When the world measures the outcomes of a K-12 education, it most frequently does so in terms of grades, test scores, and college scholarships. That is the vernacular. When the conversation turns to what kind of schooling produces the best of those outcomes, the world naturally assumes prestigious college preparatory schools are best. But that simply is not true. To push back even further, it might be said that the world is measuring the outcomes of education all wrong. What if I told you there is now definitive proof schools that measure outcomes in terms of soul formation also produce the best grades, test scores, and college scholarships?
One of the biggest shocks of my parenting life came nearly two decades ago when a wise, gray-haired teacher confessed to me that she did not care about my son’s grade. The conversation was about his grade in some grammar school subject that was just low enough to prevent his earning an academic award if something did not change soon. I swooned at her remark. All I could think of was my child’s future. How would he get into a good college and then on to a good career if he couldn’t get all A’s in second grade?
Like many in the Trinitas community, lately, I have been reading Joshua Gibbs’s first book How to be Unlucky: Reflections on the Pursuit of Virtue. (Actually, I have been listening to it, which isn’t quite the same thing as reading it, but that is a discussion for another day.) Gibbs uses The Consolation of Philosophy and his years in the classroom (several of them at Trinitas) to approach the subject of pursuing virtue through classical education. Pursuing virtue is an educational activity we allude to from time to time, a catchphrase we hold up as an important goal of classical education, even a claim with which we sprinkle our marketing brochures, but really, what does it mean to pursue virtue? And why only pursue it? Do any of our students ever actually catch up with it?