HSCA Christian Academy: An Education in the Muses

A Speech at the HSCA Christian Academy Open House 2023

By: Quentin Ellett | Dean of Curriculum and Pedagogy

Have you ever heard about the sad cranberry? It was actually a blueberry. David Hicks wrote a wonderful book about education called Norms and Nobility. We, the faculty, read that book, very faithfully, and Zach and I recite portions of it to each other. There is a wonderful phrase in it. David Hicks says the liberal arts tradition – especially the literary engagements of the liberal arts tradition – gives us something “to live for and die with”. 

Memory is crucial in that regard. What I mean to say is that the Greeks – and this is a tradition that begins with the Greeks, even before they had an alphabet – they said that memory was the mother of the muses. One of C.S. Lewis’s very best teachers when he was a young man said, “boys, let us never live with amusia.” That is, forgetting the muses. One of the things we recite in Humane Letters are the beginning of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Both of those are invocations of the muse. So, we try not to live without the muse, that is, the inspired forms of creativity that we can rely on when things become terribly adverse, terribly sad, and when we have to face things like death. So giving the students, especially the youngest friends that we have here, something to take with them, something they can own, something that can really belong to them, through linguistic enrichment enhancement and things like that – that’s something special about this place, something we do well, something we can advertise in fact, and speak highly of ourselves in that regard.

The muse was exhausted in a sense. We don’t talk about the muse any more, but, since we are a Christian school, we can do what the great English poet John Milton did in his book Paradise Lost and begin with the invocation of the Holy Spirit. That’s what the spiritual engagement with memory and recitation, that mimetic exercise, really is: it is inviting the true comforter into our lives, into our heart, into the words that we speak to one another.

Let that inspire you. I know that inspires my students and the students here at the Academy. 

God bless you!