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Veritas Vox Episode 6 | The History of Classical Education's Revival (part 2)

Marlin Detweiler Written by Marlin Detweiler
Veritas Vox Episode 6 | The History of Classical Education's Revival (part 2)

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How important IS it to give your child a classical Christian education and critical thinking skills? Can they simply gain these skills in college, or does it take a much greater intentional foundation for these principals to take root?

David Goodwin returns to continue the conversation on education method comparisons from episode 5. Additionally, we also discuss how COVID-19 has aided the classical Christian education movement, what it takes to start a classical school and get a sneak peek into David Goodwin’s new book, Battle for the American Mind.

Episode Transcription

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

Marlin Detweiler:

Hello, this is Marlin Detweiler with Veritas Vox, the voice of classical Christian education; our podcast, we are welcoming again David Goodwin, the president of the Association of Classical and Christian Schools, known as ACCS.

David joined us recently to give us a little bit of his personal background, and we talked a good bit about the results of classical Christian education. There was a survey done mentioned in that called Good Soil A Comparative Review, which is available on the ACCS website. So we're going to move on from that into some other areas. And maybe as a broad question for starters here, David, what other initiatives is ACCS involved in?

You mentioned a couple just in mentioning with an acrostic, and maybe that's a good starting point. Maybe there are other things that you're pretty excited about right now that you're working on, too.

David Goodwin:

Yeah, well, we have two general divisions within the ACCS. One is CADE. That was the acrostic you mentioned the Certification Accreditation– sort of building the infrastructural elements necessary to make excellent classical Christian education somewhat normative around the country, as much as it is. I mean, one thing I do want to say with that we are not materialists.

We don't want to try and structure some kind of defined and wooden understanding of classical education. There's a whole bunch of different schools within it. It's really a 2000-year-old plus tradition. So there's a lot of different variants.

Marlin Detweiler:

You know, as an aside to, I'm happy to lobby for the Veritas model being the one you adopt.

David Goodwin:

Yes! Well, we love the Veritas model, which is a great system, but there's several others as well. And so we recognize that in the 2000 years of history is a lot of people who got involved in education and various people follow various ones. And so we're kind of the one who's saying, well, that that comports with classical philosophy or it does not. And that's kind of our big hat picture with the CADE Initiative.

The other side of our work is member development creation, creation, and development. So, new members, we had a banner year last year. We had 104 new schools start in ACCS. The biggest number we've ever had seen by a lot of them by a measure of about 3x.

And so we're, as you know, Marlin, for many, many years, you and I were out on the street corners trying to tell people how great classical education was. And it just took the event of the last couple of years for people to say there's got to be an alternative to public education. And now they're all at our door.

And so everybody's trying to start schools. So we're very invested in helping schools get started, growing them up. So a school hits a couple of different milestones. When they get to 150 students or so, they're kind of in a critical area where they have to transition over into an institutional kind of school and that as opposed to like a small family type school. And so we're helping there at that transition point between 150 and 250.

And then again, going from 250 into an accredited school. And they don't have to be bigger than 250. But most often, schools of 300 to 500 apply for accreditation. So we're trying to carry them through that whole process and help develop those schools. The thing that keeps me up at night is that that Good Soil study, essentially, if you do the math and figure that the people who responded were from, you know, 24 to 43, those are alumni of schools that you and I were involved in back in the nineties. My nightmare scenario is we lose that. We lose that heritage. Obviously, those schools were doing things right, thanks to the grace of our Lord. But going forward, we want to make sure that that can be said 20 years from now.

Marlin Detweiler:

Yeah, we talked in our last session about the biggest problem that schools have: mission drift, and it tends to come from the board most frequently. I hadn't thought about it, but the idea of ACCS allowing this vision drift in its own constituents and ranks would be equally as devastating, maybe even more so.

David Goodwin:

Yes. So those are two major areas of initiative. We have a third one which is in the public arena presenting classical Christian education. Our objective is to right now, when you looked at the Cardis study; you know that we talked about in the last session; I think it's a very good indicator they didn't naturally land on classical Christian education as a category.



They surveyed the other five categories, which involved, you know, like I said, home schools, prep schools, Catholic schools, evangelical schools, and public schools. We think we need to be one of those categories on our own, not enveloped in other groups, but the classical Christian category. To do that, we have to get a lot more people aware of what it is, how it works, and why it's important. And that's been the initiative we've been focusing on in the last year or two.

Marlin Detweiler:

Wonderful! I look forward to hearing more about that because the more that we can help people understand and that it becomes household terminology, the more I believe it becomes an enthusiastically supported philosophy of education. It was life-changing for me back in 1992 when I read Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning; my response was, I got to have this for my kids.

And you probably responded similarly. And that's why we were early stages people to be involved. Today we have a broader group of people, and not everybody comes in with that enthusiasm or from that perspective, and that doesn't make it any less important, and it's a natural part of a growing organization. So I'm glad you're really thinking well about how to do that for, at least from how I see things.

So this is kind of an exciting thing. I don't know much about it, so you might have to help me with questions here. But you and Pete Hegseth, a young up-and-comer from Fox News, have written a book together that is coming out in the middle of June this year, 2022. The book is called Battle for the American Mind, Uprooting a Century of Miseducation.

What is that book about, and how did it come about?

David Goodwin:

You know, I suppose the latter question is the one that'll get us to the former. So Pete was working on he does a number of sort of man-on-the-street interviews in cafes around the country as part of his role on Fox and Friends.

Marlin Detweiler:

I see those, and I'm always wanting to see what they're having for breakfast because he picks really good places.

David Goodwin:

He does! So he was at one. He was at one not far from one of our schools down in North Carolina. And a parent came up to him and said, “Hey, if you really want a solution to this problem that we're facing, you should go talk to Dave Goodwin at ACCS.” And so eventually, he made his way to me, and we started talking, and I had written parts of a manuscript that I was planning some data to put out there but hadn't really had the time.

As you know, this job's pretty busy, and I sent a couple of chapters to him because basically, it's not a thesis you would expect Fox News, you know, their viewership– patriotism. There's a lot of that in there. And one of the themes of the book is that actually, patriotism in the school system was one of the sort of surrogates that they put in to replace Christianity back in the early part of the 20th century.

And that it really didn't have as strong of origins as maybe people think it does in terms of why it's valuable. So that was a provocative thought to Pete. So I sent him the chapter that defended that position, and he was convinced, and he said, “We got to tell the story, we got to get it out there.” So he championed it at FOX.

We did a five-hour documentary that I could never have afforded to do something this high quality. It's got a cast of amazing people from Newt Gingrich to David Victor Davis Hanson to Michael Knowles. And, you know, just a whole good group of folks talking about classical Christian education, ultimately. And so we wrote the…

Marlin Detweiler:

The book and you, you know, tell us the name of that documentary series so that we can know it. People can go find it.

David Goodwin:

Yeah, it's called The Miseducation of America, and it's on Fox Nation, which you can get a three-month complimentary subscription to with the password: classroom. So that's the inside scoop for you here! There's also a Web page for it if you want to learn more about it, miseducationofamerica.org. You can go there, and you can see more about the show, but it's only available on Fox Nation, understandably, since they paid to produce it. But I've gotten a ton of good feedback.

And the thing about the documentary is it's five 30-minute segments. They're dealing with a lot of interviews. So it's sort of what you might call inspired by the book, but it isn't really parallel with the book. The book makes a lot of it makes a lot of surprising claims that a lot of people aren't ready for. Then they see it and go, “Oh, wow, I didn't know that's why this happened.” In the documentary, there's a scene about the Pledge of Allegiance, for example, that will shock many people. And so I'll leave it at that.

Marlin Detweiler:

I'm gonna put it on my list of things to do. I actually talked to Pete a couple of weeks ago, and he mentioned it and I had known about it from the associate that introduced us. I haven't gotten around to it. But you got me motivated now.

David Goodwin:

Yeah, it's. It's. They took all of the juicy stuff from there. Not all, but a few of the juicy things from the book. The book is really an interesting thing. I the story of the creation of the book. I was doing some research at one point on the concept of paideia, which isn't a household word. A lot of people don't know about it, and I won't go into it here.

But I ran across a book by a Columbia professor that had won a Pulitzer Prize explaining the history of American education. The guy's name was Lawrence Kremen, and he had a thesis that was pretty solidly defended in three volumes of several thousand pages. So I basically continued that research. The last book was published in the 80s, so it was a little older.

So I continued it through, filled in around it, and took a Christian perspective of it. He was a secular historian, and its basic thesis was that the progressives set out around the turn of the century to captivate the American paideia to own the American paideia, which effectively shapes and directs the whole culture and the government. So that is a pretty interesting and provocative thesis.

So HarperCollins picked it up with Pete as the primary author and me as the kind of behind-the-scenes guy pumping the information into it. So that's the story in the book. It has about three parts. It starts with what's called the 16,000-hour war, which for those who may wonder where the number comes from, that's the number of hours most kids spend in school from K to 12.

Marlin Detweiler:

Okay.

David Goodwin:

And it deals with cultural Marxism in the schools, which is a popular entry point for this kind of thing. It's become very, very popular. The second part is called The Unauthorized History of American Education. And this is the -

Marlin Detweiler:

The second part of the book.

David Goodwin:

The second part of the book. Yeah. And so it goes deeply into what the progressives were doing. And it's pretty shocking. That's what did that chapter. The second section of this book is what caught Pete and got him riled up. And he's been talking about it quite a bit. He's got a lot of other people talking about it all across Fox.

So the third is the solution as big as the problem, and that's where classical Christian education comes in. So it basically prescribes classical Christian education as the solution. And I suppose the overall theme of the book is: we all think that the progressives, the common conservative, thinks that the progressive movement was to indoctrinate children in the schools. But that wasn't their purpose.

Their purpose was to remove the single ingredient that could sustain a free-thinking republic. And that's what we reveal in the book.

Marlin Detweiler:

Okay. Well, that is exciting. The book comes out June 14, 2022, and I'm going to be unabashedly commercial here, and you'll be able to buy it at Veritas Press. Of course, there are other smaller companies like Amazon that you can probably buy that, too, but you can buy it at Veritas Press too.

Dream with me here for just a moment; what would make in your mind that book a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth, seventh game of the World Series success?

David Goodwin:

Well, the reason I was passionate about getting it out there and,it's been a long road was that I think if Americans I don't want to say conservative Americans. I think if just Americans, Christians realized what the story of education has been for the last hundred and 20 years. I mean, one of the things that I often think back upon was when I left Hewlett-Packard; a lot of my peers were perplexed as to why I would go into education. It seemed like sort of a “that's nice, Dave. But, you know, there's bigger things in this world than, you know, third graders and how how they learn to read” and what you come to realize is really there aren't.

There's a reason why the Progressives spent so much time and energy getting control of the American education system K through 12. And, of course they've got the collegiate side, but that wasn't their target in 1914 when they started.

Marlin Detweiler:

And let me say something just interjecting there for a moment. My observation is clear. It's with significant examples. If you're interested in working at a collegiate level, God bless you. But if you're dealing with kids who came up in a system that was broken, it is simply stated, too late.

David Goodwin:

Yeah.

Marlin Detweiler:

I don't know how to say that any more plainly, but kids who don't have the foundation aren't going to get it in college. If they don't have– if they haven't developed the thinking skills, they can, but they're generally not taught there. It's simply too late. If a kid's beyond high school to try and turn things into a robust Christian worldview with all of the content and depth that comes out of a robust classical Christian education.

David Goodwin:

Yeah. And it's been that way longer than we know. I mean, I mean, the central theme you see, especially in this book, is that K-12 was their target. And the reason was they already held the colleges. I mean, the colleges went liberal early in the 20th century. So the problem they had was that they didn't control, and their word was “the plasticity of the child”, meaning that they would arrive at college and they could think well enough that a college professor couldn't tell them something Marxist and get them to believe it.

And then, slowly over the 20th century, they gutted the American paideia, the Christian idea, which was the source of this free-thinking citizenry to the point where colleges could start shaping kids. And you see this in the 1960s, where the radicalization of students in the 1960s was largely on college campuses, and it was because they weren't inoculated with this “vaccine,” so to speak, of the Christian idea in K-12 anymore.

So as they are now at a point where the colleges want to do is get fresh meat, they refer to it that way. They love getting fresh meat kids they can shape because the plasticity is entirely in their hands now because the kids are not trained in the– they're trained in progressive ideals. So the magnitude of what we're dealing with here is—

So you asked a very good question. What would be my hope? My prayer for the book is that it would just reset the conversation. One of the things that we say in the documentary is 100 years ago, the progressives knew that education was the key to the control of this country in the future. And if we don't take the same posture on the good side for the Christian side now, we're never going to recover.

There's no amount of politics. There's no amount of– there's just no remedy outside of training children up in the way that they should go. If we want to change the direction and the tact of this country.

Marlin Detweiler:

That's really well put. The book is called Battle for the American Mind An Uprooting a Century of Miseducation. Pete Hegseth and David Goodman, as the authors coming out, I believe, June 14, 2022, we look forward to it. I hope it meets the success that you hope for, not only for your benefit but for the benefit of our culture, which desperately needs it.

Thank you. Changing things for a moment. What's your advice for someone interested in starting a school?

David Goodwin:

Well, come to ClassicalChristian.org and go to the membership start-up area. We have a kit you can get that will pretty much get you started on the right path. It comes with a box full of books and materials and how-tos. And I think you're even in there as an author once or twice in some of the particular handbooks.

It also would give you membership to our vast database of everything from 800 conference talks, which is daunting. We've sorted them and picked out the best of them. So you don't have to listen to all of them. But nonetheless, we've got hundreds of documents. Major schools have given us their core curriculum paths, and all kinds of– you can just look, I mean, back in when you and I were doing this, there was only one school in the country people were borrowing stuff from, right? It was Logos in North Idaho. Now we've got dozens of schools helping, and we've got formulated documents that can help you do it. So that's one thing, just in terms of what the ACCS can help with.

I think the bigger thing if you want to start a classical Christian school, there are two things you got to be in prayer because you got to start praying early on and pray a lot. And that's first because second is one of the things you need to pray for is for God to send like-minded folks to join with you. You need probably 3 to 7 families that are really committed to this. And you then spend some time reading through the books, understanding the method, understanding the principles and the ideas, and then start heading down the path.

We call it the T minus 24 program. It occurs just 24 months before you start. You start through this process. So T minus 24. But we have a little timeline on there that'll help you go through.

Marlin Detweiler:

24 months. Sounds like a luxury in 1992; in fact, I can tell you we had something happen with our two oldest sons to all of a sudden out of school. And it caused me to ask some questions. I called up a golf buddy and friend, a name that you know and many of the people listening will know- RC Sproul. And I said, “Help me think through this.” And he and in his way at first said, “Well, if you think you're going to get a good education for your kids….” And at that time, we lived in Florida. “...In Florida, forget about it. The thing you need to hope for is getting the least bad education you can” I knew he was baiting me, and I was waiting for the next step, and then he says, “I have a book that you need to read.”

It was Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, which is a book that I still think is the seminal work for getting people motivated and even on the same page. And so we met on May 26, 1992, to discuss whether or not to start a school that took about 10 minutes. There were four couples there, and the rest of the night was planning the school because it only took us 10 minutes to decide we were going to do it.

We had a lot of help from a lot of people, and we opened the school exactly three months later on August 26, 1992, with, I believe, 37 or 38 students, and it was a very busy summer. And I don't recommend it unless you have a name like R.C. Sproul to handle speaking at your parent nights. That helped a lot.

David Goodwin:

Yes. Well, one of the things back then is we often, you know, maybe we didn't get fully incorporated or get our 501-C3 status before we actually opened the doors of the school. So we kind of recommend that it works the other. You kind of got to get the paperwork.

Marlin Detweiler:

To get things in order.

David Goodwin:

But you can definitely crash the schedule. I mean, you don't have to take 24 months. It can be done in 12, it can be done in six. The school I was associated with, the Ambrose School in Boise, we, I think, decided go no, go in May. And we were online with three, count them, three whole students. By the first day in September.

So if you can do it any number of ways, and of course, now that school's got well over 600 students, it's great.

Marlin Detweiler:

That's great. Well, let me ask you one last question here, and then I'll let you go. ACCS The Association of Classical and Christian Schools obviously serves schools. Veritas serves both schools and homeschools. So I expect a lot of people that are listening to you today are from the homeschool community. What can the homeschool community glean from or learn from ACCS?

David Goodwin:

Well, we're fundamentally a schools organization, but that is a pretty loose term. It can extend down quite a ways. So where we choose to define the lower boundary is where you have some kind of a program, whether it's a consortium of parents in a pod school or a full kind of like a shared instructional model where your kids go to school a couple of days a week.

Marlin Detweiler:

Co-op, maybe?

David Goodwin:

Co-Ops. The one delineation for us to serve fully a school is that they have to have a diploma in a program. So homeschool co-ops that don't have a prescribed course of study or a diploma at the end of it don't qualify for membership, but all the others do. And so we have a lot of members in those categories, and we can help members a lot because our database is we've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars building this thing. It's pretty, pretty established. I used to be in the tech industry, so this is an area I knew how to do.

May not know how to teach third grade, but I can work with a computer. So that's one thing, and the other is our open websites, both classicalchristian.org and classicaldifference.org and classicaldifference.com.

They have lots of information that can be helpful to homeschoolers. So if you want to look at that and one of the things that we have our affiliates, I'm pretty sure Veritas is an affiliate. And so homeschoolers can kind of get a traffic direction there as to every potential supplier of curriculum. And, you know, just sort of the basics of classical Christian education.

There's a long-form document on what is classical Christian education. There's some resources you can buy. You can buy the Good Soil study if you want.

Marlin Detweiler:

I have enjoyed our time over these two sessions. You've been very helpful. The work that you're doing remains as important today as it was when ACCS started more than 25 years ago. And all I can say is keep up the great work and let's keep praying and seeing if we can't see our culture redeemed for Christ. It is in desperate need, and more people see it today than did a couple of decades ago, that's for sure. Thank you.

David Goodwin:

Thank you. It was a pleasure to be with you, Marlin.

Marlin Detweiler:

All right. Take care.

David Goodwin:

Goodbye.