Education | 19 Minutes

The Myth of an Ivy League Education

Marlin Detweiler Written by Marlin Detweiler
The Myth of an Ivy League Education

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What makes classical Christian education truly special? Why are the great classical books (even the pagan ones!) beneficial? What might Christians gain from reading secular materials?

Veritas Scholars Academy Omnibus teacher Mary K. Andreades shares the answers to these questions. Plus, she tells the compelling story of how classical education and the Great Books played a role in her escape from the cult of Christian Science and gave her a strong alternative when her children’s school began teaching alternative gender ideology.

Episode Transcription

Note: This transcription may vary from the words used in the original episode.

Marlin Detweiler:

Hello, this is Marlin Detweiler with Veritas Press. Today, our guest on Veritas Vox is Mary K. Andreades. You'll learn that Mary K. teaches for our online school, Veritas Scholars Academy, and that will come out through the interview.

Mary has proposed a topic which we have accepted. What has Veritas to do with Lux Et Veritas? I'm not going to ask you to answer that question yet. I'd like to have you give a little background. First of all, in teaching for Veritas, you've been around how many years?

Mary K. Andreades:

Too many.

Marlin Detweiler:

Mary Kay was very early on at this moment, we are in our 16th year and I believe that she has been teaching more than a dozen of those.

Mary K. Andreades:

That's right.

Marlin Detweiler:

How did you get connected with Veritas in the first place?

Mary K. Andreades:

Well, I went to an elite, all-girls public school in the Washington, D.C. area, and I had a wonderful classical-ish education. Of small classes, close reading of classical texts, writing essays. And then I went on to Yale. And there I saw– what I loved about Yale was very, very intellectually-on students, the kind of people when the teacher asked a question, 70% of the hands go up.

People that want want to know. And that was thrilling! Then later, I became a Christian and I wound up with more education than money. But I had seen something of what a good education was. And so I was attracted to the Veritas curriculum early on. In the nineties, I was attracted to the Phonics Museum. I used that to teach my children to read. And when I saw the online classes and the whole program of classical education, I said, “This is it! It's even better [than what I had] because I'm not only able to ask big questions about humanity, I’m able to ask the big theological questions. It's like my classical-ish education only better”.

So I was an early adopter and I used some of the very first live-online classes. My sons took them. One of them is now graduating from law school after learning to argue and taking the very first Omnibus logic classes, he's graduating this spring.

Marlin Detweiler:

Wow! That's great. You are you suggested a title that I think needs some explanation. Yeah. Oh, this is what it what it is that I mentioned it earlier. What has Veritas to do with Lux Et Veritas? What do you mean by that?

Mary K. Andreades:

Well, Lux et Veritas is the motto of Yale.

Marlin Detweiler:

You say that I should know that. I didn't know that!

Mary K. Andreades:

Oh, I'm sorry.

Marlin Detweiler:

Lux is Latin for light and Veritas is Latin for truth.

Mary K. Andreades:

Right. So I thought, well, that sounds a lot like my school name, right? Veritas. And so Yale was originally a school for training ministers and they've fallen from its original goal. I feel like we are doing the real thing at Veritas, what they tried to do at Yale. So we really do care that Veritas means truth. We really actually do care about light and truth. I would say Yale less so cares about that. They don't care about it as much as they used to.

Marlin Detweiler:

Interesting. You mentioned that you came to Christ through the process of your education, but I know a little bit about that and I think the people listening would really love to hear a brief summary of how you came to Christ and just how the Holy Spirit moved in your life to bring about you becoming a Christian.

Mary K. Andreades:

Okay. Well, well, Marlin, I grew up in a cult. I was a Christian Scientist. Although Christian Scientists did at that time read the King James Bible. So I was kind of a lonely, bookish child. I read my King James Bible, my special Christian Science book, also C.S. Lewis and Tolkien and Fairy Tales. So I had these beautiful stories in my head, in the mix, and I went to this prep school.

It happened to be that President Ford's daughter was there. There were Jordanian princesses and senators, their daughters were there. So it was a good education. And I continued to read these great books. And I also, you know, took in a lot of pride. When I did Greek mythology, which was another thing I love to read. There is this memory in Greek mythology that there's been a rebellion against the creators and the Greek gods they're the promoters of excellence and pride and that's all very appealing to us. So throughout my high school career, I had a feeling that I could go in the direction of excellence and prestige and also read these great stories. So I took Latin there, which I love about Veritas, that we study Latin. I think that was actually the key to my higher SAT scores back in the day.

Marlin Detweiler:

We say that to people. It's interesting that you can see it firsthand!

Mary K. Andreades:

This is why. Yeah, and you can kind of taste the words down to their roots. And I still love that to this day. So I do recommend Latin for that. So I did learn that there. And then, you know, I felt like I was on this conveyor belt of excellence and, you know, Athena and everything. And I ended up at Yale.

Also, I learned to paint, which was interesting at my school. We had the arts. So I'm interested in how to combine classical education with the arts. I think there's a smart way to do that. A Veritas. So that's how I ended up at Yale, and I'm being an artist. It's all working out, and I decide, you know, fatefully not to become a lawyer, which would have been the smart thing to do with that education.

I do something– try to do something really hard. I think, well, I'll become a culture maker, and I'll follow this path. So I went to New York to be an artist, and all of a sudden, nobody cared that I was this nice girl from this elite school. Nobody cared. And it was very hard. And I'm so grateful that I had that experience of failure, you know, Yale, to trying to make it in the art world and then that God use that to show me that that thing I'd been reading all along, you know, the Tolkein, C.S. Lewis. I had no idea C.S. Lewis was a Christian book when I read it as a child. That thing, it kind of led me like, there's something underlying this, there's some kind of path here. And I ended up becoming Christian. I thought about I really thought about C.S. Lewis. I thought about that that that feeling that I had when I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, there's something there. I have to follow that. So it was the classic books that led me really to the Lord, and I ended up becoming a Christian in New York City. And so fast forward that couple of years later, I'm married to a pastor raising four children in New York City. And I kind of dropped out of the counterculture to do that.

And so now I'm thinking, I don't have the finances to do that prep school education, how do I do this? And when I saw the Veritas catalog, I was electrified and I thought, “This is it, this is it! This is the great books. This is the great story. This is how I want to raise my children.”

I also at the same time there in Brooklyn, we were a little ahead of the time - my Yale cohort went off to kind of change our views on gender and all these different things. They're out there kind of ruining the culture today. And so there I was in Brooklyn with these children, and along comes the Rainbow curriculum.

I got a hold of the curriculum that was proposed for my kindergartners, and it was a full math and English curriculum, K-6, and as an integral part of that curriculum in the early nineties, they were going to bring in community experts to teach our children about alternative families.

Marlin Detweiler:

This is the nineties, and most of us have in the last few years been seeing this ostensibly for the first time when it really has been infiltrated into the curriculum. And you're seeing this 30 years ago!

Mary K. Andreades:

Yeah, I got a copy of that, and I thought, this is not what I want for my kindergartner. And also at the same time, I got a hold of For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaefer Macaulay, and that kind of that was the gateway into homeschooling for me. And so then when Veritas came along and then the live classes were added, I just saw how valuable this was.

And so I have advocated for parents actually kind of “hacking” this elite education. I feel like we are offering all kinds of students what used to be the goods of the old-fashioned classical education. It's no longer there at Yale. It's no longer there in my elite prep school. But we are like the caretakers of this story, and we are bringing this.

I get very excited about bringing this to all kinds of students, students who don’t grow up with a silver spoon in their mouth. So I'm excited about doing that. I've done that with my four children, and now I'm excited about doing that with other people's children.

Marlin Detweiler:

You mentioned Yale's roots were training pastors. That was true at Harvard. We're talking about hundreds of years ago. Education is very different today. What do you see in a classical Christian education that distinguishes it not just from a secular classical education, but also from a traditional Christian education? What is it about classical Christian education that has really caused you to say, as you said earlier, “This is it,” and has caused you to call it a “hacking”, so to speak, of what those very well-established institutions have purported and been over the years.

Mary K. Andreades:

Good question. Well, I remember thinking at certain points of my education, “I'm not allowed to ask the real questions.” I remember thinking that I had to hide my religious background even in prep school. Like they won't understand. What I'm really wondering about is these big questions about God. So I could ask questions at my wonderful English class. We could talk about the Greek idea of fate and what that meant. And those were interesting big questions, but I couldn't say, you know, “Is God real?” Well, I couldn't ask those even bigger questions. It was so refreshing to be able to ask the truly big questions at Veritas. I had this feeling of just the world of education getting bigger and including more, I think.

So. For instance, you know, some of my well-loved books I wish every person could read Eusebius. You know, it's the first book- it's the first church history after the end of the Bible. Like what happened after the Bible. It's so wonderful. I wish all the parents could read this with their kids. I advise them to do so. This history– the religious parts of the history which are left out. For instance, another example of leaving the important parts out in our public schools, students get a kind of a sequence through history.

So American history, they learn about the Puritans without learning about the Reformation. So the Puritans are kind of reduced to the Salem Witch Trials and reading Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God without understanding the gospel. So you come to Sinners, and that's your only text for understanding the Puritans. You think, “Wow, Jonathan Edwards sounds angry,” and you have no idea that he's talking about, you know, being saved from that. You have no idea. So leave it there.

So secular education leaves out these big holes in people's understanding. And I remember feeling like these things are being restored as I was homeschooling with my children. These parts, these really important parts of the story.

Marlin Detweiler:

We've been addressing for years how people who have not valued a Christian education, let alone a classical Christian education. Recently just as an exercise (and I wasn't surprised, but it was still a stark reminder). I Googled “Ten most important events in history” and I never found a list that included the incarnation or God becoming man.

Now some might say, “Well, what's really important is the resurrection.” I'm kind of grouping all of those things. The presence of Christ– his work as miracles, his death, his resurrection, all as one. And even with that understanding, not a single list included that when looking at the ten most important events in history, according to the list that had been posted, and that's really telling because even the most agnostic or even atheistic historian would naturally recognize that when Christ appeared, things changed and the way people were dealt with, the creation of hospitals and universities and the way wars were fought, what wars were thought about, all of those things were dramatically impacted by that singular event. And yet they refuse or haven't, to this point, put the incarnation on the list. To me, that is one of the most dishonest things imaginable.

Mary K. Andreades:

Yeah.

Marlin Detweiler:

Even coming from it, coming at it from a secular vantage point. Any thoughts?

Mary K. Andreades:

Right, absolutely. One of the books that we teach is On the Incarnation, the granddaddy of all books about the incarnation. And I love that I get to do that with eighth graders. That is a pivotal thing in our history. And it's this giant hole that's left. You will not understand your world if you don't understand the incarnation.

Marlin Detweiler:

Yeah. It's really astounding how secular our culture has become. One of the things you mentioned, as we talked about this prior to the interview, it was the idea of fairy tales in mythology and those stories and how they shaped your childhood and how they now impact you today. Tell us about that.

Mary K. Andreades:

Yes, I think growing up– I believe in children growing up with these good stories, fairy tales, myths. They have truths in them. And I still draw on these today. I want children to have that, even if they, you know, maybe have a learning disability. The great stories are very instructive. I have now the learning about Greek mythology, learning about– I many times return to fairy tales. I think I've become that that wizened old woman in the forest that you come by when you're on your quest, and you better listen to her because she knows the way up the mountain. She knows she knows how to get around the obstacles. I've become that person.

Marlin Detweiler:

What a great analogy! There's something else that you wrote that I read recently that really needs some unpacking. “Art is long, but people are eternal.” What do you mean by that?

Mary K. Andreades:

Yeah. So, you know, I wanted to become an artist, and I still do art. I still do that. And there used to be a saying, “Life is short, art is long,” And that's true. Yes. The, you know, Beowulf that that book lasted a long time. But, you know, there's something that lasts longer than art. There's something that lasts longer than great books. And that's people. People are actually eternal. So I like to say, “Life is short, art is long, but people are eternal”. So the way we interact with these young people, that's that that has an impact for eternity. Right?

Marlin Detweiler:

Putting that in perspective, the idea of shaping a child for all of eternity is a very, very sobering consideration as we think about being parents. How would you say they're addressing people that that might say, let’s make sure I get this right, “What does Rome have to do with Jerusalem?” Is that right?

Mary K. Andreades:

Yeah, that's that was what I was thinking. Now, “What does Rome have to do with Jerusalem?”

Marlin Detweiler:

And the idea of how do classical books that we read in the Omnibus that are not of Christian content, how do they fit together with the gospel? Why are they important?

Mary K. Andreades:

That's really good. That's really a good question. So for instance, I love teaching Beowulf. Beowulf shows kind of a pagan mindset, this pagan warrior mindset in my in Omnibus class with the older students, I teach the Saga of the Bulsomes, and it's a very dark, claustrophobic worldview. Beowulf is a little different because it's written by a Christian looking back. So there's a little bit of foreshadowing, but you can learn a lot by looking at the pagan worldview. The Sigurd character, Beowulf, do we really want to go back to that in a world where there's no gospel? So reading those and contrasting them, and interacting with them together is fantastic.

Right now, on the other extreme, we're reading Moliere. Moliere was kind of a free thinker. He was not espousing a Christian worldview. And we're reading Tartuffe, which in my experience, is usually read to make fun of Christians. It seems like everybody gets this idea. Tartuffe is about a hypocrite in French enlightenment, enlightenment France. And I've seen this played on stage, and usually people say, “I have a great idea. Let's make Tartuffe a modern evangelical and make fun of that. Hahaha” That's usually what people do. But actually, it's kind of fun to read this, you know, in-house, right? Because we do encounter hypocrisy and talk about it and engage. And, you know, Mr. Moliere is really he has his own ax to grind. So analyzing the non-Christian, not being afraid of the non-Christian books, and analyzing it was very fruitful. All right. Yeah. We have for Christ and post-Christ culture. Yeah.

Marlin Detweiler:

Yeah. We've grown up with some significant element of influence that says don't touch secular things. Yeah, stay within the Christian community entirely. And our great books curriculum, the Omnibus, has said no to that way of looking at things in an effort to prepare students for anything that they encounter in life. You've seen that both as a teacher and a parent. Talk to me about the value and, if you believe so, the wisdom of doing that.

Mary K. Andreades:

Yeah. Amen. I love that. I love that about Veritas. I mean, we shouldn't be afraid about reading other cultures. Actually, one of the things I love is that right now, this semester, I taught the story of Marco Polo, and our curriculum is specifically Western civilization, which I think that's all we have time to do this pass through history.

But we, you know, we touch on Buddhism. We touch on Chinese religion, and we shouldn't be afraid of these things. We have these wonderful resources, and we have these classes where we can kind of deeply engage. And, you know, I love that. Another book I read, The Distant Mirror. I call this,”the Middle Ages, the bad parts!”

Okay. Right? Because let's face up to the bad behavior of the adults here. Right. You know, and analyze why it happened. It was terrible. You know, I don't think we need to be afraid of that. I think the gospel Christian teaching is realistic about humans and what they're like. So engaging with the bad parts of history is really important in preparing our students.

Marlin Detweiler:

The gospel is so overwhelmingly true and powerful that we need not fear those things that have attempted to dismantle it, but we have to think through them carefully and thoroughly so that they are really understood for what they are and what they aren’t. That is an alternative and wrongheaded worldview, thinking, and beliefs.

Mary K. Andreades:

Yes.

Marlin Detweiler:

How has that impacted your kids?

Mary K. Andreades:

I think they really appreciate the feeling that I was not– I think they appreciate that I was not intellectually protective. Right? Like, bring me the competitors. Let's talk about it together. Let's engage with them. And I like going to the original sources. Okay, let's not read Siddartha by, you know, some Western guy. Let's read the stories about the Buddha. Let's read the stories. Let's read the original sources. Do we really want that? I think that we– yeah, we need to engage with the original sources, and that's helpful to them. They got the feeling that they could ask any question.

Marlin Detweiler:

Right. Wonderful. What a great testimony to parenting that you have that kind of channel with your children. And I commend you for that. That is really, really good. You're teaching with Veritas has been very well-received by the students, by the administration, and by us. It's been a wonderful thing. We're so thankful to have you, and the perspective that you bring to it along with your credentials, really does validate what we're trying to accomplish. And it's so good to see it in your students and in your family. What what did I not ask you about that you might want to say before we close?

Mary K. Andreades:

Hmm.

Marlin Detweiler:

I didn't mean to stump you, so I'll fill that silence a little bit. And if there is anything, that's certainly okay, too. It has been. I think what you have here will really be impactful for those that are listening.

Mary K. Andreades:

Here's something. You know, one of the things that we study is Dante's Inferno with eighth graders. So amazing to get to do that. You know, students, middle schoolers really are– I love immersing them in the great literature, and maybe they don't pick up everything, but they pick up quite a bit.

Middle schoolers really identify with Augustine's conversion. This idea that you know, he ate the pears just for the wickedness of it, not because he even wanted the pears. He threw them to the pigs. So I love and great engaging. Another interesting one that's become a big issue when we read The Inferno, we read about Brunetto Latini, and there he is. He's in hell and he's a homosexual. And so that's a big issue. And I love that we get to talk about we don't shy away from the big issues with the kids. And what's interesting is that this man is in the inferno, not because he had same-sex attraction, but because he became an atheist in response to his difficulty.

There are repentant sinners of all kinds in higher up, in and in purgatory, and in heaven. People in the inferno didn't have a response to their difficulties. So I like to teach this issue. I like to think about how, you know, Dante is actually upset. This is a person who helped him. Like, “I am sad that you're here in Inferno, Brunetto.”

I think it's wonderful to teach that. It's not that we don't have the same difficulties other people do. It's that we have somewhere to turn with them. So I like using these classics. I like using that issue to say to students, “You may have difficulties, you may have temptations, but there are resources for you in Christianity.”

And so I can talk about that in a way that doesn't single anybody out and kind of prepare them ahead of time to face this issue. So that's something I love about that, that our curriculum allows me to do.

Marlin Detweiler:

Well, that's become more important in the last few years, too, to be able to address all kinds of unbiblical behavior and thinking. Thank you so much.

Well, today we've Mary K. Andreades. Thank you so much. You and your husband Sam have been a wonderful blessing to Veritas, and I appreciate being able to have this time with you. Keep up the great work! Thanks!

Mary K. Andreades:

Thanks so much.