G.K. Chesterton is responsible for one of my favorite quotes about education. He wrote, “Education is not a subject and does not deal in subjects. It is instead a transfer of a way of life.” What we are trying to do at Trinitas is transfer a way of life to our students, a paideia, a way of being distinctly Christian in a world that seems increasingly hostile to that.
The particular way of life we are trying to transfer at Trinitas is best summed up in the Trinitas Vision. Some of the attributes listed there that we want to see in our students include the ability to think clearly and listen carefully, to reason persuasively and articulate precisely, to be unswayed towards evil, to be well prepared in all situations, to be socially graceful and spiritually gracious, to have a heart for the lost, and to possess an attitude of humility and gratitude toward God. That is only a partial list of things we want to see in our students, but it is a good start.
Though the vision for Trinitas students doesn’t mention academics specifically, we still spend a lot of time talking about academics. When your students are as successful academically as Trinitas students tend to be, then grades and test scores and scholarships are easy topics to talk about. In fact, those topics can dominate the conversation. It is also true, though, that the content and methodology in our classical program contribute to developing in students the attributes mentioned above; in other words, academics help bring the vision to fruition in our students. But grades and test scores and scholarships aren’t necessarily the best measure of progress toward that.
So here’s what I’m getting at: we are trying to graduate students who possess a certain set of characteristics, a set of characteristics that make them good citizens, good parents, good neighbors, good worshippers, and winsome representatives of the Gospel. (Remember, we are transferring a way of life.) These characteristics or attributes are best described in the Trinitas Vision, so that is what we should be talking about at least as much if not more than grades and test scores and scholarships.
To that end, we are embarking on a mission to change the conversation at Trinitas. How much virtue has been cultivated in a student is a hard thing to measure. Similarly, it isn’t easy to report on how socially graceful a student is or whether she thinks clearly or understands the tools of learning. Those are difficult things to measure objectively, but we are trying at least to get the conversation started. If we are going to transfer a way of life to our students, we have to find ways to measure our progress at every step and then give feedback on that progress to both parents and students.
We will continue to focus on academics—that is a big part of achieving the transfer—but we want to change the conversation, for example, from the grade a student gets on a test over a certain book to how that book changed his life and made him a better person. If we change the conversation in that way and begin to focus on helping our students acquire the characteristics described in the Trinitas Vision, not only will grades and test scores and scholarships take care of themselves, but we may begin to send even more mature, thinking, devoted young Christians out into a world that needs their leadership.
Mr. Ron Gilley