I literally got mad at my microwave this morning. “How long should it take to reheat a cup of coffee?” I grumbled as I hit another 20 seconds on the key pad. Then I stopped, had a moment of clarity, and began to laugh. How absurd was it to get mad at losing 20 seconds of time?
In an era given to the instant gratifications of microwaves, smartphones, and Amazon Prime, we aren’t very good at waiting. And yet when it comes to developing young people rooted firmly in their identity and blossoming into competent, confident, Christ-like young adults, the element of time is crucial. Our children need time to think, ponder, wrestle, and even fail. All too often, we want to hit the fast-forward button and catapult them to maturity before they’ve had time to truly and authentically grow. Even more so, society all too often launches them into the world before first giving them the tools they will need to truly succeed at cultivating “the good life.”
Author Steven Covey once said, “begin with the end in mind,” and it summarizes beautifully the philosophy of the classical, Christian, educational objective. What kinds of students do we envision graduating from our institutions? Simply put, we want students who have been trained to love what’s true, good, and beautiful. In a world bent on distorting each of those elements, it’s no small task to entice students to develop a keen mind, heart, and soul capable of identifying the distortions all around them, and then, having weighed the differences, ultimately choosing the better, truer way.
Students cannot know what’s true if they aren’t first given the tools to identify a lie. Courses in logic provide a deep foundation for identifying fallacies in thinking. Engaging in discussion forums with loving yet bold teachers pushes students to create a solid worldview based on truth. Studies in rhetoric train students to winsomely present and persuade a given belief, and courses in ethics and apologetics allow room for questions about the ultimate meaning and purpose of life.
Students cannot know what’s beautiful if they haven’t first encountered classically beautiful literature, music, and art. Walking in the woods, memorizing epic poems, reading Beowulf, Dostoyevsky, and Tolkien, sitting at a pottery bench, dancing to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in music class – each experience combines with the other to craft a vision of what true beauty looks like and what it feels like to be in its presence.
How can we expect students to know what’s good unless they’ve also been exposed to and wrestled with what’s not good? Sitting around desks formed in circles, students debate issues such as racial injustice, mob appeal, immoral leadership, and more. They read Augustine, and Socrates, and Aristotle and think deeply about the responsibility of good men and women in society.
Has there ever been a time in the modern era when society has been in more desperate need of young people who have been witnesses to what’s true, good, and beautiful, and can take this collective knowledge into the culture? It’s hard not to despair just reading the daily news. School violence, political animosity, racial tensions. We wonder when it’ll all end or where it’ll lead. When I consider the students graduating from Trinity Academy, it gives me hope. By exposing them to the crucial elements of the good life – the life undergirded in Christ, and focused on truth, goodness, and beauty – we are launching arrows into a future we can’t see yet, but one in which each student possesses the tools they need to make a lasting impact.
This noble aspiration is what drives each teacher in a classical education setting. They believe that developing students like this is worth it, even though they know that work like this – cultivating hearts, souls, and minds – takes time, and so these tender, loving teachers patiently instruct, watch, and wait, entrusting their students to the One who brings about all good things in His time.
– Susan Hofer, Interim Lower School Head, Trinity Academy