Archive for classical education

Apr
12

Sheriff Kerss Visits Regents

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Regents Academy was very glad to welcome Nacogdoches County Sheriff Thomas Kerss to campus on April 11.

Sheriff Kerss made a presentation to the 9th grade government class and was joined by the 6th graders as well. Sheriff Kerss explained where the office of sheriff came from, what his job entails, and what the sheriff’s office’s responsibilities are.

We appreciate Sheriff Kerss’s generosity and service in coming to visit our students.

Categories : school life
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I want to share with you an article found at Memoria Press’s website by classical educator and author Martin Cothran titled, “What’s so Great About Great Books?” Regents Academy teaches the Great Books in our Omnibus classes, and Cothran gives a good, brief explanation why.

There are some books we set apart from the rest and call “great.” What do they got that the others ain’t got? Well, for one thing, they don’t use “ain’t.” But isn’t there something else?

What is a great book, and what makes it different from a book that is not great? Aren’t there differences of opinion on what constitutes a great book? And if so, isn’t this difference of opinion an indication that such greatness is, like we often say of beauty, in the eye of the beholder? And if there is no agreement on what a great book is, then is it even possible to call any particular book truly “great”?

To call something “great” is to attribute to it some combination of three virtues: intellectual, moral, and aesthetic. An intellectual virtue has to do with something’s truth; a moral virtue has to do with the good of a thing; and an aesthetic virtue has to do with a thing’s beauty. Ultimately, however, all of these considerations come into play for a book to be called truly “great.”

When we say a book is “great,” we may mean to say that it communicates some truth. If it is a book of nonfiction, this truth could be a particular truth about God, man, or the world. There are great books of philosophy or history that do this. Plato’s Republic and Thucydides’ The Peloponnesian War may relate to us eternal or temporal truths that can tell us of our proper place in the cosmos or of our proper role in this world.

If it is a work of fiction, we still expect that it will communicate truths, although of a more universal kind, communicated in metaphor, parable, or allegory. Homer’s Iliad may speak to us of the folly of wrath. Dante’s Divine Comedy may communicate to us that we are pilgrims seeking the way to God and that we may find reason alone useful for a while, but that eventually we are helpless without Divine Grace.

We may also judge a book great by the moral lesson it teaches us. Aesop’s Fables, like much great children’s literature, is filled with practical wisdom that instructs us concerning what we must do to avoid the common pitfalls in life that often result from greed, ambition, and selfishness. The Bible tells the story of the Good Samaritan as an example of the charity we too should practice.

But there are many books we would not call “great” that instruct or impart knowledge to us or that tell us what we should do. A travel book or a repair manual do these things, but they are not great literature. There must be, then, something in addition to these moral and intellectual qualities alone that makes for a “great” book.

Great literature must not only inhabit our intellect and subordinate our will, but it must also capture our imagination. Without Beauty, Truth and Goodness are simply inaccessible to us. Unless our very desires are ordered to the True and the Good, our desires are ultimately without effect.

John Henry Newman spoke to this very issue:

“Knowledge is one thing, virtue is another; good sense is not conscience, refinement is not humility, nor is largeness and justness of view faith. Philosophy, however enlightened, however profound, gives no command over the passions, no influential motives, no vivifying principles … Quarry the granite rock with razors, or moor the vessel with a thread of silk; then may you hope with such keen and delicate instruments as human knowledge and human reason to contend against those giants, the passion and the pride of man.”

Reason and evidence may yield knowledge, and exhortation may bring about conviction, but what will breathe life into what we know—and know we should do? What will help us to avoid “praising one thing,” as Plato put it, “but being pleased by another”? What will resolve the problem that Allan Bloom once described as the “tension between the pleasurable and the good”?

What is it that will make us whole?

Classical Christian education operates according to the principle that Truth, Goodness, and Beauty are the fundamental criteria, not only of a great book, but of a great education—of which the great books form a fundamental part.

Categories : from the headmaster
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Apr
07

Green Thumbs

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The second grade students are trying out their green thumbs.

The Regents second grade teacher, Mrs. Melissa Griner, has led her students to plant a vegetable garden behind the school building. The students are having a blast. Not only do they get to learn about gardening and play in the dirt, but they get to taste their hard work, as it produces delicious tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, watermelons, and strawberries.

The class has gotten help from several members of the Regents family. Mr. Bobby Phillips (Mrs. Shannon Henry’s father and Caleb and Mitchell Henry’s grandfather) has been the class’s gardening consultant. He also tilled up the ground for the garden. Mrs. Jolene Monlezun helped the class get a grant from Walmart to buy seeds, tools, and fertilizer.

Pictured below are the second grade class and also Mrs. Griner. Just one more proof that hard work can be fun and rewarding! And another wonderful way for our students to learn about and enjoy God’s wonderful creation. The second grade class includes Levi Bertke, Abigail Freeland, Sophie Jordan, Ella Milliken, Cody Monlezun, Hayli Stanaland, Reagan Taylor,  Clayton Terrell, Connor Tolson, and Trinity Tyre.


I recently read an article by Pastor John Piper in which he argues for providing rigorous training of our children’s minds so that they will be able to read the Bible with understanding. He presents his case with such eloquence that I decided to share it with you. Pastor Piper does not mention classical Christian education directly, but he doesn’t have to.

I was reading and meditating on the book of Hebrews recently, when it hit me forcefully that a basic and compelling reason for education—the rigorous training of the mind—is so that a person can read the Bible with understanding.

This sounds too obvious to be useful or compelling. But that‘s just because we take the preciousness of reading so for granted; or, even more, because we appreciate so little the kind of thinking that a complex Bible passage requires of us.

The book of Hebrews, for example, is an intellectually challenging argument from Old Testament texts. The points that the author makes hang on biblical observations that come only from rigorous reading, not light skimming. And the understanding of these Old Testament interpretations in the text of Hebrews requires rigorous thought and mental effort. The same could be said for the extended argumentation of Romans and Galatians and the other books of the Bible.

This is an overwhelming argument for giving our children a disciplined and rigorous training in how to think an author‘s thoughts after him from a text—especially a biblical text. An alphabet must be learned, as well as vocabulary, grammar, syntax, the rudiments of logic, and the way meaning is imparted through sustained connections of sentences and paragraphs.

The reason Christians have always planted schools where they have planted churches is because we are a people of THE BOOK. It is true that THE BOOK will never have its proper effect without prayer and the Holy Spirit. It is not a textbook to be debated; it is a fountain for spiritual thirst, and food for the soul, and a revelation of God, and a living power, and a two-edged sword. But none of this changes the fact: apart from the discipline of reading, the Bible is as powerless as paper. Someone might have to read it for you; but without reading, the meaning and the power of it are locked up.

Is it not remarkable how often Jesus settled great issues with a reference to reading? For example, in the issue of the Sabbath he said, “Have you not read what David did?” (Matthew 12:3). In the issue of divorce and remarriage he said, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female?” (Matthew 19:4). In the issue of true worship and praise he said, “Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babes you have prepared praise for yourself’?” (Matthew 21:16). In the issue of the resurrection he said, “Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone’?” (Matthew 21:42). And to the lawyer who queried him about eternal life he said, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” (Luke 10:26).

The apostle Paul also gave reading a great place in the life of the church. For example, he said to the Corinthians, “We write nothing else to you than what you read and understand, and I hope you will understand until the end” (2 Corinthians 1:13). To the Ephesians he said, “When you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:3). To the Colossians he said, “When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea” (Colossians 4:16). Reading the letters of Paul was so important that he commands it with an oath: “I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren” (1 Thessalonians 5:27).

The ability to read does not come intuitively. It must be taught. And learning to read with understanding is a life-long labor. The implications for Christians are immense. Education of the mind in the rigorous discipline of thoughtful reading is a primary goal of school. The church of Jesus is debilitated when his people are lulled into thinking that it is humble or democratic or relevant to give a merely practical education that does not involve the rigorous training of the mind to think hard and to construe meaning from difficult texts.

The issue of earning a living is not nearly so important as whether the next generation has direct access to the meaning of the Word of God. We need an education that puts the highest premium under God on knowing the meaning of God‘s Book, and growing in the abilities that will unlock its riches for a lifetime. It would be better to starve for lack of food than to fail to grasp the meaning of the book of Romans. Lord, let us not fail the next generation!

Aug
17

Why Study Latin?

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As the school year gears up, prepare yourself for an inevitable question from the backseat on the way home from school: “Why am I learning Latin?”

I love Cheryl Lowe’s short and sweet case for studying Latin. She writes for The Classical Teacher over at Memoria Press.

Why Study Latin?
by Cheryl Lowe

Have you ever wished you had a good answer for those people who ask why you would spend your valuable education time studying Latin when you could be spending it on something more “practical”?

There are three reasons Latin has long been considered the one master subject before which all others must bow.

First, Latin teaches English better than English teaches English. “The study of one’s own language,” says classicist Charles Bennett, “is achieved incomparably better by the indirect method of studying another language … It is because translation from Latin to English … is so helpful to the student who would attain mastery of his own language … that I find the full justification for the study of Latin.” In other words, education based on the study of the child’s own language is inferior to one based on Latin.

Second, the mental discipline Latin instills in students makes it the ideal foreign language to study. Latin originated with the Romans, and their character pervades the language they created. The Roman, says R. W. Livingstone, “disciplined his thought as he disciplined himself; his words are drilled as rigidly as were his legions, and march with the same regularity and precision.”

Latin is systematic, rigorous, analytic. Its sentences march “serried, steady, stately, massive, the heavy beat of its long syllables and predominant consonants reflecting the robust, determined, efficient temper” of the Romans themselves.

Latin is clearly superior to other languages in this regard. Like English, modern languages are “lax and individualistic,” reflecting the modern temper of those who speak them. Thinking that you can get the same benefit out of studying them is, in Livingstone’s words, “like supposing that the muscles can be developed by changing from one chair to the other.”

Third, Latin is the ideal tool for the transmission of cultural literacy. Latin is, in fact, the mother tongue of Western civilization—a language that incorporated the best ideas of the ancient Greeks, and which then, after the conversion of Rome, put them into the service of Christian truth.

Rome fell into ruin, but the dying language of the disintegrating empire was infused with new life. Harnessing the power and precision of the old Latin, Christianity transformed the tongue of conquest into the tongue of conversion, and Latin became the very language of the Christian faith for over a thousand years.

Christian Latin takes the intellectual discipline of classical Latin and adds another element: simplicity. Although the basic grammar and vocabulary of Christian Latin are the same as the classical, Christian Latin authors emphasized the transmission of Christian truth, striving for clarity and simplicity above all else. Because Christian Latin is easier to read, it is the perfect gateway to the more difficult classical Latin of Caesar, Cicero, and Virgil.

And then she offers this compelling tidbit:

Need a short answer?
Mean Verbal SAT scores for 2006:

LATIN STUDENTS: 672
Spanish Students: 577
French Students: 637
German Students: 632
Hebrew Students: 623

Average for all students: 503

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Regents Academy is a Classical Christian school. I find that people often don’t understand what that means, even people who are actively involved in the school. What does it mean to be Classical and Christian? First, some thoughts on what it means to be Classical. In a later post I will offer some thoughts on what it means to be Christian.

Being a Classical school might call to some people’s minds a repressed, austere boys school like in Dead Poets’ Society, where creativity and independent thought are suppressed in the name of rigor and tradition. Others may think of nuns slapping the back of boys’ and girls’ hands with rulers or of tearful students with endless piles of homework.

But a Classical education is an education bequeathed from the riches of Western civilization. It gathers the best of the ancients – the truly classical cultures of Greece and Rome that sought to produce the ideal man through contemplation and philosophy – and the medievals, who were in love with the idea of integrating all thought into a coherent whole. Classical education builds on the Trivium: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. By studying these disciplines, students learn the great thoughts of their predecessors, comprehend how language works, grow in their ability to read, speak and write intelligently, and are cultivated in wisdom and virtue. The disciplines of the Trivium (and the accompanying disciplines of the Quadrivium) were called the “liberal arts” because they freed the mind and were a fitting education for free men.

Consider the words of educator Paul Lehninger:

These liberal arts, as distinguished from the servile arts (and, in the middle ages, mechanical arts), were liberal because they freed the citizen from captivity to his own inner perspective to join in the exchange of ideas in the larger culture. In this sense, they were true education: a leading out of the mind from the darkness of subjective ignorance to the light of truth.

So to say we are a Classical school is to say that we have a certain kind of curriculum – one that is built on the classical disciplines that aim to expose children’s minds to man’s greatest thoughts and aspirations from his greatest works of literature, science, and art. It is to say also that our education aims toward a certain goal. The ancients conceived of education as producing the model citizen who conformed to ideals of virtue. We likewise have a model in mind – the biblical ideal of Christlikeness. Being conformed to Christ is to be conformed to the new humanity who is being remade in His image in true knowledge and righteousness.

Dorothy Sayers famously added to the discussion of Classical education the insight that the Trivium corresponds to the natural stages of a child’s development. The grammar stage, when children are young, is when they soak up great amounts of information, especially through jingles and rhymes. The logic stage, when children are young teenagers, is when they are learning how to argue and wanting to know how assertions are justified and how ideas interconnect with other ideas. The rhetoric stage is when children begin to learn how to speak and write winsomely and persuasively, building on their previous grammatical and logical (or dialectical) instruction. So to say that we are Classical, in this sense, is to say that we “cut with the grain,” as Mrs. Sayers put it. We teach according to the God-given frames of our children, from young kindergarteners who memorize readily to later teenagers reason logically and speak beautifully.

Categories : classical education
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Aug
02

The Case for CCE, chapter 6

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In chapter 6 of The Case for Classical Christian Education, Douglas Wilson takes up a theme that seems missing in many treatments of the philosophy of education: “the Centrality of Worship.”

Several years ago I read a book that purported to be a statement of the Christian worldview. But there was something about this book that separated it from others I had read. The author asserted there was a glaring blind spot in most Christian books about worldview — they glossed over the Trinity, or they at least treated the Trinity as a tertiary truth. The author’s point was that the Trinity is the most essential truth about God and therefore about reality, yet this essential truth got only sideways treatment in many books about worldview. He was attempting to orient his whole statement of the Christian worldview around the Trinity. It was something of a paradigm-changer for me.

Wilson’s treatment on the centrality of worship in education is a paradigm-changer also.

Is not a human essentially a worshiping creature? Are we not created for worship, so that we are bent either toward idolatry or, by God’s grace, toward worship of the true God? We cannot ignore this truth when we begin talking about education, as if education is a tightly sealed, airtight compartment that concerns rational, intellectual, or vocational matters only. Children are worshipers, not just empty containers into whom we pour multiplication tables, principles of grammar, Latin vocabulary, and history facts. Their education leads them toward worship.

In other words, “worship is central to life; therefore, it is central to education for that life.” Wilson makes several salient points.

  • Worship is incarnational. “We have to learn how to worship. And then, having worshiped, we are sent out into the world to study it, subdue it, replenish it. But education and learning follow worship and proceed from it.” In other words, “sitting in neat rows in a classroom, doing push-ups with the brain” is not enough — students must learn how to worship in a local church in order to be complete, and in order for their education to cohere into a complete life.
  • Worship is centered on Christ. “Jesus Christ is the arche, the One in whom all things hold together (Col 1:18). But Christ is not a mere word we use; Jesus Christ is the Son of God, seated at the right hand of the Father. There is no Christian worldview where He is not present.” And He has promised to be present among the people who worship Him and Him alone. Education in His presence, worshiping Him as Lord, is the only true education. Therefore, “education that does not begin and end in heaven is not true education.”
  • Finally, “a classical Christian school will not succeed in its mission unless it has the strong support of a worshiping community.” And let me say at this point how thankful I am for the support Regents Academy receives from the churches of the Nacogdoches community. Our school cannot succeed if it is not linked up with local churches who recognize a common goal of exalting and worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ and who are partnering with parents to train up children in the way they should go.
  • One final quote: “The major reason why worship is central concerns the children. Worship is the point of integration for all Christian living, including the living that goes on at the school. When children who are members of the race homo adorans worship God rightly, everything comes together in their lives. When they do not, everything is out of joint.”
Jul
10

The Case for CCE, chapter 5

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Chapter 5 of The Case for CCE is called “The Case Against Government Schools.” Wilson states his bottom line clearly: “Given what we have seen to this point, there is no good reason for Christian parents to entrust their children to the government school system.”

We need to remember that Wilson’s purpose here is to tear down — but not to tear down in the sense of spreading wanton destruction, confusion, and division. Rather, he means to tear down in order to build up in its place. Wilson wants to do what good teachers do — discover existing erroneous assumptions and eat away at those so that sound assumptions can be inserted in their place.

For example, when I teach about Medieval Europe, in order to show that this period was an era of remarkable wisdom and light, the first thing I attempt to do is to tear down the assumption that this period was a thousand-year experiment in darkness, ignorance, and bigotry. There exist powerful assumptions saying that the Medieval millennium was a “Dark Age” (light came only after we got over Christianity) or the “Middle Ages” (coming between something good before and even better after). Where did these ideas come from? Are they accurate? Do they lead to a proper understanding? Assumptions are powerful, and in order to have a right understanding of something, we often have to have our assumptions challenged. Teachers who know their stuff know this.

So Wilson is challenging assumptions in The Case of CCE. One of the most powerful assumptions among American Christians is that their children ought to be educated in the local school system. Wilson is attacking this assumption and asserting instead the assumption that “Christian education is not a luxury or an option. It is part of Christian discipleship for those who have been blessed with children.”

He is also challenging the assumption that the government school system is “neutral ground” for Christians. If education is an inherently religious activity, then schools have inescapable objects of worship. Christians are called to worship only one Lord. A unified life under the Lordship of Christ, according to Wilson, cannot include multiple lords.

Government education was birthed in a revolutionary rejection of the historic Christian faith, and the progressive claims for the saving power of education were breathtaking. . . . But many Christians still think of local government schools as being somehow “our” schools. Because local government was significant at the founding of our nation, and because many of the forms of local government have been kept intact, many Christians still think this is the case.

Thus, many Christians argue for the reform of the schools by restoring school prayer or the teaching of creation or making schools safer. But “Why prayer in an officially agnostic institution? Why the teaching of creation in an officially pluralistic institution? Why do we think it is a victory when the pagans admit our Lord, as an option just for some, to their pantheon of gods many and lords many?”

Further, Wilson argues that merely reacting to the ills of the schools — things like danger, academic incompetence, and immorality — “is not good enough. Believing parents must come to see Christian education as a demand of the covenant.” “God requires that covenant children be brought up in covenant truths.” Biblical passages like Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Psalm 78:5-8 make this clear.

Wilson takes up corollary issues: the “salt and light” argument for leaving children in public schools so that they can be an influence for good, and the issue of Christian teachers in public schools. But his central point is clear: Christian parents are to give their children a Christian education, and this simply cannot be accomplished in the local school system.

One last quote that begins to point in the direction of a positive argument for classical and Christian education:

Educated under the wrong kind of fear, our children will become servile in their thinking. Educated under no fear at all, they will become arrogant. . . .  God demands that we teach our children (His children) in accordance with their station. They are royalty and should receive a royal education. The mark of such an education is confident humility.

Amen.

I love Pastor John Piper’s exhortation to rigorous training of the mind.

A basic and compelling reason for education—the rigorous training of the mind—is so that a person can read the Bible with understanding.

That is so obvious that it is utterly profound.

I am reminded that this is one of the great reasons we are engaged in the labor of classical Christian education. A mind that is shaped and nurtured to read the Bible well is a mind that is not easily taken in by the lies and half-lies of a thousand bankrupt philosophies and worldviews but is instead prepared to live in truth and wisdom, to the glory of God.

Read on!

Economist Richard Weaver wrote a book titled: Ideas Have Consequences. We might consider this the “practical” side of philosophy. It matters what we think. Every idea produces a particular kind of fruit. Every culture is the product of ideas. We can look at this from the other side: consequences also have ideas. When we see a culture and its fruit, which is what we often see first, we must ask, “What ideas produced this?” Many times the ideas have not been thought about in a systematic way. We either do not evaluate the culture at all (it just is), or else the ideas seem to be random and unconnected.

This is true for us individually as well as corporately. We all do philosophy, but we don’t all do philosophy well. Our philosophies are often haphazard and inconsistent. As a result, the fruit of our philosophy is also haphazard and inconsistent. Since we are inevitably philosophers (i.e., we have ideas), we must strive to be consistently Christian in our philosophy. In our context we need a distinctively Christian philosophy of education. Remember, each of us already has a philosophy of education; the question is whether it is distinctively Christian. It’s not enough to be a Christian teacher or to have a school full of Christian teachers (i.e., those who are personally going to heaven when they die). A school building full of Christians still might not be a Christian school.

In order for us to be a “Christian” school, we must have a school founded on and practicing a distinctively Christian philosophy of education. We must be epistemologically self-conscious Christians. We must know what to do and why we are doing it: what are the children being taught? (content), and why are they being taught that way? (philosophy).

Pastor Randy Booth (from his blog Feast of Booths)

Categories : quotable
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