New Covenant Christian School teaches classical languages because they teach universal and transferable language skills that require careful attention to detail. Furthermore, classical language study cultivates a disciplined mind that contributes to the ability to reason soundly. Students who have a basic grasp of Latin are also able to use that knowledge to learn other languages with ease. Finally, the study of classical languages also allows students to understand and use the English language more readily and to begin to learn the significant role language plays in history – a central goal of a classical education.
It is a well documented fact that students of classical languages routinely and significantly outperform students of all other foreign languages on standardized tests. The higher test scores are directly related to a strong foundation in overall development of skills in grammar, vocabulary, and thinking skills.
Finally, the study of Latin fits very well into New Covenant Christian School’s liberal arts approach to education. We desire that our students be able to read classics of ancient literature and the Bible itself in the original languages with some lexical helps. A classical liberal arts education is an education that is self-consciously language based and it is an approach that prepares young men and women to be a truly liberated and educated adult.
Logic is taught at New Covenant Christian School in the middle school years. Our desire in introducing students to the formal study of logic is to equip them to think correctly and clearly. We want them to be able to apply this tool to all the subject areas they will study. The ability to reason and discern and the ability to be able to distinguish between truth and propaganda are increasingly important skills for young men and women in our 21st century postmodern culture. As a school, our ultimate goal is to produce students who can analyze and synthesize ideas and concepts across the curriculum. We believe logic is one of the foundational arts of the classical curriculum. As such we strive to teach logical (or dialectical) reasoning from the earliest grades. Therefore, while the formal curriculum of logic begins in seventh grade and ends in eighth grade, we seek to incorporate logical reasoning and analytical skills in all grades and across disciplines. For example, we want students to apply logic in history. We want them to be able to ask and answer the “why” questions rather than be content with answering the “what” questions. To be able to say why the War of Independence began and evaluate the factors that led up to it is a different and higher order skill than asking what the War of Independence was (i.e. when it started, who the combatants were, etc). This approach is applied to all subjects and disciplines as students move from the grammar stage to the logic stage of a classical education.
Why Great Books?
“We need to read the great books that we might write them. Our culture shaping mission cannot be fully accomplished short of this, short of the gospel’s deep transforming work that puts to death both our pride and despair. May we give ourselves to this in a thousand practical ways day by day.” – Steven Hake, Professor of English Literature, Patrick Henry College.
A classical Christian education is an education that trains students to shape culture through developing a godly appreciation for truth, goodness and beauty. A study of the Great Books through the lens of a Christian worldview prepares students to shape culture. We want our students to develop a biblical view of the unity of knowledge across disciplines with a view toward Godly cultural engagement and transformation.
One way we can do that effectively is to enable students to be at home in the world of great ideas. Our students must be able to articulate a robust Christian worldview in a thoughtful and winsome manner that will demonstrate the integration of faith and learning. At NCCS we seek to accomplish that goal by allowing our students to study the great works of history, literature, and theology as an inter-disciplinary exercise. How was Plato influential in the writings of St. Augustine? How did Aristotle make a difference in Western civilization through Thomas Aquinas? In what ways is the Code of Hammurabi similar to the Ten Commandments of Moses? What difference does that make to Christians today?
Questions like these and many others will be discussed through the investigation of primary sources starting and ending with the inerrant Word of God in the Holy Bible. It is not sufficient that the mind should merely savor these questions. Rather, the Lord God made the human mind to “close on truth.” That is, He has created us to not only to know the truth, but to love the truth, and to see God Himself as its author. This unifying principle guides our teachers and students as they read some of the greatest literature and historical sources ever written.
We live in an age of instant communication, what some have called “the information age.” Yet, does it strike you as true that we have lost much in our ability to communicate with wisdom and eloquence? Rhetoric is the art of persuasive and eloquent verbal and written expression. This lost art of persuasive and winsome speech is something we as a school are seeking to restore its proper place as a powerful skill – a skill that is very useful for effective and efficient communication. The fact is, rhetoric is a skill that once mastered will equip our students not only to respond to our culture but also to actively influence our culture.
The philosopher Aristotle once said that the art of rhetoric: “is the ability to discern in any situation the available means of persuasion.” But this is only the beginning. For as the rhetorician Cicero also said, “Rhetoric is the art of a good man speaking well.”
Here we are reminded that we must never divorce our speech (rhetoric) from our character. At NCCS we are not simply training rhetoricians. There are many examples of good rhetoricians who can speak well but whose character is suspect. Rather, we want to train Godly young men and women who can elqouently persuade others to actions that are noble and virtuous – actions that embody the Christian ideals of truth, goodness, and beauty.
Rhetoric is taught at New Covenant Christian School to 10th and 11th graders as a formal discipline. However, rhetorical habits of mind are taught to all students beginning from even the very earliest grades. For example, all of our Grammar School students participate in an annual Recitatio in which they recite works which are characterized by truth, goodness, and beauty. A key goal here is for younger students to be provided great examples of rhetoric to memorize so that this “grammar” is in place and so that the young student develops a taste for and an ability to recognize winsome and powerful forms of speech.
The result of all this is to train our students in the art of persuasive rhetorical expression. It involves training in the skill of developing a true or valid argument for a position (logos); and then learning how to choose the right form for the message (pathos); and finally moving the audience to some good or noble cause (ethos). This is decidedly different from the goal of modern communication theory, which focuses on a more pragmatic “whatever works” method of communication. Once learned, the classical art of rhetoric serves students well across all subjects in their written and oral communication.
At New Covenant, the study of rhetoric in the Upper School focuses on the study of the great rhetorical works and the great rhetoricians of the past with students regularly presenting formal rhetorical speeches of varying lengths (often memorized in their entirety). As juniors and seniors, students must defend their papers and presentations by answering questions from other students and from members of the faculty — a challenging and rigorous process.