Douglas Wilson, Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning: An Approach to Distinctively Christian Education. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1991. 215 pages.
I started to review this book, but was tired. So, I decided to simply post some of my favorite quotes from its pages, but then felt guilty. So, I have opted for a hybrid – – a few basic comments followed by some quotes from the text.
A drip becomes a trickle, a trickle becomes a stream, a stream becomes a…, well, you get the idea.
In recent years what was once a trickle of folk has become an ever-growing movement of those who have opted out of the public school system in favor of private education. Why? Well, we all know that public education is not what we wish it to be. I do not wish to paint with a broad brush, — some public schools are exemplary, others are a farce. Nevertheless, calls for reform are not just coming from a few disgruntled malcontents. There are real problems.
While many believe that fixing the public school system is the answer, there is a growing number of folk who believe it is impossible to fix the public school system because it is fundamentally flawed in a way that precludes making the necessary changes. Perhaps in future weeks I will review Ronald Nash’s book The Closing of the American Heart: What’s Really Wrong With America’s Schools which discusses this more fully. However, for today I will limit my comments to the book at hand.
Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning is part of the Turning Point Christian Worldview Series published by Crossway. Wilson has organized the chapters of into four major sections.
The Failure of Modern Secular Education
An Approach to Distinctively Christian Education
An Approach to Distinctively Classical Education
I don’t like the blame game, and I hate the way everything has become a “crisis.” So, the introductory chapters on the failure of modern secular education was painful to read. However, just as no patient ever wants to hear that they have cancer, an accurate diagnosis is necessary for appropriate treatment to take place. Wilson offers both diagnosis and treatment, or at least prescriptive analysis of what good treatment would entail. He offers his reader substantive suggestions as to what effective structural reform and curriculum reform would include. Then he presses on to the dominate themes of the book–Christian and Classical reform.
Wilson is not a backseat driver or Sunday afternoon quarterback when it comes to Christian and Classical education reform. He helped found the Logos School in Moscow, ID back in 1981 and continues to serve on its Board of Directors. The Trivium model of education described in Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning has been the model employed very successfully by Logos for 25 years.
In the ensuing years, Logos has influenced many of the ever-increasing number of private schools. My wife and I send our kids to public school, however we would love to be able to afford to send our kids to a school like Covenant Classical School which is part of the Association of Classical Christian Schools which developed out of the response to the publishing of Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning.
Well, I have wandered away from reviewing the book at this point, and don’t have a strong desire to get back on track. So, let me encourage you to read this book if you are at all interested in education. I know that it probably doesn’t sound like a page-turner the way I have described it, but let me assure you that it is very interesting.
Now, for those quotes from Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning that I promised earlier:
“One of the great ironies among modern evangelicals is the fact that many have higher and stricter standards for their children’s baby-sitters than they do for their children’s teachers.”
“What do you get when you educate sinners? The answer is simple enough–clever sinners. Knowledge by itself, does not make people better; it may make them worse.” (page 72)
“To believe that children can be spiritually changed by their environment alone is behaviorism, not Christianity.” (page 72)
“The greater the tradition, the greater the temptation to exalt the trappings and neglect the reality.” (page 85)
“In modern America, the fast-food mentality has penetrated the realm of the mind. The modern student has a mind full of McThoughts. Information comes to him processed and prepackaged, and he does his duty as a consumer. This does not mean that intellectual activity has disappeared, but having your mind full of mental “stuff” is not the same thing as thinking.” (page 91)
“Parents should distinguish between restricting TV as a punishment and restricting TV as a discipline.” (page 108)
“If home schools produced an illiteracy rate that even came close to the one generated by the public schools, they would be shut down. If private schools tried to graduate students who couldn’t read, the local educational authorities would be all over them. Why? Because education is supposed to educate. But if state schools fail at their task, it is because more funding is urgently needed. Why? Because the public education establshment wants to perpetuate the public education establishment, and anything can be used as an argument to that end.” (pages 133-134)
“King Absolute is dead, long live the relatives!” (page 142)
“If someone were watching a movie on videotape and didn’t like how it was turning out, he wouldn’t rewind it and try it again. But many Christians are saying they don’t like the way the public schools are going, and they try to rewind the system back to the 1950s or to the turn of the century.” (page 183)
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