Headmaster Blog for May 17, 2013

Greetings Summit Family!

Last Wednesday the Summit 2nd Grade took a field trip to the Seattle Aquarium and had a blast. We carpooled and I rode with a Mom who asked an interesting and insightful question on the way home. She was sharing how much she and her husband appreciate Classical education for their daughters and she then asked, “Why don’t all schools employ this method if it has been so consistently successful throughout the ages?” Hmmm, good question. I scratched my head and thought about where we have come as a culture.

The critic Arthur Lubow described The Scream as “an icon of modern art, a Mona Lisa for our time.” Edvard Munch, the artist, summarized the painting as a metaphor of all the angst he sensed in what was then becoming our modern world (it is so often the case that the artists see things first). Modernity became the quintessential expression of the Enlightenment ideal that mankind is better off without God. When everything is said-and-done a scream may be the best expression of the despair we are left with when we, whether individuals, schools or culture, turn our backs on the God Who is there.

Many would say that Modernity didn’t go over so well. Humanistic ideology, science and technology were supposed to solve all our problems—right—and now we find ourselves in a postmodern malaise where one is often left with the impression that no one knows which end is up. There is no compass. C.S. Lewis believed that the premises of “modernity” were a slippery slope, especially its infatuation with that which is novel. In That Hideous Strength Lewis described one of the antagonists as the product of what modernity was beginning to call an education:

His education had been neither scientific nor classical—merely “Modern.” The severities both of abstraction and of high human tradition had passed him by: and he had neither peasant shrewdness nor aristocratic honour to help him.

In The Abolition of Man Lewis says that modern education is producing “men without chests,” men with no heart and soul, from whom we expect “virtue and enterprise.” Sadly, much of what our culture has become bears testimony to Lewis’ foresight, which leads me back to our Mom’s question about why the Classical model of education isn’t more widely employed. The modern mindset comes with the presupposition that, because we are evolving/advancing, then what is old must be obsolete, and only what is new can be worthwhile. Lewis called this “chronological snobbery” in which ideas not accepted in the current intellectual climate are out of date. Therefore, any out-of-date idea is discredited by what came after it, and cannot be true (cf. Surprised by Joy). In our consumerism we use terms like “planned obsolescence,” designing products that will grow old quickly to facilitate their replacement by whatever comes next—although conventional wisdom argues that we don’t fix that which is not broken. Slippery slope, gerbil wheel, call it what you will, but this thinking has become systemic in western culture, infecting how we approach everything—including education. Whether the Classical model worked well in the past is beside the point for most modern pedagogues. In the minds of too many educators the damning feature of the Classical model is that it is old—which is the way we think in the west. We are, after all, waiting for the “next big thing.” As an afterthought, that the Classical model of education has had a centuries-old affinity with the Christian faith has not endeared it to the “faith neutral” mindset of modern education.

There are certainly many technical innovations of the modern world that have been a blessing, but the blanket notion that what is good can only be what is new is without foundation or merit, especially when it comes to educating a child. And so, broaching the “severities both of abstraction and of high human tradition,” we go back to the future at Summit. My dream is that we cultivate a school where, if there is screaming at all, it is because our children are filled with delight and hope, and never because of despair.

Heads-up for the coming week:

  • Please note the schedule for the last day of school, May 31. Families new to Summit are welcome and encouraged to attend:
    • 8:30 AM – Drop off your students in FREE DRESS clothing; students can help teachers clean classrooms.
    • 10:00 AM – All-school assembly; awards distributed and presentations of what was learned in class.
    • 10:45 AM FIELD DAY – for kids; parents have uniform swap/sale.
    • 11:45 AM LUNCH – main course provided by Summit; side dishes brought by parents.
  • Summit will have a part time (15 hours-per-week) position available next year for an Administrative Assistant. If you are interested please contact Michelle Olson at jobs@summitclassical.org to receive an application.
  • By all indications the Summit student body will grow by half-again as much next school year. Please continue to PRAY for our school: 1. That our good God will bless us; 2. That God will give the board and administration wisdom and discernment concerning facilities and staffing!


God bless you all,
Dr. Timothy Orton
Summit Classical Christian School

Headmaster Blog for May 17, 2013