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The Good Soil Report: The Lifelong Benefits of a Classical Christian Education

by Jennifer Martin

In 2018 and 2019, the Association of Classical Christian schools commissioned a study by the University of Notre Dame to see if there were any long term benefits of a distinctly classical Christian education. The questions were not created by ACCS or Notre Dame, but, instead, were based upon the Cardus Education Study that assessed adults ranging from the ages of 23-44 who attended various types of schools. The survey included questions about graduates’ spiritual lives, their overall outlook on life, their ability to think independently, and their ability to influence their culture. The results, compiled in the Good Soil report, show that students who receive a classical Christian education are more likely to be successful in these areas.

Why is this the case? David Goodwin, the author of the Good Soil report, says that it has to do with the type of culture created in a school:

“Jesus’ kingdom, like every kingdom or nation, has a culture. The primary function of paideia in the ancient world was the cultivation of culture in children. Paideia is often translated ‘education’, but the concept is much bigger, encompassing the steady cultivation of deep, rich lives where the Gospel can take root and flourish. Ephesians 6 uses this Greek word paideia when it commands fathers to raise their children in the paideia of the Lord.”

One might assume that every Christian school has a similar paideia, but the Good Soil report shows that this isn’t true. The “steady cultivation” that the ancients focused on when educating their children was virtue and wisdom, through the teaching of the mind, the soul, and the body by means of the liberal arts. The Church of the Middle Ages believed that studying the liberal arts led one to the highest subject: theology. While many modern Christian schools use the same educational methods that secular schools use, classical Christian schools believe a study in the liberal arts is the best way to cultivate learning. This distinct culture is evident throughout the school day in the various ways that the author Goodwin presents:

“The combination of a wide and deep reading in the classics and student engagement around Socratic discussion tables tells part of the story. So does a focus on respect, manners, and a serious academic pursuit. Logic trains students to think well; rhetoric integrates all knowledge and challenges students to think at an advanced level; Latin to understand more precisely.”

The Good Soil report demonstrates that this type of culture helps students become lifelong learners better than any other type of secular or Christian education. Not only this, but classically trained students are also better prepared for college without having to spend a myriad of school hours on practicing for college entrance exams. According to the chart below, students from classical Christian schools said that they felt more prepared for college than even their prep school peers.

By focusing on helping students live a virtuous life, we believe that they will also be prepared for college without having to sacrifice the former for the latter. We have always said at Anthem that our purpose is to teach students in a way that improves their lives well into adulthood rather than focusing merely on getting into college. The Good Soil report demonstrates that a classical education prepares students for both.

According to the study, students who attended classical Christian schools also have a more positive outlook on life and a clear sense of purpose. According to the chart below, classical Christian students display more gratitude, embrace suffering as part of God’s plan, and feel a strong sense of purpose in their lives.

These students are also less threatened by conflict and are more likely to build relationships with those who hold beliefs different than their own. Students who are challenged to think through a variety of worldviews, while strengthening their own, feel more confident in their faith. The study of logic, rhetoric, philosophy, literature, and history all help students develop this comfortability. They don’t see this learning as a threat to their walk with Christ, but rather, they see an opportunity to engage with those around them. Chart 7 shows how this comfortability allows classical Christian students to hold a greater sphere of influence in their communities. This is, perhaps, the most significant difference between classical Christian students and other students from the survey. Tangible ways of influence include speaking out against injustice in the community, volunteering in both Christian and secular organizations, and being a faithful member of the local church.

These are just a few examples of the positive impact a classical Christian education can have on students well after their school years. While we in no way believe that a child’s salvation rests upon where they attend school, we do believe wholeheartedly that school culture matters in the shaping of a child’s affections. We encourage you to read the rest of the Good Soil report below to see for yourself. We hope you will consider enrolling your child at Anthem so you can see firsthand how deep roots can help the Gospel thrive in your child’s life.

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