As a strong supporter of the classical Christian school movement, I experience regular pushback from those who perceive this form of education as white, Western-only, and male-dominated. This antagonism has been amplified with the national attention drawn by Thomas Achord, the classical school headmaster who ran a white supremacist Twitter account under a pseudonym. When Association of Classical Christian Schools founder Doug Wilson raised money in support of Achord, he darkened the connection with the classical school movement.
Over two decades ago a colleague of mine, Dr. Preston Jones, warned, “If the Christian classical schools movement is going to be taken seriously in the academic world in the long run, its members would probably do well to distance themselves from some of their current leaders.” He points a finger specifically at Wilson for his 1996 book Southern Slavery as It Was (Canon Press), which appears to attempt a defense of Margaret Mitchell’s romanticized version of antebellum slavery (I don’t plan to read it). Add to this indictment Canon Press’s 2022 publication of The Case for Christian Nationalism by Stephen Wolfe, Achord’s co-host on their podcast, and one must ask: Is white supremacy a bug or a feature of classical Christian education?
White supremacy has zero place in classical Christian education. It must be rooted out with the same force with which abolitionists sought to purge America of the evil of slavery. We must separate ourselves from those who knowingly support any form of racism and misogyny, while also undergoing an honest self-examination in the process. (I’m adding misogyny to the equation because white supremacy in America has a tendency to go hand in hand with the oppression of women.) If we in the classical Christian school movement want to combat accusations of racism and patriarchy, we need to consider carefully our textbooks, conference speakers, and public statements, walking the talk in the curriculum we teach, the public intellectuals we promote, and the output we produce.
When one of the authors of The Black Intellectual Tradition: Reading Freedom in Classical Literature, Dr. Angel Adams Parham, recently led a professional development for the teachers at the school I helped found, she reframed the issue for the faculty: The question is not whether we want to be a diverse school—whether we will, in her words, “sprinkle diversity” through the curriculum—but whether we will accurately tell the truth about the classical tradition and the Christian tradition that we purport in our name.