“Imagine a league of eight or ten classical Christian schools forming in the future over a shared frustration that the “classical Christian” designation had come to mean so little. Suppose membership in this league were based on obedience to a number of cultural credos, like no smart phones or social media among students (or maybe even teachers), no video games, no sports program, and a deeper time commitment to fine arts than a school with a sports program can really imagine. The moment this league of schools got a six-figure donation, which wouldn’t take all that long, it would have little reason to maintain the “classical Christian” title.
For the sake of argument, let’s say that the classical Christian schools which decide to ban smart phones, social media, and forgo a sports program (and to spend all their sports time on dances, choral performances, art shows, the memorization of poetry, a robust and mandatory drama program) adopt the name “great tradition schools.” There is strength in numbers, of course, but in the beginning, only ten schools are founding members of The League of Great Tradition Schools. The League puts forward a short credo which acknowledges various debts to the classical Christian movement, outlines critiques of the movement, and puts forward a cultural program to be pursued in addition to Latin, rhetoric, Great Books, and so forth. This cultural program is viewed as having equal importance with academic studies and becomes the simple rubric by which prospective families are sorted. Over the first three years of its existence, the league goes from ten schools to twelve to fifteen. Then, in the same way various private Christian schools have “converted” to the classical model over the last twenty years, various classical Christian schools begin converting to what comes to be known as “the Great Tradition model.” Ditching basketball and soccer is no less a tough sell than taking on Latin, and the conversions are typically rocky and often fail. On the other hand, people are willing to move hundreds of miles to send their children to a Great Tradition school, just as they used to move hundreds of miles for classical Christian schools.
Over the following decade, Great Tradition schools begin soaking up all the families and teachers in classical Christian education that were most committed to old books, old aesthetics, and old morals. Consequently, classical Christian schools are able to more openly pursue programs of “cultural engagement,” “world-changing,” and “community” which their luddite co-laborers had held up for years. With those people gone, though, John Piper replaces Augustine, laptops debut in the classroom, Latin is replaced with Spanish “so that we can more easily accomplish the Great Commission,” and the JV pickleball team gets third in state. Classical Christian schools gradually become the school of choice for people who attend churches like The Mountain, The Drive, Wave, Disc, Glitter, The Holy Spirit Hole, Ruby Room, Jesus Vibe, Highland Spirit Club, and, of course, Sponge.TV Faith Café, whereas Great Tradition schools are populated by attendees of First Presbyterian and St. Prude Catholic. As opposed to connoting Plato and Augustine, the “classical” part of classical Christian education comes merely to mean an opposition to gay stuff, evolution, socialism, and critical race theory. Thoughtful people begin looking at classical Christian schools and asking, “In what sense is this really classical?” To be fair, though, there are people asking that question today.”
-from How To Keep The Classical Christian Movement From Falling Apart, my latest for CiRCE