from the headmaster


Ending the Homework Hassle

This week we asked many of you to fill out a homework survey, and we received quite a few responses. Thank you, parents, for your feedback. We are working through these responses now so we can use them to improve our academic program. Teachers plan assignments in order to accomplish curricular goals as effectively and efficiently as possible, but we often need input to get it right. 

The school has to do its part to get homework right, but parents have to work hard to get it right, too. Homework for many families is a struggle and a source of conflict and aggravation. I have a suggestion for you, parents. 

The best advice I have seen about how to help your children become independent learners who manage their assignments and homework for themselves is the book Ending the Homework Hassle by psychologist John Rosemond. Please read it!

If our school had the resources, I’d order a copy for every Regents family and send it to you today. 

Rosemond describes the nightly homework hassle for many families: it’s “The Great Homework Hunt” followed by “Parenting by Helicopter” and the child’s act of “Duh, I’m Dumb,” culminating in “The Homework Marathon” and ultimately “We’re a Bunch of Bananas,” during which both parents and child have meltdowns and wail in frustration and fury. What can end the frustration and put a stop to the hassle? It’s up to the parents, writes Rosemond, to “stop being responsible for Billy’s homework and let Billy be responsible for it on his lonesome,” to go from being a “parent-participant” to being a “parent-consultant.” In fact, the child’s responsibility is the first of the Seven Hidden Values of Homework. The others include autonomyperseverancetime managementinitiativeself-reliance, and resourcefulness. Don’t you want your children to embody these values as personal virtues?

With humor, insight, and realism, Rosemond helps parents think through both how to put an end to homework as a titanic struggle, a “never-ending, self-defeating, viciously circular trap,” and also to instill in your children the virtues needed to grow into independent learners.

But the author makes one thing quite clear: it’s up to parents to make the changes that are needed and to set the priorities in the home. Every parent can gain wisdom from John Rosemond’s book, and it’s well worth the time and effort to read it and put its principles into practice. I highly recommend it.

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Rigorous Training of the Mind

I want to share with you an eloquent article by Pastor John Piper in which he argues for the rigorous training of the mind in our children so that they will be able to read the Bible with understanding. Pastor Piper does not mention classical Christian education directly, but he doesn’t have to. 


A Compelling Reason for Rigorous Training of the Mind:
Thoughts on the Significance of Reading

by John Piper

I was reading and meditating on the book of Hebrews recently, when it hit me forcefully that a basic and compelling reason for education—the rigorous training of the mind—is so that a person can read the Bible with understanding.

This sounds too obvious to be useful or compelling. But that’s just because we take the preciousness of reading so for granted; or, even more, because we appreciate so little the kind of thinking that a complex Bible passage requires of us.

The book of Hebrews, for example, is an intellectually challenging argument from Old Testament texts. The points that the author makes hang on biblical observations that come only from rigorous reading, not light skimming. And the understanding of these Old Testament interpretations in the text of Hebrews requires rigorous thought and mental effort. The same could be said for the extended argumentation of Romans and Galatians and the other books of the Bible.

This is an overwhelming argument for giving our children a disciplined and rigorous training in how to think an author’s thoughts after him from a text—especially a biblical text. An alphabet must be learned, as well as vocabulary, grammar, syntax, the rudiments of logic, and the way meaning is imparted through sustained connections of sentences and paragraphs.

The reason Christians have always planted schools where they have planted churches is because we are a people of THE BOOK. It is true that THE BOOK will never have its proper effect without prayer and the Holy Spirit. It is not a textbook to be debated; it is a fountain for spiritual thirst, and food for the soul, and a revelation of God, and a living power, and a two-edged sword. But none of this changes the fact: apart from the discipline of reading, the Bible is as powerless as paper. Someone might have to read it for you; but without reading, the meaning and the power of it are locked up.

Is it not remarkable how often Jesus settled great issues with a reference to reading? For example, in the issue of the Sabbath he said, “Have you not read what David did?” (Matthew 12:3). In the issue of divorce and remarriage he said, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female?” (Matthew 19:4). In the issue of true worship and praise he said, “Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babes you have prepared praise for yourself’?” (Matthew 21:16). In the issue of the resurrection he said, “Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone’?” (Matthew 21:42). And to the lawyer who queried him about eternal life he said, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” (Luke 10:26).

The apostle Paul also gave reading a great place in the life of the church. For example, he said to the Corinthians, “We write nothing else to you than what you read and understand, and I hope you will understand until the end” (2 Corinthians 1:13). To the Ephesians he said, “When you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:3). To the Colossians he said, “When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea” (Colossians 4:16). Reading the letters of Paul was so important that he commands it with an oath: “I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren” (1 Thessalonians 5:27).

The ability to read does not come intuitively. It must be taught. And learning to read with understanding is a life-long labor. The implications for Christians are immense. Education of the mind in the rigorous discipline of thoughtful reading is a primary goal of school. The church of Jesus is debilitated when his people are lulled into thinking that it is humble or democratic or relevant to give a merely practical education that does not involve the rigorous training of the mind to think hard and to construe meaning from difficult texts.

The issue of earning a living is not nearly so important as whether the next generation has direct access to the meaning of the Word of God. We need an education that puts the highest premium under God on knowing the meaning of God’s Book, and growing in the abilities that will unlock its riches for a lifetime. It would be better to starve for lack of food than to fail to grasp the meaning of the book of Romans. Lord, let us not fail the next generation!

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The Value of Memorizing Scripture

Each month at Regents Academy students memorize passages from the Bible and then recite them before their classmates. Why are we using valuable time and effort to memorize Scripture? Here are some thoughts (and these are things that I have shared in the past – but I thought that they are worth putting before us again).

First, we memorize Scripture because we are a Christian school. A school can, of course, be a Christian school without a Bible memorization program, but on the other hand, would you expect a school that is not Christian to memorize God’s Word? Psalm 1 teaches us that God blesses the man who does not “walk in the counsel of the ungodly” but instead delights in His law and “in His law he meditates day and night.” The psalmist said, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Ps 119:11). St. Paul reminded Timothy that he had known the Holy Scriptures since his childhood, and he had grown wise in salvation as a result (2 Tim 3:15). In the early centuries of the church, prospective church leaders were often required to memorize all 150 psalms. There are tremendous spiritual benefits to hiding God’s Word in our minds and hearts. We are better able to listen to God and trust in Him while meditating on His promises and commands that have been hidden away in our minds and hearts.

Memorizing Scripture accords well with the methodology of classical education. In the grammar phase of the Trivium students memorize large volumes of information: spelling rules, history facts, multiplication tables, as well as lots of names, dates, and places. Young children, of course, don’t understand the significance of all that they are memorizing, but we teach it to them over and over again until it is rote, and then later that knowledge will be developed as their ability to understand grows. Likewise, children may not understand all that they are called upon to memorize when they learn Bible passages. But as we place God’s words in their hearts and minds, it affects them nonetheless and is tucked away safely for later days when it will be understood better. Older students in the logic and rhetoric schools, with their greater capacity for understanding, receive great benefit from memorizing the Bible as they consider what it means and how it connects to their lives.

The Bible is a basic text required for cultural fluency. In fact, we might say that it is THE text for cultural fluency. Not only is it impossible to read and understand Shakespeare or Milton or Austen or Eliot without knowing the Bible. It is also impossible to understand our times without knowing the Bible. Students are given instant access to the language, ideas, and doctrines of the Bible when they memorize it – and that is invaluable for students to make a difference in our culture for Christ.

Bible memorization also helps develop recitation skills. Students at Regents Academy recite a lot: Latin conjugations, poems, prayers, memorized pieces, history facts. As students grow up through the Trivium, they are trained to recite and speak to audiences with confidence and poise, with a strong voice, and with rhetorical skill. Memorized Bible passages, then, are another training tool in preparing students to be persuasive, winsome public speakers. Francis Bacon famously asserted that “Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.” We might add that recitation maketh an eloquent man.

Finally, I can say from my own experience that a school-sponsored Scripture memorization program provides accountability. Busyness, distractions, and laziness keep me from making Bible memorization a priority. But with the Bible being consistently placed in my mind at school, I can call on that knowledge and be better equipped to trust Christ.

I encourage us all to see the value of memorizing the Bible, to memorize the Bible along with our children, and to thank the Lord for yet another gift He has given us through classical Christian education at Regents Academy.

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Fighting tanks with rifles?

I want to share a passage with you from Dorothy Sayers’s seminal lecture “The Lost Tools of Learning.” Delivered at Oxford in 1947, her lecture has been reprinted as an essay that has had enormous influence on thinking Christians interested in giving their children an excellent education. But don’t think of her lecture as a dry narration of Medieval history or a nerdy recital of educational techno-speak. 

Mrs. Sayers’ lecture was more akin to a prophetic paradigm-buster. One paradigm she tackles is that of teaching subjects. She attacks the modern, progressive assumption that education must be compartmentalized into vacuum-sealed subjects that are taught independently and that leave students unprepared to think and to learn on their own. Her words are quite incisive and thought-provoking:

For we let our young men and women go out unarmed, in a day when armor was never so necessary. By teaching them all to read, we have left them at the mercy of the printed word. By the invention of the film and the radio, we have made certain that no aversion to reading shall secure them from the incessant battery of words, words, words. They do not know what the words mean; they do not know how to ward them off or blunt their edge or fling them back; they are a prey to words in their emotions instead of being the masters of them in their intellects. We who were scandalized in 1940 when men were sent to fight armored tanks with rifles, are not scandalized when young men and women are sent into the world to fight massed propaganda with a smattering of “subjects”; and when whole classes and whole nations become hypnotized by the arts of the spell binder, we have the impudence to be astonished. We dole out lip-service to the importance of education–lip- service and, just occasionally, a little grant of money; we postpone the school-leaving age, and plan to build bigger and better schools; the teachers slave conscientiously in and out of school hours; and yet, as I believe, all this devoted effort is largely frustrated, because we have lost the tools of learning, and in their absence can only make a botched and piecemeal job of it. 

Is Mrs. Sayers right? Do we leave our children unprotected in battle when we deprive them of the ability to think and learn? How much better is it to teach students the tools of learning? 

Regents Academy teaches subjects. But then again, what we are really doing is teaching many ways to understand the same grand Subject – Christ, who is the Source of all knowledge and the One in whom all truth coheres. As students understand Christ’s creation through science, the power of the printed word (given by Him who is the Word) through literature and writing, the structure of language through grammar and Latin, the story of Christ’s world through history, and the nature of mathematics, students are learning how to think Christianly. And on top of that, history is connected to literature, which is connected to grammar, which is connected to logic, which is connected to math, which is connected to history, and on and on it goes. 

Classical education seeks to harness the power of these interconnections and this grand center point in Christ’s Word and unite them under a philosophy of education that teaches students how to learn so that they can be well-equipped to face an often-hostile world with a comprehensive Christian worldview. To do otherwise is to send our children into the world with rifles to face tanks.

Mrs. Sayers referred to being “scandalized in 1940 when men were sent to fight armored tanks with rifles, [but not being] scandalized when young men and women are sent into the world to fight massed propaganda with a smattering of ‘subjects.'” 

I’m generally pro-gun, but when it comes to sending our children into the battle of ideas, I’m not. Instead, let’s teach our children to drive tanks and shoot big cannons. Let’s teach them to think. Let’s train them to be confident in the authority of God’s Word. Let’s prepare them for victory on the battlefield of adulthood. 

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ed-u-ca-tion (n.)

What is education? Let’s hear wise words from the originator of Webster’s Dictionary:

EDUCATION – The bringing up, as of a child; instruction; formation of manners. Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations. To give children a good education in manners arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties.

– Noah Webster’s Dictionary (1828)

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Hands and Feet of the Mission

Each August, about a week before school starts, Regents teachers congregate to prepare for the year. It’s a wonderful week of training, preparation, and fellowship. New teachers get to know the vision of the school and their new friends, and returning teachers prepare to practice their craft for another year. Each August, without fail, several key themes, quotes, and Bible passages are always part of the conversation, serving as reminders of our work as teachers and the distinctive role of a classical Christian teacher.

“The most important thing, therefore, about a classical, Christian education is that faculty members exhibit in themselves the virtues and values that we want to see in our students.  Thus, in the classroom the teacher is the primary text.” (David Hicks)

“A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40)

 “The end then of learning is to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him, as we may the nearest by possessing our souls of true virtue, which being united to the heavenly grace of faith makes up the highest perfection.” (John Milton)

And then I tell the teachers something like this every year:

You are the hands and feet of our school’s mission. Policies, philosophies, methods, and goals are essential. Facilities are needful and useful. Technology, books, curriculum, lessons, assignments, classwork, and homework enable us to do our job. But without teachers none of these things mean much. The key to fulfilling our mission as a school, which is another way to say being faithful to what God has called us to do, is you. You are the hands and feet of the mission of Regents Academy.

I want you to sense something that our teachers are made to feel very keenly: Regents teachers have a very high calling – that of embodying in themselves those virtues they strive to bring to fruition in their students. Each teacher is his or her own greatest project. They are themselves striving to be lifelong learners who possess the tools of learning and who love to learn about God and His world. Then they invite their students to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and to follow them on their journey. 

Every day your children spend their days with godly, gifted men and women who are passionate for the truth, skilled in the art of teaching, and committed to a classical Christian education. Your children’s teachers love your children, and they work diligently every day to be the hands and feet of our mission to your family, while living out the love of Christ. I feel blessed beyond words to call them friends, colleagues, and fellow workers. 

Please pray for your children’s teachers daily. Ask the Lord to bless them and allow them to be worthy examples, inspirations, and guides for your children. And let me encourage you to love and bless your children’s teachers yourselves also. It makes an eternal difference in their lives and the lives of generations to come.

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“Idiotic” perseverance

May is the season of perseverance.

John Piper shared the following excerpt from the book Passion, by Karl Olsson, who tells a story of remarkable perseverance among the early French Protestants known as Huguenots. If only our perseverance could be regarded as “idiotic” by our generation.

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In the late Seventeenth Century in … southern France, a girl named Marie Durant was brought before the authorities, charged with the Huguenot heresy. She was fourteen years old, bright, attractive, marriageable. She was asked to abjure the Huguenot faith. She was not asked to commit an immoral act, to become a criminal, or even to change the day-to-day quality of her behavior. She was only asked to say, “J’abjure.” No more, no less. She did not comply. Together with thirty other Huguenot women she was put into a tower by the sea…. For thirty-eight years she continued…. And instead of the hated word J’abjure she, together with her fellow martyrs, scratched on the wall of the prison tower the single word Resistez, resist!

The word is still seen and gaped at by tourists on the stone wall at Aigues-Mortes…. We do not understand the terrifying simplicity of a religious commitment which asks nothing of time and gets nothing from time. We can understand a religion which enhances time…. but we cannot understand a faith which is not nourished by the temporal hope that tomorrow things will be better. To sit in a prison room with thirty others and to see the day change into night and summer into autumn, to feel the slow systemic changes within one’s flesh: the drying and wrinkling of the skin, the loss of muscle tone, the stiffening of the joints, the slow stupefaction of the senses—to feel all this and still to persevere seems almost idiotic to a generation which has no capacity to wait and to endure. (pp. 116-117)

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Clear and Compelling

Let me invite you to consider three excerpts that, taken together, provide a clear and compelling reason for Christian parents to embrace Christian education for their children. That embrace entails sacrifice and perseverance and devotion, but its eternal consequences are worth it.

Regents Academy can partner with parents with many purposes in education, but we partner most fully with those parents who read these passages and conclude:

  • that Huxley’s proposal is horrifying, 
  • that Van Til’s assertions are inescapable, and 
  • that Moses’ words are binding but ultimately freeing. 

Here are the excerpts in order:

Sir Julian Huxley, advocate and founding father of evolutionary humanism:

Education must be concerned with man’s place and role in nature, and its raw material is man himself . . . a lot of cargo will have to be jettisoned [from the historically Christian model of education, in order to commit to evolutionary humanism] . . . man was not created in his present form a few thousand years ago. Mankind is not descended from Adam and Eve. . . . Children are not born with a load of original sin derived from the Fall. . . . There are no Absolutes of truth or virtue, only possibilities of greater knowledge and fuller perfection. . . . How should the new humanism’s evolutionary approach take effect in education?. . . . [It needs to be] comprehensive, in dealing with every aspect of life; it must have a unitary pattern, reflecting the unity of knowledge and the wholeness of experience. It must attempt to give growing minds a coherent picture of nature and man’s role in it, and to help immature personalities towards integration and self-realization.  (from Essays of a Humanist).

Reformed theologian and professor Cornelius Van Til:

Non-Christian education puts the child in a vacuum. The result is that child dies. Christian education alone really nurtures personality, because it alone gives the child air and food. Modern educational philosophy gruesomely insults our God and our Christ. How, then, do you expect to build anything positively Christian or theistic upon a foundation which is the negation of Christianity and theism? (from “Antithesis in Education,” in Foundations of Christian Education).

Deuteronomy 6:4-9:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Do you find these compelling?

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The Gain of Serving God

We had a wonderful BIG Serve, with well over 200 students, teachers, and parents going to more than 20 sites around Nacogdoches to serve our neighbors in love. Our school chaplain, Pastor Bryant Tyre, reminded us in Morning Assembly that “It’s not about you!” Instead it’s about serving God, side-by-side with one another, because we want to share the love He has shown us. It is at the core of our mission as a school to train students to serve God and their neighbor, and the BIG Serve is one key way we live out that mission each spring. I am so thankful for the spirit of service, selflessness, and grace that fills our community.

I ran across some good words from Pastor John Piper that remind us all how needful and grace-filled it is to serve the Lord God. This is why we serve Him and why we serve our neighbors at Regents Academy. What we call “Blessed In Giving” is what Pastor Piper calls “The Gain of Serving God.”

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The Gain of Serving God 

By John Piper

“They shall be servants to him, that they may know my service and the service of the kingdoms of the countries.” (2 Chronicles 12:8)

Serving God is utterly different from serving anyone else.

God is extremely jealous that we understand this — and enjoy it. For example, he commands us, “Serve the Lord with gladness!” (Psalm 100:2). There is a reason for this gladness. It is given in Acts 17:25. God is not “served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.”

We serve him with gladness because we do not bear the burden of meeting his needs. He has no needs. So, serving him can’t mean meeting his needs. Instead we rejoice in a service where he meets our needs. Serving God always means receiving grace from God to do what we have to do.

To show how jealous God is for us to understand this, and glory in it, there is a story in 2 Chronicles 12. Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, who ruled the southern kingdom after the revolt of the ten tribes, chose against serving the Lord and gave his service to other gods and other kingdoms.

As judgment, God sent Shishak, the king of Egypt, against Rehoboam with 1,200 chariots and 60,000 horsemen (2 Chronicles 12:2–3).

In mercy God sent the prophet Shemaiah to Rehoboam with this message: “Thus says the Lord, ‘You abandoned me, so I have abandoned you to the hand of Shishak’” (2 Chronicles 12:5). The happy upshot of that message is that Rehoboam and his princes humbled themselves in repentance and said, “The Lord is righteous” (2 Chronicles 12:6).

When the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, he said, “They have humbled themselves. I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance, and my wrath shall not be poured out on Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak” (2 Chronicles 12:7). But as a discipline to them he says, “They shall be servants to him, that they may know my service and the service of the kingdoms of the countries” (2 Chronicles 12:8).

The point is plain: serving the enemy and serving God are very different. How so? Serving God is a receiving and a blessing and a joy and a benefit. Serving Shishak is exhausting and depleting and sorrowful. God is a giver. Shishak is a taker.

This is why I am so jealous to say that the worship of Sunday morning and the worship of daily obedience is not at bottom a burdensome giving to God, but a joyful getting from God. That is the true service that God demands. In all you do, trust me as the giver.

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Re-Evaluating the Liberal Arts

In a society in which education is routinely confused with a truncated form of vocational training or as secularized ideological indoctrination, the liberal arts have gotten a bad reputation.

A book on the top of my stack these days helps to clarify the liberal arts, revealing them as the center of a powerful paradigm for classical Christian education. The book is The Liberal Arts Tradition: A Philosophy of Christian Classical Education by Kevin Clark and Ravi Scott Jain. I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Philosopher and author Peter Kreeft, in the book’s forward, argues that liberal arts education is no longer “mainstream” education. Rather, “the educational establishment feels deeply threatened by it.” Then he lists what he calls “eight silly objections to [liberal arts education] that are really advertisements for it.” These objections are well worth considering. They take us to the heart of what Regents Academy is striving to accomplish.

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1. It’s “divisive.” It’s not what everyone else is doing. It marches to a different drummer. It cultivates excellence rather than conformity. Yes it does. And this is actually sometimes used as an objection rather than as a selling point!

2. It’s old, outdated, unfashionable. Yes it is, like honor, courage, integrity, and honesty. It doesn’t try to tell the truth with a clock; it doesn’t practice chronological snobbery. In an age which has embraced every novelty, the true rebel is the traditionalist.

3. It’s not in line with modern philosophies: skepticism, cynicism, subjectivism, relativism, naturalism, materialism, reductionism, positivism, scientism, socialism. That’s exactly right. It’s not. It’s countercultural. It harnesses teenagers’ natural proclivity to rebel and turns that force against “the bad guys” who are now the “establishment” instead of against “the good guys.”

4. It’s “judgmental.” It believes there really is good and bad, true and false. The typical modern education is judgmental only against being judgmental, and skeptical of everything except skepticism.

5. It’s small. It’s private. It’s grassroots. It’s implemented mainly in small schools, not big ones. This is true, and it’s another plus rather than a minus. “Small is beautiful.” The bigger the school, the more standardized it has to be and the more the person tends to get lost in the system and get identified with his or her race, economic class, gender, sexual orientation, or political party.

6. It seeks the truth for its own sake, not primarily for pragmatic uses. It aims at wisdom, not wealth. It makes its graduates philosophers instead of millionaires. This is also true. But it’s not a fault. As Chesterton says, “Man’s most practical need is to be more than a pragmatist.”

7. It’s not specialized. It doesn’t include courses on underwater basket weaving or pickling and fermentation (which was actually a major at Ohio State). It doesn’t teach you clever ways to outguess Microsoft Word, or the government, or lawyers, or your professor, or the standardized tests. It just teaches you how to think and how to live. But businesses, law schools, and government agencies don’t want specialist drudges and drones; they want people who can read and write and think logically and creatively.

8. It’s religious. It’s Christian. It doesn’t pretend that the most important man who ever lived never lived, as our public education now does. It assumes that the supernatural is not the enemy to the natural, that “grace perfects nature rather than demeaning it,” as light perfects all colors.

Kreeft closes his forward with these words: “It’s precious – because children are precious.” Amen.

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