What does honeyed twisties (a Korean snack) have to do with classical Christian education? Nothing. But to me there was a strong connection when I made them a couple of days ago. My wife asked me to help out, and I started to help perfunctorily. But I was sweetly surprised how fun it was. Rolling the dough out to make it consistently flat took some skill and focus. And then, I had to cut them into band-aid size strips, with a slit in the middle, so I can put one end through the slit to make the twisty shape. I thought for a moment, why go through the trouble of making them into these twisty shapes, when it is not going to change the way it tastes? The obvious answer was that the way a food looks matters. People like pretzels partly because of its shape. It affects the aesthetics, but it also changes the way it is enjoyed in the mouth. Finally, it is fried and dipped in a honey-like sauce and sprinkled with sesame. It was so good that they were consumed as soon as they were made.
I did not attempt to even think about classical education while making this delicious snack. But the process of making was so enjoyable and therapeutic that I could not but help acknowledge that I am enjoying God’s truth, goodness, and beauty in making this snack. It was not just that I was just enjoying the snack. And it was not just that I was proud of my little accomplishment. It had something to do with the fact that I was using my hands. And that it had to do with making basic things in life. It had to do with enjoying God with every aspect of my being—head, heart, and hands.
This comprehensive vision of education—enjoying God with our head, heart and hands—was not new to me. I have been thinking, reading, and telling others about a concept called the “Common Arts Education.” It was originally developed by Hugh of Saint Victor in the 12th century, to refer to a third branch of education, the other two being the “liberal arts” and the “fine arts.” Common Arts consisted of working with hands, developing basic life skills such as cooking, cultivating a garden, making furniture, making fabric, selling & buying things, performing simple medical procedures, and even learning how to act and enjoy God together with others. Hugh of Saint Victor describes this vision in his influential book Didaskalicon, and his vision is being revived through books like the recently published Common Arts Education: Renewing the Classical Tradition of Training Hands, Head, and Heart. It is no small wonder that Hugh’s school in Saint Victor drew some of the most influential Christian leaders in that generation, including Bernard of Clairvaux and Thomas Beckett. It is also no small wonder that from this comprehensively classical and Christian model of education sprung forth the modern university systems, which has now mostly lost the sight of that original vision.
But this vision is making a comeback. And Veritas will be part of that comeback. We want to restore and develop Hugh’s comprehensive Christian vision that includes our students fully enjoying God with their hands as well as their heads and hearts. Please join me in developing this vision together for our children.