The Liberal Arts Tradition: A Philosophy of Classical Christian Education (Revised Edition)
“The foundational distinction between traditional education and modern education is that the ancients believed that education was fundamentally about shaping loves.”
The Liberal Arts Tradition: A Philosophy of Christian Classical Education introduces readers to a paradigm for understanding a classical education that transcends the familiar 3-stage pattern of grammar, logic, and rhetoric. Instead, this book describes the liberal arts as a central part of a larger and more robust paradigm of classical education that should consist of piety, gymnastic, music, liberal arts, philosophy, and theology. The Liberal Arts Tradition also recovers the means by which classical educators developed more than just intellectual virtue (by means of the 7 liberal arts) but holistically cultivated the mind, body, will, and affections. This is a must-read for educators who want to take a second big step toward recovering the tradition of classical education.
What’s in the Revised Edition?
Now in hardcover, the revised edition of The Liberal Arts Tradition has been expanded and updated throughout to reflect the most recent understandings and philosophies of classical education. It also includes 40 percent new content, featuring:
- Expanded Trivium pieces
- Expanded “Moral Philosophy” piece, with more nuanced discussions of virtue and the role of the Church
- Completely new “Calling, Culture, and Curriculum” section addressing (1) biblical foundations for classical Christian education, (2) the relationship of classical Christian education to the Church and other cultures, and (3) the relationship between the liberal, common, and fine arts
- Revised “Natural Philosophy” piece
- Updated paradigm of the liberal arts tradition
- New appendices, including one on reading and one entitled “A New Natural Philosophy”
Praise for the Revised Edition
“Just look at this book’s table of contents to see how much is included in it. It’s more than the old ‘seven liberal arts,’ but it builds on them. It is an education of the whole person, not just the calculating intellect. But it is not less ‘intellectual’ for that, but more so. . . . This book is a description of that educational program. It’s precious—because children are precious.” —from the foreword by Peter Kreeft, Boston College
“The Liberal Arts Tradition selects luminous threads from ancient, medieval, modern, and contemporary philosophers, theologians, and practitioners and weaves them into a rich tapestry. The book offers a coherent picture of how the longer tradition of classical liberal arts education attends to the integrated intellectual, moral, aesthetic, spiritual, and physical formation of students. Its goal is people and cultures that know the true, do the good, make the beautiful, and love the holy. Even more important, however, The Liberal Arts Tradition demonstrates how this tradition is being recovered, adapted, and practiced in schools today. For, like any tradition, this one is not static. Clark and Jain are not antiquarian archaeologists, nor are they peddlers of archaic novelties. Instead, they are astute educators who have received a humane tradition, practiced it, sifted it, and are now sharing it with others. We are all beneficiaries of their work. I am especially delighted with the rare attention they give to the poetic mode, the formation of virtue in community, the fine and common arts, the importance of festive leisure, and the necessary connection between a school’s calling, culture, and curriculum. Anyone interested or involved in classical liberal arts education—school boards, administrators, educators, faculty, parents, or students—should be grateful for this very fine work from Kevin Clark and Ravi Scott Jain.” —Brian Williams, Dean, Templeton Honors College and College of the Arts & Humanities; Assistant Professor of Ethics & Liberal Studies, Eastern University
“This book is an indispensable guide to Christian liberal arts education. It is thoroughly researched and presented as a cogent model for contemporary schools. I love the emphasis on teaching that is rooted in piety and directed by theology, with places for all the liberal arts in this context. Unlike some advocates of classical schools, Clark and Jain do not neglect the training of the body, the role of music, and the place of the natural sciences. I pray this book will gain a broad readership, and I expect it to prove fruitful in the preparation of young people for the challenges of life.” —Dr. John Frame, Professor of Systematic Theology & Philosophy, Reformed Theological Seminary
“I have learned a great deal from The Liberal Arts Tradition and find myself frequently going back to it as a reminder, in the same way that a person trying to navigate regularly checks a map to see where he is and remember where he is going. In particular, Clark and Jain have done a great service to the classical education community by expressing the methods and reasoning behind the classical teaching of math and science.” —Michael Robinson, PhD
“The progress of a society can be no faster than the progress of providing a good education for the people who make up that society. To put education first is to put society first. So what is a good education? In The Liberal Arts Tradition, Kevin Clark and Ravi Scott Jain answer this question by setting before us a compelling Christian vision for the rediscovery and reformation of classical education for today.
“Not since Dorothy Sayers’s essay ‘The Lost Tools of Learning’ and Mortimer Adler’s Paideia Proposal have we had such a substantive contribution to the Christian classical school movement. Especially noteworthy is the holistic nature of this philosophy and methodology of Christian education that focuses on the development of both the student’s soul (piety and music) and body (gymnastics). In The Liberal Arts Tradition, Clark and Jain present the cultivation of a student’s godly character as the primary goal toward which all the curriculum points, not merely filling their minds with information, but enlarging their heart affections toward God and others. And central to this model is the development of all these competencies in the context of the family and Church as the students’ primary learning communities.
“Clark and Jain have masterfully designed this educational model to help guide students on the learning pathways the ancients intended: integrating the Trivium arts (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) and the Quadrivium arts (arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy) as the foundational paths to prepare students for the study and application of philosophy and theology in all spheres of life.
“The nations of the world need nothing less than an educational revolution, a global movement deeply committed to providing the world with access to the kind of quality education outlined in this book. I highly recommend it.” —Dr. Steve Childers, President & CEO of Pathway Learning; former professor, Reformed Theological Seminary
Praise for the First Edition
The Liberal Arts Tradition was awarded the Afterthoughts Book of the Year award in 2016 by Brandy Vencel, author of Afterthoughts blog. The first edition was also recommended by the International Journal of Christianity & Education.
“We needed this book and now it’s here. Clark and Jain explain the inner logic of classical education in a manner fully consistent with the heritage of classical education with no ideological twists and turns and a level of scholarly inquiry that will enrich the classical renewal for a long time. Once you’ve read a book or two to introduce you to classical education and have started to ask the deeper questions about its history and nature, get this book and use it as a permanent reference.” —Andrew Kern, President, CiRCE Institute
“Clark and Jain have produced a wonderful book that lays out clearly where classical Christian education needs to go from here. This volume marks the successful passing of the torch lit by Sayers and Wilson to a new generation. All involved in classical Christian education would benefit highly from heeding these new voices.
“I teach a course on classical Christian education [in which] students read many of the pillars of the movement such as Sayers, Wilson, Littlejohn, and Evans, but the book that resonated with them the most was Clark and Jain’s. This volume should prove going forward to be essential reading for anyone connected with the classical Christian school movement.
“Clark and Jain, while appreciative of the good work done by the pioneers of contemporary classical Christian schools, have nevertheless produced a revolutionary book for the movement. By digging deeply into the history and theology of the Trivium and the Quadrivium, Clark and Jain demonstrate how classical Christian schools today can and should be so much more than a simple three-part formula for learning. I sincerely hope their words will be heard and heeded.” —Jason R. Edwards, Associate Professor of History and Humanities, Grove City College
“This book is an important contribution to the classical education movement in three major ways. At one level, it presents a complete liberal arts curriculum in the context of a holistic vision of Christian formation. At the same time, it offers an account of the liberal arts that extends beyond the customary emphasis on the verbal arts (Trivium) by including the mathematical arts (Quadrivium). As a result, it also notably locates a subtle and practical training in the modern sciences within classical education. The authors speak to these issues based on their unique combination of training in math, science, philosophy, and literature, as well as their crucial experience as classroom teachers. The book suggests what may yet be possible for those answering the call of the scholar-teacher.” —Phillip J. Donnelly, PhD, Director of the Great Texts Program, Honors College, Baylor University
“In an age in which education is generally assumed to be a crassly utilitarian enterprise, Clark and Jain provide a refreshing reminder of what education for centuries has been understood to be. Through astute historical and philosophical analysis, they offer an introduction to the liberal arts tradition that is both accessible and thorough, both theoretical and practical.” —David Diener, PhD, Head of Upper Schools, Covenant Classical School; Adjunct Philosophy faculty, Taylor University
“Ravi Scott Jain and Kevin Clark have given us a book we have needed for a long time. Scrupulously researched, thoroughly documented, tightly argued—and best of all, readably concise. This is henceforth the ‘go-to’ book for anyone serious about developing an historically accurate and theologically compelling classical Christian education. Our longstanding imbalance has been a classical humanities emphasis accompanied by the limping stepchild of mathematics. We have loved rhetoric and despised geometry. The first half of our curriculum has thus been genuinely ancient; but the latter, modernist. We recovered and elevated the language-based Trivium, so long lost in the ashes of history. For this we must thank Sayers and Wilson, among others. But along the way we failed to recover the mathematics-based Quadrivium, and thus essentially gutted fully half the classical curriculum of the seven liberal arts that we say we value so much—and I say this as a humanities scholar-teacher. The brilliant classical move of this book is to show us how to complete that second recovery, and why we simply must implement it, including the musico-gymnastic element. But more importantly, the equally brilliant Christian move of the book is to reframe the entire curriculum and its pedagogy with the bookends of piety at the origins and philosophical theology as the goal. We have the blueprint now—let’s get to work!” —Grant Horner, Associate Professor of Renaissance and Reformation Studies, The Master’s College; Teacher-Mentor, Trinity Classical Academy, Santa Clarita, CA
“Some of us, after having immersed ourselves in the Trivium, thanks to Dorothy Sayers’s essay and many other wonderful resources, have found ourselves wondering, What else? We know there are seven liberal arts, including the Quadrivium, and we don’t know exactly what to do with these other four, where to go next. Clark and Jain’s The Liberal Arts Tradition has the answers, and provides them in a clear, concise, nonpartisan way. If you are wondering, What else? then this is one resource you need to have on your bookshelf.” —Matt Bianco, Director of The Lost Tools of Writing, Curriculum Development, and Training, CiRCE Institute (Read Matt Bianco’s more in-depth review of the first edition in this article from the Society for Classical Learning)
“Kevin and Ravi joined the Great Conversation many years ago. They know its rhythms, complexities, elegance, and narrative. In meditative fashion they learn by listening; in teaching they gain clarity; in life these embodied practices flourish in themselves and unto others. In short, these men have made me a better man.” —Robert F. Ingram, Headmaster, The Geneva School
“Jain and Clark bring to the still-young conversation around the recovery of classical schooling for Christian purposes a combination that has been rare thus far. First, they adhere to a scholarly motif, painstakingly referencing and noting a wide range of literature, from ancient theorists to modern experimentalists. Second, they are bona fide schoolmen; teachers who have worked in the same school for a decade, and who, together, have honed their craft—you can hear the symbiosis in their prose. Third, they have filed and planed and shaved an immense topic into an accessible work. Some books illustrate, others examine familiar topics from different perspectives. Jain and Clark’s work moves the conversation about the liberal arts in the modern school to a new level of sophistication and practicality.” —Charles T. Evans, BetterSchools, LLC, and Coauthor with Robert Littlejohn of Wisdom and Eloquence: A Christian Paradigm for Classical Learning
“The Liberal Arts Tradition is a great gift to classical homeschooling mothers. Beautifully written, heart-stopping truth graces each page. An antidote to my own progressive education, this book has reordered my thoughts and priorities. It is an irresistible call back to humanity, wholeness, and wonder.” —Lesli Richards, Coauthor of The Homegrown Preschooler
“I can think of no book that sums up the essence of classical Christian education better. Clark and Jain masterfully weave together the liberal arts tradition as it forms culture in our children. Never before has this paideia activity been more important for Christians to understand.” —David Goodwin, President, Association of Classical Christian Schools
“A few weeks ago, I ordered two copies of The Liberal Arts Tradition: A Philosophy of Christian Classical Education from Classical Academic Press. One copy is for myself. The other copy is for the principal of the parochial school my four children attend. You might say that each copy is worth its weight in gold. I found the text to be an informative synthesis of many important sources and topics related to educational methods. And just today, the principal of my children’s school asked me to consider leading a faculty and staff development program utilizing the text.” —Rev. John O’Brien
“I just spent the last two weeks poring over, contemplating, and discussing with my husband the book The Liberal Arts Tradition. These last two years I have been asking God to help me delve deeper into classical education as I have felt that I have only barely scratched the surface. Even though I have read many books on the subject, this was the first book that really began answering many of my questions. Thank you, I truly mean it. What you all are doing and what you are producing have been just what our family needs.” —Jennifer, homeschool mom
Dr. Kevin Clark is the president of The Ecclesial Schools Initiative (ESI, esischools.org), an organization he founded in 2019 to help underserved families in Florida receive better access to Christian liberal arts education. Before founding ESI, Kevin served as academic dean of the Geneva School in Winter Park, Florida, where he also taught for fifteen years. Kevin is an Alcuin fellow with The Society for Classical Learning and a member of the teaching faculty in the Master of Arts in Classical Teaching program at The Templeton Honors College. Kevin earned a BA in philosophy from the University of Central Florida, an MA in theological studies from Reformed Theological Seminary, and a DLS from Georgetown University, where he wrote on liberal arts education and interdisciplinary practice.
Kevin is not simply a philosopher, however; he loves stories—especially reading them aloud to his children—and thinks Sarah Mackenzie’s Read-Aloud Revival might save the world. He understands his vocation as a Christian educator to be in service of the Church and the family as they seek to train children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. This means that for Kevin, Christian classical education is not simply a matter of academic preparation; it’s about seeing Christ’s Church flourish as a new generation of men and women bring the wisdom, beauty, and justice of New Creation to bear for God’s glory and the life of the world.
Ravi Scott Jain graduated from Davidson College with a BA and interests in physics, ancient Greek, and international political economy. He worked at various churches, received an MA from Reformed Theological Seminary, and later earned a graduate certificate in mathematics from the University of Central Florida. He began teaching calculus and physics at the Geneva School in 2003 and since that time has developed an integrated double-period class called “The Scientific Revolution.” In this class, the students read primary sources such as Galileo and Newton in order to recapitulate the narrative of discovery while preserving the mathematical and scientific rigor expected of a college-level treatment. He also teaches AP Calculus BC, in which the students strive to discover and demonstrate the “most beautiful theorem in mathematics,” and AP Physics C, in which the students encounter Faraday, Maxwell, and Einstein. Ravi has given more than 100 talks and workshops throughout the country and overseas on topics related to education, theology, mathematics, and science. He has served as a deacon in his church and is an Alcuin fellow. He has two boys, Judah and Xavier. After the duties of the week have been discharged (often by about 8:53 on Saturday night), in the few hours that remain, he enjoys spending time with his wife Kelley Anne, whom he met in Japan, as well as with the rest of his family and friends.
Ravi Scott Jain: Looking Over Galileo’s Shoulder in the Classical Christian Classroom