One of the mantras of classical Christian education is “repair the ruins.” The line comes from John Milton, that seventeenth century English poet and intellectual who wrote the classic, Paradise Lost. Milton wrote on a host of other topics, including education, and once wrote,
“The end then of learning is to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him.”
The classical educator sees himself as a servant in this labor, a guide to his students. But repairing the ruins and redeeming truth, goodness, and beauty which has been lost by our culture is not confined to the classroom.
Like many classical Christian schools in the United States, Trinitas holds an annual protocol event in an attempt to redeem what our culture has lost in events like prom. Our event, called simply The Winter Ball, is a beautiful evening of fine dining, dancing, and fellowship that strengthens our community and prepares our students to engage the world with a level of confidence and maturity not common in today’s teenagers, and an air of sophistication that sets them apart. And while all that is happening, they’re having a great time!
The Winter Ball begins weeks in advance as the students learn the Virginia Reel, the Irish Washerwoman, the Military Two Step, the Waltz, the Foxtrot, and many other folk and ballroom dances. This preparation gives them the confidence to get on the floor and kick up their heels. In fact, there are no wallflowers at The Winter Ball because dance cards ensure everyone has a partner for every dance. Students are not allowed to bring dates, and many of the dances are mixers, so rather than encouraging students to pair off, this event encourages community. Inclusivity over exclusivity is further ensured because all are dancing the same dances as a group instead of moving independently and impromptu.
The ladies are always stunningly beautiful in their colorful but modest dresses, and the gentlemen always distinguished. The dress code for the night is in line with the principles of the school uniform code, so modesty is a must along with restraint from drawing undue attention to oneself. Students who seek to understand and submit to these simple principles develop an appreciation for what matters, the heart of a person, and they recognize the foolishness and immaturity of grabbing the room’s attention with a shocking hairstyle or daring neckline.
Eating a meal that comes with multiple dishes, utensils, and glasses is not the norm for most teenagers. Weeks in advance of the ball we begin to prepare students for which-fork-to-use-when by teaching etiquette classes. By the time our students are seniors, not only can they navigate The Winter Ball meal, but they are ready for a lunchtime job interview or an invitation to dine with their college president.
Every Winter Ball has its own theme. The themes are most often literary, which gives us a chance to explore a new or familiar genre or individual book together as a community. Lectures on the author and the text are delivered by faculty in advance of the big event. And while this is in no way a costume ball, the theme is carried in the creative decorations, turning the school’s Grand Hall into a room that delivers a magical evening.
Repairing the ruins in the classroom is often hard work. Students in classical Christian schools faithfully put forth tremendous effort to reach high academic standards, develop Christian character, and cultivate spiritual disciplines—rare among young people in our culture. But there are a lot of ruins to repair if we are to know God aright, and they aren’t all in the classroom. Protocol events like Trinitas’s Winter Ball are a fun way to redeem a certain sophistication and beauty that have been lost from our culture. Make no mistake, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that restores us to relationship with God and the power of the Holy Spirit that gives us the strength to live as God’s people, classical Christian education is determined to repair the ruins of our first parents—inside the classroom and out—and to have a ball doing it.