Life as It Should Be

Recently I took my girls to see a performance of the ballet Don Quixote. It was a beautiful, energetic, brightly colored feast for the senses. When the lights came up on the stage, I had a lightbulb moment.

I remembered that I had another connection to the story of Don Quixote. Many years ago in the classroom of a favorite high school teacher, there was a quote from the book Don Quixote in big letters running across the top of the whiteboard. That quote said, “Maddest of all is to see life as it is and not as it should be.” At that time, I didn’t appreciate what my teacher was saying with this quote. Even so, she had a profound impact on my life. I remain truly grateful for how she labored to integrate her role in my Christian discipleship with her work in teaching me Great Books.

Today, in my role as head of a classical Christian school in the urban terrain of Philadelphia, it suddenly seems like the most perfect quote—a line from my would-be theme song. It may seem crazy to start this kind of school in this place. It may seem foolish to invest in building a small organization from the ground up when there are establishment options all over the city. It may seem outlandish to dare to challenge the educational status quo and even the approach many Christian parishioners take, but I see it differently.

My thoughts agree with this quote from Don Quixote. The craziest thing is actually to accept what this world has to offer our most precious people, our children. The “maddest” thing is not to fight for what should be, even when it will take time to fully realize. The outlandish thing is for Christians to accept the modern narratives about human formation which continue to fail spectacularly. We have to take risks to realize what should be. We have to make sacrifices. We have to be steadfast in the midst of growing pains.

Philadelphia Classical School is digging in and refusing to accept life as it is. We are driving towards life as it should be. In our path are unexamined narratives about education, formation, and discipleship, and misunderstandings about classical Christian education. There are certain scripts that feel safe because they don’t challenge the modern assumptions. But Philadelphia Classical School, and classical Christian schools around the country, are dedicated to “flipping the script.”

These schools don’t (or shouldn’t) occupy subdued spaces. We want spaces where the stage lights are bright in the eyes. The colors of the costumes are vivid. The energy is high. The vision of “life as it should be” permeates like the beautiful sounds of an orchestral score, and it is no time to sit back on the couch. It is time to get up and join the dance. ✤

KATHARINE SAVAGE is the founder and Head of Philadelphia Classical School. She has an M.A. in Educational Leadership from Gordon College but credits 30 years of ballet with giving her the true grit needed to lead through pressures and difficulties. Katharine and her husband Brian, have been married 21 years and have three children.