Is this a once in a lifetime opportunity?

I’m not altogether certain but it might be. How often do you get to spend a weekend with a translator of Dante, a founder of a Christian classical college, and a group of people driven to figure out what Christian classical education is and how to implement it?

I just attended the SCL conference in Charleston, SC and it was another extraordinary experience. Robert Littlejohn, in his plenary session, compared the Society for Classical Learning with the Association of Classical and Christian Schools. He pointed out that SCL is a society of educators while ACCS is an association of schools.

That got me thinking: What is CiRCE in relation to these two other organizations. I concluded that CiRCE is what we’ve always said and what CiRCE stands for: Center for Independent Research on Classical Education. We are, fundamentally, a research institute.

We’ve also been called Consulting and Integrated Resources for Classical Education. That’s because our research leads to insights and resources and we would be irrelevent if we didn’t make them available to others.

Our research, as indicated above, is driven by the question What is Classical Education? Since it’s a human activity, we also need to ask how it is or at least has been done.

So, for example, from our research we have contributed to the book Classical Education, The Movement Sweeping America. We also have a book in the pipelines on classical education in the ancient world. One thing that is driving my thinking right now is the relationship between classical and progressive education. Judging by the response to a talk I gave at SCL, this is a matter of some concern to classical educators, who are asking: Am I inadvertently teaching progressively?

Furthermore, our research into teaching approaches has enabled us to identify the three modes of instruction that have been used in the classical tradition as well as to question the validity of teaching “techniques.” Combined with our investigations into classical rhetoric, this research has led to the development of what we believe to be the most purely classical and certainly the most thorough writing program on planet earth. Classical modes of teaching combined with classical approaches to rhetoric produce astonishing tools!

Our research is not limited to book reading, however. When we produce materials they are field tested. For a long time. The Lost Tools of Writing has taken 15 years to develop – and we are not done.

So when you wonder “What is the CiRCE Institute?” come on back to this post and remind yourself. And if you want to participate in this work, please communicate with us. We never stop researching so we value your insights.

To help us keep going, look into our services and resources: apprenticeship, consulting, teacher training, workshops, conferences, conference CD’s and other recordings, books, and of course The Lost Tools of Writing.

And please, consider coming to the conference this summer. Expenses are up and the economy is down, but I guarantee you, this conference will nourish your soul and equip you to teach. And it will put you in the company of dozens of other educators who are as eager as you are to understand, ask questions, and learn new things.

Learn more at


The right use of humor

This summer, we’ll be contemplating humor at the CiRCE conference. It’s easy to struggle with the use of humor because it’s so easy to abuse it, to substitute sarcasm for irony, abuse for satire, cruel pranks for slapstick. Consequently, we can sometimes wonder if maybe humor isn’t destructive. Or maybe it’s even the result of fallenness. We’re going to try to figure out if maybe humor is in fact related to our sense of justice. Maybe humor is a key apologetic for the natural law.

Certainly one use of humor is to bring down the high and mighty and to reveal con men. I never saw the show, but I read the following quote about a South Park episode and how it explosed the folly of one of America’s most embarrassing realities.

American popular culture makes a running joke of Smith’s 1827 claim to have discovered golden tablets containing the history of an Israelite migration to North America including a cameo appearance by Jesus Christ. Thanks to the animated satire “South Park”, Americans know that Smith “translated” golden tablets that no-one else could see by looking at “seer stones” inside his hat. That is the power of mass media; one half-hour cartoon can undo the work of a million missionaries.

So humor, handled properly, can serve justice. But it’s easy to see how false analogies can apply to other spheres, so one has to be careful.

If you are going to be funny, you are going to live dangerously. The main virtue of the comedian is, I’m certain, courage.