The Front Row: Turning Back to Classical Education

Nov 9, 2017

Texas Tech University Institute for Western Civilization presents an annual lectureship series. Dr. Steven Balch, director of the institute, joins this episode of the Front Row with guest lecturer Dr. Christian Kopff.

Dr. Balch, tell us about the institute and the purpose it serves at the university.

The Institute of Western Civilization, now going into its sixth year at Texas Tech, is meant to focus the attention of the academic community on the big questions that define our civilization—on it’s nature, origin and future. Most people at a university specialize. We try to bring things together, to be synthetic. I think there’s great value in doing that. Part of our program is to bring in speakers to address those big questions. And part of our program is to bring students to some of the great achievements of western civilization…

So we are kind of intellectual generalists in a world of specialization. I think a world of specialization needs that kind of thing. With professor Kopff, who we’re bringing to speak here, we are engaging some of those big questions about the nature of the American Republic and it’s place in western civilization.

Dr. Kopff, what is the new classical education movement?

The gold standard for education, for most of Europe and America, from the reformation, the Renaissance through the early 20th century was classical education. In the 1960s this went away and progressive education became the norm for teaching, especially in public schools, but also in other schools. We saw in connections with that, I won’t say we caused it, but we saw in connection with it substantial drops in SAT scores, especially verbal, we saw a low point of that in 1980.

About 1980, a number of people got together and said maybe it’s time to try what used to work. C.S. Lewis says somewhere, “when you’ve taken the wrong path, the progressive thing to do is to turn around and go back to the right path.” So we decided to the progressive thing, which is to turn around and go back to the right path, try and restructure and recreate the classical education that gave us the great minds of the Renaissance. Over the decades, school by school, especially because of the charter school movement, there are classical charter schools. People have gone back to the idea of the seven liberal arts and are studying our past and studying Latin.

Listen to the full interview at the top of the article.