I have participated in and provided oversight of countless accreditations in the past 12 years. Never in my memory has Mr. Wilson had any say, or even made a comment on, school accreditation. Even his role within our organization is merely advisory—he has no formal authority. Our accreditation process is rigorous, and it requires that schools meet the highest standards. And, it is independent.
As the President of the Association of Classical Christian Schools (ACCS), I would like to thank The Aquila Report for allowing us to respond to the piece written by Rachel Miller, Classical Christian Education and Doug Wilson.
Our association, the ACCS, is made up of some 250 schools. I’ve visited over 40 of them this year. I must say that Miller’s characterizations and conclusions are simply unfounded and untrue in several respects. Leaders of many schools that I’ve visited would be hard pressed to name one of Wilson’s books, beyond Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning. While I know Pastor Wilson on a professional level, he takes specific care not to exert influence on the ACCS. Painting Wilson as a powerful, controlling figure is simply inconsistent with the nature of the man. I’ve found him to be scholarly, careful, and above all, a lover of truth and Jesus Christ. I am impressed with his faith: He purposefully backs away from ministries he’s started and trusts what the Lord will do with them according to His will. I am the executive of one of those ministries started by Mr. Wilson, and he has never pressured me in any direction. I live about 300 miles away from Moscow, Idaho and I attend a PCA church here in Boise.
Miller asserts many things in her article. The ACCS takes no position on Mr. Wilson’s theology, or his church. But I believe that I must correct a few of her assertions about the ACCS:
1) “Wilson is also against homeschooling as a viable option.” This does not represent Mr. Wilson or the ACCS’s belief. The ACCS advocates for classical homeschooling. We have many homeschool members. How could we be against parents taking direct responsibility for the education of their children? We believe day schools can be a valuable tool, but we also believe that parents are the ones called to educate their children. If that involves an ACCS school, we praise God. But we certainly would never resist the call of parents to educate their own children– nor would Douglas Wilson.
2) “ACCS, which is headquartered in Moscow, holds an annual conference and regional teacher training conferences. The speakers at this summer’s conference will include Doug Wilson, his son, N.D. Wilson, and Matt Whitling, who is a principal at Logos School.” While it is true that the conference includes Mr. Wilson and others, it also includes Keith Getty (hymn writer), Dr. Grant Horner (The Master’s College), Dr. Louis Marcos (Houston Baptist University) and dozens of others. We have over 40 speakers at this year’s conference. In the past, we have included Os Guinness, Chuck Colson, Albert Mohler, Nancy Pearcy, and hundreds of others. Our theme this year is “Poetic Truth”. It certainly makes sense to have one of the most successful contemporary poets and literary authors in Christiandom speak. N.D. Wilson is Pastor Wilson’s son, but he’s also a best-selling author of many children’s books and a poet-apologist (Notes from a Tilt-a-Whirl). My point is that, as an association, we are broad-based and widely represented by many viewpoints.
3) “This accreditation allows Wilson oversight of the CCE schools implementing his model of education.” I have participated in and provided oversight of countless accreditations in the past 12 years. Never in my memory has Mr. Wilson had any say, or even made a comment on, school accreditation. Even his role within our organization is merely advisory—he has no formal authority. Our accreditation process is rigorous, and it requires that schools meet the highest standards. And, it is independent.
Miller’s claim that Wilson’s view creeps in as part of our worldview in CCE is spurious. Augustine, J.M. Gregory, Dorothy Sayers, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Francis Schaeffer, yes—their views and many more great minds are embedded in our form. And, our schools look through the truth-lens of our Lord Jesus Christ as revealed in scripture when reading any work. Wilson would be the first to step away from the aforementioned group, point to them, and say, “What they said.” We encourage you to ask any of our accredited members if they have been subjected to any of Wilson’s theological positions. The likely answer: “What positions?”
4) “While there are a number of other publishing houses and CCE programs that provide resources and books for CCE, many of them either publish books by Wilson, promote materials by Wilson, or use Wilson’s books in their programs. Even Susan Wise Bauer’s book, Well Trained Mind, quotes Wilson to explain aspects of CCE.” Most publishing houses that serve the classical Christian space have no connection to Wilson. Veritas Press, Classical Academic Press (CAP), and Memoria Press, three of the four largest publishers in our space, have no connection to Wilson. I challenge readers to visit one of these sites and find a Wilson book. I found an appendix of one of Wilson’s books at Memoria Press, and a few at Veritas Press if I searched. I found none at CAP.
The opposite of what Miller asserts is true—There are many voices in classical Christian education, and they cross the doctrinal spectrum. For example, while I’ve never seen a school use a Wilson text in theology class, I’ve seen many that use an apologetic text (Handbook of Christian Apologetics) by Peter Kreeft. Kreeft is a Roman Catholic, though his apologetic text is widely accepted in Protestant circles. The curriculum providers are quite diverse. Memoria press has Roman Catholic roots, though it serves many Protestant schools. Susan Wise Bauer grants credence to Wilson as a key contributor to the restoration of CCE. But, she is far from Wilson theologically.
Miller’s assertion that Wilson’s worldview dominates or even influences these sources is simply untrue. I pray and believe that the Christian Worldview dominates our schools.
5) “To recap, Wilson literally wrote the book on CCE.” Miller gives too much credence to Wilson. He simply revealed a Christian tradition in education that was promoted by Clement of Alexandria, Justin Martyr, Augustine, Ambrose, Jerome, Boethius, Aquinas, Luther, Erasmus, Comenius, and the list goes on, eventually leading to to C.S. Lewis and Dorothy Sayers. While Wilson’s voice is one of the more recent, Classical Christian education is so much bigger than any one person, it cannot be shoved into a book, or categorically pigeonholed as “Wilson’s,” as Miller asserts. We are indebted to Mr. Wilson for eloquently representing and promoting this historic form of Christian education.
At this point in her article, Miller addresses theological debates that have involved Mr. Wilson. As Christian educators, we welcome debate. We train our students to discern truth by listening to all sides and engaging their minds. Mr. Wilson certainly offers food for thought. But if you want to debate matters of theology, we ask that you engage those with Mr. Wilson himself. We find no heresy in his teachings (nor has the PCA or any other significant church governing authority), so his theological debates are all in the spirit of “giving a reason for the hope that lies within us.” If we must take sides, the ACCS will take the side of an in-house debate on the topics of truth, goodness and beauty. What else should a classical Christian model produce?
Our member schools are quite independent, and content to train their students how to think, how to love virtue, and how to engage the mind in a way that glorifies our Lord, Jesus Christ. I hope that Miller’s readers will check our school location site to find a nearby school and pay one a visit. Every time I do, I walk away encouraged and enriched.
David Goodwin, President
The Association of Classical Christian Schools