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Last week students returned to these beloved halls of learning to meet the teachers, bring supplies, and get prepared for a new school year. The logic and rhetoric students will be changing classes more often this year so the students also learned where to be and when. Orientation for parents took place in the evening and all are geared up and ready for a great year! Welcome back and may God continue to bless us here at Trinitas with fruitful labors and more young soldiers for Christ.
After a summer of hard preparations and early practices, the Trinitas Varsity and Junior Varsity lady knights have seen much success on the court. Their tournament performance was award winning and their battles against Central Christian, Calvary Baptist, Santa Rosa Christian and Aletheia have all proven victorious. May this winning streak continue as they seek to bring home the PCC title this year!
The latest edition of The Classical Difference, printed by the Association of Classical Christian Schools just arrived in my mailbox. I haven’t read the whole magazine yet, but I have read the first article by ACCS President David Goodwin in which he laments the dismal state of public discourse in the world today. Midway through the short piece he places the blame on education saying, “We are bringing up children who do not have the skills to engage in intellectual discourse, who believe only in themselves, and whose deepest theological thought originates in their own mind.”
Really, Goodwin is restating what we have known for some time, but now the harvest is in—we will reap only what has been sown. The fruit of a century of progressive educational labor is now fully ripe, and the draught being pressed from it makes for a bitter cup indeed. Intelligent public discourse has been reduced to emotional tantrums, ad hominem fallacies, and slander. If only the members of the Constitutional Convention could see us now.
While it may be frustrating even to turn on the evening news these days because of the apparent madness, there are reasons for Christians to be hopeful yet. To start with, what Goodwin says about the way the world is bringing up its children is absolutely not true about—and in fact is the opposite of what could be said about—Christian children who are receiving a solid classical education. These children are becoming skilled at intellectual discourse; they believe in the One True God; and they are informed by the history of the world in general and the history of the Christian faith in particular.
There is a huge movement in the world to ensure that Christian children have an education unsurpassed by their counterparts. Thousands have graduated with this education in the past two decades and, God willing, tens or even hundreds of thousands more will graduate over the next two decades. It will take some time, but this is the movement that will reclaim a legitimate seat at the table of public discourse for Christians. This is the movement that will reestablish Christian thought and work as the standard in every facet of human culture.
Christian people are messengers, not only of Gospel truth that has the power to save, but also of Gospel goodness and beauty that has the power to transform the world for the Kingdom. We must be taken seriously—the future depends on it. But David Goodwin is right: the way the world is bringing up and educating its children is broken and sinful. As God’s people, we cannot educate our children that way; to do so is to abandon the hope of how Gospel truth, goodness, and beauty could transform this fallen world.
If we will heed the call to give our children a true education and not just the same progressive indoctrination so many children are getting, then in time Christians will once again lead in public discourse and in every other corner as well. Christians will again be the wisest people in the room, and our rhetoric will be winsome and persuasive because it will be humble and loving, bathed in Gospel truth, goodness, and beauty.
Mr. Ron Gilley
As varsity sports seasons get underway this weekend, I want to remind you what it means to represent Trinitas as a fan. You can find a thorough explanation of “The Ideal Trinitas Sports Fan” in the Family Handbook, but I want to give you a few quick reminders.
- Remember, our Christian children are competing against other Christian children, not against the devil’s spawn; furthermore, those Christian children have Christian parents who are working as hard as you are to love their neighbor in this context.
- Remember, one of our players may make a mistake that costs us a point or even the game. That child will not need us to point out his or her mistake, but will need our love and encouragement.
- Remember, the other team’s fans may not be working as hard as you are to love their neighbor. That does not mean we should stoop to their level; rather, we should obey Christ by loving our neighbors—even our enemies, if you prefer to think of our opponent that way in the heat of the game.
- Remember, the referees are humans, so they will make mistakes; nonetheless, they are the authorities in the game and their word is final. They may even make a bad call that costs us a game, but human error, not favoritism, will be the cause.
- Remember, as important as these games are to us, they are mere grains in the sand of time. How we as fans treat our neighbors during the game is what will endure, not the end score of the game.
I hope you find these reminders helpful. Remember, as a Trinitas fan you represent your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, your church, your family, and yourself, but you also represent Trinitas Christian School. Proverbs 22:1 is helpful here, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver or gold.” Let’s work together to make sure our name remains good in our community.
Recently in this space I lauded the ability of Trinitas graduates to get into the colleges of their choice. Our students work hard in a rigorous academic setting and often attain the goals they are aiming at, college being one of them. Even though our teachers encourage students to do their best rather than focusing on grades, the grades often come to students who work hard and have some academic talent, and getting into a good college is one reward for that. But the story doesn’t end there.
Alas, we do not live in a world where all things are equal, no matter how many trophies we may give to last place teams. The truth is that some students don’t have as much academic talent as the group mentioned above; they have different gifts instead.
Some of those students can make great grades in spite of less academic talent because they work so hard. These students make up for any lack of raw talent by getting up earlier, staying up later, and outworking everyone in between. They get into good colleges and usually end up employing their former classmates. They always have to work just a little harder than everyone else and that practice gives them an edge when they get into the marketplace.
Other students work super hard just to get passing grades. These students also learn to work harder than their peers, but their reward is different. They may not end up at Harvard or even at Auburn. They often end up at a community college or a trade school. These students may ask themselves if there is even a place for them at Trinitas. “What is the point,” they may ask, “of learning Greek and Calculus if I am planning to be a welder or a stay at home mom?” Good question.
The classical education Trinitas offers is one that was originally intended for the aristocratic class, the ruling class. Historically, that was the only class with enough leisure time to pursue such an education. In the United States compulsory education and child labor laws mean all children get some kind of education, so they already are ahead of most of the children in history. For those fortunate enough to attend a school like Trinitas, however, an excellent classical education that was at one time only available to aristocrats is now available for children in middle and lower middle class families. This situation has the potential to change the world for good.
Because of this accessibility to the education of the ruling class, for the first time in the history of the world welders and stay at home moms can read the New Testament in its original language. Now the middle class can understand Machiavelli and all its political implications. Finally, common people can develop an appreciation for Mozart and Michelangelo. Never in the history of the world has it been more possible to move up in class—that is the American Dream for goodness sake. But there is so much more to it than that.
Never in the history of the world has it been more important for good people, Christian people, to be well educated—not so much with a specialized set of technical skills even though those are so very useful, but with a liberal education that cultivates wisdom and virtue, and education that helps people see past rhetoric aimed at enslaving them to some false ideology. If you don’t believe me, turn on the news.
It will be important for our next generation of rulers to have an education like the one Trinitas offers, but if it is within our power to give even our common folk such an education, shouldn’t we do it? Our children need to be able to discern between good and evil influences and to stand up for the former. This is true as much for welders and nurses and mechanics and stay at home moms as it is for senators and lawyers and businessmen and kings.
So for the student who is laboring hard to pass classes at Trinitas when he or she knows that the next step is vocational or technical training, not a law degree or a PhD in Chemistry, I say, take heart. You are developing a work ethic that will serve you well all your life, no matter what vocational path you follow. More importantly, you will be uniquely equipped with the education of a king, an education that makes you better able to do the next right thing in a world that seems to be losing its mind. Everyday ordinary people doing the right thing changes the world for good faster than any policy any congress or president can impose.
This time of year is bittersweet. Saying goodbye to the lazy days of summer and hello to a new school year is at the same time sad and exciting. Both sadness and excitement are magnified, though, for the newest Trinitas alumni who will be entering college this fall. Leaving the comfort of Trinitas, a place that has been home to some of them for fourteen years, will be an adventure, and those who are going to school out of town will be sleeping away from home for a string of nights heretofore unprecedented in their young lives.
Some of the Trinitas class of 2017 have already headed off to school and others will be following in the coming days. Jacob has left for the University of South Alabama, and Leah has departed for Union University. Phillip has already arrived at the University of Alabama, and Sarah has landed at the University of Florida. Tim will make his way to Liberty University late this week, which is also when Bennett, Hayden, and Parker will trek up to Samford University. For those staying at our excellent local schools—Hanna and Levy at The University of West Florida, and Caleb at Pensacola State College—classes begin before the end of this month. We will certainly miss seeing their faces in Trinitas classes this fall, but we wish them all well. We always hope the students who stay local will visit Trinitas as often as they like; it is a special treat to see them at Trinitas events and ballgames. Hopefully, like so many of our alumni over the years, even those who go away for college will drop in at the school when they are back in town.
Of the eleven students in the class of 2017, four are going to Christian universities and seven to state schools. The number is a little more skewed toward Christian universities for this class than it has been for past classes. None of these students had any trouble getting into the schools they wanted to go to, though, and some of them are going on the top scholarships offered by those schools. Trinitas graduates have been blessed in this respect: rarely has a qualified student had the least bit of trouble getting into the school of his or her choice. I hope that is comforting to parents who may be asking themselves how these classical students fare when it comes to getting into good colleges. In fact, here are a few schools of interest that we have sent graduates to over the years: Mississippi State University, Florida State University, University of Florida, University of Alabama, University of Mississippi, University of Idaho, Auburn University, Furman University, New Saint Andrews College, St. John’s College, Washington and Lee University, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Covenant College, Samford University, Emory University, Wheaton College, and The King’s College. With almost 100 alumni now who nearly all went to college, there are many other schools that could be named here, of course, but parents who might be concerned about college opportunities (since Trinitas is not a college prep school, per se) should check out these colleges and universities to see what kind of admission standards they have. Most of these named are considered “selective” or even “highly selective,” yet our students have gotten in with no problems, and most of them even attend on some kind of scholarship.
Getting in to a college is one thing; doing well there is another. We recently conducted a survey of Trinitas alumni. Of the respondents who have already started college, more than 90% of them said they were well prepared for college. We would like to see that number at 100% of course, and by listening to the few who thought they weren’t quite prepared enough, hopefully we’ll be at 100% soon. Still, more than 90% of Trinitas alumni say they were well prepared for college. This number supports our students’ PSAT, SAT, and ACT scores when compared to college readiness bench marks. The bottom line is that we are sending our alumni to excellent Christian and state universities, most of them are going on some kind of scholarship, and they are finding themselves well prepared when they get there. To God be the glory.
And one last thing: did I mention that our alumni are always welcome on the Trinitas campus? Please visit. We miss you!
“Is not the great defect of our education today … that although we often succeed in teaching our pupils ‘subjects,’ we fail lamentably on the whole in teaching them how to think: they learn everything except the art of learning.” –Dorothy Sayers
Upon going to school, children are expected to take up certain “subjects,” to apply themselves to these subjects, and to eventually become masters of them. We as parents and teachers are not wrong to push our children and students to master those subjects; however, one of the drawbacks of focusing on mastering subjects is that we can develop tunnel vision in the process; we run the risk of focusing on the subjects and mastering what to think at the expense of learning how to think. We—and I mean everyone involved in the education of a child: parents, teachers, administrators, and the child—run the risk of just wanting to know what is going to be on the test.
In order to shape the lives of successful Christian adults and not merely turn out more cogs for the machine, an education should necessarily impart to students the art and practice of independent thinking. Above the mastery of subjects, our students should learn to think for themselves. Of course we want them to learn the subjects we teach them, but in some ways the subjects are simply “grist for the mill” as Dorothy Sayers once expounded. Subjects are grist for the mill that is the mind. Subjects are the material our students get to practice on as they learn how to think, how to use the mind to puzzle out the world for themselves.
A person who has been taught only what to think will perform well at the subjects he or she has mastered, but when faced with an unfamiliar subject, this same person will likely be at a loss. Look around. It’s happening everywhere. We are witnessing the rise of a third generation (at least) of Americans that has been taught quite successfully what to think with not nearly enough emphasis on how to think. Americans are, on the whole, good at the specific things we’ve learned to do, but when we’re out of our field, we often find ourselves struggling. The Wall Street Journal published a study on June 5 of this year that bemoaned the dismal state of critical thinking skills among college seniors. It appears we’re equipping them quite well to do certain things, but even after four years of college, they still have trouble thinking.
The remedy for this problem is a well rounded, liberal, Christian education administered by teachers who are willing to help their students wrestle with life’s big questions instead of having them simply memorize a single solution. When speaking of such an education, C.S. Lewis wrote, “A man who has lived in many places is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village: the scholar has lived in many times and is therefore in some degree immune from the great cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and microphone of his own age.” Too many of us are not immune; in fact, most of us have become dependent upon the cataract of nonsense so prevalent in this age.
Most of us are familiar with the old adage: Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. We can apply that principle to education in this way: Teach a student a subject, and you have equipped him to perform a specific task; teach a student to think, and you have equipped him to perform every task. The kind of education our children need at this and every moment in history is the kind that teaches them to think independently. I recently heard Dr. Gregory Thornbury, President of The King’s College in New York City say this about students of such education: “Something I have experienced and know is that students who come from a classically educated background to New York City are uniquely suited to compete in this global marketplace” (emphasis his). Why? Because they know how, not just what to think.
Let’s not become enslaved to what’s on the test even though tests are still important; instead, let’s get serious about learning how to think no matter what is on the test. Perhaps you are familiar with the YouTube sensation, Crash Course. I’ll leave you with the host of that series, John Green, and how he answers the question, “Is this going to be on the test?” Watch by clicking on this link.
God is a good and forgiving God. His mercies are renewed to his people afresh every morning, and oh, how we rejoice! God’s people living in community with each other are called to imitate God, to love him and to love each other. Because we are fallen and imperfect people, not only do we sin against each other, but we also have trouble forgiving those who sin against us.
At Trinitas Christian School we work really hard at Christian community. Yes, we are a school and so academics are of the utmost importance to us, but we contend that we can’t carry on the business of academics or of schooling at all if we are harboring ill feelings against a brother or sister in this community. If we have sinned against another and need forgiveness, or if another has sinned against us and we need to forgive, community comes to a grinding halt—it simply won’t work anymore as God designed it to work until we resolve the issue with our brother or sister. Our practice, then, is to keep short accounts with each other so that we can live together in Christian community as a school family.
For us as a school family or school community the principle we look to is found in Matthew 18. In verse 15 of that chapter, Jesus tells his disciples that if their brother has sinned against them, it is their responsibility to bring it to his attention so that he might repent of his sin. Of course there will be some legitimate sins against us that we will simply cover in love and move on because we are imitators of Christ, but because we are fully human and nothing mixed with it, we can’t cover over every sin that way. When we have been hurt, offended, sinned against in a way we cannot simply cover in love, it is incumbent upon us to bring it to the attention of the offending party alone and not to fourteen of our closest friends and confidants beforehand. “Moreover, if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother” (Matt 18:15). This is the school’s policy. We practice it with our students and teachers, and we ask our parents to practice it within the Trinitas community. The policy works not because it is a Trinitas policy, but because it is a Jesus policy.
Allow me to tell you what kind of wonderful parent community we have at Trinitas. On a recent weekday morning that appeared to be a precursor to a pretty routine day, a parent called out of the blue and asked to meet me in five minutes. When he came into my office, he didn’t beat around the bush, but got right to the point: “I am harboring some bad feelings about the school and about you, and here’s why…” He spent the next few minutes exposing my sin so that I could see plainly how I had wronged him. At the end, I had the difficult job of confessing and asking forgiveness, and he had the even harder job of extending mercy to one who had wronged him.
I share this story not as proof that God’s word is true—it bears witness to itself; it is truth. I share the story as a way of saying, yes, this is exactly what we are trying to do at Trinitas. This is Christianity at work. This is Christian community at work. And it didn’t happen because the board or the administration forced someone to do something they’d rather not do; it happened because that is the kind of mature and maturing parent community we have here. Trinitas certainly is not a church, but it is a place where Christian community is important. Thankfully, Trinitas parents take it very seriously, and as a result, like iron sharpening iron, we all grow in faith together.
Mr. Ron Gilley
We are living during an age in the West, perhaps in the whole world, wherein the prevailing view of all things could best be described as utilitarian. Modern Americans, in particular, have a way of reducing most everything down to its usefulness, its efficiency, and of course, its cost. Jobs go to the lowest bidder. We buy where we get the best deal. Our books are paperback no matter the genre, dime store romance or classic. Our buildings are metal, whether serving as an auto body shop or a church. After a few years of this kind of thinking, everything begins to look the same.
Well, maybe not everything, but I suggest the utilitarian lens through which we view the world has certainly clouded the way we think about education. The result is that we have come to the wrong view of education’s end. We have embraced the notion that education is something akin to job training. We no longer send our children to university to become educated, we send them to receive specialized training in a particular field that makes them marketable in that field when they graduate—to say it plainly, students at university often receive specialized training for high skill or high tech jobs, not a liberal education. Furthermore, this specialized job training begins as early as eighth grade in some modern education models. The goal is a utilitarian one: get Junior on the right track to the highest paying job as quickly as possible.
Few people would argue against high paying jobs—I certainly won’t—but when a particular job becomes the end goal of education, then an education is exactly what Junior won’t get. If the idea is to make Junior marketable in the world of nuclear physicists, then Junior can’t be bothered with literature or music or art; his time must be spent getting ahead in math and science. By the same token, if the goal is to make Junior marketable as a writer, chances are good that Calculus and physics will be passed over for more creative writing classes. In both cases, a broad, liberal education will be sacrificed at the altar of getting useful training that puts Junior on the right track for his chosen field, a field likely chosen for its annual salary and picked out when Junior is thirteen or fourteen years old. Not at Trinitas Christian School.
In the middle of August teachers will show up at Trinitas for our Faculty Forum. We will spend nearly three weeks planning and discussing and studying about how to give Trinitas students a broad, liberal education that changes them, transforms them. One of our main focuses will be figuring out how to let the things we teach mold and shape our students into the people God created them to be. Of course, we hope they all get great jobs some day, but landing a great, even a high paying job will be a hollow victory if they don’t understand the history of their people, the story of their God, the beauty of creation. The subjects and lessons we plan to teach our students are the kind that chip away at the rough edges, convict the soul, evoke confession, provoke change, and finally turnout young people after God’s own heart, young people who think God’s thoughts after Him. Our aim is to help our students see that they must slow down and let the literature work on them, let it show them things about themselves that they couldn’t see by any other light. We hope to convince them to allow the beauty of art and music to mold and shape their souls. We must convince them to stop thinking that logic and geometry are skills to be acquired but that they are rather tools to sharpen their minds and help them see God’s world in a whole new light. The people our students become after all they study has changed them, well, that is the true end of education.