from the headmaster


Classical Education: A Few Simple and Direct Words of Explanation

Classical Christian education is a new and exotic animal for many Regents Academy parents. I always appreciate finding simple and direct explanations of many of the concepts, otherwise unclear or unknown, associated with our school’s philosophy of education. Below are a few questions and brief answers by Douglas Wilson that get right to the heart of several of these issues. I hope they are a help to you and also a way for you to be able to share what you’ve found with others.

What is classical education and how does it benefit the student?

Classical education refers to two principal things. The first is the structure of the curriculum, which follows the medieval Trivium. This consists of grammar, dialectic (or logic), and rhetoric. In her wonderful essay “The Lost Tools of Learning,” Dorothy Sayers observed that these three stages of the Trivium correspond nicely to three basic stages in child development—what she called the poll parrot stage, the pert stage, and the poetic stage. Classical education instills the elements of the Trivium at the ages of the student when acquiring that element is most natural. When the process is over, the student has acquired the tools of learning. The second aspect of classical education refers to the content of the curriculum, which emphasizes the great works of western civilization—Homer, Virgil, Herodotus, Augustine, Beowulf, and so forth.

Some parents may be put off by classical education because Latin is a central element and they’ve had no background in the language. Why is the study of Latin important? 

Over 50% of English vocabulary comes from Latin. Learning Latin is a wonderful way to strengthen English vocabulary skills, not to mention learning how grammar works. I learned some things about English grammar when I first learned Latin. Latin is also the foundation of modern Romance languages—it is a wonderful platform from which to learn Spanish, French, Romanian, Italian, and so on. And then there is a literary element. Many of the great works in English literature presuppose a knowledge of the classical world and, to a lesser extent, a knowledge of their languages. Finally, Latin is a great mental discipline, which carries over into other subjects. The study of Latin certainly enriches a student.

Because of its emphasis on “intellectualism” and because works from the pre-Christian era are part of the curriculum, some people may view classical education as incompatible with the Christian faith. What is your response to these concerns?

It is quite true that students should not be simply “turned loose” in the thickets of pagan literature. The Greco-Roman world was incompatible with the Christian faith—until the Christian faith overthrew it. Now that this has happened, we simply must take into account the nature of that battle. The New Testament cannot really be understood without understanding its context, which happens to be the context of the classical world. Jesus was born in the reign of Caesar Augustus. Gallio threw the apostle Paul out of court—and Gallio was the brother to the famous Stoic philosopher Seneca. Paul cast a demon (lit. a spirit of a python, a snake that was sacred to the god Apollo) out of girl at Philippi, and the story suddenly makes more sense. So classical education, rightly understood, rejects a cold intellectualism and rejects any attempt to combine Christian and pagan categories.

Many jobs in today’s society are specialized, especially those in technology and the sciences. What is the value of a classical education in light of such an environment? Is classical education for everybody?

The point of classical education is to teach the kids how to think, giving them the tools of learning so that they can reason things through themselves. The point is not vocational training primarily, and this is why it is such good vocational training. This is not to say that classical education is for everyone (I do not believe that it necessarily is). But I do want to say that a classical Christian education should be available in every community, so that it is at least an option for every Christian household.

Douglas Wilson is the author of Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, The Case for Classical Christian Education, and many other books and articles associated with classical Christian education. You can find his books on Amazon.com and many of his materials on line.

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The Lesser Known Demon

Here are some wise words from teacher and author Josh Gibbs at the Circe Institute blog: “The Lesser Known Demon.”

There are two kinds of demons. Nearly everyone is familiar with the first kind. Almost no one is familiar with the second kind.

The first kind of demon is simply the demon of folklore. He comes to tempt, to whisper lies, to deceive a man into rejecting God. The first kind of demon is a Baal or a Dagon, who con men and distract them from the truth. Such demons betake themselves to bridges and cliffs and invite innocent passersby to leap off for no good reason. These are the malevolent beings who suddenly fling foul thoughts into a man’s head so that he will needlessly question himself, form a base opinion of himself, and act accordingly. We have read of such demons in Scripture, for they throw children into fire or water, or incite a man to cut himself with stones. These demons are commonly known by every nation of the world, Christian and heathen alike.

However, there is another variety of demon whose work is wholly unlike the first, for he is not a tempter or liar. The first kind of demon is highly intellectual, and, as Milton suggests in Paradise Lost, has been meticulously studying mankind for nearly eight thousand years now. The first kind has a file on you which is several feet thick. He knows your weaknesses, your strengths, and perpetually strategizes on how best to snatch your love of God. The second variety of demon is not so cunning, though. The second variety of demon does not labor to trick a man into sinning, but simply helps him get away with the sin he has already committed.

This demon has a name in the infernal kingdom. He is known as a cellar demon, for any sin which a man gets away with is cellared in his soul to ferment and grow rich and heady. While not all demons are of one mind on the matter, a great many fiends would prefer a man not commit a certain sin than that he commit that sin and immediately be found out. Demons are not so impatient as you might have been led to believe. For instance, if a demon has the chance to tempt a man to drunkenness on a Friday night, yet knows the man will be caught, or the demon can wait until Sunday evening to do his tempting, and knows the man will not get caught then, well, the average demon will wait. Many thousands of years ago, the much-celebrated demon Belial wrote a highly influential book entitled Stored Up Wrath. The very famous first line of that book is, “I play the long game,” and to this day, lesser demons encourage one another with those words on a daily basis.

You see, nothing mucks up the work of a demon quite like his subject getting caught, for getting caught leads to punishments, self-reflection, witnesses, the loss of anonymity. Contrary to what most human beings think, getting caught usually restores community and reinforces crumbling bonds of unity. There is little which is truer in a man’s soul than his deep-down yearning to be found out, for a man cannot be known until he is found, and every man wants to be known.

Cellar demons are not free, and tempters must hire them at exorbitant rates. A cellar demon is like an insurance policy which is taken out after a successful round of temptation. The cellar demon comes along and covers over a fellow’s tracks, brushes evidence under the rug, alerts the sinner to remove certain clues, directs the attention of the authorities to different matters. Teenage boys often believe themselves far more clever and sneaky than they truly are— it is rarely their own craftiness which allows them to get away with sin, and far more often the work of cellar demons. Cellar demons charge more to conceal the sins of teenage boys than they do the sins of housewives or the elderly, but tempters always pay up. Cellared sin is simply that valuable in the teenage soul. 

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Why Christian Education?

“Why Christian education?” This is a question that we need to ask and answer again and again. You and I sacrifice to send our children to a school that forthrightly exalts Jesus Christ as Lord. Here at the beginning of a new year, it is good to be reminded that we are doing so for excellent reasons. So in that spirit, here are “10 Big Ideas to Consider” from the website discoverchristianschools.com that are great reminders of just how important it is to commit ourselves to providing our children with a Christ-centered education.

1. There are basically two kingdoms: a kingdom of light and a kingdom of darkness. It seems strange to have those who walk in darkness educate children of light. It doesn’t fit.

2. If Jesus Christ is Lord, then He is Lord of all. We cannot divide things into secular and sacred.

3. All truth is God’s truth, and God’s Word sheds light on our path. Only in His light can we see light. Education is not focused on possibilities but on certainties found in God’s Word.

4. Deuteronomy 6 tells parents that, in all they do, they should provide a godly education 24/7.

5. Three key institutions that shape a child are the home, the church and the school. Children are served best when all three institutions point them in the same direction.

6. Only an education that has the liberty to address the whole child — social, intellectual, emotional, physical AND spiritual — reaches the possibility of excellence.

7. The best preparation for effective service is to be well grounded in one’s mind before direct engagement of the culture.

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A Miscellany of Wise Quotes

Christopher Perrin, from An Introduction to Classical Education:

What makes a classic? The word classic is flexible and ambiguous. It derives from the Latin word classis, which originally meant a “fleet of ships.” It came to refer to groups of people—classes of people. In English it preserves this meaning as in a class of 1st graders. It also has a connotation that means of the highest order—something classy is very good or first class. The Latin word classicus referred to the highest class of Roman citizens. The word classic preserves this meaning of being the very best. Thus scholars like Mortimer Adler refer to classics as books of enduring value. Books that are called “great books” are usually synonymous with “classics.” However, books that are classics are enduring works, meaning they are older works, proven by positive assessment over time. It is possible for a new book to be a great book, but only after wide, critical acclaim and influence. It will take time, however, for new great books to become classics, if indeed they pass the test. Charles Van Doren referred to great books as “the books that never have to be written again.”

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Russell Kirk:

…being educated, they will know that they do not know everything; and that there exist objects in life besides power and money and sensual gratification; they will take long views; they will look backward to ancestors and forward to posterity.For them, education will not terminate on commencement day.

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John Buchan:

Our greatest inheritance, the very foundation of our civilization, is a marvel to behold and consider. If I tried to describe its rich legacy with utmost brevity, I should take the Latin word humanitas. It represents in the widest sense, the accumulated harvest of the ages; it is the fine flower of a long discipline of Christian thought. It is the Western mind of which we ought to turn our attentions to careful study.

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Sir Philip Sidney (1595)

This purifying of wit, this enriching of memory, enabling of judgment, and enlarging of conceit, which commonly we call learning, under what name soever it come forth or to what immediate end soever it be directed, the final end is to lead and draw us to as high a perfection as our degenerate souls, made worse by their clay lodgings, can be capable of.

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What Were You Looking For?

Here’s a good word from a friend, Headmaster Ron Gilley, from Trinitas Christian School in Pensacola, Florida. I hope that if you haven’t already made the same discovery he did, you will one day.

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What Were You Looking For? 

When my wife and I first visited the school fourteen years ago, it wasn’t because we were looking for classical education. We were looking for Christian education to be sure, but we didn’t even know enough about classical education to ask a good question about it. Seeing was believing for us that day though, and one tour of the school during a normal day of classes convinced us that this classical education was worth a try.

The truth of the matter is, we had two things in mind for our children: safety and the best education our town had to offer. Our motives were similar to those of most parents, I think. It is a pretty safe bet that we all want our children in a safe and nurturing environment, and most would agree that a good education is important. At that time, though, we weren’t thinking about education as something that molds virtue into young people as they grow. We were thinking about the kind of education that would help our children get into good colleges so they could get good jobs. As time wore on, however, we began to see that not only was this classical Christian education backing up everything we were trying to do with our children at home, it was also taking them further in some ways than we ever could have taken them alone.

Even in the early years of Grammar School our boys were learning about events and characters from history and literature and the Bible that we had been robbed of in our own education. Their learning about these events and characters and biblical principles was challenging what we knew about the world and even challenging who we were. We embraced the challenges and began to learn alongside our boys, to read books we never knew existed, to dig deeper into Scripture, and to challenge our own shallow assumptions about God. We were amazed at the precision of thought our boys had acquired by the time they had worked their way through the Logic School. They were beginning to question what they saw in the world and to make arguments for and against. In the Rhetoric School, they began to mature in every way. Their thought processes began to be informed by more than just logic, more than simply winning an argument. It was as if they began to slowly realize that some questions were so big that the argument could never be won for either side in this life. They became gracious, aware of the fact that they could do nothing to save themselves, that they were dependent upon Christ. And this way of thinking began to shape the way they viewed others. They began to mature into young men who saw this life as something far more important than a time and place to chase what the world, indeed what their own parents only fourteen years earlier, would call success.

My boys are far from perfect, but they are headed in the right direction in many ways as are thousands of classically trained students who graduate every year. What’s more is that the journey our family has taken through classical education, an unexpected journey to be sure, has left us with a very different reward from the one we set out to get, and a far better one. Oh sure, getting into good colleges hasn’t been a problem, but it’s no longer the primary goal. I don’t know what you were looking for when you first came to our school, but I can promise you this: if you open yourself up to the process of classical education, to the goodness of being marinated in God’s holy Word and learning to view all of creation through it, then your reward will be great, even it is different from the one you set out in search of.

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Momentum for the House System

This school year Regents Academy began a new upper school tradition – the House System. The purpose of the House System is to promote a culture of joy, discipleship, and respect among the Logic and Rhetoric School students.  Our hope is that the House System will support strong camaraderie, spiritual growth, unity, and mutual helpfulness among our students.

Logic and Rhetoric students have been divided into four houses: Jerusalem, Rome, Oxford, and Kampala. Each house is led by two seniors working together as House Stewards, with a faculty member as a house sponsor. I am happy to report that good things are going on with our House System! Here are just a few of them:

  • The houses are developing their own identities, not unlike sports teams or clubs. Each house is developing a crest, a Latin slogan, a mascot, house colors, etc.
  • The House Stewards are doing a marvelous job of leading their peers. One of the major purposes of the House System has always been to foster leadership among the students. That is happening as these fine young men and women are showing real leadership.
  • The Houses meet most Fridays for Bible study, praise and worship, prayer, and planning. The House Stewards and other upperclassmen lead these meetings, which gives them the opportunity to disciple those younger than themselves.
  • The students have been told that everyone needs a “Paul,” someone to learn from, and a “Timothy,” someone to encourage. Houses are beginning to pair students up so that they can pray for and encourage each other.
  • Houses can earn points that go toward a yearlong house competition, which is contributing to camaraderie, healthy competition, and accountability.
  • House Stewards have begun to periodically choose Gentlemen of Honor and Ladies of Virtue, members of their houses who have shown excellence and service in conspicuous ways. It is beautiful to see godly behavior and selfless service, not foolishness or bullying behavior, rewarded by the students.
  • Houses are identifying service projects around the school. House members will come together to serve their school later this fall.
  • Students are having fun. A few weeks back the students gathered on the field during lunch to have a House “Peg” tournament (Peg is a game the students love to play). Competition and fun ensued!

We are very thankful for our Logic and Rhetoric School teachers and for Mr. Ben Alexander, who work so hard and are giving the House System a lot of momentum. Lord willing, we will see even more good things come from our new House System in the days ahead!

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“A Uniquely Human Ability”

From classicalchristian.org and www.thepublicdiscourse.com:

Casey Shutt writes on how the classical Christian approach offers a fundamentally different vision of education that families fed up with a factory approach to learning find compelling:

“Dewey’s dictum on the importance of a practical education lives on. The elimination of cursive from many school curricula is rooted in the notion that cursive has lost its utility; after all, people now spend most of their lives typing. A pragmatic understanding of education finds it difficult to justify the place of cursive (or any type of handwriting) in a school curriculum, just as fast food restaurants don’t bother with hors d’oeuvres. However, broaden the scope of education, and cursive and handwriting become of critical importance. Andrew Kern of the Circe Institute roots the value of learning cursive within education’s historic and broader purpose of ‘cultivat[ing] the human-ness of the student.’ Kern continues, ‘Handwriting is a uniquely human ability. No other animal has ever been able to imitate it, much less come up with it.’ But modern education shrinks the students down to their potential instrumentality within the economy. Consequently, the fluid grace of cursive is easily replaced by the pragmatic peck of keys.”

And that is one reason, among others why we teach cursive handwriting at Regents Academy.

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A Podcast Well Worth Your Time

If you don’t listen to podcasts, I heartily recommend the habit. And if you listen to podcasts regularly, let me encourage you to listen to a new one: BaseCamp Live. The BaseCamp Live podcast is a thought-provoking and engaging way to understand classical Christian education better. It will also equip you to be a better parent and more faithful follower of Christ. One of the best things you can do for your children is to understand our culture and how to raise children who are well-equipped to influence it rather than merely be influenced by it.

You can find the BaseCamp Live podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, but you can also listen by visiting https://basecamplive.com/. Please get started – you will not regret it!  Here is just a taste of the recent topics you’ll find:

Is Old ‘Bad’ and New ‘Good’ or the Other Way Around?

  • Worldview isn’t Enough
  • Wimpy or Worn Out? Finding the balance between indulging or burning out our children
  • A Fresh Perspective from Africa on this “Classical Christian School Thing”
  • You Are What You Sing
  • Wisdom from Alistair Begg on Raising the Next Generation
  • Education is not Neutral Oatmeal

And here is an excerpt from BaseCamp Live’s description of the show:

You are an influencer…you no doubt want the best for the next generation… academically, emotionally and spiritually…

The greatest challenge is how to shape young people who will encounter a culture that is often working against them and equip them to become flourishing adults who love Jesus Christ, think with confidence, believe with courage and serve with compassion.

Ancient Future Education isn’t something new. The approach has been around for centuries and today is often called classical Christian education. The greatest minds and servant leaders have been educated using this model. It is more than a curriculum…it is a way of life and the model to educate the next generation for the 21st century marketplace.

BaseCamp will equip you, the parent, grandparent, educator, or mentor, to climb that biggest mountain.

Our guests are some of the top thought leaders, culture watchers, and educational experts. They are familiar with the obstacles you’ll encounter on that uphill climb. They will offer you the tools you’ll need to summit the peak and raise the next generation of exceptionally prepared, compassionate, and thoughtful human beings.

Tune in each week for a short 23 minute show that will be encouraging and well worth your time.

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Wise Students Learn

Here is the message I shared with the students at Morning Assembly last week. I thought it would be good to share it with you parents as well.

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Hello, students. We call you “students” because you’re enrolled at Regents Academy, which is a school, and if you have a school you have to have students, too.

But what is a student, anyway?

A student is someone whose job is to learn.

But here’s the problem. At our school, like most schools, we assign grades to your work. Excellent. Good. Satisfactory. Average. Poor. The whole reason we give grades to your work as a student is so that your parents can see how you’re doing: whether you’re learning what you’re supposed to be learning and making the progress you’re supposed to be making.

So, you are a student, and you learn. Along the way you get grades. But something quite subtle can go wrong, and it’s something that happens all the time.

Instead of being a student, someone whose job is to learn, your goal can get confused and tangled and undermined and become all about getting grades rather than being about learning. Are you at school to get grades? Is your job to make A’s or B’s? Is that the most important thing?

Making school all about getting a grade is really a way of missing the real purpose of school to start with.

Think about it:

Do you brush your teeth? Why? You brush your teeth to keep your teeth clean so you’ll have healthy teeth and a nice smile. But what if you hardly every brushed your teeth and then when you have a dentist appointment coming up, you brushed your teeth a few times before going to the see the dentist, just so the dentist will think you have clean teeth? Is that why you brush your teeth – to impress the dentist and keep him from thinking you’re gross? No! The purpose of brushing your teeth is to have healthy teeth! In the same way, if you study so that you can get a grade on a test, you’re not really being a student.

Or think about this. Why do your teachers teach? They teach in order to lead you to learn. But you know what? They also get a paycheck. What if they worked just to get money and did just enough to make sure that they get the paycheck at the end of the month? (Believe it or not, there ARE teachers like that out there!). If they did, they’d be missing the whole point of teaching, which is not to get a paycheck but to teach students.

This is what it’s like to go to school in order to get good grades! If you set your sites on getting good grades, you’re missing the point of being a student. Instead, set your sites on learning all that you can learn. Aim at cultivating curiosity and then trying to find knowledge. Do so because you love to know and you want to understand God’s world and know His will and His Word – then the good grades will come with it!

Listen to Proverbs 2:1-5, and pay special attention to the verbs:

My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.

These verbs describe the work of a student whose goal is to learn. Be that wise student, students! Don’t be the foolish student just trying to get a grade and finish school. If you do you’re in danger of becoming an ignoramus. Seek for knowledge and search for wisdom! Be the wise student who loves to learn!

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Prudence: Making Our Campus Safe

Prudence is one of the classical virtues, and also a virtue valued by Christians of all eras. “Prudence,” wrote C.S. Lewis, “means practical common sense, taking the trouble to think out what you are doing and what is likely to come of it.” According to Proverbs 27:12, it is a prudent person who “foresees evil and hides himself” while “the simple pass on and are punished.”

Our desire at Regents Academy is to be prudent when it come to the safety of our students during the school day. The beginnings of a sound campus safety plan lies in prudence, as we “think out what we are doing” and attempt to “foresee evil.” The Regents board and administration have endeavored to be as prudent as possible when considering campus safety, and especially so in light of the horrific and tragic stories that confront us after all-too-frequent school shootings.

Over the last several years, Regents Academy has added a number of safety features to the campus that have enhanced its overall safety.

  • Just this summer we added new security doors between the school foyer and the main hallway. The new doors remain locked during the school day and stiffen the entryway into the school. All exterior doors remain locked during the school day, which enables the staff to better monitor those who are entering the school building.
  • Securely locking doors on all our classroom doors. This feature enables us to securely lock down our classrooms if necessary.
  • A security system, which includes panic buttons that facilitate an immediate and stealthy call to the police. If one of the panic buttons is activated by a staff member, the police are alerted to come immediately but without an alarm sounding.
  • A closed-circuit security camera system, with cameras on both the inside and outside of the building. This system enables us to monitor the front of the building; in the future we will add more cameras so we will be able to monitor more areas of the campus.
  • An Automated External Defibrillator (AED), which is accessible in the school office. AED’s have become a common sight in churches, schools, and other public places, and we are glad this life-saving piece of technology is on our campus – with the hopes that we never need to use it!
  • In addition, the school has a thorough safety plan, practices safety drills regularly, and requires its teachers to complete bi-yearly sexual abuse awareness training.

And speaking of teachers, our school’s staff truly is its most important safety feature. Teachers are like shepherds who vigilantly watch over their little flocks daily. On Wednesday we will dismiss school at noon so that teachers can spend the afternoon receiving CPR training. Lord willing, we will never need to use the training, but we want to be ready if that day ever comes.

Prudence will enable us to foresee many dangers and be prepared to deal with them. We can thank our school board, diligent staff members, and committed parents for helping the school be the safest place possible. Most of all, we can thank the Lord – we are in His hands daily! “You are my rock and my fortress; therefore, for Your name’s sake, lead me and guide me” (Psalm 31:3).

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