You can read Cathy Duffy’s online review of Old Western Culture here: HERE.
Advice for all men: When you mess up, fess up!
Part of what makes the Aeneid such a timeless classic is that it captures so many aspects of human nature. Wes Callihan brings these alive in the Old Western Culture curriculum.
Wes Callihan, the author of the Old Western Culture curriculum, has been offering live classes through Schola Classical Tutorials since 1997. In addition to “Great Books I-IV” (corresponding to Old Western Culture years 1-4: The Greeks, The Romans, Christendom, and Early Moderns), Wes Callihan also teaches Homeric Greek, Rhetoric, Church History, and Astronomy.
A pioneer of the modern Classical education movement and a teacher of teachers, a live class with Wes Callihan is not something to be missed! He is known for his ability to bring the essence of the Great Books that shaped the Western world into story form, and create an environment of community and camaraderie among his student, who can live-chat questions during his lectures. As a generation of Schola graduates now demonstrate, the end result are students who leave his classes with the love of learning and the kernel of curiosity planted in their hearts and minds.
As a special promotion running SEPTEMBER 1st – 7th, receive 1 unit from The Greeks FREE with any NEW course sign-up from Schola Classical Tutorials ($56 value)! Once you’ve signed up at the Schola website, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your unit of choice from The Greeks and we’ll send you the DVD set!
Enjoy Wes Callihan live AND have his teaching in DVD form!
Old Western Culture is a distinctly Christian course. The creators of the course believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, the Providence of God working in history, and that all truth is God’s truth wherever it may be found.
A Christian worldview is not “taught” as an afterthought, but assumed throughout and thoroughly integrated in the approach to the material. Below are two small excerpts from the course which demonstrate how this works itself out in Old Western Culture.
Platonic Heresies and the Church (excerpt from The Philosophers).
The Bitterness of Achilles (excerpt from The Epics).
Does Old Western Culture present the perspective of a specific denomination?
Wes Callihan, the author, makes this statement:
I teach explicitly as a Christian and in the light of the historic, universal Christian faith. In nearly every class I make connections to that faith and to the radically
redemptive character of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the power of His Resurrection and of the church’s mission for individuals and nations. I affirm three things as most important:
- the Nicene Creed as a faithful summary of the Christian faith,
- the gospel as declared in John 3:16, Romans 10:9-13, and I Corinthians 15:1-4, and
- the absolute necessity of Christian unity and love in the bond of peace as expressed in Galatians 5:22-23 and throughout I John.
I am largely in agreement with the major Reformational Protestant confessions, especially the Westminster Confession of Faith and the 39 Articles of the Church of England, but am deeply appreciative of and often sympathetic to the historic Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.
None of this is required of students – the only spiritual requirements are a good attitude and a willingness to learn – but it should be expected that the teaching will clearly, explicitly, and regularly reflect a historical and classical Christian perspective.
If Old Western Culture is a Christian course, why does it include Pagan literature?
More on why you should study Pagan literature:
– Q&A with Wes Callihan: Why Should we Study Pagan Authors? (10 min video)
– Course Excerpt from The Philosophers: St. Paul alludes to Socrates (2:44 min video)
I recently read an article about why readers, scientifically speaking, are the best people to fall in love with. I agree! I married a woman who loves to read, and loves to learn! She read all the right books while growing up! (Incidentally, she took Wes Callihan’s Great Books courses online in high school).
The article points to several benefits that reading will bring a reader. It enables them to speak to someone in a meaningful way. It allows a person to understand other people; it teaches the art of empathy. And it gives wisdom that years of actual experience could never give.
Because reading is something that molds you and adds to your character. Each triumph, lesson and pivotal moment of the protagonist becomes your own.
Every ache, pain and harsh truth becomes yours to bear. You’ve traveled with authors and experienced the pain, sorrow and anguish they suffered while writing through it. You’ve lived a thousand lives and come back to learn from each of them.
This is very similar to what Wes Callihan says when he encouraged the reading of imaginative literature, which he called “bootcamp for life.”
Stories are Bootcamp for Life
So read often, read good books, and read varied books!
If you want to be guided through the reading of the greatest books, check out Old Western Culture!
The study of history is a moral requirement for Christians.
Think of the Israelites who were required to remember the past.
Think of Paul in the NT: ‘These things were written for our instruction.’
– Wesley Callihan, Porch of our Fathers
The goal of Roman Roads Media is to make the classical subjects friendly to the homeschool. Many curriculums are designed by educators with the classroom in mind. The curriculum we produce has the homeschooler in mind from conception to delivery, with emphasis placed upon communicating a love of learning.
Exodus Books, a bookstore in Portland, as well as a large online reseller of curriculum, now carries the Old Western Culture curriculum, and wrote a review. The review (written by Caleb Crossman), was not only well-written and comprehensive, but very entertaining to read! Caleb shows his knowledge (and love) of the classics as he uses classical allusions throughout. Our favorite excerpt is when Wes Callihan is called a “benevolent centaur,” an allusion to Chiron, the centaur in Greek mythology who helped in the education of Achilles:
The mastermind behind Old Western Culture is Wesley Callihan, a veteran of Christian education. His presence hovers throughout the program like a benevolent, highly intelligent centaur: noble, serious, and wise.
We highly recommend the entire review! It’s an excellent overview of the curriculum.
Old Western Culture:
A Christian Approach to the Great Books
by Caleb Crossman, for Exodus Books
Even those who love the Great Books can be overwhelmed by the number of courses based on them. As Classical-influenced education gains popularity in Christian and home school circles, curriculum centered on literature from the past has proliferated. But not all of it is created equal.
The number of such courses and the degrees to which they explain the literature of the past and why it matters make navigating them all a nightmare, or at least very frustrating. A quick survey of most of them reveals that they cover the same texts, in the same way, and at the same pace.
But what if there was a single program that adequately covered key texts of Western literature; that was well-written, accurate, and Christ-centered; and that didn’t just mimic all the other courses? Well, there is. Old Western Culture: A Christian Approach to the Great Books is everything other Classical-style courses wish they were.
How Do These Work?
The mastermind behind Old Western Culture is Wesley Callihan, a veteran of Christian education. His presence hovers throughout the program like a benevolent, highly intelligent centaur: noble, serious, and wise. At the center of the course is a series of lectures by Mr. Callihan, during which he presides from a leather throne in an imposing study, explaining great books and great ideas.
But enough of the rhetoric. This program is intended for high school students—there are four years of study, each with a series of lectures, readings in source literature, and workbook assignments relating to both the lectures and the source readings. Each year has been set up to accomodate a 36-week school year, with four 9-week terms. Daily lesson plans are included for each term, complete with reading assignments and when to watch the lectures (students should study about 2-3 hours per day).
There are four time periods covered, one per year: the Greeks, the Romans, Christendom, and the Moderns. Each 9-week term per year covers a different aspect of the respective time periods. For instance, the course on the Greeks is divided into four lecture series—The Epics, Drama and Lyric, The Histories, and The Philosophers.
All lectures are recorded on DVD. Students watch the lectures and answer workbook questions based on them (workbooks for each term are availalble in spiralbound print versions, as downloadable PDF files, or as printable PDF files on the course DVDs). Callihan delivers the lectures from a leather chair in an awesome study, and while there are occasional words, names and graphics that appear onscreen, the camera focuses primarily on Callihan intoning in his rich, warm voice. The lectures are not scripted—Callihan makes a point of not teaching from notes (learn why with this video).
Along with watching the lectures, students are to read the source texts under consideration. Every title is available for download in electronic form from the Romans Road website, though the producers strongly urge students to buy hard copies; Callihan reads from recommended translations, but you can use whatever accurate translation you like. There are also workbook questions related to the reading assignments.
Each term, students write a paper and complete a final exam included in PDF form on the DVDs (also downloadable at www.romansroadmedia.com). Every series of DVDs (one series for each term) also comes with a full-color pamphlet displaying and discussing various classic works of art based on the content of the coursework. There is some nudity and violence depicted in these paintings and sculptures, but nothing more extreme than what you’ll encounter in the source literature.
What sets Old Western Culture apart from other programs like it is the ability of Callihan to engage the content on a deep level and yet make it relatable and understandable for high school students. He doesn’t dance around difficult issues, doesn’t avoid difficult texts (there’s a lot of philosophy here), and succeeds in applying a biblical Christian worldview to the works considered.
A lot of time is spent evaluating plot elements, but it’s always with the intent of understanding what the author of the text was trying to say, not simply to help students learn the basics of plot analysis. The questions in the workbook, the readings, and especially the lectures all conspire to guide students toward a holistic approach to literature study.
This isn’t just about fiction, either. Callihan reads epics, novels, and poetry, as well as theology, philosophy, and history. The goal is to understand the background to our current society, grapple with the hard and perennial questions about life, God and the world, be formed by the thought of the giants of Western culture, and apply a Christian worldview to all of it.
Our Honest Opinion
So, it’s a great program. But why should we study the Great Books of Western civilization in the first place? Callihan quotes the great sage of our time, C. S. Lewis, as saying that the books of the past do what no modern book can: they provide us with a perspective radically different than our own. This perspective in turn helps us critique our own situation and look at it more objectively, from the standpoint of the wisdom of the ancients.
Fortunately, however, Callihan doesn’t idolize the past or its greatest thinkers and writers. One of the chief sins of courses like this is ascribing all manner of Christian ideology to men like Marcus Aurelius and Plato. Callihan doesn’t hesitate to show where the ancients (and early moderns) were right, but he also shows where and how they were wrong.
The course is comprehensive (for high schoolers), accessible, and easy to implement. Students can work alone, though it’s always helpful for kids to discuss what they learn with their parents. Because it involves a variety of learning methods (reading, writing, and watching/listening to lectures), students will internalize the content much more thoroughly than in more limited courses.
Of course, Old Western Culture isn’t perfect. There is one glaring shortcoming—where the program ends, and this is a failing that it shares with just about every other similar program out there. By ending with 19th-century moderns, the authors do a disservice to kids living in the 21st century: a lot of virulently anti-Christian philosophy has developed post-1900, and it would be an invaluable asset for young people to be guided through the morass.
Still, this is a great program. We really can’t recommend it enough, especially to those interested in Classical-style and Great Books education. Unlike Sonlight’s reading lists, these are more or less age appropriate; unlike Omnibus, Callihan doesn’t ask students to bite off more than they can chew. Ideal for college students and adults as well, Old Western Culture is one of the best products we offer for studying the humanities.
Julian the ApostateIn the first clip below, Wes Callihan explains why Christians should study Greek pagan literature.
In the second clip he gives an example of how the early Christians used the pagan epics. In fact, the pagan emperor Julian the Apostate forbade the Christians from teaching these epics because the Christians were using them to preach Christ! Matt Bianco, of Classical Conversations, wrote an article giving some great background to the story of Julian the Apostate, and the outlawing of the pagan epics, which you can read HERE.Find out more about Old Western Culture.“Weren’t the Greeks Pagan?”
Julian the Apostate Forbids the Christians from Teaching Pagan Epics
Claudius, the 4th emperor of Rome, had to be dragged out from behind curtains where he was hiding in order to be proclaimed emperor by the Praetorian Guard. A bookish man, preferring to write and study history, Claudius did not want to be emperor. After all, many of the previous emperors had been killed by rivals. It is said that Claudius, a partially crippled man from birth, accentuated his condition so as not to appear a rival to Caligula who had been killing other heirs. In the end, Claudius’ fears were not unfounded, for he was assassinated himself.