We concluded our previous post with the observation that a robust view of human reason will not only include virtues of intellect but virtues of character as well. One virtue that lies at the heart of this intersection is the virtue of discernment. “Discernment” comes from the Latin word discernere meaning “to see, discern, distinguish, separate.” It may be used in a variety of contexts, for example, someone with a “discerning eye” may have a knack for identifying things of particularly good quality. When we talk about discernment as a virtue necessary for human flourishing, we mean the ability to distinguish or separate good from evil. This requires two things: recognition of a standard outside of oneself and an act of the will.
The Classical Parent
In this Classical Christian Education Corner, we continue our discussion of our new tagline, “preparing students for lives of faith, reason, and virtue” with a look at “reason”. It seems obvious that a school would have the cultivation of reason as a primary goal. Isn’t that what schools are for? This goal may not be as widespread as one would think, or hope, however. Certainly, some sort of knowledge and skills are objectives for any learning environment, but classical Christian schools operate with a more robust concept of human reason—one that is informed by the view of human nature mentioned in our previous post about faith. In that discussion, we said that one principle of a classical Christian education is: “there is more to this world than what is seen” — that the material world is not all there is; and, human beings, having been created in the image and likeness of God, are not mere material beings. What implications does this have for education?
First, education is not merely instrumental. It should not be designed primarily to help students meet their material needs and desires. The cultivation of reason, while certainly of instrumental value, is a good in itself. Subjects like grammar, Latin, Greek, and classic literature, and methods like memorization, critical thinking, debate, and rhetoric, can help students achieve many things, but they also enable students to develop well their God-given capacity for and delight in reason. A comparison to the body may help to illustrate. It’s good to exercise the body so that we can do the various things we need to, but it’s also good to cultivate physical capacities simply because the body is God’s gift and he designed us to delight in its activity. Developing our minds and bodies is part of what God intended for human flourishing.
When we founded Trinitas Classical School in 2006, we considered various taglines for our marketing materials. Among them were–“the education you wish you had; the education your child can have” (a sentiment true for many of us) and “Trinitas–a school without walls” (a somewhat humorous attempt to cope with our struggle to find a facility). We chose to use “preparing students for lives well-lived,” and that has been our tagline for the last fifteen years. We’ve made a shift recently though in an attempt to avoid ambiguity about what we mean by “lives well-lived.” There are, after all, a myriad of visions of what a good or the good life is. Our new tagline makes explicit what we understand a well-lived life to be–we are “preparing students for lives of faith, reason, and virtue.” A brief explication of each of these seems like a good way to begin the new school year.
That “faith” appears first in our list is no accident. The Christian faith is both our starting point and our end; it is the foundation of our curricular, extra-curricular, and cultural choices, and it is a goal for which we believe each of us was made and toward which we strive. For an understanding of faith, we could perhaps do no better than Hebrews 11, a chapter our fifth-eighth graders memorize every other year. (We encourage you to read and discuss it this week with your family.) The author begins with a definition: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders [ancients] obtained a good testimony [were commended]. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”
…but it’s not too late to join! The first video appeared this Wednesday. New videos are released every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Use the link below to sign up for email notifications. You can also find the videos on YouTube. Please remember that you do not need to have a background in medieval literature or read Italian or be especially smart to participate. There are no pre-requisites other than a curious mind. The reading schedule was designed to be manageable!
We sometimes refer to a Trinitas education as “the education you wish you had”; 100 Days of Dante gives parents the opportunity for that education! Please watch for details about discussion group opportunities.
Click here to read last week’s full CCE Corner post.
Watch for articles about classical Christian education, from the philosophical to the practical. We will include reflections on Scripture, poetry, philosophy, literature, summaries of relevant books and films, articles, podcasts, and “best practice” tips from fellow travelers on this journey toward “lives well-lived”.
Welcome back to the Trinitas Classical Christian Education Corner, a spot for articles and links to resources about classical Christian education, from the philosophical to the practical. We will include reflections on Scripture, poetry, philosophy, literature, summaries of relevant books and films, articles, podcasts, and “best practice” tips from fellow travelers on this journey toward “lives well-lived”.
We begin this year with an opportunity to study Dante together! If that sounds exciting, great! If it sounds daunting, please know that it isn’t. You do not need to have a background in medieval literature or read Italian or be especially smart to participate. There are no pre-requisites other than a curious mind, and it won’t even take a lot of time. We sometimes refer to a Trinitas education as “the education you wish you had”; 100 Days of Dante gives all of us the opportunity for that education! Materials will become available on September 8.
Completed in 1320, Dante’s extended narrative poem, The Divine Comedy, is considered one of the greatest works of world literature. Are you tired of hearing that we are living in “unprecedented times”? Dante shows us that our times are not “unprecedented”, that our discomfort, and even suffering, is part of the human condition. Lest we despair at this universal condition, Dante also shows us the vision of heaven and the path to it—the vision of human flourishing God intended from the beginning and that, by his grace, we may attain now in part and in its culmination at the end of time. It is our desire that in reading this work together, we may receive consolation and hope and grow in Christian discipleship together.
Some details: Baylor University Honors College has provided the opportunity for anyone to learn from teachers “who know and love Dante well.” Parents, staff, board members, and alumni from Trinitas can sign up (it’s free!) to receive video essays (six to seven minutes each) that go along with six to seven pages of reading every few days. Note: This is not 100 consecutive days; the video essays will run from September 8 through Easter 2022. We plan to schedule some times for Trinitas discussion and fellowship too. Watch for more details, and in the meantime, sign up to get started!
To hear more about the timelessness and timeliness of Dante’s Divine Comedy, listen to this BaseCamp Live podcast.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact Anne Poortenga.
We look forward to reading and growing together!
You may be thinking, “We covered the `M’ with mathematics, and the `S’ is for science, but there’s no `L’ for logic in STEM; and, where’s the technology and engineering at Trinitas? The short answer is that a rigorous education in math, science, and logic, along with an in-depth study of languages, prepares our students exceptionally well for advanced study and work in STEM fields. A substantial number of our graduates are currently studying or working in the areas of biology, neuroscience, medicine, computer science, and engineering. Continue reading to understand why.
Simply put, the study of logic prepares our students for STEM because it is the study of reasoning itself. Logic is foundational and so especially valuable for subjects that make use of arguments and problem-solving like mathematics, computer science, engineering, and philosophy, but it is beneficial for nearly any subject because it teaches students to understand the relationship of ideas–how to define and classify terms with precision, how to draw inferences and test hypotheses, how to properly get from premises or assumptions to conclusions, and how to determine which arguments are valid and sound and which arguments are weak, muddled, or fallacious. Studying logic develops students’ minds so they are capable of more and more complex chains of reasoning and better able to discern truth from falsehood.
In this post, we continue our discussion of STEM subjects with a look at Trinitas science education. Throughout their study of the world that God created “good,” our students are encouraged in their wonder at His amazing creativity and overflowing generosity. They are encouraged to expand their understanding of that world with a program of study rooted in the scientific tradition–a tradition that is inquiry-based and very “hands-on.” Trinitas students don’t just listen to lectures or read about science, they do science.
Students begin by thinking about what they know about a given topic. Then they are given the opportunity for hands-on exploration. They go on nature walks and keep notebooks for sketching. They interact with eggs and incubators, seeds and soil, batteries, wires, and bulbs, rocks and minerals, meal worms and cow eyes. By engaging in hands-on scientific inquiry, they learn to make observations, ask questions, experiment, develop theories, make predictions, collect and analyze data, and communicate and discuss their ideas. They also learn to be able to give up what may have been naïve theories and to apply their more advanced knowledge to new contexts and real-life situations. They build creative, analytical, problem-solving, and communication skills in the process.
As part of our discussion of STEM subjects at Trinitas, we are including this post on building digital trust. In a recent interview, Chris McKenna, founder of Protect Young Eyes, outlined five parts of what he calls the “Digital Trust Framework”: Copy Me, Co-Play, Curiosity, Communication, and Coaching. The interview is filled with much food for thought and practice. As you listen, consider how the five ways of approaching technology with our children are actually good ways of approaching anything with them.
- We build credibility and authority if we live so that our kids can copy us in all that we do.
- We build affection and discernment if we co-play with them and take an interest in the things that interest them.
- If we have a posture of curiosity, we build an environment of grace over one of condemnation.
- We build intimacy and a love of truth if we are good communicators, talking early and often with our children about important, and non-important, things.
- Finally, like good coaches, we bring out the best in our kids when the endgame is not controlling them and their environment, but rather equipping them to make God-honoring choices.
To hear Chris McKenna discuss these principles of parenting as they apply to the digital world, click this link: https://basecamplive.com/chris-mckenna-on-why-parental-controls-dont-work/.
In this post, we look at the third “R” of education: ‘Rithmetic. In our next post, we’ll include a discussion of science and logic at Trinitas to complete the picture of how our classical school measures up in the area of STEM. At the outset, we should be honest that classical schools may often be thought of as great books programs or humanities schools. From the time of its founding in 2006, however, Trinitas was committed to providing our students an excellent education in the sciences. Not content to simply adopt the curricula many classical schools were already using, we were somewhat “cutting edge” for classical, and even non-classical, schools.* We think our math and science programs map nicely onto the grammar, logic, and rhetoric stages of the Trivium.
When choosing a math curriculum, it seemed to make some sense to find out what the best students in the world are using. Math students in Singapore are consistently at the top of The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). These students use the Primary Mathematics Series (otherwise known as Singapore Math). Lest we commit a logical fallacy, we won’t assume that simply using the same curriculum will produce the same results (there are very likely multiple factors at work), but it is probably fair to be optimistic about the possibilities. When we examined Singapore math pilot studies in the US, we found that students were, on average, a grade ahead of their peers. And, they liked math more. We’ve found this to be true of our math students as well over the last fifteen years—they are typically advanced in math, do very well on standardized tests, and go on to honors and AP math tracks in high school. And, importantly, a large percentage enjoy the subject.