How To Support Students with Learning Differences So That Everyone Benefits

This session will present practical ways that schools can and should support students with learning differences. Principles for considering what, how, when and why to intervene and support students will be shared as we present problems and find solutions together.

Leslie Collins

Leslie has been working in classical Christian education since 1995. She was the founding Headmistress of Rockbridge Academy in Maryland, and was privileged to brie y serve in Hawaii as Trinity Christian School transitioned to a classical model. She is now the Head of School at Covenant Academy in Cypress, Texas. Leslie and her husband, Dave, have four children, the youngest of whom is entering his senior year. Leslie is passionate about the people of God’s Kingdom welcoming others from di erent abilities and backgrounds.

Latin is Essential

A number of years ago at a meeting of Classical Lutheran educators a pastor spoke up. He was clearly somewhat overwhelmed by the discussions of theory and curriculum we were presenting to our audience, most of whom were newcomers to the movement. His question was quite simple. “At my school we use Saxon Math and the Writing Road to Reading. What else do we need to be classical?” As I remember, Dr. Veith gave a low-key and helpful response. I refrained from blurting out my answer: “Pastor, Pastor, you are anxious and troubled about many subjects. Only one is necessary: Latin!”

Hyperbole has its place in classical rhetoric. Although I believe that Latin is necessary for a classical curriculum, I do not hold it the unum necessarium, “the one thing needful” (William Tyndale’s translation of Luke 10:42, which was kept by the King James revisers). The place
of Latin in classical Christian education has been blessed with stout defenders from Tracy Lee Simmons’ winsome eloquence in Climbing Parnassus to Andrew Campbell’s clear and detailed The Latin Centered Curriculum and Cheryl Swope’s straightforward and moving Simply Classical.

A recent addition to the cohort of defenders of Latin appeared last year in the unlikely site of Education Week 33.10 (October 30, 2013), p. 22. Ed Week tends to devote its pages and webpage to educational progressivism and sympathetic appreciation of the Common Core and the Teachers’ Unions. Jacob Weiss, a senior at Edgemont High School in Scarsdale, NY, undertook the Herculean task of explaining to its readers “Why Latin should be part of the ELA standards.” The young man’s essay deserves to be read on its own, but it may be worthwhile to mention a few of his points.

Mr. Weiss cites the Common Core’s claim that its standards “are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers.” He then confronts some common objections to Latin.

(1) Latin is a “dead” language. Latin survives in the Romance languages (French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Rumanian and their dialects) and knowledge of Latin is a good introduction to all of them. More than that, studying Latin teaches a surer command of one’s first language.
Mr. Weiss throws down a challenge to the proponents of “living” languages:

Because Latin will help anyone gain a solid understanding of English, I would pose this question: In this day and age, which is more important—a firm and comprehensive grasp of English or moderate ability in many tongues? Personally, I would rather have the mastery of English and be able to persuade and communicate with my command of English diction and rhetoric rather than be able to merely get by in several other languages.

(2) Latin is not just irrelevant; it is a waste of time. Studying STEM subjects prepares students to succeed in a world of science, technology and social media. Mr. Weiss makes two points. (a) If Latin is so irrelevant to our world, how come Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg loves Latin and praises the Aeneid as one of his favorite books?

(b) There is a highly logical aspect to Latin. Reading or writing a line of Latin is fundamentally no different from reading or writing a line of Java or C++. Each activity requires the same process of determining the role played by each separate part of the line and then piecing together the separate parts to create a coherent and functional statement. Latin teaches you how to think strategically and use reason to produce a desired outcome. Similarly, computer programming teaches you how to ‘problem-solve,’ a popular phrase in the discipline.

In addition, studying Latin gives students what learning computer languages cannot: the vocabulary of law, politics, philosophy, theology and science itself; a command of grammar that affects every serious document you read and write and even, as Mark Zuckerberg might remind us, access to Virgil’s Aeneid and other great shaping works of literature and thought from Catullus, Cicero and Ovid to Thomas Aquinas, the Augsburg Confession and Calvin’s Institutes.

This is a lot to get from one subject in a world in which there is limited time. Many classical educators will be inclined to echo Shylock’s exclamation after hearing Weiss:

A Daniel come to judgment! yea, a Daniel! O wise young judge, how I do honour thee!

Progressive educators are always telling us that we cannot “turn back the clock,” although they often fail to see how true this is of our shared culture. We can teach children the languages that provided the vocabulary of consensual institutions, science, politics and theology, or we can leave them stranded without the words to talk meaningfully about these and many other important institutions and traditions. It is too late, however, to start again from scratch and try to develop a new civilization on the basis of the Epic of Gilgamesh, let’s say, and Hammurabi’s Code. As T. S. Eliot’s Sweeney put it, “I gotta use words when I talk to you.” Latin permeates our language. When we choose a leader, we elect a president. We also elect representatives and senators to Congress. As philosopher Josef Pieper reminded his classical high school in Germany, we all speak Latin every day. “It may be permissible to ask whether it is really proper to call people educated who only half understand the words they are using.”

Some readers may be thinking about now, “This is just preaching to the choir.” Do not all classical Christian educators agree on the importance of Latin in their schools or homeschooling curricula? Magari! as the Italians say. If it were only so!

At the 2012 SCL conference in Charleston a principled objection to Latin as a necessary and even, perhaps, as a good part of a classical Christian curriculum was made by Susan Wise Bauer during the Q&A period that followed her plenary address. (It had been implicit but unstated during her pre-conference event the day before.) Someone from the audience asked about foreign languages—it is about 55 minutes into the hour-long recording on the SCL URL. Dr. Bauer did not avoid the hard part of the question. (1) “For practical reasons” she grudgingly acknowledged that a K-12 curriculum should include two years of a foreign language to satisfy state requirements for graduation from high school and because many colleges and universities have a two-year language entrance requirement. This, of course, is not about classical education, but about outside requirements.

(2) She confronted head on the issue of Latin. I quote from her comments, I hope fairly, but you can check out what she said on the SCL webpage. “You noticed that for me Latin is not really a huge part of this,” i.e. “the central elements of classical education,” the topic of her clear and informative address. “Unless you study a language for probably eight or ten years, you are not going to read in it at a level that will be comfortable. You are much better off reading in translation.” Therefore studying Latin is “a little bit of a pointless effort” because (a) it does not lead to “reading comfortably” and (b) does not leave time for what she called “the ability to specialize“.

These comments seem to me to misunderstand the goals of any possible curriculum, not just a classical one. A curriculum does not aim at producing experts in each subject studied, but encouraging students to think critically and respond creatively in many areas, including topics not formally studied. A colleague in our Mathematics department told me that he felt students could not follow the math in Kurt Gödel’s classic 1931 essay where he presented the “incompleteness theorem” until they had moved beyond the M.A. level. Students with an aptitude for math would need not ten but almost twenty years of study before understanding the most important mathematical text of the twentieth century. If so, is mathematics “a little bit of a pointless effort?” Decidedly not! There are educational goals and advantages from studying mathematics from arithmetic to geometry and onward that have been understood and achieved since Plato’s arguments for a mathematics intensive curriculum in Republic VII, which was composed in the fourth century BC.

The situation with Latin is parallel. One year of Latin gives an introduction to grammar that is superior to relevant alternatives. Millennia of experience show that there is a profound difference between the way we learn a first language and a second one. Most people only truly master grammar when they have studied a second language consciously and attentively. For historical reasons Latin has been taught to achieve this end for so long that it functions better for this goal than trying to re-circuit other language texts to imitate Latin. Dr. Bauer praised diagramming sentences in her pre-conference presentation. Diagramming sentences is a useful exercise at a certain stage of language instruction because it forces us to think of English as a dead language. It is a good alternative for teachers who do not know Latin. It was, however, always intended as a crutch for those who did not know grammar from studying a foreign language. There are disadvantages to it as a replacement for Latin, though it is a useful supplement,

because it encourages teachers and students to privilege diagram-able sentences over more complex ones. This is often useful and helpful for expository prose, but expository prose is only one use of language and the rhetoric stage should open up students to the range of creative language use, a goal that is best achieved by learning a real language, beginning with its grammar and proceeding to real texts. Experience shows that Latin is the best language for this purpose for members of our society.

Dr. Bauer, whose mother had her study Latin for six years, says, “unless you study a language for perhaps eight or ten years, you are not going to read in it at a level that will be comfortable. You are much better off reading in translation.” The advantages of Latin begin long before 10 years.

(1) In his little book Learn Latin Peter Jones showed that with twelve weeks of Latin, you can read passages from the Bible, the text of the Bayeux Tapestry and Catullus 84, which begins “odi et amo.” If you never read another line of Latin after Catullus’ couplet, you will have read one of the great poems of the Western tradition and confronted unforgettably one aspect of love. If from a Latin Bible you read the parable of the “Prodigal Son,” you can begin from these two texts to understand some of the deepest mysteries and most immediate truths of the Christian faith.

(2) Four years of Latin in the usual HS curriculum involves studying Cicero and Virgil. Virgil influenced profoundly people who studied Latin for their whole lives, such as Martin Luther and C. S. Lewis. He also influenced people who, whatever their personal faults, were objectively successful in very different ways, although they did not study Virgil after high school: poet John Keats, football coach Joe Paterno, and Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg. These men, personally flawed but very successful in their chosen areas, never forgot Virgil and quoted him again and again though they only studied him in high school.

(3) Maybe by “reading comfortably” Dr. Bauer meant that most of us never read Latin texts with the speed and fluency with which we read English ones. To Friedrich Nietzsche this was precisely the point. “A philologist,” he wrote, is “a teacher of slow reading.” (Philologe…das will sagen, ein Lehrer des langsamen Lesens, Morgenröte “Vorrede”) It is too easy to read English “comfortably.” People who learn to read easily and rapidly texts that are suitable for such reading, newspaper stories or popular fiction, may apply that skill to texts that require a much different style of reading. Studying Latin teaches a student to read slowly and carefully, word by word, phrase by phrase, sentence by sentence. This is the way educated people read great, life-transforming texts. Reading them should never be comfortable. They should excite your mind and break your heart. Nietzsche was right.

Classical education is the most successful curriculum ever developed, if measured by its influence in literature, art, music, science, philosophy, law or politics. Latin and Greek provided the vocabulary for these areas of thought and accomplishment. Studying the ancient tongues
trained the minds of the modern masters of these fields and transmitted the cultural legacy that was the soil in which they flourished. Latin is the language of such central modern works as More’s Utopia, the Augsburg Confession and Newton’s Principia. It formed the styles and shaped
the writings of America’s Founders. So I wrote, “We need to know Latin if we want to think like the Founders” and published a book whose subtitle I still subscribe to: America needs the Classical Tradition. And this includes Latin.

The 1, 2, 3’s of Wondering: Developing a Curiosity for numbers

The day started like most other school days when I was in the first grade; Mrs. Schwartz instructed us to take out our Big Chief Tablet and, using our rulers, draw ten columns and then write the numbers from 0-100 with 10 numbers in each column. Now I am fairly certain that most of you probably don’t know what a Big Chief tablet is, and you probably never did this exercise daily for weeks on end. But, that doesn’t matter; the most important thing is that after weeks of writing the numbers I was about to make an amazing discovery that I was sure my teacher didn’t know. Much to my amazement, every number in the second column was just like the first column, but each of the numbers in the second column had a “1” in front of it, and the third column had a “2” in front of each number and so on. That was an amazing discovery for a six-year-old. I kept this secret to myself for a few days and played with a wide variety of ways to write all one hundred numbers, without going in order. But I thought I might be cheating, so I decided to tell Mrs. Schwartz about this mind-bending discovery. She seemed just as surprised as I was, and she responded with, “That’s interesting. I wonder what else numbers can do? I wonder what numbers after 100 might do.” That was all I needed to challenge my thinking in the first grade. This response prompted many questions and a curiosity about numbers that lasted for many years. Through the early years I found that numbers were always logical and orderly, but my questions and curiosity were sometimes illogical and random, yet amazingly I learned through those experiences as well.

Mrs. Schwartz could have crushed my curiosity by blowing me off, but she didn’t and I didn’t become one of those people who say, “I’m just not a math person,” which is such a sad thing to hear because numbers can really be fascinating. Many times a dislike for math comes from
the teacher or parent, who unwittingly makes a comment or cuts short a student’s natural curiosity for numbers. Students, particularly young students, need a “Mrs. Schwartz.”

Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) once said, “Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous mind.” And if there was ever a need for “vigorous minds”, it is now, and if there was ever a subject that could offer so much about which to be curious, it is the subject of numbers. Here are four things you can do to develop vigorous minds in students for numbers.

Create an environment of curiosity.

To create an environment of curiosity, you must first be curious yourself. Spend some time dwelling on the character of the Creator of numbers. God must like numbers because He used them often and we see great patterns in His creation. Recently, I asked my Sunday morning Bible study group, “What is God’s favorite number?” That launched a lot of discussion and a list of questions that took the study beyond Sunday morning. There is no Scripture that says, “God’s favorite number is —,” but it has made all of us pay closer attention as we read and studied the Word together.

Look around you and see all the places you find numbers and what you need to know about those numbers. Can you estimate your total grocery bill before you get to the check-out? Is “tax-free” weekend really a good deal? Telephone numbers, ID numbers, speedometer, temperatures around the nation, speed limits, prices for new cars, or new clothes – numbers are everywhere and every day you have to calculate something. If you don’t believe it, keep a number diary for a week and see how often you do something with numbers.

Try to discover some of the characteristics of numbers and draw your own conclusions without depending on a book to tell you the answers. After you stimulate your own curiosity, you will probably have some questions and develop some ideas for letting students make some grand discoveries of their own. Think about the things related to numbers that might be problems for students.

Heighten curiosity in the classroom by showing the importance of numbers. I taught third grade for several years and noticed fairly early that third graders do not like to “guess” or “estimate”. They want a definite answer and will either not guess at all or be outlandishly silly in guessing. Knowing this and knowing that my class had just voted earlier that year to add blue to the M&M color mix, I took a very large glass jar and filled it with M&M candies (not peanut of course), but as I filled the jar, I counted the number of each color of the M&Ms. Day one, I placed the jar on a shelf all the students could see and asked them to answer this question on a sticky note, “How many blue M&M s are in this jar?” and as predicted the guesses verged on ridiculous, but when the person who was closest to the correct number received a baggie with the correct number of blue M&Ms in it, the class saw this was more than a silly guessing game and they got serious. Every day I removed the previous day’s color of candy from the jar and then asked the same question using a different color. The last day, when there were only brown candies left in the jar, I had to delay the presentation of the winner’s bag of M&Ms because three students had guessed 12 more or less than the total. But the amazing thing was not their increased ability to estimate, it was the question that followed, “Why are there always more brown M&Ms in a bag?” followed by my question, “Are there always more brown candies in the bag?” You can imagine where we went from there. Today our conclusions are no longer true, but I do wonder which color is the most prominent? I bet it is blue.

Teach older elementary students about averaging their grades. Highly competitive classes will go crazy with this and some of the more curious will figure out what grade they need on the next test to raise or maintain their averages. Use the skill of averaging to answer questions like, “What is the average size family in our class?” and then deal with the hilarity of half a person. During a study of the American Civil War, a student found a source that said the average height of a soldier was 5 feet and 8 inches and the average weight was 145 pounds. A quick-thinking teacher followed that with, “I wonder what the average height of our class might be?” You see numbers aren’t just in math.

Older elementary students are interested in spending money. The week before Christmas break is not a great time to teach new concepts so an enterprising fourth- grade teacher told students that they had a pretend $200 to spend on Christmas presents for family and friends. She gave them a stack of catalogs and a worksheet with the instructions that they didn’t have to worry about shipping, but did have to figure the tax. The students loved the project and also found that the money didn’t go as far as they had expected. While studying Colonial America, a student stated that the colonists should have paid the tea tax since it wasn’t very much. The ever-planning teacher had a box of receipts she had saved from a wide variety of stores. She cut off the tax and total and then had the students figure the total and then figure the tax at their area’s tax rate. The result was an eye-opening exercise for both students and teacher.

A second grade teacher asked the students in his class to name as many pairs of things as they could in the world around them. Of course, he had two eyes, two ears, etc., and his list was about 10 things, but the students couldn’t quit with ten and after several minutes there was a very interesting question: “Why do we have a pair of pants when it is really just one piece of clothing?” Ponder that one for a while. All of these were great activities, some of which were planned but generated unexpected questions.

Sometimes curiosity can be planned and sometimes it is spontaneous; keep your ears open and your mind engaged. Think about all of the subjects you teach each week; where are the numbers in those subjects? What can you do to enhance your student’s curiosity about the numbers in that lesson?

Encourage questions.

First grade for me was one of two of the most wonderful times of my elementary education years; the other, by the way, was fifth grade. I had lots of questions about a lot of things, and looking back on that first year, I think I may have driven Mrs. Schwartz crazy, but she never let on.
She always promised to answer my questions under the condition that I would complete my work. I am sad to say that this attitude did not carry over to my second-grade teacher, who one day in her frustration, angrily said to me, “Stop asking so many stupid questions.” I obeyed; I never asked another question in class until I was in graduate school. Even when I was older, I still believed my questions were stupid. That is the power of any teacher especially over the mind and emotions of young children.

Children need to know that no question is stupid; it is just sometimes ill-timed, or rude and self-centered when others are being neglected, both of which are social skills to be taught. Questions can be deferred, but don’t forget to get back to the student who asked. A third grader was barraging his teacher with  many questions and it was driving her crazy. I gave her a note pad and told her to have this curious young man write his questions that weren’t related to the topic on the pad and then set a time to talk about them later in the day and don’t conveniently forget. Much to the teacher’s delight this young scholar learned appropriate interaction and his daily list of questions became shorter and more insightful. Not surprisingly, he later became a National Merit Scholar. Be careful and don’t kill their enthusiasm.

“But,” you say, “my students don’t ask questions.” That is not surprising; several studies have shown that in our age of “I-phones, I-pads, I-pods, and I-everything else” students are becoming less socially interactive, except through on-line social media. It is time to reverse the trend and uncover their curiosity and let the sun shine on astounding discoveries. If students aren’t asking questions, then ask questions you might have. Draw their attention to fascinating details. Take a cue from Albert Einstein, who said, “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”

Learn together.

Learn together. One of the joys of learning is making discoveries with others. One child can spark an interest in another for the wonder of numbers. Students love to hear a teacher’s personal stories about discoveries. Share your own discoveries about numbers and where those discoveries led you. Allow students to share their discoveries with the class; oh my, you may even teach some rhetoric skills.

Teach a number trick and then say, “Let’s see if it works all the time.” Here is a trick for multiplying 2-digit numbers by 11. Add together the two digits of the number you are multiplying by 11. Separate the two digits and put the added number between them. If the added number is ten or more, add the first digit of the added number to the left- hand number and you have your answer.

Example 1
31 X 11
3 (3+1) 1 341 Answer 341

Example 2
76 X 11
7 (7+6) 6 7(13)6 7+136 Answer 836

Remember this is for multiplying 2-digit numbers by 11; does it work every time?

What would you have to do if you were multiplying a 3-digit number by 11?

Do you notice a pattern? Using a chart similar to the one I drew every day in first grade, ask students to find various patterns that they can see. Where are all the numbers divisible by 5?

Do you notice a pattern of odd and even numbers? There are so many things you can find with young children by helping them notice details.

What am I missing? Sometimes feigning ignorance or intentionally making mistakes can show students that they really do know how to work with numbers and may even keep them watching so they can find your next mistake. One of my favorite math lessons was the day that I taught some third graders the steps in long division using the “Family” mnemonic: “Daddy, Mommy, Sister, Brother” = Divide, Multiply, Subtract, Bring down. We did several problems together and then I started doing them on my own and purposely adding instead of subtracting, until one young man, who really didn’t like math, frustratingly said, “But Mrs. Howell, you’re leaving out the sister and bringing in the Aunt.” That was a moment worth celebrating.

Celebrate Discoveries.

Celebrating discoveries is an important step toward motivating the students to be more curious. The teacher’s attitude that kept me motivated was an attitude of celebration. Even though I know now that Mrs. Schwartz already knew the discoveries I was making, she always made those experiences full of wonder and celebration. I made the discoveries myself and she encouraged more. Celebrating the discovery of one student can be motivating to another to make his own discoveries that should be celebrated with as much joy as the discoveries of the first student. Pay attention to the little things they learn and then wonder out loud about the next step. Don’t leave out the quiet child, the shy child, the defiant child; find the celebrations for all of them. It is these celebrations that will motivate not only the students, but you will find much joy in teaching every day.

Teachers of students between the ages of 5 and 12 are critical in the development of student attitudes about a wide variety of subjects. Maybe math is not your favorite subject, but you too can be a “Mrs. Schwartz” for someone. Make them curious.

The Enterprise of Learning as Wonder Toward Wisdom

Throughout history it often has been said that the process of learning begins with a sense of wonder/awe. It also commonly has been understood that the goal of learning is not merely the acquisition of information but the development of wisdom. In this seminar we will examine what it means to have a sense of wonder and how we can cultivate such wonder in our students. We also will discuss what it means to aim all learning toward the development of wisdom and how we can foster a love of wisdom in our students. Particular attention
will be paid to what it means to be a lover of wisdom (i.e. philosopher) within a Christian framework that acknowledges wisdom as beginning with the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 9:10).

David Diener

Dr. David Diener began his formal post-secondary education at Wheaton College where he graduated Summa Cum Laude with an undergraduate degree in Philosophy and Ancient Languages. After putting his philosophical training to work by building custom cabinets and doing high-end finish carpentry for an Amish company, he moved with his wife to Bogotá, Colombia, where they served as missionaries for three years at a Christian international school. He then a ended graduate school at Indiana University where he earned a M.A. in Philosophy, a M.S. in History and Philosophy of Education, and a dual Ph.D. in Philosophy and Philosophy of Education. A er teaching for one year at The Stony Brook School on Long Island he moved to Fort Worth, Texas, where he serves as Head of Upper Schools at Covenant Classical School. He also teaches philosophy courses for Taylor University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary as an Adjunct Professor. The Dieners have four wonderful children and are passionate about classical Christian education and the impact it can have on the church, our society, and the world.

The Play’s the Thing

There is a story going on around us. It began before time and reaches to infinity. And it is a story: a sequence of events, not random, but full of meaning. Man plays his part through action; his deliberate movements influence, change, and even cause events. We are all actors in a play so huge and various that we may pass through it only vaguely aware of anything but our own parts , unless, as Chesterton says, “the play is pared down to [our] tiny sight”.

So Aristotle in his Poetics points to The Story, though not by that name, as a first principle. He presupposes that events are purposeful and meaningful and have connection with one another and with us, as they influence and are influenced by us. But to grasp these purposes, meanings, and connections we must examine events in units small enough to comprehend. He calls the presentation of these small units the “imitation of life”, in which we represent a particular experience that we may hold it before us, and, by examining it, glimpse experience itself, and acknowledge the natural order of things. Art, then, for Aristotle, is the process by which some part of the Story is imitated and thereby apprehended, whether by the historian or the poet, whether what is described is “the thing that has been” or “a kind of thing that might be.”

Imitation of a part yields discovery of the whole, which in turn yields delight as we recognize the Great Story in its elements. When we recognize that something has been accurately rendered, we experience amazement and pleasure, even if the thing rendered is not in itself delightful. Any accurate imitation teaches us the Story; even when order is proved by the shock of disorder, or congruity is demonstrated by the shock of incongruity, the pattern delights us, even if we are persons of limited capacity. So a child is delighted to learn something of order and disorder when he shouts, “Look! that man has his hat on upside down!” He is seeing a small scene in the Story. And we are not surprised when Aristotle reminds us that the principal way a child learns is through his own imitation of events.

We are also not surprised when Aristotle points to drama as the trunk whence all other arts branch, since drama is story-telling itself, encompassing virtually all other arts – dance, literature, music – in its work of imitation. For to him, rhythm , language , and harmony are the chief elements through which the Story is imitated, and it is in drama that we experience them in their full, natural fusion. Through these together we apprehend what is knowable. Through their rich and original commingling in drama, Aristotle says, man can tell how he influences and how he is influenced, how his part “fits” into the great pattern of the Great Play.

How different this is from the modern approach, which atomizes life to understand it and dissects living art into its disciplines the better to serve the fragmentation. What then of Aristotle’s “rhythm, language, and harmony”? Neither rhythm nor harmony can exist in fragments, and deconstructed language must be meaningless, nor is it odd that some moderns find
no pattern, no purpose, no Story at all in life, for they themselves have obscured the connections. They study only discrete particles; they deliver as their finished product only disparate bits of facts. They shatter the Story and then display the pieces as all that can be known.

But the commonality of things remains: We ourselves are not yet dissected; thought and action remain components of an organic whole. And in the unity of drama – thought, language, action, music, and dance moving in harmony, rhythm, pattern and purpose – Aristotle saw the great and the original means for the imitation of life, for the understanding of the Story .

We have said that drama embraces many arts (indeed, that virtually all arts were born in drama) in an essential and meaningful fusion. We have said that drama imitates life and so teaches the Great Story, including our parts in it and how best to act them. Let us illustrate what we mean.

Man begins to tell the Story by telling his family about the bear that he has encountered while hunting. He was there. It was there. He has chased it away. His children learn how to live in the woods where the bears are. The story is retold; the very language becomes an essential element of it: the sound and the style of the teller are imitated. The listeners are delighted as they recognize him, and also as they recognize something larger: this could happen to them. Their hearts pound. And so a drum is added. Someone becomes the bear and someone else, the hunter, and now we see: This is what it looked like. This is how bear and hunter moved. They move to the drum. It is happening to the actors. They remember. The bear was like this. The fear was like this. The observers shout the fear. The victory was like this. The observers sing the victory. The next time, they are the chorus. It will be told this way again and again. Language calls for heightened language which calls for drums which call for movement which calls for actors which call for chorus and for song. The story becomes stylized in its telling and the elements of its telling become controllable – and powerful – as they become freighted with convention. Finally, many have seen the bear. Many have seen the man. They have been the bear. They have been the man. They are delighted. They have learned that there is fear, and there can be courage, and there will be victories. The play has caught them up into the Story.

We have spoken of arts branching from the trunk of drama. The tree we had in mind was the entire process by which man imitates and apprehends the Great Story. The roots are language itself. The trunk is that living fusion of all means of expression which so vividly conveys experience. It is drama in its original and richest form. As we move up the trunk the patterns represented become more and more universal and abstract but retain organic unity with events, and all arts are employed in their imitation. Then the tree branches, as modes of expression, separate one from another. The main branch is now written language and it is largest, but still smaller for its separation from the rest. One side of the tree has branched into what we now think of as the separate arts. The other side of the tree has branched into what we call the separate sciences – each side of the tree regarding the other as “other” indeed. If we drew the whole tree we would see that it is all one thing. But we do not often look at it that way. We tend to see only the branches. (Indeed, some admit no unity either in the whole of life, nor in our modes of apprehension.) These are the fragmentarians we noted above, who saw off the branches and then assert that their unity was only in the mind of the beholder.
But this is short-sighted. It produces vast numbers of people who know what wind velocity is but are shocked at what hurricanes do and know not how to pray as one approaches.

Let us take children and slide down the trunk with them. Rich, living drama with its unity of thought, word, action and arts teaches powerfully. For young children are act-ors by nature. They encounter their world on a physical level. That is why they put so many things in their mouths and why one can generally distinguish the sofa of a child-blessed family from that of a less populated household. Children understand action, crave action. They need to move and they seek understanding of their surroundings through movement, at least observed, at best, performed. It delights them, as cartoonists and TV people have understood. But action need not teach false lessons such as those taught by the advertisements on children’s TV. Action may plainly reflect massive elements of the Great Play, for actions are sequential. Actions cause, and actions have effect. Actions are of varying duration. Actions are controllable. Some actions are more fruitful than others especially in a moral universe of purpose, plan, and meaning. And here Aristotle reminds us again of the principal way children learn : by imitation of action.

And drama is just that imitation of action which, when accurate, produces delight, and delight in learning, a powerful means of awakening and enlarging the minds of children especially when approached low down on the trunk at its richest, most inclusive level where the whole child, eyes, ears, hands, feet, tongue and brain, may be “caught” by the play, and caught up into the Great Drama which surrounds us.

Consider the power of historical drama – surely the closest to original drama. As man meets bear and triumphs, so Thomas More meets Henry VIII and triumphs in an even greater way; and how vividly the child actor grasps both the historical event and its place
in the Great Story. He has seen the tyrant; he has seen the beleaguered saint, and the courtier and the compromiser. He has been the tyrant; he has been the saint, or the courtier, or the compromiser. He has spoken as them; he has listened to them. He has sung their songs and heard their music. He has acted their actions after them. How clearly he grasps the details which elucidate and make accurate this image of the event. He may even learn to love to learn dates, not begrudgingly, merely for the glory of good grades, but as he prizes birthdays; each significant event is “born” into something larger on dates, in time. Most importantly, he has learned once again in his flesh and blood that great theme of the Story: There will be danger; there can be courage; there shall be victory.

And so with all great themes of the Story, even those that may seem most abstract. For example, if sequence is not real, as the fragmentarians suggest, then all things are inconsequential , and children may never need basic skills such as tracking , or sounding out the sequence of letter sounds, or understanding that 900 B.C. is closer to our time than 1900 B.C. As it happens, sequence is real. We may ask any child who has taken part in a play, that is, who has “become” part of that formal sequence of events. To actually move one’s whole body from one place to another in space on cue teaches something about the reality of sequential events that simply cannot be as vividly conveyed by mere talk.

If cause and effect is not real , as the fragmentarians hope, then all actions are insignificant, and children must be excused from determining, as they read, what is significant and what is not, and from finding any significance at all in the apparently unconnected events of history; so also all mathematics must remain for them an impenetrable mystery. But, by “doing” drama, students learn, in their very muscles, to control each cause, to produce an effect: the gesture, the movement, the tone of voice, the word, so that it becomes clear how each causes a reaction: the fight, the exit. Each cue is cause for something to happen. Surely, students may learn cause and effect vividly through , say, hitting their brothers: punch causes punishment. Or, and better, the same huge pattern may be apprehended through acting out a role, being a cause, knowing ahead of time what effect must be caused , and then observing from within the play how one’s own actions do bring about change outside of oneself.

And we must continue, for what great matter is there that drama can not teach, since it exists to capture in small the Great Story itself? So, in drama, students experience something of the relationship between events and time. Things can happen more
than once. Indeed, repetition is an important and positive aspect of experience. So phrases and words and themes are repeated throughout a play to accentuate the underlying unity of what is being portrayed. In a farce, the underlining unity of ridiculousness might be punctuated by such a simple line as, “You rang?” In fact, mere repetition of the words themselves enhances understanding – it is simply true that human beings need to hear things more than once to remember them. That human beings need to hear again and again, that we need to do and experience again and again is often, by the merely modern, considered unfortunate: a flaw, or an impediment in the head-long rush to personal or societal progress . But a young child knows the satisfaction of having the same book read over and over. No poet is ashamed to repeat sounds within a work, and no musician, to repeat a motif. It is the fragmentarians, tossing their unconnected bits of experience behind them into oblivion, who have told us that repetition in the educational process impedes learning rather than enhances it. This they urge, even as they drill young soccer players daily in their skills and insist that their children practice their piano scales. Surely, mindless repetition blights education, but so also does a mindless parade of events- as-novelties. Is it not mindless to say of a Beethoven Symphony, “Heard that,” or of The Brothers Karamazov, “Read that”? Accurate imitations bear repetition and even require them that the Story behind and above them may be more fully apprehended. And that Story is replete with purposeful repetition: as the repetition of the seasons,
of morning and evening, and of the circling track of the stars. The child who learns a play, its words, its music, its movements , learns the fruit of repetition and learns to prize memorization of what is worthy. Each time he runs lines, a passage or a scene grows richer for him. Meaning becomes clearer. The whole is more interesting each time it is repeated, and in drama, every participating child learns first hand that memorization can make a thing of beauty and meaning, and make it his own, even as it makes language patterns that are new to him his own, and clear and vivid. By and large, children write and speak
as they hear. In drama, what they hear can be chosen for them and given to them in a way that technical instruction cannot emulate.

Aristotle wrote of drama evoking fear and pity from the audience, that is, fear and pity for those others depicted on the stage, and therein lies implicit the greatest advantage which drama provides in the instruction of a child. Drama draws him out of himself. He may at first force himself to do this embarrassing business of speaking, moving, singing or dancing, simply because all the others are doing it. So he will force himself past his own self- consciousness, if only for fear that by failing to do so, he will draw more attention to himself rather than less. Even on this lowest level, to make himself secure, he must set himself aside. And, indeed, he must, for if he does not, the others will surely let him know what he has spoiled by
his absence. And “spoiled” in fact, for if the play could go on without his part, it is a flawed play; Aristotle is quite right: “That which makes no perceptible difference by its presence or absence is no real part of the whole.” Plainly, in any good drama, there are no unimportant parts.

But beyond this, the child who participates in drama learns to set himself aside, not only for the sake of his popular appeal , but also for the sake of the character he represents . This child learns to say, “I am a boy, but since I am to be a kangaroo, I must not act like a boy. I cannot walk as I please; I must hop. I must lose myself in kangarooisms, and to the best of my ability, forget who I am in myself.” For the sake of the character , a child cannot simply assert. “I don ‘t talk with a Southern accent. I am a New Englander.” He must leave his own speech patterns and drawl instead. On the way, he learns about himself in a way that leads far from self-absorption. Rather, he learns who he is and how he habitually acts, so that he can consciously choose to “leave himself” and act with self-control. As a precious side-product, he learns that his feelings of chilliness, puckishness, or itchiness (or loneliness, anger, or jealousy) need not dictate his behavior. “I am timid,” he may discover; “but as this character, I need to behave as someone who is overbearing.” And the freedom he finds may be life-long. At the very least, the next time he needs to be quiet or to be amiable, he will know that his behavior is a matter of his own choice.

But above all, the child who has taken part in drama learns to leave himself not only for the sake of his peers, nor for the sake of his character, but simply, for the sake of the truth. He learns to say not, “Look at me,” but rather, “look at this,” that is, the play. In order to imitate the event chosen from the Great Story, the actor forgets himself and everything that would impede the understanding of the audience, that they may know, learn, and be delighted by whatever part of the Great Story is being represented before them. In his way, he is like the parent sacrificing sleep for the infant, the soldier sacrificing his life for the common good. Indeed, it is training for such acts which echoes and portrays the highest event of the Great Story.

To lose oneself in and for the truth of the Story: this is the highest lesson drama can teach. In drama the child learns that what is larger than he is objective, and that he may enter it, whether we speak of historical drama teaching him the objective reality of history, or of comedy teaching him the objective reality of our finiteness and frequent folly. Either way, he has set himself aside
in search of what is outside him. He has practiced that selflessness which makes objectivity possible. If he has dared, he has come to know that the Story is not centered on him, but that in comprehending it he may take his place in it. And he knows he must. The Author has written him in.

Event on event, character after character enters the stage and nothing is random; there is an author with a purpose, to which the actors must yield. There is order and meaning in the whole, which the actors in every word and movement must serve. Whatever is not of the play hinders the Author’s intent and is mere distraction and obscurity, and must be denied . So students who
have experience in drama understand the call to leave themselves behind to seek and serve the Author’s purpose. They have rehearsed it. They have learned to dismiss and refuse what does not serve the telling of the Author ‘s tale, even if it be in themselves.

And if it is true that we are all born , in Luther’s phrase, incurvatus in se, that is, coiled on ourselves, it is
hard to imagine a means of education more useful than drama, by which we may not only imitate and learn
the patterns of the Great Story, but also be drawn out of ourselves to know and act within that Story now, in the present ignorance, until ignorance ends and imitations are needless and we enter the endless happy ending .

Spiritual Formation and Liberal Arts Learning

Having taught linguistic philosophy and anthropology I am aware that good communication is dependent on the shared understanding of words and concepts. For example, as I read a number of issues of The Journal of the Society of Classical Learning, I became aware of extremely negative attitudes toward “post-modernism.” I happen to be very positive and hopeful about the possibilities of a post-modern era, but I also know that there are very different understandings of the concept.

I believe that history can be understood by defining it in terms of eras and transitional periods. When the middle ages, the age of faith, were coming to a close, a transition period (the Renaissance and Reformation) turned into the birth of a new era, the age of reason which became known as modernity. Some of us believe that the value of modernity has reached its theological and moral limits. The 20th and 21st centuries appear to be a transitional period out of which a new era will emerge. We call that new age “post modernity,” an age much more friendly to faith and the spiritual life.

During the age of modernity, relativism became normative among intellectuals. My desire is to free us from believing that in terms of beliefs anything goes, to embracing a genuine respect of our differences and an understanding that in our differences we are stronger. I believe truth is found in holding together, in a healthy tension, counter opposites (e.g., Jesus is fully human and fully divine). Truth is believing that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. There is the truth, but it would be a denial of the role of the Holy Spirit in God’s continuing revelation for any of us to be certain we know what it is.

Too many have turned education into debate and the desire to be right rather than dialogue and the desire to seek after truth. Relativism is not a virtue, but neither is absolutism. The intellectual way of thinking and knowing founded on reason and logic needs to be complemented by the intuitive way of thinking and knowing founded on the arts and the imagination. It is not enough to teach the history of art or music. We must teach every student to paint and play an instrument.

It is good to remember that while classic and classical are related, classic is a judgment that defines something’s value, while classical
is more a reference to an ancient culture and its understandings, ways, and artifacts. Nothing is of greater value simply because it is ancient any more than because it is new. The classical age also was more diverse than we sometimes imagine. The church East and West has been divided for years between the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle. Philosophy and reason can not replace theology and revelation.

One last comment. As early church fathers put it, “Christians are made not born,” and when asked how, they pointed to three processes: formation or the participation in and practice of
the Christian life of faith; education or critical reflection on our lives in the light of the Gospel; and instruction/training or the acquisition of knowledge and skills fundamental to the Christian life. It is not enough for a Christian school to offer courses in religion. It needs to critically look at its total curriculum to discover what it is really teaching. My observation is that spectator sports in school are more important than physical health and lifelong exercise; that the value of competition is ahead of cooperation; that individualism is more important than community.

Consider two final exams I used at Duke that are examples of my understanding of a Christian education in the classical tradition: First, what is the one question, stated clearly and fully, that you are now asking that you were not asking at the beginning of this course? Then state how over the next year you intend to search for its answer.

Second, in the groups of five to which I have assigned you, agree on a subject related to this course, then write a paper together on that subject and create a piece of art related to it. Then evaluate each other on your contribution to the product and the process of this project.

I look forward to meeting you at your society’s conference in June. I long to meet you and discuss with you the important question of the spiritual life and spiritual formation.

Shoes Matter

Thirteen year old girls don’t take women seriously who wear ugly shoes.” At least that was the argument I gave my husband when he commented on the sudden increase in my shoe collection shortly after I started teaching middle school literature. While I’m not above stretching a bit to justify a great pair of heels, I was only half-kidding in this particular instance.

I, like many of the writers in this edition, find the concept of “spiritual formation” a bit difficult to nail down. If we’re talking about the desire in all of our hearts to see our students mature into, instead of away from, Christ while simultaneously sharpening the minds with which they serve him, then I offer yet another question or two to contemplate. What is drawing them away from Christ? And are we presenting a compelling alternative?

As much as we would like our students to pick their role models based on logical analysis filtered through biblical standards, we know they don’t. In fact not many of us do. Take a good look at what kids today find attractive, cool and worthy of imitation and then take an equally objective look at what the church, and our Christian schools by extension, offer instead. I see two primary alternatives. There are the churches where the worship team’s jeans are just as faded, music is just as loud and videos just as slick as those on MTV. The unspoken message is that Jesus is cool and Christians can be too. At the opposite extreme, are the churches that seem proudly, even aggressively uncool, unmodern, and suspicious of anyone who isn’t equally so.

I see very few healthy, appealing role models for young women today inside the church or out. It’s one thing to tell a young teenager that the appearance and behavior of the latest wild child pop star are unhealthy, unbiblical and inappropriate. It’s entirely another to make sure she has an alternative that she just might want to emulate. Every time I step on campus, I am aware that I, like every teacher or administrator, have the opportunity to offer one potential alternative. I have an opportunity to present womanhood as the high calling that my own strong, educated, elegant, Christ-centered, southern mother demonstrated for me.

Stilettos aren’t the cure-all of course. I pray that my students will occasionally see in me a woman who enjoys sharpening her mind as much as her wardrobe and whose standards and expectations are just as high as her heels. Most of all, I want them to see that femininity, intellectual capacity, attractiveness, and joyful Christianity are not mutually exclusive and are all unearned gifts from God. Just maybe a few of my students might want to follow in my well-shod footsteps.