Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, by Douglas Wilson

This one's for you, Dan.

I've been eyeing this book for a while, and even (gasp!) was considering buying it when my mom loaned me her copy. Don't you love it when things like that happen?

I like Douglas Wilson's writing. I've been reading Credenda Agenda since I was in my teens, and I've read a fair amount of his books, too. I like straight shooters with clear absolutes (I could never make it in the emergent church), andI respect those with the intellect and wisdom to deal gracefully in gray areas, which education certainly can be. Doug Wilson combines both... this book was so rich that I took notes (which of course, I can't find now) and I filled a 3x5 card with sources I want to read. His writing style is similar to Dorothy Sayers (no surprise--one of her essays was the inspiration for this book), but his lengthy endnotes changed the tone from scholarly to more conversational.

His basic premise is this: as Christians, we shouldn't allow our Christian children to be educated by God's enemies. Salvation doesn't come from education, but from Christ alone. We are (somewhat) fortunate to see the American school system reaping what it has sown and collapsing in our lifetime. Turning back the clock 50, or even 150 years won't solve what is fundamentally wrong with public education: its foundation is man, not God. That said, our goal shouldn't be to give our children a better education than in public schools: we should aim much higher than that.

After thoroughly laying the groundwork, expounding on "the nature of knowledge" and understanding the student as both a fallen sinner and made in the image of God, Wilson dives into the classical model of education which was used in the Middle Ages. Let me warn you: as you read this, don't be a modern elitist. The medieval times were not full of cave-dwelling idiots. It was a time period that produced engineering marvels without technology, invented science, new kinds of literature, formed new forms of government and law, and art which is still unsurpassed. It was not uncommon for 16-year-olds to go to Oxford or Cambridge, and then go on to do things like invent calculus or discover new planets. Wilson, via Sayers, argues that it was because they knew how to think.

I enjoyed this book because I enjoy education. The various philosophies of education and the brief history of education in America were interesting. This book really threw a monkey wrench in my plans, though. I've been looking forward to homeschooling my present and future children since before I even had them. As the headmaster of a private school, the author makes a persuasive argument in favor of private schools. I began to question whether it was pride that convinced me that I can educate my kids all the way up to college better than a private school can. After all, I'm just one person with many, many, many failings. As I fell into self-doubt, I read their school's course curriculum and loved seeing the nitty-gritty details. Which made me think, does the average person like to read course curriculums? Maybe that means I should homeschool. Like my honey says, we have lots of time to figure that out, but it's still one more thing to worry about. You know, in case I get low or something.

Anyway, I highly recommend this book if you are interested in modern education, or if you enjoy reading about logical conclusions of the Christian worldview.


Carol said...

This sounds like a great book, Rachel. I too, enjoy education and a Biblical Worldview. I also think that you are a highly gifted person, capable of doing an outstanding job of educating your own children through homeschooling. Educating your own children is something that you and Isaac will have to evaluate each year to determine what is best. You have a few years though....