Modern Americans don’t read many books, let alone many good books, which means they don’t have much respect for the task of writing—the toil of writing, the laboriousness of it.
Socratic teaching methods are a cornerstone of classical education, for good reason. Plato’s Socratic dialogues are foundational for presenting the big ideas behind “great conversation,” like, truth, justice, and rhetoric. But Socratic pedagogy is not merely classical; it is deeply Christan, as Jesus engaged with listeners through questions, riddles, and parables often more than direct lecture. We believe it is the pedagogy best-suited to the Bible classroom.
Socratic Conversations in Bible
Formation of Imagination
As Classical educators we believe that literature forms the imagination of students, and this conviction is at its truest in the Bible classroom. Through Scripture students imaginatively enter into the reality of the Biblical characters: the pain of loneliness and of long journeys, the loss of family and betrayal of friends, but also the joy of ascending to Zion, smelling the incense in the temple, and receiving manna from heaven.
Reporter: What are your company’s core values?
CEO: Community. Community is very important.
Reporter: Any others?
CEO: Yes. Openness is a big one. So are transparency, diversity, mindfulness, leadership, hope, service, charity, responsibility, stewardship, trust, partnership, strength, power, bottom-up-fullness, flexibility—
The Greatest Literary Work
Classical schools are known to be preservers of the great literature of the Western tradition. Homer, Milton, Dante, Shakespeare, and Donne - these authors and their fellows are commonly elevated as those that Classical schools commit to passing on to the next generation. But do we remember Moses, Isaiah, and Paul on our list of great authors?
The inexperienced man defends his ideas for their purity and generosity; the experienced man does not feel much need to defend his ideas.
The inexperienced man prides himself on his ideas; the experienced man is happy he has not yet starved.
The inexperienced man knows how men ought to be; the experienced man knows how men are.
The inexperienced man trusts human beings; the experienced man trusts human nature.
Nature is known through experience; if a man rejects nature, he will always remain inexperienced.
In his Republic, Plato strives to answer pivotal questions about education: What is it? What is its goal, its purpose in our lives? How should it be accomplished? He begins by describing education as a quest to seek, know, and love truth. It is not a simple acquisition of facts, but a journey that transforms the soul. Its purpose is to bring us to know and love what is just, beautiful and good, and to enable us to live a life guided by devotion to the truth.
Fifteen years ago, I took my first high school teaching job. I was set to teach sophomore English at a large public school. The first day of classes was just a few weeks away. After some frantic reading and planning, the time came to decorate my classroom. Included among the most prominent items: a large printed C.S. Lewis quotation, a large printed Michael Scott quotation, and a Pearl Jam poster.
Having given hundreds of writing assignments over the last decade, I can safely say the best student work comes in response to narrow, rigid essay prompts with extensive, nit-picky submission guidelines. The worst sort of student work comes in response to slatternly requests like, “Create a response to The Divine Comedy. It could be an essay, a short story, or an art project. A good response will be personal and involve somewhere between 4 and 8 hours of work.”
Constantine is a controversial figure in Church history. He won the power struggle that came after the death of Diocletian and, by 324, he ruled control the whole Roman Empire. He strengthened the absolute power of the emperor and stripped the senate of its authority. Additionally, Constantine built the military to 500,000 troops, and undertook huge building projects (palaces, amphitheaters), even though it put great financial strain on the empire.