03 October 2012

Dead White Guys

In the world of Christian Classical Education, an objection one often hears is that Classical Education is just the study of dead white guys, and therefore somehow inadequate to speak to the diversity of the world we live in today. Ignoring the fact that this betrays a terrible ignorance of the ancient world (do people seriously think that Minoans, Mycenaeans, Hittites, Babylonians, Egyptians, Carthaginians, etc. were all white guys?) there are two assumptions in that statement.

The first assumption is the "dead" part. The assumption is that humans today are so vastly different from humans in the past that dead guys have nothing to say to us that can meaningfully affect our lives. If you believe this, I once again invite you to read some history and find out that human beings are essentially the same today as they have always been.

The second assumption is the "white" part. The assumption is that if a person's skin is on the light side, then he can't possibly understand the perspective of someone whose skin is a bit darker, and therefore we should read books written by people of varying races in order to understand one another.

 Okay, I'll take the bait on this one. What would happen if we started having our students in classical schools read works by and about non-European non-white people. Perhaps we could read some things written by Africans. We could perhaps start with people like Augustine of Hippo, Athanasius, Tertullian and Origen. You know, the people who are given so much time and attention in the diverse public schools. Wait a minute! You mean public schools don't read about these guys? That's Christian Classical Education that does that? Oops, my bad.


DebD said...

Good thoughts. You made me think of that famous quote from Chesterton on tradition.

I am curious why you have a icon of Origen - he's not a saint, neither East nor West. It's also just an odd icon altogether. It has Greek but doesn't look Eastern at all (Jesus in the Chalice and the flame above Origen's head). At least the Blessed Augustine icon is decidedly Western.

Rick said...

I have no clue where the Origen icon comes from. I just did a google image search for Origen and it was the first color picture I saw. :)