Slimming Down the Curriculum

Like so many secular schools, classical schools often pack their curriculum to include up to 10 subjects per semester spread over seven or eight periods per day. Like so many of our modern school practices, it turns out that this is not a traditional, classical practice. The classical tradition insisted upon multum non multa (much not many) as a meaningful approach to study. C.S. Lewis wrote that “no one has time to do more than a very few things well before he is twenty, and when we force a boy to be a mediocrity in a dozen subjects we destroy his standards, perhaps for life.” In another place he encourages us to teach “fewer subjects and teach them far better.”

In this seminar, we will spend most of our time exploring the various ways classical educators in the past have sought to do this and the ways we mighty revise our curriculum to do the same or something similar. We will also note (and hear from) several contemporary classical schools that have made meaningful strides to “slim down” and teach fewer subjects far better.

Chris Perrin

Christopher Perrin, MDiv, PhD, is the CEO with Classical Academic Press, and a national leader, author, and speaker for the renewal of classical education. He serves as a consultant to classical Christian schools, classical charter schools, and schools converting to the classical model. He is the director of the Alcuin Fellowship, former co-chair of the Society for Classical Learning, an adjunct professor with the honor's program at Messiah College, and previously served for ten years as a classical school headmaster.

Cross-Curricular Integration in the Lower School Latin Classroom

This workshop will present specific strategies on integrating Latin into every core content area of a Lower-School classical Christian curriculum. Demonstrating for students the relevance of Latin instruction on History, Science, Math, Literature, ELA, Bible, Art, Music, P.E., etc., will help strengthen not only students’ mastery of Latin, but also their performance across the curricular spectrum. The workshop will address designing a cross-curricular Latin program, creating interdisciplinary unit plans, and collaborating with classroom teachers to maximize the impact on students’ performance. The last part of the workshop will be an open discussion of attendees’ ideas and concerns about how to create and implement such a program at their schools.

Shannon Walker

I have been teaching Latin to students in the elementary grades for 12 years. I am a tireless advocate for the classical Christian model of education. I am also extremely passionate about Latin education in the elementary grades. I know that peer-reviewed research demonstrates the cross-curricular benefits that younger students receive from the study of Latin. I believe that the study of Latin is relevant to every area of a student’s education. I have seen firsthand the bene ts that my students have received. It has been such a pleasure to watch these students as they mature into high school and college—and to see that their study of Latin is still benefiting them.

The Place and Importance of Historical Theology in a Rhetoric-Stage Curriculum

In the Upper School of Providence Classical School, the Bible/Theology scope and sequence is as follows: seventh grade—Bible Study Methods/Hermeneutics; eighth grade—Old Testament Survey; ninth grade—New Testament Survey; tenth grade—History of Theology; eleventh grade—Ethics; and twelfth grade—Apologetics.

Can such a scope and sequence for Bible/Theology be justi ed, in particular, the tenth-grade course offering? Of the myriad possible classes that could be offered, why one in historical theology? And what is historical theology anyway? This workshop will be based on a number of assertions:

Assertion 1: Historical theology is chronically underemphasized—in the church at large, at seminaries and Bible colleges, and in Christian school curricula.

Assertion 2: Most Christians have little understanding even of the overall purview (concepts, content, and methods) of historical theology.

Assertion 3: The reappearance of old heresies with new monikers constitutes proof of Assertion 1.

Assertion 4: Widespread and rancorous sectarianism within Christendom is further evidence that Christians have neglected this pivotal branch of theology.

Following explication of these assertions, the balance of the workshop will provide
1) an outline of historical theology toward the goal of countering the trends that the aforementioned assertions reflect, and also 2) an argument for the necessity of an historical theology course—rather than a course in church history or systematic theology—in the rhetoric-stage curriculum of a classical and Christian school. Historical theology as a discipline is a sine qua non of Christian theological enquiry and discussion, as well as a substrate that promotes and undergirds Christian unity.

Steven Mittwede

Steve Mittwede is an instructor of Earth Science and Theology at Providence Classical School. In 1981, he was graduated from “Their Majesties Royal College” (The College of William and Mary) with a BS in Geology, after which he concurrently worked as a mineral resources geologist for the South Carolina Geological Survey and completed his MS and PhD in Geology at the University of South Carolina; between late 1984 and mid-1987, he was also taking classes in Bible, Theology, and Missions at Columbia International University (CIU). In the midst of all of that, he married Dana, and they were blessed with four sons in close succession—all now grown, married, and raising their own broods. Since the incredibly busy 1980s, he and his family served in Turkey for 23 years, during which Steve was awarded an MA in Intercultural Studies from CIU and an MTh in Modern Evangelical Theology from Wales Evangelical School of Theology (now Union School of Theology). Never one to weary of the academic setting, he recently earned his EdS in Educational Leadership from CIU. Steve and Dana make their home in the thriving metropolis of Tomball, Texas.

Developing a Safe, Curriculum-Centered Europe Trip

As classical educators, we love our ideals and ideas, but there’s something magical about seeing students interact with the “concrete” reality of places studied in literature and history. European school trips can incarnate the ideas presented in the classroom, and so serve as a key part of any school’s curriculum. Nothing makes the French Revolution more real to them than being in Versailles. But there are the obvious concerns about cost, logistics, and security. This seminar will help you develop a unique Europe trip, integrate it into your curriculum, prepare your students and chaperones, all while keeping safety a top priority.

Josh Simmons

A History and Literature teacher at Regents School of Austin for the past 11 years, Humanities department chair, and experienced leader of Regents’ annual Europe trip, Josh brings a wealth of experience in both the classroom and trip organization. He holds a BA in History/Christian Thought from Grove City College and a MAR from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Josh lives on two acres outside the Austin area with his wife, three kids, some chickens and a dog.

Aquaponics as a Way of Integrating Science Curricula

Aquaponics is the combination of the raising of sh (aquaculture) and growing plants without soil (hydroponics). Come and see how a system such as this can be a practical way to tie together concepts between biology, chemistry, and physics. This is the rst year that The Geneva School has used such a project. Find out about our successes, failures, and ways of moving forward in the future.

Robbie Andreasen

Robbie Andreasen joined the Geneva faculty in 2007 and teaches Biology (ninth grade) and Anatomy & Physiology (twel h grade). Robbie has a contagious passion to study the intersection of faith and science, and his students have come to expect a challenging, active classroom characterized by their teacher’s love and enthusiasm for learning. This is also true when he teaches Sunday School or gives a children’s homily at his church. Robbie received a BS in Marine Science and Biology from the University of Miami and an MA in Bioethics from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He was the upper school recipient of the 2013 Paideia Award for Teaching, which recognizes excellence in teaching.

Science, Non-Science, and Nonsense: Toward the Legitimate Science Classroom

Recent years have witnessed no shortage of controversy regarding the nature and proper content of primary and secondary school curricula. The science classroom has offered no exception. Indeed, ever since the famed Scopes “Monkey” Trial of 1925, parents and teachers, politicians and lawyers, scientists and clergy, journalists and pundits, have weighed in with sundry suggestions, proposals and mandates regarding the teaching of science.1 The results, contend some observers, suggest less progress in legitimate learning, than in production of lame legislation and loony litigation. In many cases, once the shouting subsides, terms of dispute can be stated rather simply: Such-and-such a topic, whatever interest it may hold for some, does not belong in the science classroom because the topic in question is not science; and only science belongs in the science classroom. A recent example of this kind of public kerfuffle was the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover trial in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Federal District Court, in which the public school teaching of “Intelligent Design” theory was found to be an unconstitutional violation of the first amendment’s establishment clause. My concern is not to consider the merits or flaws with Intelligent Design or any other contested theory or ideology, be it from the left or the right. Instead, this essay considers a premise upon which much curricular debate rests and it suggests something about the educational implications that follow from a recognition that this premise is, in fact, false.

In 1976 the English philosopher Alan Chalmers came out with a very nice little book under the title What is this Thing Called Science? He concluded the volume ironically by criticizing his own title: “[T]he question that constitutes the title of this book is a misleading and presumptuous one,” he wrote. “It presumes that there is a single category science, and implies that various areas of knowledge, physics, biology, history, sociology and so on, either come under that category or do not. I do not know how such a general characterization of science can be established or defended.”2 About the same time, other philosophers of science reached similar conclusions. The distinguished philosopher of science, Larry Laudan, for example, observed that ever since Plato, “philosophers have sought to identify those epistemic features which mark off science from other sorts of belief and activity. Nonetheless, it seems pretty clear that philosophy has largely failed to deliver the relevant goods. . . . [I]t is probably fair to say that there is no demarcation line between science and non- science, or between science and pseudo-science, which would win assent from a majority of philosophers. Nor is there one which should win acceptance from philosophers or anyone else . . .”3 Philosophers of science have persisted in this thesis to the present day. How did they reach such a conclusion? And what are the implications for the science classroom? First, the story of the failed attempts to distinguish science from everything else is long and complicated.4 Further, scholarly “awareness of the contingency and fluidity of the boundaries between the sciences and the humanities,” continues to generate conversation.5 Although the scope of this essay does not permit a complete retelling of the narrative, it opens with a review of the tale’s general themes before consideration of the educational implications.

The tale begins with ancient attempts to distinguish knowledge (episteme), on the one hand, from mere opinion (doxa), on the other. Here Aristotle led the way in his Posterior Analytics by distinguishing knowledge (or science) from opinion according to the principle that knowledge furnishes apodictic certainty. 6 Another ancient demarcation criterion was sometimes advanced upon the distinction between techne (the skill of one able at an art or craft or “know-how”) and scientia (demonstrative understanding
or “know-why”). One may be a capable auto repairman, for example, without possessing genuine understanding
of the chemical and thermodynamic principles of the internal combustion engine. Hence we distinguish between the craftsman and the scientist by virtue of the scientist’s comprehension of first principles. Thus there emerged in the ancient world two candidates for demarcation: one grounded upon the separation between apodictic certainty of science and fallible opinion of extra-scientific issues; the other distinguished between understanding and mere know-how.7

By the end of the seventeenth century, however, scientists had come to disregard the distinction between understanding and know-how as a viable demarcation line. Newton, for example, is famous for rejecting attempts to understand the cause of gravity or to answer why-questions about it. Instead, he remained content to describe mathematically how gravitation functioned (whatever it was).8 The result was that scientists came to regard the distinction between science and non-science as the distinction between infallible knowledge and fallible opinion.

Such a view of the scientific enterprise could not withstand the overwhelming theme of the history of science, namely that scientific theories are not infallible. They are fallible, subject to correction and open to revision. If they were not, then the history of science would be in the odd position of declaring every revised or replaced scientific theory unscientific. This would render the history of science the history of non-science. The clear implication was that scientific belief, because it is not infallible, ultimately is a species of opinion.9

Still philosophers remained convinced that even if scientific belief is only a kind of opinion, it must be a special kind of opinion that is ultimately distinct from superstition. To demonstrate this, philosophers knew that they had to craft that distinction upon some other criterion than the alleged “certainty” of scientific knowledge. Surely, they believed, science could be set off from everything else, if not by virtue of the certainty it offered, then, perhaps, because it followed a distinct methodology, something they called the scientific method. Consider this view as expressed by the great English statistician Karl Pearson in his late- nineteenth-century work The Grammar of Science: “The scientific method is the sole path by which we can attain to knowledge. The very word ‘knowledge’ indeed only applies to the products of the scientific method in the field. Other methods . . . may lead to fantasy as that of the poet or metaphysician, to belief or superstition, but never to knowledge.”10 Strong words these are. It seemed perhaps that this thing called the scientific method would emerge as the decisive tool by which man could definitively set science apart from everything else and acknowledge it as the single source of knowledge. This would require, however, a rigorous and universally held explication of science’s unique method. On this line of thinking any activity that was recognized as scientific would presumably employ the same method as every other ostensibly scientific activity.

This is where the rub came. Philosophers simply could not agree on just what that scientific method was. Was science an activity that restricted its theories to observable entities? Was it an activity that exclusively employed inductive reasoning? Was it an activity unique in its capacity for making predictions? Consensus could not be reached.11 “Absent agreement on what ‘the scientific method’ amounted to, demarcationists were scarcely in a position to argue persuasively that what individuated science was its method.” Moreover, philosophical conceptions of scientific method often suffered from ambiguity or they substantially departed from the methods actually employed by practicing scientists.12 The outcome of this situation, as Larry Laudan eloquently stated was “more than a little ironic”:

At precisely that juncture when science was beginning to have a decisive impact on the lives and institutions of Western man, at precisely that time when ‘scientism’ (i.e., the belief that science and science alone has the answers to all our answerable questions) was gaining ground, in exactly that quarter-century when scientists were doing battle in earnest with all manner of ‘pseudo-scientists’ (e.g. homeopathic physicians, spiritualists, phrenologists, biblical geologists), scientists and philosophers found themselves empty- handed. Except at the rhetorical level, there was no longer any consensus about what separated science from anything else.13

Not surprisingly then, the twentieth century saw the emergence of a new set of demarcationist strategies. The best early case of this new set of strategies emerged during the 1920s and 1930s through the efforts of the so- called Vienna Circle of philosophers to forge a semantic conception of the scientific enterprise, sometimes called “logical positivism.” Science could be distinguished from non-science, logical positivists argued, because only the statements of science were meaningful. Meaningful statements were those that could, at least in principle, be verified. Hence the hope for setting apart science from non-science was placed upon this “verifiability criterion of meaning” which can be briefly stated as follows: a proposition is meaningful, and therefore scientific, if and only if the proposition is empirically verifiable.14 Accordingly, a statement such as “God created the world and saw that it was good” is neither true nor false, but simply meaningless because it is not possible, even
in principle, to say how such a proposition could be empirically verified. On the other hand the statement “Water freezes at 0° C” is empirically verifiable, and therefore meaningful, and thus scientific. Unfortunately for the logical positivist program, however, their own verifiability criterion of meaning could not pass its own test and was rendered meaningless; for to what possible empirical test could this criterion of meaning be subjected? How could anyone, then, presume to demarcate science from non-science by appealing to a meaningless principle? Or as another critic put it, “To say that only factual statements have validity is to be not only dogmatic but self-contradictory, since the statement itself is not factual.”15 The abject failure of logical positivism to demarcate science from non-science ran even deeper than this. While it certainly ruled out some “undesirable” metaphysics from the ranks of science, it failed to exclude other patent nonsense that happened to meet its criterion of meaning. For example, the proposition “The earth is flat,” while clearly absurd, happens to be empirically verifiable in principle (even though the evidence mitigates against it); and therefore it is a meaningful statement that cannot be deemed “unscientific” according to the logical positivist demarcation criterion.16

Following the implosion of logical positivism, philosophers proposed that the search for a qualitative standard by which to isolate the scientific enterprise should be abandoned in favor of a quantitative benchmark. Maybe “scientific status is a matter of degree rather than kind.”17 What sort of things might we consider here? Candidates include the degree to which a science is “well- tested.” For example, one might contend that the theories of terrestrial mechanics are more testable (and thus more scientific) than those of astrology. Perhaps instead, one might appeal to a pragmatic scale. The more scientific an activity, it might be argued, the more useful and reliable will be its products. Some have advanced the notion that science is comparatively progressive and cumulative in its knowledge. Unlike religion, for example, science can claim a rate of “cognitive progress” by which it is set apart from non-scientific activities that accrue knowledge only very slowly, if at all. Still others suggest that a scientific activity will result in more predictions of unanticipated outcomes than a non-scientific activity. It turns out, however,
that every such quantitative benchmark – testability, pragmatic benefits, cognitive progress, predictive capacity and others – demonstrably fails as a viable demarcation criterion.18 Although the scope of this essay does not permit exploration of how each one does fail, philosophical attempts to justify the quantitative approaches all reach the same conclusion: regardless of the criterion applied, each ends up including within the domain of “science” much that is intuitively and generally regarded as “extra- scientific,” and conversely each ends up excluding as “extra-scientific” much that is widely regarded as “scientific.”

What, then, are we to do? Are we to conclude that there is no such thing as science? Or at least, if there is, that we have no way of telling it apart from anything else? I do not think such despair is in order. Do we have to retreat
to some sociological definition and say, “Science is just whatever scientists do”? This would be of little help, of course, because it would merely recast the question to ask who the scientists are.19 Or perhaps we fall back on a tacit intuitive answer: “Science is like obscenity. Although we cannot define it, we know it when we see it.” None of these ultimately satisfy. Consequently, at least in the context of education, we are driven to the only sane conclusion. We must stop asking whether or not an issue, belief, subject,
or activity is “scientific.” Instead we must ask whether or not it is legitimate to discuss an issue, belief, subject or activity (regardless of its alleged “scientific” status) within a classroom that is ostensibly devoted to such topics as physics, chemistry, biology or geology.

Legitimacy and the Contemporary Situation

The issue of scientific legitimacy is distinct from the demarcation problem. As we have seen, the demarcation problem is a theoretical problem without solution. The question of legitimacy is a practical problem with a tangible solution that must be worked out through a collective effort linking the arena of public discourse to the philosopher’s tower, and the scientist’s bench. Although the legitimacy question is not without solution, its solution may change over time. As the philosopher of science Del Ratzsch has put it, “The nature and boundaries of scientific legitimacy were neither found carved in stone somewhere, developed purely a priori, nor just always known innately by humans. Rather, conceptions of . . . scientific legitimacy that we currently take to be correct have histories and have developed along with science.”20 Unlike the demarcation problem, the issue of legitimacy cannot not be solved. The question is whether it will be solved actively (and responsibly) or passively (and irresponsibly). It simply is the case that all manner of subjects are treated by scientists while they are speaking as scientists. Quibbling about whether or not we can classify the subjects about which they speak as “science” has proved an exercise in futility. Rather, our need is to determine whether or not any topic, even if it seems “extra-scientific” by whatever demarcation criterion adopted, may be a legitimate focus for study and discussion by science students.

This is so important because scientific and so- called “non-scientific” issues are interminably intermingled in both theory and practice. Scientists past and present repeatedly have incorporated into their ostensibly “scientific” discourse pronouncements about purpose, ethics, the deity, worldviews, meaning, duty, morality, chance, design, mind, metaphysics, ontology, teleology, good, evil, and so on. The question is not whether such practice is scientific. The question is whether it is legitimate to do so. Before exploring that question, permit me to recite a few examples to acquaint us with the kind of utterances I have in mind.

Ernst Mayr, perhaps the twentieth-century’s greatest biologist, argued in his book, This is Biology: The Science of the Living World, that contemporary moral and political issues are properly matters for biological discourse. He asserted that “an understanding of evolution can give us a worldview that serves as the basis for a sound ethical system that can maintain a healthy human society . . .”21 Worldview? Ethical system? Healthy society? This is hardly the stuff of old-fashioned pure and simple biology. Such topics
have traditionally been the purview of priests, ethicists, and policy experts. But Mayr contends they are matters
for the student of biology. Perhaps they are. At least they cannot be ruled out according to any received criterion of demarcation.

Now consider for a moment conclusions of several biologists who offer pronouncements that they believe to follow directly as conclusions from their biological science:

Ernst Haeckel (1877): “The cell consists of matter called protoplasm, composed chiefly of carbon, with an admixture of hydrogen, nitrogen and sulphur. These component parts, properly united, produce the soul and body of the animated world, and suitably nursed become man. With this single argument the mystery of the universe is explained, the Deity annulled and a new era of infinite knowledge ushered in.”22

Douglas Futumya (1983): “Some shrink from the conclusion that the human species was not designed, has no purpose, and is the product of mere material mechanisms – but this seems to be the message of evolution.”23 Michael Behe (1996): “The result of these cumulative efforts to investigate the cell . . . is a loud, clear, piercing cry of ‘design!’ The result is so unambiguous and so significant that it must be ranked as one of the greatest achievements in the history of science. The discovery rivals those of Newton and Einstein, Lavoisier and Schrödinger, Pasteur, and Darwin. The observation of the intelligent design of life is as momentous as the observation that the earth goes around the sun or that disease is caused by bacteria or that radiation is emitted in quanta.”24

Francis Crick (1988): “Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.”25

Michael J. Denton (1998): “. . . the unique fitness of the laws of nature for life is entirely consistent with the older teleological religious concept of the cosmos as a specially designed whole, with life and mankind as its primary goal and purpose. . . the emerging picture provide[s] powerful and self-evident support for the traditional anthropocentric teleological view of the cosmos.”26

George Gaylord Simpson (1949): “Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind. He was not planned. He is a state of matter, a form of life, a sort of animal, and a species of the Order Primates, akin nearly or remotely to all of life and indeed to all that is material.”27

Of course there are many more such quotations. Richard Dawkins proclaims that “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist” while another biologist insists that “the universe is a purposeful creation.”28 We could go on and on ping-ponging back and forth quotations attesting to the scientific evidence or lack thereof for meaning, purpose, design, values, et cetera.

Let my intent be clear. I am not concerned here to argue, as some do, that the preceding quotations are dastardly intrusions of scientists into the domain of metaphysical and religious discourse, although they might be just that. Rather since rigid demarcation fails, we should openly acknowledge the fact that the various disciplines, while distinct, are not wholly separable from one another. This means we must learn to navigate those borderlands where scientific discourse overlaps most often with other human concerns. The question becomes one of legitimacy. Is it or is it not legitimate to include in science classrooms discussions of contested issues and ideas that scientists believe, nonetheless, to follow directly from their scientific practice?
There are, of course, those who answer in the negative. Yet, to my knowledge, those who do, rest their opposition to discussions of such things as good and evil, meaning and purpose, design and beauty, etc. upon the nonsensical presumption that science and non-science can be competently demarcated from one another. As already noted, such questions about meaning and purpose whether they ought to or not, do in fact have a place in science because scientists have given them a place, repeatedly talking about purpose, issuing ethical imperatives, and offering normative claims in the name of science.29 Further, scientists do, in fact have scientific methods for addressing the idea of “purpose.” Forensic scientists, detectives, lawyers, insurance fraud investigators, U.S.- government funded SETI researchers, and others all rely on sophisticated scientific methods for detecting purposeful activity. This is not the place to tease out the various conceptions of purpose. That topic could easily command yet another essay. Still it should be easy enough to see that it is one thing to determine whether a given event was the product of intention or purpose. It is another thing to identify the intention or purpose behind the event as benign, beneficent, malevolent, natural, super-natural, etc.

So we return to the question: Is it legitimate to include in science classrooms discussions of issues and ideas that scientists believe to follow directly from their scientific practice, even if some of these issues lurk on the borderlands shared with presumably “extra-scientific” concepts like purpose, meaning, beauty, and design? Permit the proposal of a tentative answer that defends the inclusion of such issues on a carefully limited basis, while avoiding the pitfalls of an “anything goes” free-for-all in the classroom.

Legitimacy and Liberal Education

The great Samuel Johnson rightly noted,

Prudence and justice are virtues, and excellences, of all times and all places; we are perpetually moralists, but we are geometricians only by chance. Our intercourse with intellectual nature is necessary; our speculations upon matter are voluntary, and at leisure. Physiological learning is of such rare emergence, that one man may know another half his life without being able to estimate his skill in hydrostaticks or astronomy; but his moral and prudential character immediately appears.30

I submit that the chief end of education is to furnish and discipline students’ minds and to equip them for human flourishing and constructive participation in civil society. If I am right, and if Samuel Johnson was correct about the perennial need for virtue, if he was correct about the secondary need for technical specialization, and if he was correct when he also asserted that “whether we provide for action or conversation, whether we wish to be useful or pleasing, the first requisite is . . . knowledge of right and wrong,” then I submit that all teachers, of whatever subject matter (even biology, physics, astronomy, or hydrostatics), need to understand these things and be committed to them. Otherwise their primary educational duty cannot be fulfilled.31

I am not suggesting that the science classroom abandon the periodic table for the ten commandments, that learning acid-base titration techniques be replaced by speeches on moral philosophy, or that Mosaic cosmogony replace study of natural selection. I am suggesting that limiting the science classroom to such activities as studying the periodic table, learning titration techniques,
or understanding a natural process like descent with modification, while necessary, cannot be sufficient, even for science education. I am suggesting that to realize the primary pedagogical aim of preparing students for virtuous and constructive participation in civil society, we must not retreat exclusively into the comfortable disciplinary hinterlands of specialization and technique, as if science can be hermetically sealed from other issues. It rarely can. Instead teachers must lead students into the sometimes risky no-man’s land where science overlaps with religion, with ethical and metaphysical theory, with public policy, and with epistemology. For it is there that some of the most important educational work can and must happen. To retreat from it through fear of transgressing a dubitable demarcation line between science and non-science is not just a technical philosophical mistake, but a potentially dangerous omission.

In short, I propose a vision of education that begins with a particular view of mankind and ends with a corresponding understanding of liberal education. Both biologists and theologians acknowledge our identity as homo sapiens. The Latin homo means “mankind or man.” The word sapiens, from the Latin sapientia, means “wisdom” and “discernment.” To be truly human thus requires the cultivation of wisdom and discernment, that is the cultivation of what the ancients called the cardinal virtues – Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance. Cardinal here is from the Latin cardo, meaning “hinge.” In short, the realization of all other human goods and of our full flourishing hinges or turns upon the acquisition of these virtues, especially wisdom.32

There is another view of mankind. We might call it homo sciens, from the Latin scientia from which we get the word science. Homo sciens knows lots of stuff. The stuff he knows begins with the assumption that man is, like everything else he sees, a material thing. To be fully human, on this view, is to stockpile material things, to amass knowledge of material things, and to acquire expertise in the techniques of manipulating material things. In the end, this view of mankind underwrites the cynical conclusion of the twentieth-century American journalist H. L. Mencken who declared that human beings are no more than “an endless series of miserable and ridiculous bags of rapidly disintegrating amino acids.”33

What is man? Any view of education must begin with a working answer to this question. Homo sciens can do things. He knows stuff. He is the master of means. Homo sapiens knows what to do and why to do it. He understands ends. The story of the modern era has been the story of the waning of homo sapiens and the waxing of homo sciens.34 As we have acquired the tools to do more and more, we have lost the wisdom needed to tell us what ought to and ought not to be done. The way to restore a salutary balance between these two visions of man is to foster an integrated view of education, a view that sees education as more than merely imparting information and techniques. We need a view that explores the disciplinary borderlands and is suspicious of the alleged sufficiency of narrow specialization. Richard Weaver put it so well when he noted, “Specialization of any kind is illiberal in a freeman. A man willing to bury himself in the details of some small endeavor has been considered lost . . . specialization develops only part of a man; a man partially developed is deformed.”35

In her insightful discussion of Evolution as a Religion, the philosopher Mary Midgley remarked upon the popular ideal of scientists as objective inquirers: Scientists ought to be so impartial that they either do not have anything so unprofessional as a world-picture at all, or,

if they have one, do not let it affect their work. But this is a mistaken ideal. An enquirer with no such general map would only be an obsessive . . . Merely to pile up information indiscriminately is an idiot’s task. Good scientists do not approximate to that ideal at all. They tend to have a very strong guiding imaginative system. Their world-picture is usually a positive and distinctive one, with its own special drama.36

My present concern is to recommend that scientists and science teachers embrace a sufficiently large world-picture to help foster what John Henry Newman called, in his classic treatment of liberal education The Idea of a University, a “philosophical habit of mind.” Newman described this educational ideal:

An assemblage of learned men, zealous for their own sciences, and rivals of each other, are brought, by familiar intercourse and for the sake of intellectual peace, to adjust together the claims and relations of their respective subjects of investigation. They learn to respect, to consult, to aid each other. Thus is created a pure and clear atmosphere of thought, which the student also breathes . . . He apprehends the great outlines of knowledge, the principles on which it rests, the scale of its parts, its lights and its shades, its great points and its little, as he otherwise cannot apprehend them. Hence it is that his education is called “Liberal.” A habit of mind is formed which lasts through life, of which the attributes are, freedom, equitableness, calmness, moderation, and wisdom; or what . . . I ventured to call a philosophical habit.37

This ideal can only be achieved when science does not presume to be the only kind of knowledge, when moral categories and virtues are not just things we teach students about in comparative religion classes, but things we teach students to embrace in every class. Students cannot embrace things they do not know. Both science students and humanities students must study issues at the borders between the sciences and the humanities; for to comprehend a subject requires knowledge of its relations to other subjects. Fostering this relational perspective is the duty of all teachers.38

One practical avenue toward achieving this perspective comes from admitting that scientific knowledge is not the only valid form of knowledge, that one can have genuine knowledge of such things as duty and virtue. “We have to allow there is another kind of knowledge besides the explicit, exact and testable kind . . . Traditional skills, intuitions, scientific systems, poetic and religious insights and the understanding of moral values are all fed from the same root.” This is what the philosopher and physical chemist Michael Polanyi called “tacit knowing.”39 We could profit from considering his perspective.

Finally, and even more practically, our science classrooms would do well to include discussion of select issues that surface in public discourse with which our students must eventually wrestle and reckon. Perhaps the best and diciest contemporary example, which I mentioned at the opening of my remarks, has emerged in the case of “intelligent design” theory (ID). One of ID’s most vigorous critics is the political philosopher Larry Arnhart. Despite his conviction that intelligent design is wrong, he puts forth a recommendation for teaching ID in the science classroom:

Allowing our public school students to study and debate creationist criticisms of Darwinism in their biology classes would promote a better understanding of scientific argumentation and of the moral and political implications of science. If students were allowed to study some readings from the intelligent design theorists along with Darwin’s writings and some contemporary defenses of Darwin, they could better judge the evidence and arguments . . .

Science education in the public schools often consists of mindless memorization of scientific formulas so that students have no understanding of how one goes about weighing evidence and arguments for and against scientific ideas. Moreover, students rarely see the emotional excitement associated with scientific controversies that have moral, political, and religious implications. A lively classroom debate over Darwinism would be a great improvement, and it might actually prepare students to become citizens capable of judging scientific disputes that have deep consequences for human life.40

Both politicians and philosophers appear to concede the merit in Arnhart’s proposal. The explanatory statement accompanying the 2002 Elementary and Secondary Education Authorization Act included the following language: “A quality science education should prepare students to distinguish the data and testable theories of science from religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science. Where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society.”41 Philosopher of science Del Ratzsch takes head on the tendency of most scientists to exclude the notion of supernatural design from the discussion table:

[A]ttempts to support blanket, normative prohibitions on even considering supernatural design in science seem without exception to fail for various reasons. Attempts to justify such prohibitions on pragmatic grounds seem to do little better. The intuition that science cannot deal with the supernatural, so must systematically ignore it, seems a bit like advising swimmers in the Amazon that since they cannot see pirhanas from the bank nor survive a pirhana attack once in the water, they should plunge right in, pretending that there are none. Perhaps better advice might be to work on learning some pirhana recognition techniques.42

We live in one world, not separate scientific and religious worlds, but one world. Consequently, the differing perspectives from which the sciences and humanities view our one world must be accommodated by the minds of individual human students in which these different perspectives are fostered.

Consider these remarks from a Canadian newspaper by Michael Ruse, an internationally respected and widely-published philosopher of biology who has written extensively on evolutionary biology: “Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion – a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality. . . . Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today.”43 Now, Dr. Ruse may have gone over the top. He may be as far off the mark as one can get. He may, on the other hand, be right on target. This is not the issue. The issue is that students who may read his words in the newspaper at breakfast before school should be able to ask their science teachers to help them sort these things out. Science teachers should be eager to devote class time to doing so. But they cannot do it correctly unless they are permitted to do so and properly equipped for the task. Our schools will better serve their primary educational mission of furnishing and disciplining minds if they welcome, indeed encourage, opportunities to consider contested issues in the science classroom. Sometimes valuable pedagogical lessons lurk in the disciplinary borderlands. And there is no questioning the fact that divisive public policy issues are often thorny to the degree they are interdisciplinary. Acknowledging this in the science classroom is one way to prepare students for wise participation in contemporary civil society.

The Stones Cry Out… and the Flowers…And the Birds… and the Clouds: Discovering God (and Ourselves)

Here at Regents School of Austin our campus is blessed to have a science and nature center. It includes a barn with stalls for farm animals, a large chicken coop, an amphitheater-like area for outdoor events, a classroom with tables and benches, and a sizable garden area for students to plant both fall and spring crops. Each class in grades K through 4 has on its weekly schedule a science and nature studies period in which the center is the classroom.

The nature center began about 13 years ago as a labor of love. A number of Regents families sought and received permission to reclaim an under-utilized corner of the school property that had been the site of a homestead and farm for several generations. The original farmhouse was gone and the barns and outbuildings were in disrepair. The families organized volunteer workdays and raised funds in order to give the students at Regents the fabulous facility now known as the Regents Science and Nature Center.

With the facility in place the teachers were invited to bring their students and plant gardens, take nature walks, or visit the animals at the barn. Many came and learned. Some came often, some came occasionally, and some came not at all. I worked here part of the time, when I wasn’t farming, to help the students with their gardens.

When Rod Gilbert became our Head of School, he decided all students should have the opportunity to learn at the Nature Center. He added Science and Nature Studies to the class schedule for kindergarten through sixth grade. I came on full time to work with the classroom teachers and develop curricular connections for the students. This will be our eighth year on the class schedule and we continue to grow and flourish.

The Regents Mission Statement is at the core of all activities and lessons. It states:

“The mission of Regents School is to provide a classical and Christian education, founded upon and informed
by a Christian worldview, that equips students to know, love, and practice that which is true, good, and beautiful, and challenges them to strive for excellence as they live purposefully and intelligently in the service of God and man.” Each lesson or activity should include elements that lead to understanding (to know), attract attention and stimulate the emotions (to love), and reinforce the acquiring of wisdom that informs the will (to practice). Using (and honing) our skill of observation and tapping into our curiosity, we begin to explore our world. With grade level science curricula and a Bible we discover the creatures and materials that are a part of our amazing planet. We are participating in what is probably the original pedagogy! Rom. 1:19-20 states; “…what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes- His eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, because they are understood by what has been made.” As we begin to discover “His invisible attributes…” we can begin to see ourselves in a more biblical way. After all, He has made us in His image! Pursuing a deeper understanding of God by studying the created world leads directly to a better understanding of ourselves as bearers of His image. It leads to a better understanding because it is the habitat designed specifically for us. This is surely at the heart of any true educational endeavor- to know our God and to know ourselves. Science and nature are simply the vehicle for this journey.

In Kindergarten we begin the year in Genesis with the creation account. We study the five senses and see how they can gather information about our environment. We study insects, the solar system, wildflowers, oceans, and we grow lots of carrots in the fall.

First graders learn about the animal kingdom.

We begin with insects, learning key characteristics and observing life cycles. We make our way through some of the more notable classes; arachnids, fish, mammals, reptiles, birds, and amphibians; learning key characteristics and finding out that some characteristics are unique and some are shared. With each subject the students make an entry in their science and nature sketchbooks. A drawing, along with sentences relating the characteristics, becomes a record of our lessons and experiences with the animal kingdom.

Second grade science is focused on the plant kingdom. After an initial lesson on the variety within the plant kingdom, we narrow our focus to the flowering plants. The study is introduced to the students as “Parts of the Plant!” followed by the student’s dramatic “DAH, DAH, DAAHHH!”. We begin with seeds and discover the two types of flowering plant- monocots and dicots. We also see three main jobs (supply, support, storage) of each part. Lessons continue on with roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and fruit which brings us back to seeds. At each part we see the differences between monocot and dicot and look for the three main jobs. Along the way we check the Bible for insight into how the parts help us to understand God, His kingdom, and ourselves. Some examples: Seeds- Gen. 1:11-12; 1 Pet. 1:23; Mark 4:30-32. Roots-Prov.

12:3; Eph. 3:17. Stems- John 15:1-5; Isa. 11:1. Leaves- Gen. 1:30. Flowers-Ps.103:15; 1 Pet. 1:24. Fruit-Gal.5:22-23; Luke 6:44-45.

Second graders also study the fungus kingdom for a month right after Christmas break. (It’s an invisible kingdom that is always around us, even in the air we breathe, and we only notice it when it produces fruiting bodies. What does that sound like a metaphor for?)

Third graders begin with simple machines and ancient Egypt. We do an archeological dig and build life- size working shadoufs. The students bring food scraps from home and make compost in order to study the decomposition cycle. We observe the changes, learn the three states of matter, investigate the creatures involved with magnifiers and microscopes, and are in awe of the Creator who has thought of everything! We then move on to earth science where we find out about our amazing spaceship Earth (where we get to ride on the outside!). Moving through space at an approximate speed of 575,000 miles per hour we learn about the crust, the mantle, and the core. We learn of rocks and minerals, tectonic plates, earthquakes, and volcanoes. AWESOME! There are so many scripture lessons here.

Fourth grade studies pond life at our large pond complex. Complete with waterfalls, a stream, a bog, and 3 large fish ponds there is plenty to keep us busy. We put on waders and get in which leads to many exclamations of “best day at the garden, ever!”. Fourth graders also learn about sound and light. We finish the year with a study of body systems.

Now, a few words about why we teach. Romans 12:2 states “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” The Regents Mission Statement, mentioned above, is basically a restating of this scripture. With the mind we think, we believe, we understand, and we form our individual worldview. We live in a fallen world and a culture that continually hammers us with information. Most of this information is void of any mention of or reference to the Kingdom of God. The implication of this Scripture is that without renewing our minds we will not know God, His will and Kingdom, or ourselves. Eph. 4:11-13- “It was He who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, that is to build up the body of Christ until we attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God- a mature person, attaining to Christ’s full stature.” Teaching is a calling given by Jesus. Some might say that this scripture pertains only to the church but we are the church and all of life is included in our relationship with God. As someone has said, “All is sacred. Nothing is secular.” I agree. This means that no matter what topic you happen to be teaching, it can only be understood properly by recognizing its relationship to God, His kingdom, or ourselves who are made in His image. In the verses from Ephesians above, it states that the reason He gave teachers is to help us move towards “attaining Christ’s
full stature.” No pressure! The first thing to realize is that we are all on this journey together. Some of us are just farther along which positions us to be of service to those coming after. Nature studies allow for us to discover God together. Instead of stories about God we see His creativity on display. I have found that it usually takes less than one minute for the students to find something that excites, amazes, or raises questions. This is much more than a fun activity for students. This is discovering who we are by learning about the environment/habitat in which we were physically designed to live. A turtle is designed to live in a pond spending its time seeking food, sunning itself , and interacting with other turtles. If you take the turtle as a
baby and raise it in a box in the corner of your bedroom, away from the pond, other turtles, or even the sun, it will

never be able to truly function as it was designed. Similarly, we have taken ourselves out of our natural habitat and
now live in carpeted, climate-controlled boxes staring at screens. Is it any wonder that we struggle with confusion on nearly every front? Confusion about where we came from. Confusion about what is objectively true, good, and beautiful. Disconnected from the Garden and the Creator by sin, we strive to find comfort. Comfort for our bodies through climate control, comfort for our souls through décor and diversion, and comfort for our spirits through cloistering ourselves away from the fallen world. Just going outside will not automatically fix everything, but time in nature and nature studies, as an integral part of a person’s upbringing and education, can provide many opportunities to learn who we are and grow into the people God has made us to be.

Before God made man in His image, He made a place for man to live. That place was a garden. Romans 8:19 states,“For the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.” The creation not only displays the glory of God but, also, the effects of the fall. Weeds, thorns, drought, creatures which bite or sting, oppressive heat, or freezing cold all testify to the fact that something is not right. Romans goes on to say, in verse 22, “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers together…” Psalm 19:1 says “The heavens declare the glory of God…” When God wanted to make a point with Abraham, He used the stars or the sand. When He announced the birth of Messiah, he did so in a field. Jesus took His first breath in a barn among the livestock.

God speaks to us in three distinct ways; through the Bible, by the Holy Spirit, and through His creation. We can help our students know God, themselves, and His Kingdom if we just get back to the garden. If you listen carefully, you will hear the stones cry out “Great is the Creator!” and you can hear the Father saying, “ I love you.”

Only Natural: Poetic Resonance between the Common and Liberal Arts

The lengthy split on its well-worn seat and the obtuse cant of its wobbly back attested to two things. First, the frequency of its use, and second, its immanent consignment to the dumpster. A note prominently attached to the pitiful figure read: “Can anything be done to save this?” The old footstool had shown up in my lab, part science space and part old school shop, with a heart-felt, hand-written hope for help.

In no time, the old footstool had become a lesson. It was brought back to the kindergarten classroom from whence it came, where the students gathered around its decrepit form to hear a tale of what it would soon become. Glue was applied, along with some speed clamps. Sanding took place, followed by some spot fixes and buffing. Strategic woodscrews placed tension here or there where it was needed most. To top it off, a new candy coating of bright yellow paint. The restored stool re-entered service within the week, but it occurred to me that the functionality of that stool far surpassed that of its physical form alone.

For these kindergarteners, and more than a little bit for their teacher, that stool was a model of redemption, and of the liberating power of the common arts. Without a little knowledge, hope had been lost. Brokenness was beyond repair. But with a little shop savvy and some elbow grease, what was lost was made anew, and in the process, changed the way these students understood their relationship to the physical world around them.

The liberal arts were named at a time when the most important skill for freemen was to be able to participate in civic matters, which required moving beyond the concerns of simple crafts to the art of statecraft. There is no debate about whether or not the liberal arts are important for us to impart to our children today, but what if our culture has moved us so far from the experience of the real that a driving need of our children today, particularly our youngest learners, is to balance their experience in the liberal arts with a return to learning about the non-virtual world through their hands and their senses? And even more pressing: what if their education for the Kingdom demands this paradigm shift as much as their education for the world of men?
Richard Louv, in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods, coins the term “nature deficit disorder” to describe the increasing lack of natural experience that children face today as their entertainment becomes centered around electricity-driven virtual realities1. In losing touch with the natural world, the very world which Jesus uses to frame up so many parables, our students are losing touch with the source of their physical and metaphorical daily bread. They are losing the ears by which they could hear. Jaron Lanier, pioneer of digital media, in his book You Are Not A Gadget laments that “A new generation has come of age with a reduced expectation of what a person can be, and of who each person might become” due to the de-humanizing effects of recent technological saturation2. In losing touch with a real social landscape and pursuing the fruits of vainglory, our students are placing themselves first and their neighbors second. And perhaps the most quoted of all, C.S. Lewis laments in the third chapter of The Abolition of Man that the modern aims of applied science are more akin to that of the medieval magician, who sought to bend nature to his own desires, than to the wisdom of the men of old, who sought to know nature that they may be in resonance with wisdom, with God3. In losing our humility and recasting our place in the natural world through the social imaginary of a detached, omnipotent science, are we training our students to be the wild vines in the vineyard?

We need to ask ourselves: if we teach our students in the purely modern, secular way, are we foregoing
the opportunity to show them nature in light of charity, holism, and thanksgiving? Can we develop a pedagogy that maintains the rigor necessary to become world-class scientists while also preserving a vision, not only of creation but of the practice of science itself, that is deeply in dominio Dei?

Fortunately, John Milton had an answer to these questions in 1644. Speaking squarely from the middle of the time period in which our modern paradigms about science were being formed, Milton advocated a holistic educational experience based upon the liberal and the common arts working in concert:

And having thus passed the principles of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and geography, with a general compact of physics, they may descend in mathematics to the instrumental science of trigonometry, and from thence to fortification, architecture, engineering, and navigation…. To set forward all these proceedings in nature and mathematics, what hinders but that they may procure, as oft as shall be needful, the helpful experiences of hunters, fowlers, fishermen, shepherds, gardeners, apothecaries;…. And this will give them such a real tincture of natural knowledge, as they shall never forget, but daily augment with delight.4

Milton is advocating nothing less than a meeting in the middle between the liberal and the common arts. The trivium and quadrivium form the academic foundations, while the common arts form the “tincture of natural knowledge”, the experiences in real application, that will allow the student to become not only fully functional, but fully charitable, in the world. The lessons of the book are not detached from the lessons of the heart through the hands, and in so doing, the head, heart, and hands are united in a holistic education.

Consider this list in light of typical school settings, and it becomes clear that every discipline could be refracted through a common art. Warfare is generally precluded, but the skills of hunting could just as easily be taught by switching one set of optics for another: trade rifle scopes for cameras by creating a photography elective, and teach students how to set up for shots in the wild. Medicine makes its way into PE/Gymnastics through training in First Aid and CPR. Simulations in history class can lead to excellent experiences in trade: could your school develop an internal economy that honors the biblical admonitions to love your neighbor and avoid usury?

However, the easiest of all applications is in the science classroom. Each of these arts involves a rooted, real-world, applied understanding of physics, chemistry, biology, and/or earth science. Framing instruction in science could be as simple as hinging your curriculum on these arts and letting the information fall into place within the context of formation: as each is practiced, the science that undergirds each is explored and experienced first hand.

Three examples of applied common arts in our science program at The Covenant School are the Skills of the Tracker, multi-generational gardening, and the Ancient Technology Project.

Skills of the Tracker: Hunting Without Hunting, for Children

Our youngest learners are literally primed to make sense of the world by using their senses. These God-given gifts, meant to be used in an orderly way, are there to help them perceive the world all around.

They are also primed for narratives. Stories impart wisdom, and through them, students learn to make sense
of what they experience. Narrative frameworks set the interpretive frameworks by which future experiences can be understood.

Imagine if our youngest learners learned science not in the lab, but in the garden, where senses and story are the gateways to a whole world of experiences, and you have the essence of the Skills of the Tracker units.

These experiences run progressively through grades 1-3. At the first level, students start with a story: Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen. This beautifully written and illustrated story about a father and daughter out on a winter’s night calling in an owl frames the experiences to come. Students learn that they need to be silent, to be brave, to “make their own heat”, and to follow the lead of a mentor who knows what to do in order to be successful. Students are taught how to walk silently, how to extend their hearing with “deer ears” and to use blurred vision to capture animal movement in the visual clutter of the leaf canopy. They practice hearing bird language, and interpreting the calls that our local birds make as they forage, call companions, and flee from danger. They learn the rudiments of natural history by taking time to sketch what they see outside, and not just the big picture: sometimes they are called to pay careful attention to the tiniest objects, which reveal their complexity when not quickly passed over. Through this experience, coupled with Scripture readings that highlight and place what they see in context, students learn rigorous scientific observation without learning to see the world as something to be dominated. They graph their findings, use field guides, keep field journals, and use the tools of science, but they do not catch the narrative that says that science is there for us to dominate nature. Rather, they learn that science is a way to see God smiling back at us from the garden no matter where we turn.

In the later grades, students continue to hone their basic skills while also exploring tracking pits, the movement of the sun (and its relation to timekeeping), observing from a single spot through all the seasons, and more. As they engage these experiences, they learn the scientific facts and processes within a context that is larger than the information itself. They also learn within a framework that is inherently cross-curricular: history plugs in at every step, as well as reading, writing, mathematics, and the fine arts.

Multi-Generational Gardening: Agricultural Mentorship

In keeping with the Christian practice of hospitality and the building of community, we are taking steps towards a multi-generational approach to gardening. In a chapter of his book The Dumbest Generation called “Betraying the Mentors”, Mark Bauerlein laments the loss of mentorship in a culture of self-expression. Mentors are seen as getting in the way of expression, rather than as guides who have already walked these paths before, and are here, in charity, to share their wisdom.5

In seeking to actively undermine this cultural paradigm while also building our school community, we have asked not only parents, but grandparents, to share their expertise with our young students in our box and field plot gardens. From vegetable whisperers to flower powerhouses, we are drawing our constituents into our common space to share knowledge and to cultivate beauty. We are also actively breaking the standard school year cycle by asking our end-of-year 2nd graders to plant the corns, beans, and squash they will share with next year’s 2nd graders in their annual 2nd-3rd potlatch supper.

All of these practices refine the sense that mentorship is valuable. It can come at many different levels and in many different forms, and as such, it forms cross- connections within our community and timeframes that might otherwise go unnoticed, or simply become lost, in the hustled pace of modern living.

Ancient Technology Project: History Meets Science Meets Shop Class

Our 6th grade students finish a History unit on Ancient Greece and Rome at about the same time they finish a Science unit called Awesome Architecture, which deals with the basics of atomic physics, chemistry, and mechanics. Bringing these two units together is as simple as asking one question: How would a modern understanding of materials help us to recreate ancient technologies using authentic materials? The answer to this question involves applied science, history, and power tools.

After picking an artifact to create, say a Roman lorica segmentata, students research a historically-accurate design, trace its history, and prepare a list of materials necessary to build a working model. Students render complete rough draft plans on paper, including all measurements and expanded diagrams of engineering challenges. While they are doing so, they alternate class days between the library and the shop, where they learn the basics of tool safety, selection, and technique. Students prototype portions of their design, test them, and make improvements upon their design before crafting a final artifact for presentation to parents and other school constituents at our annual STEM Night. Their presentations not only involve their craft, but also a refinement of their eloquence: students are provided a list of questions ahead of time that they must prepare to address.

There are plenty of success stories and failures along the way. Students realize, not just by instruction but through their hands, that wood has a grain or that metal is microcrystalline by working these materials themselves. They apply their knowledge of chemistry and mechanics to devise ways to craft, solve problems, analyze failures, and improve designs, all the while cultivating the virtues of fortitude, prudence, patience, and careful observation.

Students also acquire a skill set and disposition that is lacking in our disposable culture: things can be fixed, and we have the capacity, if we have the knowledge and the frameworks of understanding, to fix. This is as liberal as you get: it frees the self from being utterly at the whim of those who know how, while coupling the knowledge of the hands with that of the heart and of the head.

This is also STEM at its best, while mitigating its worst. There are no pre-fabbed materials, virtual problems, or even the simplicity of telling a machine what to do. This is craft. It requires all the logic, all the problem-solving, plus an additional embodied element of craftsmanship that is lacking in many modern, boxed programs.

Doug Stowe, a blogger who writes “Wisdom of the Hands”, posted the following quote. It was subsequently quoted by Matthew B. Crawford as an opener for the first chapter of his 2009 book Shop Class As Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into The Value of Work.

[I]n schools, we create artificial learning environments for our children that they know to be contrived and undeserving
of their full attention and engagement…. Without the opportunity to learn through the hands, the world remains abstract, and distant, and the passions for learning will not be engaged.6

Contained within this quote are all the reasons why the common arts are resonant with the liberal arts. Without a context, we run the risk of decontextualizing what we teach, and in so doing, unwittingly perpetuating frameworks which allow for scientism to become a force within our culture. If we can reclaim some ground by re-instituting the common arts within our programs, we not only foster the best of the head, heart, and hands within our students, but we also give them a freedom that cannot be had simply by the exploration, no matter how broad or how deep, of a world of abstract ideas alone.

Conversational and Communicative Latin

The principles and practices of using conversation and communication in Latin instruction. In this seminar, I will present the meaning and goals of conversation and communication in Latin teaching, along with the reasons for this approach and some of its possible challenges.Secondly, I will will introduce a variety of techniques and activities for implementing the conversational & communicative approach.

Joshua Smith

Joshua has been at Veritas School in Newberg, OR for eleven years, where he teaches secondary Latin & Greek, Humane Letters, and New Testament, having previously taught logic and Old Testament at a classical Christian school in Chicago, and Christian Worldview at Trinity Christian College. He has been working with conversation in the Latin classroom since participating in the Latin-immersion Conventiculum Vasingtoniense in 2005, and has more recently begun applying these methods in Greek, especially since a ending the Biblical Language Center’s Greek Fluency Workshop (Fresno, CA) in 2013.

Integrating Curriculum with Rhetoric

If we want to integrate the curriculum (and we do), we need a principle of harmony that is both big enough to include everything and practical enough to prepare for everything. [Kern] shows how classical rhetoric is the necessary practical tool to integrate the curriculum.

Andrew Kern

Andrew Kern is the Founder and President of CiRCE Institute. He has also helped found Providence Academy, Ambrose School, Great Ideas Academy and Regents Schools of the Carolinas. Andrew is the co-author of Classical Education: The Movement Sweeping America, The Lost Tools of Writing and The CiRCE Guide to Reading. Andrew is also a consultant and founded the CiRCE apprenticeship.