If you are reading these words, you already have a great devotion to the past. After all, this is a publication devoted to supporting the concept of classical education, which focuses heavily on the way young people should absorb the cultural, spiritual, and intellectual heritage of human civilization. The classical education movement emerged in part because of the perception that many mainstream institutions had jettisoned too much of that heritage (and some of its best pedagogical principles). That act of detaching from the past was largely guided by the progressivist notion that the current generation is more advanced and enlightened than those who have come before us.
Before we get any further I want to assure you that I agree with those perceptions. Moreover, I believe that the basic thrust behind the classical education movement is sound and praiseworthy. While we did not homeschool (our kids went to parochial schools and largely to either prep schools or Catholic high schools), our family life centered on common prayer and reading aloud from the classics. My eldest is a proud graduate of the Great Books program at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland.
Now that my bona fides have been established, I want to make an argument that might be a little more controversial, but which is based on the ancient Aristotelian idea of the “Golden Mean,” as I hope to show.
In short, my contention is that there is a danger when those who criticize progressivism fall into the opposite error. Peter Kreeft once described progressivism as “chronological snobbery” because it looked down its nose at the past, but he admitted that such snobbery can work both ways. It is possible to disdain the present, too.Read More