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SCL Journal Winter 2016—Speaking Well: The Centrality of Language in Classical Christian Education

The senior thesis project, prevalent in most classical Christian schools, is built upon a deep and rich foundation that makes eloquent expression possible. Rhabanus Maurus, a monk and student of Alcuin, in his “Education of the Clergy,” said, “Grammar is the source and foundation of all the liberal arts. It should be taught in every Christian school, since the art of writing and speaking correctly is attained through it.” Maurus understood that persuasive and beautiful speech is predicated upon mastering grammatical and logical structures first. There is a necessary progression in the liberal arts from grammar to verbal articulation. The senior thesis presentation does not just happen, nor is it reserved merely for national merit scholars. The development of persuasive speaking and writing is the culmination of a carefully planned curriculum that builds on a myriad of disciplines and practices.

Yet, delivering a polished speech is not the final aim of language instruction. Maurus believed the mastery of language was not an end in itself, but was ultimately intended to produce a careful study of scripture to enable the student to rightly divide the word of truth (2 tim. 2:15). Similarly, Alcuin said that it “behooves the soldiers of the church” to be eloquent in speech, “so that all who approach your house, in order to invoke the divine master or to behold the excellence of the religious life, may be edified by beholding you… and may return home rendering thanks to God most high.” In this issue of The Journal, one can begin to grasp the depth, complexity and most of all, the priority of language in the classical tradition.