The History & Philosophy of Classical Christian Education

About the Workshop

Contemporary interest in classical Christian education is growing rapidly, but understanding exactly what defines this approach to education can be difficult.  This six-week workshop will help participants develop an understanding of classical Christian education through studying key aspects of its history and philosophy.  Designed in particular for those relatively new to the movement, the presentations and discussions will be intellectually robust and instructive for all – newbies and seasoned practitioners alike.  Together, we will learn about key ideas and thinkers in the history of this educational tradition, focusing on topics such as the nature and purpose of classical Christian education, the cultivation of virtue and formation of loves, the rationale for studying pagan texts, and the contemporary CCE renewal.  Whether you are new to classical Christian education or have been in the movement for years, this workshop will help you to deepen your own understanding of classical Christian education and to communicate its distinctive characteristics to others.

Meeting Date and Time: Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m EST; February 1-March 8

Meet Your Workshop Leader

Dr. David Diener works at Hillsdale College where he is an Assistant Professor of Education. Previous experience includes fifteen years in K-12 private education, eleven of those in administration and eight as headmaster of classical Christian schools. He also is a Fellow on the Alcuin Fellowship National Council and Director of the Alcuin Fellowship Midwest Chapter, serves on the Board of Directors for the Society for Classical Learning and the Board of Academic Advisors for the Classic Learning Test, is a member of the National Council of Classical Educators, and offers consulting services through Classical Academic Press. He is the author of Plato: The Great Philosopher-Educator and has published articles on Plato, Kierkegaard, and various topics in philosophy of education. He also serves as the series editor for Classical Academic Press’ series Giants in the History of Education and is an associate editor for the journal Principia: a Journal of Classical Education. He holds a BA in Philosophy and Ancient Languages from Wheaton College as well as an MA in Philosophy, an MS in History and Philosophy of Education, and a dual PhD in Philosophy and Philosophy of Education from Indiana University.
David Diener
Hillsdale College

Workshop Syllabus

What is classical Christian education?  How is it different from other approaches to education?  How can we clearly and succinctly explain the nature and vision of classical Christian education despite its long and complicated history?  This session addresses these questions by examining some of the essential defining characteristics of classical Christian education, focusing specifically on its foundational assumptions and goals. 

This session continues exploring the nature and vision of classical Christian education by focusing specifically on its curriculum and pedagogy.  While there is no single reductive formula for classical Christian education, the key characteristics discussed in these two sessions together distinguish it from other educational paradigms in important ways and provide a framework for clearly and succinctly explaining what classical Christian education is all about. 

Every model of education has a telos, a goal or purpose.  Unfortunately, contemporary discourse on education typically avoids discussions of education’s overarching purpose and instead focuses on techniques.  This session addresses the role that the cultivation of virtue has played throughout the tradition of classical Christian education as the central purpose of education.  Intrinsic to this cultivation of virtue is the formation of loves.  Thus the primary task of education is to cultivate an ordo amoris, an ordering of love, that corresponds to reality and will enable students to live lives of virtue.   

Over the centuries, one of the key questions of classical Christian education is how Christians should/shouldn’t teach and learn from pagan texts.  This issue arose almost immediately in the first century AD, and throughout the history of classical education different answers have been offered.  This session attempts to unpack this controversial issue by addressing both its historical roots and some of the key answers that have been given throughout the tradition.  This issue is just as relevant today as ever, so understanding its nuances is of great benefit for all classical Christian educators who need to articulate the purpose and value of teaching pagan texts.     

Many people in contemporary society simply assume that education is primarily about the transference of knowledge, or the development of skill sets, or academic preparation for the next stage of schooling.  Education, given these goals, is thought to be highly “useful” and is valued for its usefulness.  This session, however, addresses why knowledge cannot be the ultimate goal of education and why the classical approach to education, despite not focusing on utility, turns out to be the most useful education of all. 

Despite the long and robust history of classical education, in the 20th century this understanding of education nearly became extinct.  This session tells the story of the renewal of classical Christian education which began nearly a century ago and has exploded in recent decades.  By outlining the different types of classical education that exist today and the primary organizations/groups working in these various realms, it presents a contemporary landscape of the work being done throughout the United States and the world in classical education.   


GREAT BOOKS workshop

$ 599
  • Regular Pricing Begins January 1: $679
  • SCL Member Schools receive 10% discount
  • All workshops require a minimum enrollment to make
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