Christian Education and the Future of Western Culture
The war over education will be a defining issue for the next decade. Unfortunately, defeating Critical Hate Theory isn’t going to stop the poison that already infects our educational system. Beneath the veil of diversity, inclusion, and tolerance is the acidic educational philosophy that America is evil, that its values need destroyed, and that Western culture is irredeemable. That is what actually motivates progressive education: hatred of their culture and homeland.
Antonio Gramsci is the prophet of our educational discontent. Imprisoned by Mussolini in the 1920s, Gramsci wrote his famous Prison Notebooks explaining why the communist revolution didn’t occur in the very societies where it should have. Breaking with Marx’s economic politics, Gramsci articulated a view of cultural politics. The revolution failed, or didn’t occur, because the proletariat didn’t control any of the institutions of cultural power. This is what is called cultural hegemony.
Disciples of Gramsci emerged in the 1960s in Europe and America. They advocated a “long march through the institutions.” Their goal: to overthrow the bourgeois and Christian culture that dominated elite and secondary institutions throughout the West. Only in overturning the cultural ideals and values of their opponents could the revolutionaries disseminate their ideals to the next generation, secure cultural power, and use institutions to advance their revolutionary ideals.
Today’s proponents of Critical Race Theory, diversity, inclusion, and tolerance, and all the other buzzwords of multiculturalism are the heirs of Gramsci and his disciples. Their goal is nothing less than the overthrow of all the values of the previous generations that had organically flourished and grown to constitute Western civilization and its values of God, liberty, and equality. Of course, “God, liberty, and equality” as previously understood are masks for oppression, according to progressives.
At the heart of our educational culture war are two visions for culture and education. One believes education is a training in virtue and excellence, an engagement with a living tradition of 3,000 years of wisdom, goodness, and beauty that has the power to enlighten and transform our lives for the better.
The other educational outlook is premised on hatred, division, and destruction. The goal here is not a training in virtue or excellence but an indoctrination into revolutionary ideals that will overthrow the supposedly oppressive and tyrannical present and wipe away all the vestiges of an evil and irredeemable past. The purpose of education is to create storm troopers of cultural vandalism and demolition. To hide this reality the proponents of educational desecration call it all the names we are accustomed to hearing and assert to be against such progressive inclusion is to be inhumane and racist.
Education as a training in virtue and excellence goes back to ancient Athens and Plato’s Academy. It was transported to Rome and became the basis for what the Roman statesman Cicero called humanism: a humane education in excellence to make humans better themselves. Saint Augustine, in his Confessions, recounts how his heart and intellect was brought to life reading the great poetry of the Latin writers and the philosophers of Greece.
During the Middle Ages, with the birth of the formal universities, Christians enlarged this vision of education to include the study of God and nature. By the Renaissance, the emphasis on languages and recovering the wisdom of the past, coupled with the study of philosophy, theology, and history formed the basis of what we used to call classical, or liberal arts, education. When the Puritans sailed to the New World, they brought the best of this tradition of humanistic learning with them when they established such institutions as Harvard and my alma mater Yale (which still has buildings with the motto “For God, For Country, and For Yale” inscribed on them).
In the turbulent seas we now find ourselves in, with private schools, even various Christian schools, running headlong into the fire of critical hate education, it is imperative that those schools which have remained true to the spirit of love and excellence that made the West the beacon of educational excellence to stand and defend the last bastions of culture.
By forsaking the possibility of fulfillment in education, the goal of the progressives is to ensure that a restless generation of graduates march into the classroom as teachers, march into the world as activists and revolutionaries, march into the courtroom as lawyers, to destroy the very places they call home. That is the vision outlined by Gramsci that they strictly adhere to. You do not destroy what you love. We must “change” it all. When they speak of change, they mean destroy.
The Christian vision of education offers the only antidote to the culture war. To love the wisdom and excellence of the past is something fulfilling that also brings a sense of accomplishment with it. It permits us not to destroy, but to build, and in building from what we’ve inherited we leave our mark upon it for the next generation to build up further.
We can, and should, aspire to be the next Homer, the next Dante, the next C.S. Lewis. We can aspire to build the next Westminster, the next Notre Dame. We can aspire to build the next Yale, the next Harvard, the next Princeton. We can aspire to defend the richness of our culture which has routinely been threatened in times past, is threatened now, and will be threatened in the future.
If the education of love and excellence has a future, it is tied to Christian education. If Christians truly wish to stand out as a light in the dark world of vandalism in which we find ourselves, joining the vandals will be a great betrayal of the call to be the light and salt of the world. The call is not become part of the dark world but to stand apart from it; one mustn’t confuse the desecrating vandalism running rampant as the light. When the candle goes out the tyranny of darkness and its destructive impulse is all that is left. Worse, we will no longer be able to see the beauty that the vandals destroy.
Paul Krause is a writer, editor, and teacher. He is the author of The Odyssey of Love: A Christian Guide to the Great Books, The Politics of Plato, and contributed to The College Lecture Today and the forthcoming book Diseases, Disasters, and Political Theory. He is the incoming editor of VoegelinView.
Image: Public Domain Pictures
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