Fall has arrived with shorter days, cooler nights, the beginning of another school year…. And our annual Fall Appeal. This is our only direct request for support we make each year, and we hope it finds you safe and well from the ravages of the pandemic and any of the other calamities afflicting our land and world. Last year amid local fires and national turmoil Gil Bailie and I did our best to stay on the job ‘keeping faith and breaking ground’. Gil’s latest manuscript is currently being reviewed by a publisher and we have completed bringing several of Gil’s presentations from the 1990’s, including the latest – Reflections on the Bible: Creation, Fall, & Sacrifice, into the digital age. You may listen to an excerpt from this here:
With the help of those who find our efforts worthy of support we hope to continue this work as Gil begins a new writing project and we bring more items from the audio archives into our podcast libraries as well as CD and MP3 offerings in our webstore.
We invite you to read Gil’s reflections on adapting to our current cultural and historical situation and also about our current efforts to engage with Christian classical educators. Thank you for your interest in our efforts, and we ask you to please respond generously to our request for support.
Our introduction over the summer to Christian classical education opened our eyes to the possibilities of engagement with this important and vibrant alternative to government schools and academic institutions where Christian faith and culture are increasingly scorned. Among those leading this educational renewal René Girard’s influence is already apparent in the concept of ‘mimetic teaching’ adapted from one of Gil Bailie’s articles in 2006. Our interest in this, however, began a few years before Gil’s article appeared.
In the first years of the new millennium we were contacted by a woman who was the founder and head of a prestigious private school in Washington DC. She invited us to come to her home and discuss how Gil’s work might be made available to a wider audience. She eventually decided to fund the initial iteration of what later became the Emmaus Road Initiative. That multi-year project brought Gil Bailie to a dozen venues across the country and ultimately came to fruition in the publication of God’s Gamble – The Gravitational Power of Crucified Love. In our conversations with her over the subsequent years she expressed apprehension at the societal and academic changes she saw effecting the education of children and adolescents. Often the identification of the underlying causes of this concern were difficult to pinpoint among all the noise and distractions of rapidly evolving technologies and educational theories, but the evidence was obvious – education was in trouble. When our patroness passed away in 2009 a movement known as Classical Liberal Education was already well underway that would begin to address the underlying causes in primary and secondary schools through a return to basic educational principles found in the teaching of grammar, logic, and rhetoric (the trivium) and arithmetic, astronomy, music, and geometry (the quadrivium).
Needless to say, this approach is no minor adjustment to the current Common Core educational schema but rather a dramatic deviation and rejection of it. Homeschooling Christian families became interested in this alternative to the secular curricula available from the educational establishment. Today there are many rapidly growing Christian classical schools around the country.
With the help of some on our board of directors who have experience in Christian/Catholic classical education Gil and I have been learning how our efforts may align with both classical educators and those training them. We look forward in the coming months and years to exploring ways for integrating our efforts into these educational renewal projects.
Schools have recently become another point of contention in the on going remaking of culture where “woke” elites have felt it necessary to overhaul traditional values and standards in order to instantiate the autonomous cosmopolitan gender fluid ‘new person’ in the lives of school children. It looks as if they may have pushed this too far for many parents who during the pandemic lockdowns witnessed some of this propaganda being foisted onto their children. For many parents this is not acceptable. However, with public schools being funded by property taxes and private schools charging tuition it is difficult for financially struggling parents to find alternatives. Charter schools, some of which have undertaken the classical liberal education model, are one option. Many Catholic schools have begun to transition to the classical model as well. But until parents are given the freedom to choose the school they wish to send their children to by means of some kind of voucher system the government run schools will have the advantage of public funding.
One of the vendors at the conferences we attended this summer has produced a short video about the historical setting of public education in America and the alternative perspectives fostered in classical liberal education. We feel even this depiction, lacking as it does a mimetic understanding of personhood, shows where the work we do can help provide a more Catholic and grounded understanding of the goals of education.
We will be keeping those interested in our work updated on our efforts to bring René Girard’s mimetic theory and the insights of Catholic thought to bear on these important topics. But, as we always say, none of this would be possible without the support we receive from our donors and the prayers of all who find value in our efforts. Please make a donation if you find our work helpful. We wish all a happy Thanksgiving and a blessed Advent!