10 November, 2021
We open this time with a special guest article, by Dr Simon Kennedy, Director of the Millis Institute and Senior Lecturer in Humanities at Christian Heritage College, a Research Fellow at the University of Queensland and a Scholar-in-Residence at Redlands College:
THE MELANCHTHON OPTION AND THE FUTURE OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATION
You don’t need me to convince you that Christianity faces a difficult future in the West. That’s old news. We are up against a hostile, fiercely divided public square matched by a fiercely divisive public discourse. Increasingly, anyone of a Christian disposition is unwelcome in the public arena.
True, we in Australia have a Pentecostal Prime Minister and a Roman Catholic Premier of New South Wales. But these facts are not as important as the response from elite institutions and the media to their political success. The leading edge is not who is in the Lodge so much as who controls the educational institutions and the Fourth Estate.
Back in 1939, in his lectures on The Idea of a Christian Society, T. S. Eliot articulated the quandary we are facing. It is the quandary of ‘leading a Christian life in a non-Christian society.’ Eliot argued that Christians were implicated ‘in a network of institutions from which we cannot disassociate ourselves: institutions the operation of which appears no longer neutral, but non-Christian.’
Having people like Morrison and Perrottet in powerful positions only amplifies the issue raised by Eliot; these institutions are now difficult places to operate, and the wider culture has shifted such that political activism yields only limited results. As Carl Trueman recently argued in First Things, being a faithful presence in a non-Christian society often comes at a substantial cost.
So what is our strategy? What is our ‘option’? I wonder how the hundreds of Christian schools across Australia might respond. How can Christian educators and institutions act strategically, given the circumstances?
It seems to me that Christian schools have an opportunity, and an imperative, to disciple the next generation of Christian leaders, equipping them with wisdom to navigate our dark and hostile culture.
In my day job, I oversee a liberal arts program at a Christian tertiary institution in Brisbane. My students often have had little or no exposure to the great tradition, the great books, and the liberal arts prior to beginning. Given that many come from Christian educational contexts, and humane studies ought to be home territory for Christian institutions, this is remarkable.
Allow me, then to make a proposal. It is a kind of ‘option’, not unlike the Benedict Option. Christian schools ought to aim to produce graduates ready to be combatants and ambassadors, good listeners and powerful persuaders. They ought to nurture graduates who are humble and courageous, critical and open, wise and winsome, connected to the past and also ready for the future.
These are qualities missing in our society. Our public discourse is divided and poisonous because our society no longer produces people who exemplify these things. There is a gap in the market.
What if Christian schools became known for graduates who led the church in Australia through the coming dark age? And imagine if Christian schools helped preserve all that is good from our culture and from our past, and not only preserved it but passed it on, nurturing people with fat souls, big hearts, and open minds.
This project is nothing other than the training of Christian humanists. It’s a project that needs to start early. By the time these young people reach university age, they should already be conversant with Aquinas, Augustine, Aristotle, Dante, Dostoevsky, Virgil, Beowulf and Gilgamesh.
Call it what you please. As a small-c catholic, I like The Melanchthon Option. But the Newman Option works just as well. It might sound like old news. In reality, it’s a long-term, high-impact strategy for cultural change.
This article is a revised version of a keynote speech given at the Christian Schools National Policy Forum in May 2021.
If you are intending to enrol in a summer school please do so early so that we have exact numbers. Details at the end of this newsletter. Due to Covid uncertainty the Latin school might be cancelled (for the first time ever) unless further enrolments are received soon.
Here are some more exciting new ‘anti-Woke’ institutions, with links to their websites. Thanks to our readers for these:
The University of Austin, in Texas USA
Charlotte Mason College in Queensland, Australia
The Fordham Institute (no link, it seems, to Fordham University) has a couple of branches in the US.
Sadly the UK’s Benedictus appears to have failed: its website is inactive. If any reader has further information about Benedictus, or any other schools and colleges working in this area we’d be grateful for it.
A deeply concerned Oxford physics don, Joseph Conlon, wrote this fine piece on the awfulness of ‘woke-ism’ in the modern university. This is a must-read for anybody concerned about the repressive environment in schools and universities.
NEW ETHICS WEBSITE
The Australian Catholic University has just launched a spectacular new resource: EthicsFinder is supported by a global network of over 80 philosophers and specialists from more than 50 universities and institutions. It’s actually a specialist search engine that seeks out only accurate and reliable sources. If you’re interested in any ethical questions EthicsFinder will save you from the tendentious pitfalls of Wikipedia!
On the issue of ethics, readers who have questions about the various vaccines now available or in development may find this website useful.
SUMMER SCHOOLS 2022
Bookings for both these courses should now be made online through Eventbrite. If you intend to join you are asked to enrol with full payment by the end of November. Please follow the links below:
Alternatively use any of the payment methods here.
Write for further details or to request a concessional rate or deferred payment. A full refund will be made for cancellations received at least 30 days prior to the commencement of your course.
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