Written by Tracy Whitfield and presented at the 2017 State of the School Address
Even before I knew what classical education was I knew it worked. It developed students who were articulate, knowledgeable, eager learners, and principled.
I have traveled a unique road that lead me to teach classical education. I was educated in the public school system and was taught by great teachers. Teachers who inspire me to learn and to ultimately become like them. But I missed out on an opportunity to learn more about Christ and grow in my knowledge of Him. So, for my first year of college, I decided to attend a small Christian college in Virginia that was known as the “homeschool college”. I was one of six students on campus that year that had ever attend public school, the vast majority of students were homeschooled. I was blown away by how knowledgeable my peers were.
My second year of college I transferred to another small liberal arts college in Michigan. Once again, I found myself amongst many homeschool students and now there were many students who had attended classical schools. At the time, I had no idea what classical school were but I saw these peers were vastly ahead of me in many ways.
My peers not only a broader knowledge of subjects but they had a significantly deeper knowledge of the subjects. I had a superficial knowledge that lacked true understanding of the why and how. But what stood out to me the most about them was how articulate they were. They naturally were able to communicate their point of view and to effectively debate. They were poised and they had character, the kind that I knew only came from knowing God.
I was now seeing the results of many different educational systems. I was watching and making notes of the differences. I continued my observations as a teacher.
Classical Christian education is the best education to produce godly, intelligent adults. There have been so many different systems and philosophies of education. Classical education is time-tested and continues to prove its value today. Classical education can easily be summarized by three words: truth, goodness, and beauty.
The grammar stage works with the brain development of children. They are eager to learn and ready to remember great amounts of facts. Their brains are sponges, soaking in knowledge. That is why they are eager to learn through songs, chants, repetition. That is how God created their brains.
The logic stage is what many people today call middle school. At this age, children’s brains start asking deeper questions of understanding. They start questioning parents, teachers, facts, and the world. They have a foundation of knowledge based on facts but now they start asking the why and how behind that knowledge. Classical education works with that development and teaches students the study of logic and how to communicate using sound logic.
The final stage in classical education is the rhetoric stage. This is the finishing process. The foundational stages are so important but this is the stage that creates those scholars that I met in college. The students’ education comes full circle when they learn how to effectively and persuasively communication their knowledge and worldview. And that love of learning emanates when they speak. Their minds had been filled and challenged and their hearts had been looked after through God’s Word.
At Cornerstone, we don’t want to produce smart students. We strive to shape wise students who seek knowledge, knowing that it begins with the fear of the LORD. Our goal is to have young adults graduate from Cornerstone having learned truth, found beauty, and live virtuously. And like all true and humble scholars, they will know they still have much to seek and learn as adult.