Alex Jensen: Wisdom Wheel
At Hagia Sophia we have what we call the Wisdom Wheel. These are five central qualities that I find so powerful in how we are doing education at HSCA. I’d like to share some thoughts about four of these: Knowledge, Purpose, Integration and Wisdom.
One of the great strengths of classical education is not only its comprehensive scope, but how it integrates one discipline within another: it is nearly impossible to find a class which teaches only one subject. Indeed, Latin not only teaches linguistic skill, but also history and literature; humane letters not only teaches great works and history, but also normative questions (e.g. ethics); even mathematics not only teaches principles of computation and problem-solving but often the history and development of ideas, as well as applications to the physical sciences, even going as far as to ask how we might speak positively about the infinite and what that might mean. This is all towards the aim of presenting students as comprehensive a view of the vast economy of happenings around them as possible, and their place in it.
One of the most grave failures of the public school system is its neglect of normative learning in exchange for simply creating efficient producers of wealth. This mode of “education,” in being so crass and utilitarian, warps both the student’s view of themselves and of how he sees his peers and ultimately leads to social and moral decay on a broad scale. HSCA’s classical education, in contrast, aims to teach Truth, Beauty, and Goodness, and in doing so teaches the student to recognize the image of God in his fellow classmate, which allows him to realize himself in a community of Christian inquiry, inspired by the awe of God’s glory.
“Integrating” the last two points with each other, we can see how HSCA’s classical education has the capacity to inspire in a way which the public school system simply cannot. In boiling down curriculum and broadening the scope to accommodate as many students as possible, the public school system has presented to its students a loosely coupled set of facts which not only will not be remembered, but do not fit together. Its worst crime, however, is simply that it’s boring. It kills a student’s sense of awe and ability to recognize beauty. HSCA, on the other hand, does, indeed, teach facts. However, these facts are so tightly coupled and comprehensive that they construct a puzzle in the student’s mind, a puzzle which may be frustrating at first, but once the image begins to be made clear, the desire to see the full image will drive them ever-forward.
HSCA’s emphasis on teaching normatively allows for true education in that it not only teaches facts and ideas (and how they might fit together) but how these may be used virtuously and toward Good ends within the community.