First Baptist Academy of Kamloops: School of Rhetoric

High school students studying rhetoric
Do you speak well?

 

By "speak well", not only: "Do you speak eloquently, with poise, good diction, and a winsome presence?" but also: "Do you present your knowledge of the truth truthfully, humbly inviting your listener or others within the community of Kamloops to consider and embrace both what you say and the pursuit of truth that led you to say it?"

 

The Scriptures tell us that wisdom is found in giving careful attention to the word. Of course, the Bible is employing a double entendre referring to both the Word of God and to the speaking of truth.

 

“Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord. The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness. Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it, but the instruction of fools is folly. The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips. Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” (Proverbs 16:20–24, ESV)

 

So the Bible links our understanding of the Word with our capacity to speak well. Christian Education and private Christian schools shouldn't be simply about knowing the truth, but about winsomely employing that truth in such a way as to persuade and influence others  toward what is beautiful, wise, and true.

 

Christians aren't the only ones who veiw education this way. Quintillian saw as the aim of education, ‘The good man speaking well,' and we think that means answering ‘Yes' to both of those questions above. That will be our goal for our secondary students in the School of Rhetoric. Although we are still several years away from establishing the secondary School of Rhetoric, we desire these things for our students when they one day matriculate into the School of Rhetoric. When they speak well, they will find themselves in positions of leadership in any endeavor, whether it is in the sciences, the humanities, business, politics, or the arts.

 

What will this look like at First Baptist Classical Academy?

 

  • Much of our students' learning will be around oval Harkness tables in discussion (and sometimes argument!) with one another and their teachers.

  • Our students will work and rework themes written on subjects in the Humanities until both the form and substance of their thoughts are eloquent and persuasive.

  • Even in math and science courses, students will learn to express their understanding of difficult concepts with words as well as through successful calculation and experiment.

  • In a meaningful rite of passage, each senior, in a public ceremony within the assembled congregation of First Baptist Church, will present and defend a researched thesis before a panel of informed judges.

  • Our students will examine the Western tradition of art, history, literature, theology and philosophy chronologically, recognizing the "Great Conversation" of the ages and considering what it means to participate in it.

  • Our classes will be rigorous, but not 'hard just to be hard': we cannot articulate more than we understand, and we cannot understand what we have not wrestled with: our world is a complex, challenging world--understanding it is unavoidably difficult.

 

The Harkness Table

 

The ongoing format of the Humanities classes will be discussion-based learning around the Harkness table. The reason for the oval table is that in the development of meaningful discussion and the ability to speak well, it is essential to be able to make eye contact with those who are listening. Therefore, the Harkness table will create a physical environment where everyone is comfortable to speak and listen carefully. The Table will also create an intellectual environment where students come to class prepared to discuss the underlying currents of politics, philosophy, theology, science, and culture that drive and are driven by the history of ideas. This isn't what your average secondary student will be doing during the course of their day!

 

The Senior Thesis
 

The senior thesis will represent the culmination of an FBCA student's education--the good person speaking well. This thesis is a twenty minute presentation, followed by a challenging twenty minutes of question and answer on a controversial and scholarly topic. The senior thesis, delivered and defended after final exams in the spring, will be a required component of First Baptist Classical Academy in Kamloops. Each thesis will reflect critical thinking skills, in-depth research, excellence in presentation style, and an ability to communicate effectively both from a manuscript and in a give-and-take exchange. Topics will vary widely, and senior students will stand as equals in thought, dialogue and interaction with their instructors as they seek to persuade their professors of their ideas.

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