing arts”, was the education of a freeman or nobleman, while vocational education was for a slave or serf. Some object that it is a pagan way to educate children, as opposed to Christian, and that “Classical Christian” is simply some kind of syncretism or oxymoron. Not only is this untrue, but it is ironically untrue. In order to dismiss “classical education” as pagan, you have to dismiss the entire history of Christianity in regards to education. The founding fathers of the United States provide a clear example. Not only were they classically educated themselves, but they considered classical education to be an important component to being a faithful, educated Christian. The entrance exam below, paired with the mission statement of Harvard, demonstrates this:

The HISTORY AND GEOGRAPHY portion of the Entrance Exam for Harvard University, July 1869.

I. Bound the basin of the Po, of the Mississippi, of the St. Lawrence.

II. Name the chief rivers of Ancient Gaul and Modern France.   Is France later or smaller than Transalpine Gaul? What are the two principal rivers that rise in the Alps? Where is the Mount Blanc?

III. Where is the Source of the Danube? of the Volga? of the Ganges? of the Amazon?

IV. Describe the route of the Ten Thousand, or lay it down on a map.

V. Leonidas, Pausanias, Lysander.

VI. Pharsalia, Philippi, Actium, — geographically and historically

VII. Supply the two names left bank in the following passage from the Oration for the Manilian Law:

“Non dicam duas urbes potentissimas, Carthaginem et Numantiam ab eodem ________ esse deletas; non commemorabo nuper ita vobis patribusque esse visum, ut in uno _________ spes imperii poneretur, ut idem cum Jugurtha, idem cum Cimbris, idem cum Teutonis bellum administraret.” Who was Jugurtha? Where was Numantia?

VIII. Compare Athens with Sparta?

IX. Pericles: —the Man and his Policy.

See the entire exam (all subjects) HERE (PDF).

Students would answer from their knowledge of Julius Ceasar’s Gallic Wars in Latin, Xenophon’s Anabasis in Greek, and from the historians Herodotus and Thucydides. It was this education that enabled the American founding fathers to intentionally reject the (failed) “experiment in democracy” of ancient Athens, and to instead build a Constitutional and representative Republic, which was more like the Republic of Rome. Classical education shaped men like George Washington, and John Adams. But the Founders were not returning to something merely ancient. They were continuing the tradition of classical education as it was handed down from the earliest of Christian history, starting with the Apostles themselves, and going into the early Church, and on into the Middle Ages, and particularly strong among the Protestant Reformers. As little as 60-70 years ago, it was still taken for granted that an educated person would have a classical education. The idea that education would not be classical, or that classical education is opposed to Christian education, is a very novel and modern idea.

Wondering how to give your children the kind of education that would allow them to pass the entrance exam to Harvard in 1869? Roman Roads Media is the right place.

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Open Letter to Every Christian Parent with Children in Public School

Christian, is your child in a public school facing yet another wave of attacks on sanity and religious freedom? Will your daughter be using the restroom alongside a disturbed boy who “identifies” as a girl?

It’s time to opt out!

I’m not going to spend time making the case that you should opt out. I really hope that Christians are seeing that in most situations today, this is the obvious conclusion. But rather, I want to answer the objection “what is the alternative?” How do we opt out?

It may not be easy, and some situations are harder than others, but there are incredible opportunities available today to give your children a CHRISTIAN education. You really CAN opt out! More than ever before in history, parents are equipped with the tools to make this possible, whether books, video courses, online courses, curriculums for every learning style, and of course, private schools. There is a solution for just about every situation, every budget, and every style of learning. All of these scenarios require dedication, but nearly every true obsticle is now removed.

I have dedicated my own career to providing one answer to this question. Through the company I founded, Roman Roads Media, we provide Christian classical curriculum designed specifically for the homeschool, with an emphasis on video and online learning. Our speciality is 6-12 grade classical subjects.

But we are one of many. Let me name you just a few of my friends, all doing their part to answer this question:

For homeschool:

For Private schools:

Can you not afford the education? There are ways: scholarships, talk to your church, or talk to me if you’re interested in our curriculum.
But please, Christian, #OPTOUT! For the dedicated parent, there are always opportunies. And I will help any way I can.

Sincerely,
Daniel Foucachon.

Founder, Roman Roads Media,
publisher of Christian classical curriculum

Photograph: Toby Talbot/AP. Originally appeared as a Facebook Note, and on New City Times

Anglo-Saxon vs French roots of English

A further and rather telling example [of difference in English word origins between Anglo-Saxon and French] is the fact that the English words for many animals (such as ‘cow’, ‘sheep’, ‘boar’, ‘deer’) refer to the living creature in the hands of the farmer or herdsman, while once slaughtered, cooked and served to the Norman barony they acquire a French-based culinary name: ‘beef’, ‘mutton’, ‘pork’, or ‘venison’.

Stephen Pollington, An Introduction to the Old English Language and its Literature, 8.

The Sad Suspended State of the Skeptic

We assert still that the Skeptic’s End is quietude in respect of matters of opinion and moderate feeling in respect of things unavoidable. For the Skeptic… so as to attain quietude thereby, found himself involved in contradictions  of equal weight, and being unable to decide between them suspended judgment; and as he was thus in suspense there followed, as it happened, the state of quietude in respect of matter of opinion . For the man who opines that anything is by nature good or bad is for ever being disquieted: when he is without the things which he deems good he believes himself to be tormented by things naturally bad and he pursues after the things which are, as he thinks, good; which when he has obtained he keeps falling into still more perturbations because of his irrational and immoderate elation, and in his dread of a change of fortune he uses every endeavor to avoid losing the things which he deems good. On the other hand, the man who determines nothing as to what is naturally good or bad neither shuns nor pursues anything eagerly; and, in consequence, he is unperturbed.

– Sectus Empiricus, in,

Landesman, Philosophical Skepticism, 39.

The kind of relativistic, un-judgmental view of life, seems to me a kind of de-creation. God created man to have dominion on all creation, and to be in a state of suspended non-judgment, not pursuing anything ardently, not ruling with any dogmas whatsoever is a kind of reversal of the dominion mandate.

A Sermon for the President

From Blog and Mablog:

 

Ascension Sunday 2009
This Lord’s Day is Ascension Sunday, the day we have set apart to commemorate the exaltation of Jesus Christ to the right hand of the Ancient of Days. This was the day upon which He was given universal and complete authority over all nations and kings, when He was given all rule and authority, dominion and power. Our Lord’s name is the name which is high above every name, and His is the name that, when spoken, will cause every knee to bow, and every tongue to confess, that He is indeed Lord of heaven and earth. And, as we cannot emphasize too much, or say too often, this is no invisible spiritual truth. It is simply, undividedly, true. This means it is true in a way that makes it true on the most practical levels. It is true when church is over.

"It came to pass also in the twelfth year, in the fifteenth day of the month, that the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, wail for the multitude of Egypt, and cast them down, even her, and the daughters of the famous nations, unto the nether parts of the earth, with them that go down into the pit. Whom dost thou pass in beauty? go down, and be thou laid with the uncircumcised. They shall fall in the midst of them that are slain by the sword: she is delivered to the sword: draw her and all her multitudes. The strong among the mighty shall speak to him out of the midst of hell with them that help him: they are gone down, they lie uncircumcised, slain by the sword" (Eze 32:17-21).

One of the visions that the prophet Ezekiel was given was that of a parliament of dead kings, assembled in the nether regions of Sheol—the Greek word for this place is Hades. The prophet was speaking of nations which had had their time of great glory under the sun, but which, inevitably, had descended below to an empty governance of shades and shadows, the empty governance of nothing that mattered. This reality is inescapable—in Augustine’s trenchant phrase, among the nations of men, the dead are replaced by the dying, and however splendid an empire might be for the moment, there is no future for any nation outside of Christ. History occurs on the inexorable conveyor belt of moving time. There is nothing that will shut this conveyor belt off, and so there is no device to allow one nation’s day of glory to be forever fixed. Glory cannot be kept or retained in that way at all. There is no future glory for any king or president, for any nation or people, outside of Christ. So for those who reject Christ, below the earth in the nether regions, we find nothing but wisps of lost glory, and above ground at some future date talented archeologists might be able to find the remnants of an Ozymandian ruin.

Continue Reading…

European Noblesse: France

Yet we must hang on to this proposition of historical fairness with our very teeth, defending it against momentary appearances: European noblesse—of feeling, of taste, of manners, taking the word, in short, in ever higher sense—is the work and invention of France; European vulgarity, the plebeianism of modern ideas, that of England.—

Friedrich Nietzshe, Beyond Good and Evil, section 253 (p. 192).

More than Salvation

This whole notion is rooted in the realization that Christianity is not just involved with “salvation” but with the total man in the total world. The Christian message begins with the existence of God forever and then with creation. It does not begin with salvation. We must be thankful for salvation, but the Christian message is more than that.

Francis Schaeffer, Art and the Bible, 89.

The Letter that got Mr. Stephen Boissoin in Big Trouble

 

The Following is the actual letter written by Rev. Stephen Boissoin who was at the time National Chairman of the Concerned Christian Coalition (now Concerned Christians Canada Inc.) It is this letter that has the Rev. Stephen Boissoin and Concerned Christians Canada Inc., (CCC) appearing before The Alberta Human Rights Commission.

Homosexual agenda wicked
Rev. Steven Boissoin
Central Alberta Chairman Concerned Christian Coalition
6/17/02

The following is not intended for those who are suffering from an unwanted sexual identity crisis. For you, I have understanding, care, compassion and tolerance. I sympathize with you and offer you my love and fellowship.

I prayerfully beseech you to seek help, and I assure you that your present enslavement to homosexuality can be remedied. Many outspoken, former homosexuals are free today.
Instead, this is aimed precisely at every individual that in any way supports the homosexual machine that has been mercilessly gaining ground in our society since the 1960s. I cannot pity you any longer and remain inactive. You have caused far too much damage.

My banner has now been raised and war has been declared so as to defend the precious sanctity of our innocent children and youth, that you so eagerly toil, day and night, to consume. With me stand the greatest weapons that you have encountered to date: God and the “Moral Majority.” Know this, we will defeat you, then heal the damage you have caused.
Modern society has become dispassionate to the cause of righteousness. Many people are so apathetic and desensitized today that they cannot even accurately define the term “morality.”

The masses have dug in and continue to excuse their failure to stand against horrendous atrocities such as the aggressive propagation of homo- and bisexuality. Inexcusable justifications such as, “I’m just not sure where the truth lies,” or “If they don’t affect me then I don’t care what they do,” abound from the lips of the quantifiable majority.

Face the facts, it is affecting you. Like it or not, every professing heterosexual is having their future aggressively chopped at the roots. Edmund Burke’s observation that, “All that is required for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing,” has been confirmed time and time again. From kindergarten class on, our children, your grandchildren are being strategically targeted, psychologically abused and brainwashed by homosexual and pro-homosexual educators.

Our children are being victimized by repugnant and premeditated strategies, aimed at desensitizing and eventually recruiting our young into their camps. Think about it, children as young as five and six years of age are being subjected to psychologically and physiologically damaging pro-homosexual literature and guidance in the public school system; all under the fraudulent guise of equal rights.

Your children are being warped into believing that same-sex families are acceptable; that men kissing men is appropriate.
Your teenagers are being instructed on how to perform so-called safe same gender oral and anal sex and at the same time being told that it is normal, natural and even productive. Will your child be the next victim that tests homosexuality positive?
Come on people, wake up! It’s time to stand together and take whatever steps are necessary to reverse the wickedness that our lethargy has authorized to spawn. Where homosexuality flourishes, all manner of wickedness abounds.

Regardless of what you hear, the militant homosexual agenda isn’t rooted in protecting homosexuals from “gay bashing.” The agenda is clearly about homosexual activists that include, teachers, politicians, lawyers, Supreme Court judges, and God forbid, even so-called ministers, who are all determined to gain complete equality in our nation and even worse, our world.
Don’t allow yourself to be deceived any longer. These activists are not morally upright citizens, concerned about the best interests of our society. They are perverse, self-centred and morally deprived individuals who are spreading their psychological disease into every area of our lives. Homosexual rights activists and those that defend them, are just as immoral as the pedophiles, drug dealers and pimps that plague our communities.

The homosexual agenda is not gaining ground because it is morally backed. It is gaining ground simply because you, Mr. and Mrs. Heterosexual, do nothing to stop it. It is only a matter of time before some of these same morally bankrupt individuals such as those involved with NAMBLA, the North American Man/Boy Lovers Association, will achieve their goal to have sexual relations with children and assert that it is a matter of free choice and claim that we are intolerant bigots not to accept it.

If you are reading this and think that this is alarmist, then I simply ask you this: how bad do things have to become before you will get involved? It’s time to start taking back what the enemy has taken from you. The safety and future of our children is at stake.

Rev. Stephen Boissoin
Central Alberta Chairman
Concerned Christian Coalition

The Glorification of Saint Thomas Aquinas

      "This picture establishes the direct relationship between vision and knowledge for which the Dominican aquinasAquinas had argued in his Summa Theologica. Just as we still  use the phrase "I see" to mean "I understand," For Aquinas the word visio meant more than just vision. "This term," he writes, "in view of the special nature and certitude of sight, is extended in common usage to the knowledge of all the senses and it is even made to include intellectual knowledge, as in Matthew 5:8: ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’" The Pisa altarpiece, like most Gothic images, was not considered primarily as a work of art by its contemporaries, but as something far more powerful and instrumental, because of its capacity not just to reflect the world, but to reshape it in God’s image."

-Michael Camille, Gothic Art – Glorious Visions, 25.

Gothic “Virtual Reality”

Gothic art was and continues to be a technology for engaging beholders in certain forms of visual communication. It is user-friendly, compared to earlier and later visual regimes. Medieval cathedrals, like computers, were constructed to contain all the information in the world for those who knew the codes. Medieval people loved to project themselves into their images just as we can enter into our video and computer screens. In this respect Gothic artists, such as the Italian Giotto (c. 1267-1337), were the first to experiment with what we call “virtual reality.”

Michael Camille, Gothic Art – Glorious Visions, 15.

Illuminated Manuscripts

This brings us to the true function of decoration in a twelfth-century book. It was clearly not just because it was pretty. The twelfth century was an age which delighted in classification and ordering of knowledge. Its most admired writers, men like Peter Lombard and Gratian, arranged and shuffled information into order that was accessible and easy to use. Twelfth-century readers loved encyclopedias…Les us then consider book illumination in these terms. It suddenly becomes easy to understand. Initials mark the beginning of books or chapters (PL.85). They make a manuscript easy to use. It helps classify the priorities of the text…A newspaper does this today with headlines of different sizes…any reader of a modern newspaper will fiercely defend his choice of paper by praising the text, not the layout or illustrations. It is not surprising that the twelfth-century chroniclers from St. Albans, Lincoln, and Canterbury complimented the accuracy of manuscripts when what they meant was that they liked using them.

Christopher De Hamel, A History of Illuminated Manuscripts 99.

Cicero on Property Tax

When constant wars made the Roman treasury run short, our forefathers often used to levy a property tax. Every effort must be made to prevent a repetition of this; and all possible precautions must be taken to ensure that such a step will never be needed. What I am going to say now will refer to the world in general and not specifically to Rome, because when I am making ominous forecasts I would rather that they were directed towards other countries and not our own. But if any government should find itself under the necessity of levying a tax on property, the utmost care has to be devoted to making it clear to the entire population that this simply has to be done because no alternative exists short of complete national collapse.

Cicero, On the Good Life, On Duties, Book II

Cicero on the Sea

How beautiful again is the sea, and how splendid in its entirety, with its crowd and variety of islands, its picturesque coastlines and beaches! It is the home of so many different species of marine life, partly dwelling under water, partly floating and swimming on the surface, and partly encrusted on the rocks with its shells. The sea itself in its longing to embrace the land, sports on its shoreline, so that the two elements seem to merge into one.

Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods, book II