What Is Christian Liberal Arts?
Christian liberal arts (also called Christian classical education) is unique in primarily three areas: the what – what we teach as a Christian classical school, the how – a Christian classical method, and the why – to instill knowledge, understanding, and wisdom in students so they live good lives.
Christian classical education strives to expose students to quality by introducing them to the great minds, great works, great events, great discoveries, and great art of the centuries. The content of the curriculum is governed by this belief, rather than by modern educational theories or fads. We believe knowledge which endures is worth student attention; we believe minds of the past help us understand our future; we believe wisdom is developed by reflectively considering the best ideas from previous generations in light of the Christian worldview.
Classical education has a long history. In the ancient world, the Greeks developed a method of teaching based on the seven liberal arts, called the trivium and the quadrivium. The three parts of the trivium – grammar, logic, and rhetoric – combined with the four parts of the quadrivium – arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music – form the seven classical liberal arts.
‘The why’ plays as crucial a role as the goal of ‘the what' and ‘the how'. Each of these areas is important to a complete experience of a Christian classical education and building the ballast which allows graduates to negotiate the modern world. The uniqueness of a Christian classical education is that it defines success in terms of virtue rather than purely in economic terms. A great mind is therefore defined by intellectual curiosity and intellectual humility, and a great life is characterized by demonstrating wisdom, compassion, and courage to a watching world.
Our world is changing. Industry experts, CEOs, politicians, and professors are articulating in articles and journals today the need for leaders who are not only technically proficient, but creative and able to exercise sound judgment. Such a need will likely only increase tomorrow. At a time when each of us can electronically access assimilated facts and information quickly and easily, tomorrow's leaders will need an education which teaches them to think both critically and creatively, analytically and artistically.
"It's a horrible irony that at the very moment the world has become more complex, we're encouraging our young people to be highly specialized in one task." This quote from an August 2014 Fast Company article by Elizabeth Segran about tech CEOs reveals a compelling perspective on the need for contemporary and classical education. The article continues, "We are doing a disservice to young people by telling them that life is a straight path. The liberal arts are still relevant because they prepare students to be flexible and adaptable to changing circumstances."
Similarly, Vivek Wadhwa, professor at the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University, posted an article at Tech Crunch in March 2011, which contained the following observation about the future of engineering and the liberal arts, “But, even though I believe that engineering is one of the most important professions, I have learned that the liberal arts are equally important. It takes artists, musicians, and psychologists working side by side with engineers to build products as elegant as the iPad.”
Our belief is that a challenging Christian liberal arts education is crucial to imagining the world as it should be and preparing students to make that vision a reality. This belief has been at the core of The Bear Creek School from its beginnings. A Christian liberal arts education teaches students specific information, content, and skills – but it does not stop there. It also prepares students how to think and teaches them how to think wisely by cultivating a Christian worldview so students are prepared to engage the time in which they live and the specific circumstances they encounter with wisdom, compassion, and courage.