The other day Mr. Paone and I were discussing an article that he read concerning interpreting literature.  He explained to me that the first step was to understand the original meaning and intent of the text.  For example, Proverbs tells us “dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight (Proverbs 11:1, NKJV).”  The original context of this passage deals with merchant transactions.  The next step is to understand the implicit meaning of the text, such as justice and honesty are required in every area of life.  Then Mr. Paone told me, “the final stage is asking what the text means to the individual person.” I could not help mentioning that he now sounded like a progressive educator to me because of his choice of language.  Yet, when I asked him what he meant, he was talking about how to apply the original explicit and implicit meaning of the text to our lives.  I retold this story to Dr. Helgerson, who pointed out that this is what homileticians have always done with the interpretation of scripture.  This story highlights one of the important elements of a classical education that stands in opposition to reader-response criticism that locates the meaning of a text in the reader.  How we approach literature, especially the great books of the Western Canon, is vitally important to the development of Christian thinkers and communicators.  Language arts today is the epicenter of the clash of ideas and values in our society today.  In the book we recently read at our Christian worldview book club, James Sire writes:

“In the Middle Ages, theology was the queen of the sciences. In the Enlightenment, philosophy, and especially science, became the leading edge of intellectual cultural change. In the postmodern age, literary theory once led the way. To anyone who did graduate work in English in the early 1960s this move seems both sudden and surprising. But in the 1960s literary theory began to become both sophisticated and culturally relevant. While scientists continued to do what they had done for over a hundred years, and philosophers trained their focus on smaller and smaller matters of analytic philosophy, a new mode of thinking about thinking emerged and quickly evolved. A kind of Precambrian burst of new ideas fired the imagination of backwater English departments, whose younger scholars did not just move into the mainstream but became the mainstream. The babbling brooks of Marx and Freud fed into the sedate pools of Southern gentlemanly New Criticism and historical criticism, stirring the waters. Then fresh springs from anthropology (Claude Lévi-Strauss), sociology (Foucault, Lyotard), feminism (Kate Millet, Elaine Showalter) and linguistics (Ferdinand de Saussure) came with such force that the eddies of literary study became the mainstream of intellectual life.”[1]

The effect of the shift in the cultural shaping power to language arts studies is still being felt today.  This makes sense because stories shape our ideas.  Fortis Academy is intentionally emphasizing and investing in classical Christian language arts as well as communications (since oral communication is just as important as written communication).  It is imperative that our children learn to think well, communicate well, and be able to analyze everything they experience in the light of scripture.  Please join us at our vision and strategy meeting on Monday, April 2nd at 7:00 p.m. where will explain how we are going to develop Christian thinkers and communicators at Fortis Academy.

[1] Sire, James W.. The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog, 5th Edition (pp. 229-230). IVP Academic. Kindle Edition.

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