classical education

Yet Another Contrast

Here is yet another contrast between two views of man.

If the first statement is true, would the nurture and education of our children have a real purpose? If the latter is true, would anything else matter?

“The plight of man is pitiable. We are wanderers in a vast universe, helpless before the devastations of nature, dependent upon nature for food and other necessities, and uninformed about why we were born and what we should strive for. Man is alone in a cold and alien universe. He gazes upon this mysterious, rapidly changing, and endless universe and is confused, baffled, and even frightened by his own insignificance.” Morris Kline, 20th C. mathematician and historian

“In the infinite wisdom of the Lord of all the earth, each event falls with exact precision into its proper place in the unfolding of His divine plan. Nothing, however small, however strange, occurs without His ordering, or without its particular fitness for its place in the working out of His purpose; and the end of all shall be the manifestation of His glory, and the accumulation of His praise. This is the Old Testament (as well as the New Testament) philosophy of the universe — a world view which attains concrete unity in an absolute decree, or Purpose, or plan, of which all that comes to pass is but its development in time.” Benjamin B. Warfield, 20th C. theologian

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Cosmic Hiccup or Crown?

It matters a great deal how we answer this question: What is man?

Is humanity merely a cosmic hiccup, the result of random forces with no real purpose or destination? Or is man a special being created in the image of God for a unique purpose in the world?

The dividing line between these two views is displayed sharply in the following two quotes:

“The universe has turned its face against man; it was bored with him and man will eventually die out like the dinosaurs and be forgotten.” H.G. Wells, author and historian (20th century)

“What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet.” Psalm 8:4-6

Adopting either view has enormous implications — for oneself, for the family, for society and public policy, and for education.

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Vision for a Graduate

We envision that a graduate of the academic program at Regents Academy will embody the following traits:

•    Virtue and mature character: This includes heart-obedience rather than mere rule-following, good manners, honorable relationships, self-control, and Christian leadership. If nothing else, students should live in accordance with Coram Deo—living as though they were in the presence of God at all times.
•    Sound reason and sound faith: We expect students to realize a unified Christian worldview with Scripture as the measure of all Truth. We expect them to exhibit the wisdom to recognize complex issues and to follow the consequences of ideas.
•    Service to others: We expect our graduates to “love their neighbor” by serving others in their community.  Graduates need to develop an awareness of the many types of needs that others around them have and learn to be like Christ in their willingness to minister to others.
•    A masterful command of language: Because language enables us to know things that are not directly experienced, nothing is more important within Christian education. Without a strong command of language, even Scripture is rendered mute. As people of “the Word,” Christians should be masters of language. Students master vocabulary, grammar, usage, and translation through our study of Latin, English, and Spanish.
•    Well-rounded competence: Educated people are not specialists who know little outside of their field of specialty. Educated people have competence in a variety of areas including fine arts, drama, music, physical activity, history, math, logic, science, and arithmetic. Throughout our program, skills essential for an educated person are introduced and developed.
•    Literacy with broad exposure to books: Educated people are well-read and able to discuss and relate to central works of literature, science, art, architecture, and music.
•    An established aesthetic: Further, educated people have good taste, formed as they are exposed to great aesthetic masterpieces, particularly at a young age.

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Dialectic and the Bible

Here’s a passage from Pastor Randy Booth’s article “The Trivium in Biblical Perspective.” He develops the idea of dialectic in the Scriptures.

Understanding (dialectic) in Scripture is directed toward discerning good from evil, truth from falsehood. In other words, the one who has understanding has good judgment. He comprehends the right relationship of the particular pieces of knowledge to the whole. This is the syntax or logic of learning. King Solomon prayed, “So give Thy servant an understanding heart to judge Thy people to discern between good and evil” (1 Kings 3:9). Job observes, “And to depart from evil is understanding” (28:28). Genuine understanding is evidenced in obedience to the truth as we see in these passages from Psalms: “A good understanding have all those who do His Commandments” (111:10); “Give me understanding, that I may observe Thy law, and keep it with all my heart” (119:34); “Give me understanding, that I may learn Thy commandments” (119:73); “From Thy precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way” (119:104). The Proverbs observe: “a man of understanding walks straight” (15:21) and “The rich man is wise in his own eyes, but the poor who has understanding sees through him” (28:11). God complains to Jeremiah, “For My people are foolish. They know Me not; they a re stupid children, and they have no understanding. They are shrewd to do evil, but to do good they do not know” (4:22). Daniel and his companions were described as those who were “endowed with understanding, and discerning knowledge” (Dan. 1:4). The apostle John points us to the ultimate purpose of understanding when he writes, “And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding, in order that we might know Him who is true…” (1 John 5:20).

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What Do Students Do in the Logic Stage?

What do students do in the Logic Stage? They do algebra and study literature and learn science, but through all these subjects they are really developing what we call dialectic skills. Some of these skills include:

•    Increase biblical literacy and apply biblical principles.
•    Engage in personal reflection and introspection.
•    Identify and read classical texts so one may participate in the Great Conversation.
•    Compare and contrast ideas to find connections between ideas and events.
•    Evaluate the credibility and validity of arguments.
•    Identify logical fallacies.
•    Identify the logic of a subject, the structure of thought, and the facets of understanding.
•    Synthesize a multiplicity of ideas to form general concepts and understanding.
•    Evaluate what is true, beautiful, and good according to the Scriptures.
•    Develop and employ inductive and deductive arguments.
•    Annotate texts to extract meaning and gain understanding.
•    Analyze assumptions of an author in primary and secondary texts.
•    Employ basic worldview categories to analyze ideas.
•    Engage skillfully in debate and defend ideas.
•    Ask meaningful and engaging questions.

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What is the Logic Stage?

This year we welcomed a number of new students into 7th grade, and by doing so we also welcomed them into the Logic School. These students have formally entered what we call the Logic Stage of our classical curriculum.

The Logic or Dialectic Stage of the Trivium is defined as learning to reason, and the body of knowledge learned in the grammar stage is the stuff learning to reason is practiced on. In the grammar stage children learned facts; in the dialectic stage children try to understand the facts they have learned, and begin to relate those facts to one another in a significant way. This stage coincides with middle or junior high school, although it may actually begin for individual children earlier than that, in 5th or 6th grade. It is in the dialectic that the emphasis in cognitive skills shifts from the concrete to the analytical. This is where children are naturally inclined to ask the question “Why?” This is where they question what they have learned in the grammar stage to see if it is in fact true. Truth holds up very well under examination, and only proves its nature by this process. If what children were taught is true, we need have no fear of it being questioned, even if that questioning runs to things such as the existence of God or the veracity of the Bible. Therefore teaching the science of Logic is critical at this stage. It gives children the tools they need to question accurately and arrive at valid conclusions. We might be conditioned to react with shock or discipline, even, when children at this age question, argue, or want to know why. If we can understand that going through this process is the necessary step to arrive at the next one and therefore on to maturity, perhaps we can temper our response and help children learn to question and reason while maintaining an attitude of honor and respect.

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Much Not Many

Here is an excellent article from Memoria Press that describes the principle of “Multum Non Multa,” or much not many. The author, Andrew Campbell, develops the idea that classical schools go deeper in fewer subjects and then demonstrate their connections (and connectedness).

An outstanding read.

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The 7 Laws of Teaching, Part 3

Here are some observations about the use of Gregory’s Seven Laws of Teaching:

• These principles underlie all good teaching. The teacher may use them unconsciously, but they are still present because they are inherent and inescapable. To use them often, in themselves, brings about good order.
• The principles are applicable to all teaching, regardless of grade level, since they are fundamental conditions on which ideas may pass from person to person. University… elementary school…home school…school classroom…math and English: they are applicable in all settings.
• Skill does not replace enthusiasm, making teaching cold and mechanical.
• There is no special key that will enable a teacher to open a student’s mind, look in and plant knowledge there, but in the laws of teaching a teacher has lines of communications common to our nature by which they may awaken their students’ ability to receive and embrace what they are teaching.

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The 7 Laws of Teaching, Part 2

Now here are Gregory’s Seven Laws of Teaching restated as rules for teachers:

1. Know thoroughly and familiarly the lesson you wish to teach – teach from a full mind and a clear understanding.
2. Gain and keep the attention and interest of the pupils upon the lesson. Do not try to teach without attention.
3. Use words understood in the same way by the pupils and yourself – language clear and vivid to both.
4. Begin with what is already well known to the pupil upon the subject and with what he was himself experienced – and proceed to the new material by single, easy, and natural steps, letting the known explain the unknown.
5. Stimulate the pupil’s own mind to action. Keep his thought as much as possible ahead of your expression, placing him in the attitude of discoverer, an anticipator.
6. Require the pupil to reproduce in thought the lesson he is learning – thinking it our in its various phases and applications till he can express it in his own language.
7. Review, review, review, reproducing the old, deepening its impression with new thought, linking it with added meanings, finding new applications, correcting any false views, and completing the true.

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The 7 Laws of Teaching, Part 1

Here are John Milton Gregory’s Seven Laws of Teaching:

1. A teacher must be one who knows the lesson or truth or art to be taught.
2. A learner is one who attends with interest to the lesson.
3. The language used as a medium between teacher and learner must be common to both.
4. The lesson to be mastered must be explicable in the terms of truth already known by the learner – the unknown must be explained by means of the known.
5. Teaching is arousing and using the pupil’s mind to grasp the desired thought or to master the desired art.
6. Learning is thinking into one’s own understanding a new idea or truth or working into habit a new art or skill.
7. The test and proof of teaching done – the finishing and fastening process – must be a reviewing, rethinking, reknowing, reproducing, and applying of the material that has been taught, the knowledge and ideals and arts that have been communicated.

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