In the words of Adam Andrews, a reader must be able to understand an author's ideas before interacting with those ideas. Teaching the Classics provides the tools for understanding what authors through their work are saying about the world; Teaching the Classics: Worldview Supplement finishes the job by offering the tools for evaluating the messages in literature from a Christian perspective.
This is a necessarily delicate task. It's impossible to point to any work of literature and say "true" or "false" without exception, and so we need to moderate our approach to allow for two kinds of truth: material truth (that which is factually true), and poetic truth (that which is qualitative or essential in nature, rather than quantitative).
That does not mean we should be vague in our presentation of biblical Christian truth, and that is precisely why this course was developed. Andrews walks you through the elements of separating truth from falsehood in fiction, identifying first the author's worldview, and then discussing how that does or doesn't fit into a Christian worldview.
How Does This Work?
The core of Teaching the Classics: Worldview Supplement consists of two DVDs and a syllabus/workbook. Parents watch the DVD lectures and read the syllabus in order to teach their kids directly using the methods described. Those methods are based on conversation and questions (the Socratic method), and require the parent to have knowledge of the work studied, as well as an ability to steer discussion in the right direction.
Andrews delivers a 2-hour lesson to parents (the recording is of him in front of a group) in which he outlines the five elements of every story, shows how to uncover the worldview of any literary work, and walks his audience through two short stories (the complete texts of which are included in the syllabus) in an open-but-guided discussion format.
In the syllabus, parents will find much of the content of Andrews' lecture (with space to take notes), reproducible story charts (for identifying the elements of a story), practical suggestions for implementing worldview analysis, the complete text of Jack London's To Build a Fire and Anton Chekhov's A Slander, a list of 113 questions to help guide conversations, and an appendix outlining the major eras of literary history.
This final appendix is extremely helpful in an overview sense: each major period in history and the arts has had a general worldview of its own, and being able to identify a work's milieu at the outset is invaluable for understanding its particular message. Andrews does caution, however, not to use these dates rigidly—eras overlap, and there are sub-periods.
More important than the overview of historical time periods are the book lists Andrews has included for each one. These aren't exhaustive lists, but they're enough to get you started exploring Medieval, Renaissance, Neo-Classical, Romantic, realist, and Modernist literature. Major authors and their works are represented, along with room for you to add to each list.
Not only is Teaching the Classics: Worldview Supplement teacher-intensive, it's teacher dependent. Parents are expected to internalize the ideas and methodology of this course (as well as its precursor; the Worldview Supplement builds off the concepts introduced in Teaching the Classics, and is not an independent program) in order to pass them on to their children via the Socratic method.
Unlike Teaching the Classics, which is suitable for all ages, the Worldview Supplement is specifically meant for older students (involving as it does rhetoric-level skills and topics). Kids are made to deal with secular worldviews and analyze them from a Christian perspective, a task that requires both knowledge (gained in the grammar stage) and the ability to collate ideas (a logic-stage ability).
Our Honest Opinion:
The goal of Teaching the Classics: Worldview Supplement is to make critical thinking from a Christian perspective part of the students' and parents' second nature. This ability can be applied to any realm of existence, not just literature, and it is one every believer needs. Unfortunately, too few have this ability because it's all-too-rarely taught in churches; fortunately, Andrews' course can be used by anyone willing to put in the effort.
He does make the claim that, in order to understand the worldview present in a work of literature, we first need to set aside our own beliefs. Andrews is not, however, suggesting that you need to suspend belief in the Christian faith, or that you need to accept the ideas presented by someone like Hemingway or London. He's simply saying that, in order to be honest, we can't misinterpret a work simply because its worldview contradicts our own.
We're pretty happy with the resources available from Adam and Missy Andrews, and Teaching the Classics: Worldview Supplement is no exception; in some ways, it's the one we're most excited about. Literature is one of the best ways students learn about themselves, other people, and the world around us. BUT they need to be armed before engaging that conversation; this program begins that arming process.
Don't invest in thiscourse unless you intend to invest the time and effort it requires. Once begun, this journey basically takes care of itself, but getting on the road in the first place will require focus and concentration. That's not to discourage you, however! The rewards and benefits are well worth the work, and we've found very few resources as capable of leading you through the initial stages of Christian literary analysis as this one.
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