April 4, 2023
Is the CLT going Woke?
A recent American Conservative piece argued that the Classical Learning Test has gone woke, and in an attempt to refute it Jeremy Tate, president of the CLT, brought up my participation in the CLT’s author bank committee. I think that Jeremy’s argument is that CLT can’t possibly have gone woke if it has Ben Merkle, President of New Saint Andrews College, on that committee. I’ll take that as a compliment, despite not liking the realization that I was a diversity hire.
Nevertheless, to be clear, I got onto that committee because I was sounding the alarm to Jeremy that I thought the CLT was going woke. The CLT had started to evaluate their author bank by producing pie charts that showed the proportions of gender, race, or religion of the various authors that they used on their test. And they were talking about needing to “fix” the smaller slivers. I thought that this was a bad sign and let Jeremy know what I thought. After I voiced my concerns, Jeremy asked me to serve on the author bank committee.
In the end, I think that the author bank that the CLT has is great. And I’m happy to use the CLT test to screen NSA applicants. But the author bank methodology has a problem, a problem that my presence is not enough to fix, a problem that I have flagged and continue to flag to Jeremy. I can appreciate the desire to have a “big tent” for classical education. I think Jeremy hopes that the CLT can provide that. I am dubious.
For one thing, I really dislike the stripping of “Christian” from Classical Christian Education. Once you delete Christian, you really have a hard time explaining why we are focused on the western intellectual tradition. Once you strip Christian out of there you will either end up cultural Marxism on the one hand - you can’t say that one culture is better than another, so there is no reason to prefer one tradition over another. Or, on the other hand, you will end up with an academic version of white boy summer – we pick white authors because we just like white people. Both of these paths are the death of classical education. True Classical Christian Education knows that it is passing down the intellectual tradition of a Christian people (warts, pagan ancestors, and all).
And while I am waving flags of warning, I would add that many people in the CCE movement are seeing opportunities for taking new ground with the charter school movement and school choice initiatives. But, given the government money that these schools will be relying on, they will have to strip their Christianity from their Classical. A lot of people are busy right now doing the necessary de-Christianizing work in order to make Classical Education presentable to local school boards. This will not be a step forward for the movement.