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Wanted: A Classical Education for an Essential Technical Job

Posted by Ben Thomas on Apr 29, 2020 12:52:58 PM

If you spend 5 minutes talking to either one of my boys, you will guess they will be engineers or scientists one day. Their logical expression of ideas and passion for things mechanical and chemical defines their interactions with the world. As an electrical engineer, that makes me smile. And as I listen to all the recent talk about how “technical jobs” are essential and likely will survive through this time of crisis, the smile widens. Surely every parent wants to think they are preparing their child for a stable and successful future.

Help wantedWhich brings the question asked of me a few times a year, “well then, aren’t you concerned about being at Caldwell with their classical education model?” Just the opposite. They are at Caldwell Academy by design. I have come to believe these types of questions stem from a lack of understanding about what a classical education is, rather than a belief that it is unsuited for today’s environment. And it is easy enough to do, mainly because classical education is rightfully, but generically described as involving the liberal arts. Unfortunately, in America we have come to associate this term for non-technical universities and degrees that don’t dive deep into hard science. In truth, the classical education of today is much different.


Wisdom and EloquenceThe book Wisdom and Eloquence is a great source for better understanding the classical education model.  It offers the idea that the first 3 liberal arts of the Trivium (Grammar, Dialectic, Rhetoric) is not enough for a well-rounded education. Cultivation of these language arts must be combined with the cultivation of the mathematical arts of the Quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music). This is classical education as it is often taught today, and why it prepares children like no other for the jobs and careers of tomorrow. In short, it develops the whole brain.

On the other end of the spectrum, the public education system and some public-private schools both seem to be obsessed with magnet programs, hyper-focusing on singular disciplines, and often polarizing into left brain or right brain areas of study. You likely have heard this term before, something like “he is so left-brained”. This comes from an understanding of brain function lateralization, which is the tendency for some neural functions or cognitive processes to be specialized to one side of the brain or the other. Pop psychology has taken this notion to a position of absolutes, rather than tendencies, and hence the phrases tossed around today. But the idea is still relevant and important when considering how education exercises the brain. Left brain is associated with analytical thought, math, science, and logic, while the right brain is associated with holistic perception, imagination, and creativity. 


iStock-532465705 brain


So while a math and science magnet school focuses on the left brain and could indeed boost a child into a technical field, it’s intense focus can leave other aspects of his or her education well short of what is needed.  An intense focus on “left brain” science to a determent of “right brain” development is not building the whole brain needed for long term success. In contrast, classical education, by design, ensures whole brain development, including the math, science, and so much more. Unfortunately, my right brain development came only through a twenty-year career of struggle and immense work to move from engineering into business development, but successfully up the corporate ladder. I was blessed with patient mentors and time, in a booming economy. That leaves too much to chance, and for my boys I needed a more defined path. Caldwell’s classical Christian education delivers a crafted whole brain learning experience to prepare our children for any opportunity that comes, including those essential technical jobs and careers that increasingly dominate our economy.


In closing, a quote from a book I recommend, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, by Daniel H. Pink. He offers this perspective, “ “…left-brain” capabilities that powered the Information Age—are necessary but no longer sufficient. And the capabilities we once disdained or thought frivolous—the “right-brain” qualities of inventiveness, empathy, joyfulness, and meaning—increasingly will determine who flourishes and who flounders.”


Brain photo:

Creator: BlueLela, Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto, Copyright: BlueLela


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Topics: Classical Education, Parenting, Secondary Education, Primary Education, STEM, Science in Classical