CLASSICAL CHRISTIAN EDUCATION
A classical education is the cultivation of wisdom and virtue by nourishing the soul on Truth, Goodness, and Beauty by means of the seven liberal arts and the four sciences. Historically, classical education has followed two streams that frequently flow together:
- The Rhetorical, in which teachers guide their students to contemplate great texts and works of art, believing that such contemplation will enable them to grow in wisdom and virtue and…
- The Philosophical, in which teachers guide their students through an analysis of ideas through a Socratic dialogue, believing that insight into the heart of things will enable students to grow in wisdom and virtue.
These two streams are the two root ways of knowing literacy and numeracy; and it does so with a distinct approach to detail, content, and mastery not to be found in all schools.
Another way to define classical education might be as follows: “Classical education is the logocentric, idealistic quest to cultivate Virtue in the souls of the student.” (Virtue: Goodness, Integrity, Excellence, Righteousness)
The Seven Liberal Arts are are the arts of thinking: those tools and skills traditionally deemed necessary to free one’s mind from the base, the expedient, and the mediocre. They are intended to draw a student out of himself, allowing him to see truths that are timeless, unchanging, and not of his own making. The first three of these arts–grammar, logic, and rhetoric–are often called the trivium, or the arts of language. For the students at Hagia Sophia, this means mastering the forms of language by learning and using the highly inflected Greek and Latin languages. It also means learning to sort sense from nonsense in the structure of arguments and fallacies in reasoning. It means learning to use language in compelling ways by applying argument, arrangement, and style in both written and oral presentations. The remaining liberal arts –often called the quadrivium– are known as the mathematical arts and include in our program the modern mathematical studies as well as the axiomatic and deductive studies characteristic of Euclid’s Elements.
Each of the Four Sciences is a mode of inquiry or domain of knowing that arises from that certain mode of inquiry. “Science” comes from the Latin word “scientia” which means knowledge and is by no means limited to the knowledge provided by the natural sciences. The Four Sciences include the natural sciences, the humane or moral sciences, the philosophical sciences, and the science of theology. This order is rooted in the common experience of all people everywhere. The goal of a science is to know the causes of things.
The classical content of our curriculum refers to those traditional works of literature, history, philosophy, and theology that embody perennial truths of the human soul and which remain compelling because they present these truths in memorable, or beautiful, ways. These classics are admired not because they are old; rather they are admired because they have continued to ring true with people of many eras, cultures, and tongues. The classics provide the most thoughtful reflections on the meaning and potential of human life. They introduce students into a conversation which spans centuries and millenia and, in so doing, they have the further potential of freeing young people from the tyranny of fads, tribes, and the cult of mediocrity.
Orthodox Christianity refers to those churches that have continued to adhere to the faith, practice, and doctrinal definitions of the early church, exemplified especially by the Bible, the writings of the Apostolic and Post-Apostolic Eras, as well as the decisions of the Seven Ecumenical Councils. As an Orthodox school, we participate in this enduring tradition and, consequently, are free to discuss and live our Christian faith without remodeling it according to the latest religious or cultural trends. Our faith in God is summarized most succinctly in the Nicene Creed, and it is the assumptions about God and man there stated that underlie all our thought about education.
We are, however, not a school of religious catechism. Our theological studies are built around readings of the Bible, Church History, and Christian classics. Even beyond our classes in theology it is fair to say that the Christian faith–like leaven–is kneaded into the entire lump of the school. We begin and end each day with prayer, scripture readings, and traditional hymns; and our school’s calendar takes into account important days and seasons in the life of the Church. We believe we have a sound, intellectual Christian faculty. Some are Orthodox; some belong to other mainline Christian groups.
We welcome students and families of other Christian expressions, other faiths, or of no faith, as long as they understand who we are and are willing to join us and participate with us in a manner that is genuine, reflective, and respectful.