KCA, The Seven Laws of Teaching and Common Core

 

A good school is a noble business, and as such, it warrants the utmost care in its development. Corporate structure, administration, facility, curriculum, fundraising, and marketing are all foundational elements our board has addressed as we prepare for our first school year. Of course, no educational institution is complete without students, to which end we will initiate monthly informational meetings with the New Year. We have sought diligently to secure a solid foundation for KCA, and thus have spread ourselves thin with many details. I say all this only to emphasize that we have not lost sight of the most important component. The heart of a school is its teachers.

Required reading for every KCA teacher will be John Milton Gregory’s The Seven Laws of Teaching. Written in 1886, the Illinois teacher lays out the laws that he has has concluded govern all teaching situations. These laws are:

  1. A teacher must be one who knows the lesson to be taught.

  2. A learner is one who attends with interest to the lesson given.

  3. The language used as a medium between teacher and learner must be common to both.

  4. The lesson to be learned must be explained in terms of truth already known by the learner.

  5. Teaching is arousing and uses the pupil’s mind to form in it a desired thought.

  6. Learning is thinking into one’s own understanding a new idea or truth.

  7. The test and proof of teaching done is in the review.

Though these laws seem obvious, there are important applications that stand out to me.

First of all, Gregory makes clear that these seven laws are “as fixed as the laws of circling planets or growing organisms”, a statement that rings of arrogance to our modern ears but is actually a good example of the classical perception of the logos, or truth. As one of the three pursuits of classical education (along with goodness and beauty), truth is absolute, an attribute that any law requires. Though a truth be debatable, it is never regarded as relative, or it ceases to be truth.

Secondly, Gregory regularly addresses the need for these laws to be applied in Sunday School. He makes clear that a Christian education is the foundation for any real education and must not be treated lightly. His emphasis upon biblical literacy is an excellent example of the classical approach to education. Until the 1900s, theology was regarded highly among the sciences.

Finally, all effective teaching takes place by leading learners to make their own discovery of the material in a manner that excites and inspires. This is often accomplished by asking questions rather than by simply stating facts. If a student can take ownership in the process of learning by drawing his own conclusions in a process carefully guarded and steered by a caring and knowledgeable teacher, then the “communication of knowledge” is most successful and permanent. For emphasis, Gregory points out that Jesus himself taught this way, alluding to Christ’s use of questions, parables and discipleship as He preached the Kingdom of Heaven.

During the Bush Presidency, I remember several conversations with friends about the failed policies of No Child Left Behind. “Children are not the same.” “They don’t learn the same way.” “You can’t force people to achieve to a certain level.” Today, the same logistical challenges face us under the policies of Common Core. Certainly as presented, Common Core looks like it addresses the dismal results of education in our country, by uniting funding, curriculum, institutions, and testing with (supposedly) higher standards. However, a reading of Gregory’s Seven Laws has helped me immensely in understanding why this will not, and cannot, work.

Teaching, must be done in a manner that builds upon an existing framework. It will sound cliché, but teaching must also be done in a manner that inspires. In both of these areas, our attempt at public education is greatly strained. Teachers face a huge battle as they are required to “teach to the test” to the neglect of truly educating on an individual level. One reality that makes this situation fatal is the fact that many, if not most, students are so heavily impacted by the decline of our culture that their educational needs are far more basic than what Common Core expects. Another point of pressure is that important matters like funding and career advancement are linked to the ability of teachers to perform at the level Common Core demands. Gregory addresses common mistakes that take place in relation to each law of teaching, and it is uncanny how many of these mistakes explain public education today.

It must be said that Knox Classical Academy will not be complying with Common Core. Our desire is to truly teach, and it doing so to truly teach truth. Though we take standards very seriously, we will make ourselves accountable, not to the State, but to the parents of our students and to the Word. John Milton Gregory’s The Seven Laws of Teaching will be an important tool as we seek to fulfill this commitment.

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Why Study Latin?

by Brian Nicholson

Classical Christian Education as it is practiced across America contains, as one of its core elements, the study of the Latin language. Many people find this curious and wonder why a “dead language,” that is not spoken today, should be studied by our children. Why not a modern language like French, Chinese, Spanish or German? Classical education is not at all opposed to the study of modern languages. However, it seeks to preserve the study of the ancient language of the Romans for several important reasons.

  1. English is a hybrid language containing words derived from a) Anglo-Saxon roots (a Germanic language), and also words derived from b) Latin roots. Anglo-Saxon words are common, concrete and everyday words. English words with Latin roots describe more complex and abstract concepts. In fact, about sixty five percent of all English words have a Latin derivation. Ninety percent of English words that are over two syllables come from Latin roots words. So the study of Latin by a child becomes a key to unlocking the meaning of vast numbers of English words. Students who have studied Latin do very well on the verbal skills portion of the SAT exam. Why? Because they understand the meaning of complex and abstract words.
  2. Latin provides the technical vocabulary for all the modern sciences: biology, chemistry, astronomy, psychology, sociology, economics, law, philosophy, theology, logic and medicine. These disciplines were established when Latin was the international language of the academic disciplines. Accordingly, a huge number of technical words were borrowed from the literary and academic language of Europe which was of course Latin.
  3. Latin study is the best way to learn English grammar. The study of Latin verb tenses, noun cases, relative and subordinate clauses, the use of the active, passive, imperative and subjunctive verb forms, prepositions, adjectives, adverbs and other parts of speech is immensely helpful when students come to advanced English study. Students who have studied Latin are able to express themselves effectively in writing English prose.
  4. Latin study is of immense benefit when learning other languages. French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian are “Romance languages” because they descend from the language of the Romans. Much of the vocabulary of these modern languages derives from Latin root words. So it is very easy for Latin students to pick up the Romance languages. The study of non-Romance languages like Greek and German is also aided by the study of Latin.
  5. The study of the Latin language creates a well disciplined mind which is able to understand logic and language and to express itself effectively using sophisticated verbal forms.
  6. The literary documents of the American founding such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were composed by the American founding fathers who had all studied Latin. People today are impressed with the beauty and precision of these documents and with the other literary works of James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams. How could they write such elegant prose? The answer. They all studied Latin at a young age.
  7. Latin has been and continues to be the most influential language in world history. The Romans adopted much of the critical thinking and vocabulary of the Greeks and they put it into their own language. This became the foundation of what we call “Western Civilization.” The Hebrew and Greek concepts emanating from the Scriptures were codified, organized, expressed and passed on by scholars writing in Latin for over a thousand years. This is the heritage of Western thought which is neglected by much of modern education today.

 

Here are seven reasons to study this language. More could be added. But these are sufficient for you to see the benefit of this language for your child’s education. And it’s never too late to study this important language!

The Bible in the Classroom

by Ben McReynolds

Psalm 119:97-104

Oh, how I love Your law!

It is my meditation all the day.

You, through Your commandments,

make me wiser than my enemies;

For they are ever with me.

I have more understanding than all my teachers,

For Your testimonies are my meditation.

I understand more than the ancients,

Because I keep Your precepts.

I have restrained my feet from every evil way,

That I may keep Your word.

I have not departed from Your judgments,

For You Yourself have taught me.

How sweet are Your words to my taste,

Sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Through Your precepts I get understanding;

Therefore I hate every false way.

Knox Classical Academy’s commitment to a classical form of education is only surpassed by our commitment to a Christian education.

In The Seven Laws of Teaching, John Milton Gregory establishes the importance of a Biblical foundation for learning by emphasizing the need for the laws of teaching to be applied in Sunday school. “The Sunday school ought to be the best and most successful of all schools, because it is openly, freely, and fearlessly religious. The whole moral and religious nature of the child is open to its work. Its education ought therefore to dominate, inspire, and consecrate all other education. Through the Sunday school, Christianity is free to pour its faith into all other schools.”

At KCA, students will not only study Scripture itself, but they will also spend a great deal of time learning about the life and times of the Patriarchs, the Apostles, and the Christian leaders throughout the ages, drawing from the classic literature written in eras when Christian Scriptures and creeds were written. Proper application of Gregory’s Seven Laws will help direct teachers and students to discern and appreciate truth “as something noble, enduring and divine—something that God loves and all true and good men revere”. Also, a stance upon the moral foundation of the Bible also strengthens a student, as it does all men, to “hate all falsehoods, sophistries and shams as things that are odious, hurtful, dishonoring, shameful, cowardly, and intensely mean and wicked”.

This approach to education is a contrast to modern academia, which tends to emphasize 19th and 20th century thought as superior to all that preceded. Perpetuation of Atheist Marxism, Darwinism, and Secular Humanism in every educational atmosphere from daycare to university has profoundly darkened our world. But as Christian educators, we have the most significant lamp at our disposal in the form of the written Word of God, and we intend to use it.

The unique function of a classical, Christian school.

by Ben McReynolds

Classical Christian institutions are, in my opinion, a unique part of the Church invisible and universal, as they represent a business model, private yet public, that identifies its mission as that of making disciples.  Through the use of the Trivium (grammar, logic/dialectic, and rhetoric) these schools provide students with knowledge and skills that date back to the Greco-Romans.  Reading the Great Books in these schools provides students with a complete perspective on humanity, through understanding of history, philosophy, and even theology.  By teaching Latin these schools connect their students to two millennia of scholars and their works.  Motivated by the pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty, these schools advance an ancient and long-held view of learning that recognizes absolutes and regards the human plight as one of great importance.  And most importantly, these schools build upon foundations of the Christian faith laid since the dawn of Creation, orienting their students with an understanding of the Christian faith that reaches back to the time of Christ and even to the earliest civilizations of man.  While it is clear that a classical education can strengthen a Christian worldview, I think it is worth stating that only in a classical education is a truly Christian worldview secured.

My Response to Dorothy Sayers’ The Lost Tools of Learning

by Ben McReynolds

This is my second time reading Dorothy Sayers’ essay, and this time around I am especially struck by how much I do not understand.  Certainly it is not her intention to intimidate but rather to sell the form of education that she is describing, and her overall presentation is effectively inspiring.  Doubtlessly, she never expected this work to be so studied seventy years after penning it, but I am certainly glad that she took such care to offer her criticism and her solution.

I am stirred by two examples that she provides in her essay, examples of poor logic that was accepted in mainstream culture as scholarship in 1947, because they describe a very familiar scenario.   Information that is sold as science and mainstream scholarship can be untrue, and when logical standards for truth are no longer being applied the information is quite likely untrue.  I am especially amused by the materialist, even Darwinist and Marxist, leanings of the information being sold as science in her examples.  One example is an attempt to disprove the existence of a Creator and the other is a use of anthropomorphism that attributes human experiences to ants.  If these erroneous views of nature and, ultimately of human nature, were propagated back then with such disregard for classical scrutiny, how much more now!

I only recently discovered what materialism is.  I had always assumed it was the general greediness that exists around Christmas time, but a reading of G. K. Chesterton’s Everlasting Man has assisted me in understanding true materialism and its influences and effects upon academia and our culture.  Materialism is the monist philosophy that nothing exists except matter and its motions, as contrasted with a belief and regard for the spiritual and moral realms found in theology.  Chesterton and Sayers both make the strong case that academia is incomplete without theology.

Sayers’ emphasis upon the importance of theology in a classical education leads me to two hypotheses.  The first is that there must be inherent Christian leanings of a classical education.  The second is that in order to avoid Christian leanings in education, theology must be stricken, and thus classical education is essentially lost.  It is difficult to say whether or not the architects of our current educational system intended to produce poorly educated people, but the results are in.  And I am suspicious that, while not fully intending to produce imbeciles, the leaders of our educational system have simply continued to lower expectations, content that by removing theology they have done the important part.

Sayers contends that study of theology, the “mistress science,” and of Scriptures and ancient texts with a hunger for spiritual truth will lift students above the ants and into the heavens, in stark contrast to contemporary controls on academia that aim only to satisfy earthly agendas and fill bellies.

Sayers comments on the sinking feeling that must accompany anybody watching the way committee meetings and debates took place in her day, with the overwhelming amount of time spent on irrelevant information and the inability of committee chairs to properly handle their responsibility.  She emphasizes the tragedy of this situation that such processes (committees and debates) have such importance today but are not effectively accomplished.  If she could only see us today!

Doubtlessly, the most important part of Sayers’ essay is the technical assistance she provides for those who would wish to take her candid critique seriously.  Her modesty and her wisdom shine as she lays out suggestions for business structure and curriculum, with seemingly no expectations.  I do not consider myself to be a theologian or a scholar, but I do reject materialism.  If it is accepted that God’s will has been affecting human history since human history began, then perhaps it is appropriate to suggest that this essay was an act of faith.  Implicit in her words is that her immediate audience will likely not understand or simply not care enough to try, but in her faithfulness to pen the words and God’s faithfulness to sustain them, the essay has found a generation of hungry readers with sufficient desperation and courage to try.

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The Knox Classical Academy Difference

By Ben McReynolds, for The Christian Journal. 

While many will agree that our American education system today leaves much to be desired, I expect we will struggle to come to agreement on the best method for correcting it. Many admirable efforts are under way by educators to right the wrongs and teach effectively, and my intention is not to criticize educators and institutions, especially those who are Christian. But there exists a method of educating that produced some of the greatest thinkers of all time, a method that has been abandoned and replaced, and that is currently being rediscovered in the form of Classical Christian education. It is my intention to introduce and explain this method.

First I will separate the two parts. Greek culture has forever affected our Western world by producing philosophies upon which education and society have since relied. This is the Classical component of our school, expressed in particular through observance of the Trivium. The Trivium is the three-fold curricular approach of Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric. The Grammar stage refers to the nuts and bolts of language, terms and rules regarding subjects that will be studied later, and this takes place during a students’ primary years, kindergarten through about the sixth grade. This is when memorization is easiest and most enjoyable. The next stage, the Logic stage, is when a student learns to detect and create good arguments, and this is taught in the Jr. High years. After a student can apply logic well in all their subjects, they are taught Rhetoric, which is the art of effective communication. In her monumental essay, The Lost Tools of Learning, Dorothy Sayers explains that a student who graduates with these components intact should have the tools to engage any subject for the rest of their lives.

Perhaps more important than the curriculum, Truth, goodness, and beauty (logos, ethos, and pathos) are the pursuit of a Classical education. This three-fold purpose is an inheritance from Greek philosophy, and is also a key component of what makes Classical Christian education distinctly Christian. Treated as absolutes, these three noble ideas are the constant goal of a Classical Christian scholar, and the most important resource in pursuing these goals is Scripture. In a Classical Christian education, the Bible becomes the most important tool for instruction, and Theology becomes chief among the sciences.

Knox Classical Academy is bringing this distinct form of education to Jackson County. Our students will wear uniforms, study Latin, enjoy the great books, and graduate with those “lost tools of learning.” As a Christian institution, it will be our goal to respect and serve parents, in assisting them in the education of their children. And it will be our mission to equip students to think and act biblically, to obey God, and to lead and serve others.


For more information, please visit our resources page. We are currently enrolling kindergarten through second grade, and are holding monthly informational meetings for interested parents.

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Who is John Knox?

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What is Classical Education?