If you’re a parent seeking a quality model for secondary education for your child, you will be intrigued and encouraged in reading Robert Littlejohn ’83 and Charles T. Evans’s Wisdom and Eloquence: A Christian Paradigm for Classical Learning. If you’re a Washington State University grad, you’ll want to see what a Cougar Ph.D. in botany-plant physiology (Littlejohn) contributes to the educational arena, specifically in providing a Christian paradigm for classical learning.
What makes this book valuable is the credibility it brings to a field often littered with well-meaning attempts at Christian education that lack either the faith dimension or the balanced educational dimension.
Littlejohn brings to the Christian and liberal-arts mixture his scientific training and flexible perspectives on the work of God in the world, and Evans’s theological contributions complete the perspective. Commendably, Littlejohn is up front about the importance of modern science as he affirms the research-based benefits of such areas as genetics and medicine to humankind.
Seeking to prepare high school graduates not only to make a living, but also to “make a difference in the world,” the authors lay out a pattern of classical Christian education which is part apology for a Christian approach to the liberal arts (and sciences), part historical overview of classical education, and part how-to manual for setting up such a school.
Rejecting our society’s tendencies toward pervasive relativism, they make the case for a kind of education that emphasizes Christian worldview formation, character development, academic rigor, cultural relevance, and the development and implementation of the liberal arts and sciences for contemporary students.
The “recipe” for this Christian paradigm for classical learning includes an appreciation for and emendation to the “trivium” (grammar, rhetoric, and logic) and “quadrivium” (arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy) articulated by the scholar Dorothy Sayers. While Sayers was a powerful writer and thinker in her own right, Littlejohn and Evans feel she did not emphasize strongly enough the power of rhetoric, the mathematical arts, or the “true sciences” so important in today’s world. Their curriculum seeks to correct those weaknesses.
By interweaving the Judeo-Christian scriptures with study of the liberal arts, classical Christian education encourages students to develop faith-based, value-based leadership skills, in part through an emphasis on “eloquence”—the learned ability to develop carefully constructed opinion, based on truth and factual evidence, in order to lead and persuade people to choose the right and the good.
I found this book to be a valuable resource for further exploration in the world of classical Christian education. Rich with references that reinforce the author’s points, Wisdom and Eloquence provides parents, teachers, and other interested persons the big-picture look at what many feel is missing in today’s American liberal education.