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Teaching the Classics: Worldview Supplement Review by Deborah Burt

Adam and Missy Andrews
The Center for Literary Education
3350 Beck Road
Rice, WA 99167

Have you ever considered how the Word of God's admonishment to "take every thought captive" could apply to interpreting literature? Adam and Missy Andrews hope to help you learn how to extend the gospel into the world of ideas--especially ideas published as literature--through Teaching the Classics: Worldview Supplement.

The Worldview Supplement is a follow-up seminar to Teaching the Classics: A Socratic Method for Literary Education. The original Teaching the Classics series, a firm prerequisite to the Worldview Supplement, demonstrates how to do literary analysis. It focuses on teaching us to ask of literary works, "What does the author say?" The Worldview Supplement was created for parents who desired further help in understanding how to interpret literature through a Christian lens, and it focuses on the more complicated question, "Is the author telling the truth?"

Teaching the Classics: Worldview Supplement includes two DVDs (recorded live) of Adam Andrews teaching worldview analysis to a group of parents (about 2 hours total time). The lessons include Mr. Andrews's instruction and interaction with his students, providing model discussions for parents to emulate at home. The 60-page teacher's manual contains notes for each lesson, reproducible charts, and complete texts of the short stories analyzed in the lessons. The teacher manual also includes a new Socratic List, similar to the one found in the original Teaching the Classics but with specific questions for targeting worldview issues in any book. It also includes a historical appendix of literary periods and the worldviews prevalent during each period.

Worldview questions, according to Mr. Andrews, can only be asked after a book has been fully understood. Foundational to the Teaching the Classics philosophy is the idea that readers need to strive for a clear understanding of any particular work. This is emphasized and fleshed out in the basic Teaching the Classics seminar, and the ideas contained within this seminar should be mastered before moving on to the Teaching the Classics: Worldview Supplement.

Mr. Andrews spends three of the video's segments explaining worldview analysis in general terms and the next three segments applying the principles to actual stories. In the first segment, Mr. Andrews defines "worldview" as a set of answers to universal questions, such as what is a human, who is God, where did the world come from, how does the world function, and what is the difference between good and evil? Mr. Andrews wants to help parents understand how to make these questions obvious to their students and how to train them to notice what answers authors are providing.

In this first segment Mr. Andrews also instructs us how to hold up works of literature to the 9th Commandment: Thou shalt not bear false witness. Our job as literary analysts is to figure out which works of literature tell the truth and which do not. He explains the difference between material and poetic truth. He helps us decipher whether an author's created world is consistent with his assumptions about life. He reminds us that the Bible is the only truly true book. Because all human authors are fallen beings, books will be a mixture of truth and falsehood.

The second segment of the DVD is geared toward helping parents think through whether children should be allowed to only read books that are "true" and how to decide when a child is ready to identify a foreign worldview and call it by name. Adam Andrews makes a brilliant analogy between learning the effects of worldview and mountain climbing. He mentions that if someone wanted to see the view from a mountaintop, he would have two choices: he could either climb the mountain himself or look at the snapshots taken by a hiking friend. Most of us would not want our children climbing dangerous worldview mountains that we know will lead to death! However, classic literature provides the "world's greatest collection of worldview snapshots." When our students read a book by Jack London, where the created world is consistent with the worldview of an atheist evolutionist, they can clearly see the perilous consequences of being an atheistic evolutionist without having to suffer those consequences themselves.

The third segment of the DVD provides a short review of the concepts taught in the original Teaching the Classics seminar. Mr. Andrews goes over how to use the Story Chart to analyze the context, structure, and style of a particular story. He briefly reminds us how to find the plot, conflict, theme, etc. Once the facts have been figured out and the theme is discovered, it is time to ask worldview questions of the theme. Mr. Andrews gives an explanation of the expanded Socratic List (designed especially for worldview analysis) and makes clear how to ask these questions of a work's theme.

The next three segments are extremely helpful to the homeschool parent. Mr. Andrews takes his parent-students through three short stories (printed in full in the teacher's manual) and applies the art of literary and worldview analysis to the stories. Watching the banter between Mr. Andrews and the parents in his classroom helps put flesh on the bare bones of the previous instruction. Mr. Andrews wraps up the video by giving parents practical tips and encouragement in giving their children an interpretive lens through which to view the world.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching the DVDs for Teaching the Classics: Worldview Supplement; I actually watched them twice! Although my children are not yet old enough to engage in worldview discussions in a Socratic manner, I learned a lot about how to decipher an author's worldview. The more I understand how to do literary analysis, the more I can help my children do so as well.

I do not think one should purchase the supplement without having first been to the basic Teaching the Classics two-day seminar or watching it on DVD. If you are truly interested in this method of literary analysis, it is worth taking time to focus on the preliminary instruction given in the basic seminar. If you already own Teaching the Classics or have been to a seminar, the Worldview Supplement will take your exploration of literature to a new exciting level.

The Center for Literary Education offers the Worldview Supplement DVD series and teacher's manual as a set and also separately. At the time of this writing, the DVDs sell for $34, the teacher's manual for $20, and the set for $49. In my opinion the DVD series and the teacher's manual are inseparable. The notes in the teacher's manual are not coherent enough without the DVD instruction to go along with them. And yet the teacher's manual is invaluable because of the short stories included in it, the Socratic List, and the historical list of literary periods. One idea to save money on these materials would be for two friends or a homeschool group to pool their money to buy the DVD series, with each person purchasing his own copy of the teacher's manual. Excerpts from the teacher's manual can be found at the Center for Literary Education website

The only thing that isn't amazing about this DVD set is the quality of the videotaping. It isn't poor quality, but neither is it professional. However, the production quality of the Worldview Supplement is an improvement over that of the original Teaching the Classics DVD series; this one is much easier on the eyes.

Teaching the Classics: Worldview Supplement is geared towards (but not limited to) those interested in some form of Classical Education. Those familiar with the Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric stages will feel very comfortable with Mr. Andrews's approach. However, Christian homeschoolers of all educational philosophies would benefit from these materials. Mr. Andrews's ideas will make literary analysis easier, more understandable, and more fun for homeschooling parents to teach. Overall, I enthusiastically recommend Teaching the Classics: Worldview Supplement. After watching the video series, I feel empowered to instruct my children in worldview analysis through reading. 

Product review by Deborah Burt, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January 2009