Three Stages of Learning: Our Program of Classical Education
A Foundation for Life-Time Learning
First Baptist Classical Academy in Kamloops relies upon the classical disciplines of grammar, logic and rhetoric as the foundation of a thoroughly Christ-centered and classical education. Students who have acquired these disciplines gain the mental acuity needed for further study throughout their lives. They use grammar skills to quickly learn new material, logic skills to understand the relationship of the subject being studied with other subjects, and rhetorical skills to present their educated opinion on matters under discussion within the broader community of Kamloops. This rich and rigorous classical educational produces students who have the ability to learn independently, to analyze logically, to think critically, and to communicate clearly.
In her insightful overview of the Trivium, the late Dorothy Sayers, a contemporary of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, outlines these three tools. As she puts it, students up to age eleven are "poll-parrots," having an innate ability to absorb and retain information. They derive great pleasure from chanting, reciting, and memorizing because it is their natural way of learning.
This stage is the Grammar Stage, and grammar is the foundation for all of learning, critical thinking and argument. The Elementary School of Grammar consists of Kindergarten through Grade 6.
As students enter the next stage in Grade 7, they naturally begin to question more and to seek to understand the relationship between the facts they have learned. They begin to move from the "what?" to the "why?." This is the "pert" stage of argumentativeness and inquiry as they question most of what they are told.
In this stage, students are taught how to ask good questions, how to solve problems, and how to argue logically. The development of sound reasoning requires a thorough knowledge of the basic facts, or grammar, of the subject at hand, and so builds upon what was learned in the grammar stage.
And lastly, by Grade 10, having gained a strong foundation of knowledge, as well as the critical skills of logical argumentation, students enter the "poetic" stage. The Rhetoric stage consists of Grade 10 through Grade 12. This is the time for the maturing scholar to weave together and synthesize the knowledge of the Grammar stage and the reasoning skills of the Logic stage with the craftsmanship of elegant discourse.
Grammar, logic, and rhetoric are not only subjects in themselves; they are the essential tools of learning that students bring to bear on a variety of disciplines (language, math, history, science, etc.).
Sports have become a very important part of society here in Kamloops, and sports can teach children how to live as a Christian in our society. Our goal is not only to coach, but to mentor players in the ways of the Lord during the season as an extension of what they are being taught at home. With a Christ-centered perspective, the aim of the First Baptist Academy athletics department is to carry the witness of Christ to other teams and coaches in Kamloops. We love to compete, but glorifying the Lord in all areas of life is most important.
Our athletic and physical education activities are considered an important component of our classical and Christian curriculum. We recognize that the training of the body has been part of the classical approach to education from the very beginning. Further, our understanding of the Christian world view does not permit us to artificially limit a course of training to the mind only. Our goal has always been to educate our students in all aspects of life, with the Scriptures at the center of all things as the point of integration. We have the same standard for our athletic program and physical education classes and see this point of integration as particularly important.
VISUAL ARTS & AESTHETIC VALUES
The apostle Paul instructs us to set our minds on that which is true, noble, just, pure, lovely; we are to meditate on those things which are of good report, virtuous, or praiseworthy. As a classical and Christian school, we have particular duties in this regard; we have been entrusted by our school parents with the responsibility to help train and discipline the minds of their children. We understand that the loveliness and nobility enjoined by the apostle involve more than just “spiritual” truths, and that our duty as a school includes the discipline of aesthetic education.
We affirm that the God contains within Himself all ultimate loveliness and beauty. As His creatures we are to serve and worship Him in all that we do in the beauty of holiness. He has created us in His own image, and requires us to strive to imitate Him in all that we do, and this includes the duty of understanding our responsibilities of appreciating and creating objects of loveliness.
In the education we provide, we therefore deny aesthetic relativism. At the same time, we affirm our limitations as creatures. This means that in any work of art containing true beauty, only God knows exhaustively all that is beautiful about the work, while we see the beauty only partially. Because different human observers see different “partialities,” this creates an illusion of subjectivity. Because our vision of the beautiful must necessarily be partial, we seek to instruct our students to make all aesthetic judgments in humility. At the same time, we want to train them on their responsibility to make grounded and informed aesthetic judgments, rejecting all forms of principled ugliness or aesthetic nihilism.
We seek to teach the importance of aesthetic standards in all activities associated with the school, striving for that form of excellence suitable to each activity. This obviously includes a strong emphasis throughout our curriculum on the fine arts -- music, painting, sculpture, drama, poetry -- with the attendant responsibilities of the students including study, meditation, and memorization. But our emphasis on aesthetics also extends to more mundane matters -- the cleanliness and decoration of classrooms, student dress, athletic competition, handwriting, etc. In all this, we aim to teach our students the reasons for what we require, and not just impose the bare requirement. As a Christian school we want to particularly avoid all forms of pious or traditional kitsch -- aesthetic frauds which can evoke a sentimental and superficial aesthetic response.
The standards we use in determining what we consider to be aesthetically valuable include, but are not limited to, conformity to the standards of Scripture, historical durability and the approval of many minds over generations, a balance of complexity and simplicity, dignity, metaphorical strength, harmony, subtlety, the power to evoke love of truth and goodness, the art of concealing art, acuity or craftsmanship, an ability to work against standards while honoring and employing them, avoidance of formulaic clichés and wisdom.
“It is good to praise the Lord, and make music to your name, O most High, to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night, to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp. For you make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of your hands.” Psalm 92:1-4
Within the God-breathed books of the Bible, the Creator gave Christians a time-less song book, the Psalms, with 150 different songs to sing and praise His name as well as songs scattered throughout the Old and New Testaments. And, as the above selection from Psalms illustrates, both vocal and instrumental music are to be used by man to point back to God. Music is not just a subject that we should teach, it is a way to express the goodness of God and the joy we have in living in His presence.
The integration of all subjects, with the Scriptures as central, is one of the goals of First Baptist Classical Academy. We believe and therefore want to instruct all the students in the basic knowledge and related benefits of music to all of learning. We want to teach students to distinguish good music from mediocre. We want them to recognize that though we limit their exposure in truth, beauty and goodness in music, good music is not bound by a period of time or by a particular style, but that good and beautiful music have been a gift from God to man throughout the ages.