We are living during an age in the West, perhaps in the whole world, wherein the prevailing view of all things could best be described as utilitarian. Modern Americans, in particular, have a way of reducing most everything down to its usefulness, its efficiency, and of course, its cost. Jobs go to the lowest bidder. We buy where we get the best deal. Our books are paperback no matter the genre, dime store romance or classic. Our buildings are metal, whether serving as an auto body shop or a church. After a few years of this kind of thinking, everything begins to look the same.
This weekend, Trinitas students continued the long tradition of dramatic stage productions with two performances of C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In the midst of amazing costumes and captivating sets, it is helpful for us to consider why Trinitas invests time and resources into drama.
By definition, drama is a picture or representation of human life in that succession and change of events that we call story told by means of dialogue and presenting in action the successive emotions involved. As Shakespeare wrote, all the world’s a stage and each of us plays a part. Drama enables students to enter past, present, and future worlds and to explore and discover the lives of others, whether in historical, biblical, or literary settings.
Drama is another tool for educators to use to teach the essentials of the core disciplines of Christian education.
“Is not the great defect of our education today … that although we often succeed in teaching our pupils ‘subjects,’ we fail lamentably on the whole in teaching them how to think: they learn everything except the art of learning.” –Dorothy Sayers
Upon going to school, children are expected to take up certain “subjects,” to apply themselves to these subjects, and to eventually become masters of them. We as parents and teachers are not wrong to push our children and students to master those subjects; however, one of the drawbacks of focusing on mastering subjects is that we can develop tunnel vision in the process; we run the risk of focusing on the subjects and mastering what to think at the expense of learning how to think. We—and I mean everyone involved in the education of a child: parents, teachers, administrators, and the child—run the risk of just wanting to know what is going to be on the test.
Classical educators are sometimes questioned about why we teach Latin and Greek to 21st-century students, and so I have used this space from time to time to offer an apologia for teaching those classical languages. And more of that is exactly what I intend to do now. Someone will protest and say, “Why do we need this explained to us again?” It is always good to be reminded why we do good things.
Those with a utilitarian view of language often apply pressure on classical schools to teach something “useful”: Spanish, for instance; French, if you must; Chinese, if you can. Those are all lovely and useful languages. If we were a large, wealthy school with a “Foreign Language Department,” we would happily teach all of those languages as electives, but do you know what we would continue to require for all our classical students? Latin and Greek and lots of it.
Later this week, Trinitas will mark Grandparents Day with a program of Christmas-themed choral pieces and recitations. Although we've addressed the prominent role music plays at Trinitas in other blog posts, recitation of a short skit or some piece of excellent prose or poetry is also a long-standing tradition at Trinitas. Why do we do it? Why do we ask our students to recite in public? Recitation is a valuable and important aspect of classical education. It helps students develop excellent rhetorical skills, it gives them almost immediate feedback on their hard work, and it challenges their fear of speaking in public.
On Thursday, October the 20th at 7 pm, Trinitas will be screening selections from the documentary “The Miseducation of America” at The REX theatre. Free tickets for the evening are available here. The highlight of the evening will be a special guest appearance of David Goodwin, president of the Association of Classical and Christian Schools. Along with Pete Hegseth of FOX News, David coauthored The Battle for the American Mind, the book which led to the creation of the documentary.
Something new and exciting debuted at Trinitas this fall. All logic and rhetoric school (grades 7th-12th) students and faculty members gather together during first hour on Fridays to learn, discuss, and pursue wisdom together across a broad range of topics. Even parents are welcome to participate in what we are calling Schola Seminar.
In his book Norms and Nobility, David Hicks advocates for a return to a dialectical approach to education. Especially effective in the context of teachers and students learning together, dialectical education requires learners to commit to certain positions in order to test those commitments against experience, established wisdom, and ultimately, the truths of Scripture. Often utilizing primary sources and Socratic questioning, this approach to learning fosters moral and intellectual growth in participants.
Have you ever tried to quote someone, but ended up having to spend more time explaining how you’re probably getting it wrong from the outset? Has a conversation ever provoked a memory for you of something you once heard, and you’re certain it is relevant to the moment, but for the life of you, the words will simply not come when called? Such gaps in memory are a normal part of the everyday experience for most of us. And in the heat of the moment, we’re often tempted to turn to the nearest search engine, sometimes a bit chastened by having to rely on such an outside source. And it is this last part that might make you wonder, “what did people do before Google?”