Preparing for Battle: Author shares the value of classical education

The business of education is equipping students for warfare — that was the message author Rebekah Merkle shared with parents during Mars Hill Academy’s first High School Preview Night. 

The classically educated mother of five, who most recently wrote Classical Me, Classical Thee, cited a Southern Baptist Convention study, which indicates 70-88 percent of churched youth are abandoning the church by the end of their freshman year of college. 

“Honestly, your children would have better odds on Normandy Beach (WWII) than that. This next step, university, is mowing Christian kids down at astonishing rates, and they obviously aren’t equipped,” she said. 

When such high stakes are considered, a student’s 9-12 education becomes even more critical. 

 “If you thought your child was going to be getting off those boats on Normandy Beach, what would you be getting him ready for? How would you evaluate boot camp knowing what he would be facing in three years? What would you be looking for?” she asked. 

“You would want them equipped, learning how to fight, learning how to use their weapons, you would want them to be wearing body armor. You wouldn’t be thinking, ‘at this boot camp they have more fun, better parties, the bunk beds are more comfortable,’ because you want your kids equipped for what is coming at them. How do we equip them for what’s coming next?”

Preparing students with the right tools is at the heart of a classical, Christian education. 

“Classical education is all about producing students who will rise to the top like cream wherever they go. That’s what we need, that’s what our country desperately needs, what the church desperately needs,” Mrs. Merkle said. “The point of it all is to give students tools they can take with them wherever they go.”

Mrs. Merkle dabbled in a number of occupations – like running her own clothing label and designing fabrics in Europe – before becoming a full-time high school classical humanities teacher; and, yet, she didn’t get a business or design degree. 

“I’d been taught to write; I’d been taught to speak. When it came time to not just manufacture something but to persuade people to buy it or persuade a magazine to feature it, that’s where I feel like my classical education gave me an edge,” she explained. 

Her nephew, who also attended a classical Christian school, found success in engineering even without years of high school STEM experience. His classmates and college professors quickly recognized his ability to speak clearly and write well. He even was published in a peer-reviewed journal while still in college – something he attributed to completing and defending his senior thesis.

“The skills I used for fashion design he found helpful in mechanical engineering,” Mrs. Merkle said. “How many of us are on the same career path we thought we would be on at 18 years old? There are plot twists. Very few people are in the field they thought they would be. If you equip students with the right tools, they can handle those plot twists.”