Recently, Alan Stout (husband of our stellar Math and Science teacher Mary Stout), interviewed Dr. Stephen Turley on the subject of education in general and truth, goodness, and beauty in particular. For those unfamiliar with Stephen Turley, he is an internationally recognized scholar, speaker, and blogger; furthermore, he is the author of Awakening Wonder: A Classical Guide to Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Dr. Turley is a teacher of Theology, Greek, and Rhetoric at Tall Oaks Classical School in New Castle, Delaware, and professor of Fine Arts at Eastern University. More information about Dr. Turley can be found at his website. The interview occurred during Stout’s Monday afternoon radio talk show on WEBY, 1330AM. You can hear the interview in its entirety here.
Of particular interest today, however, is the two-and-a-half minute clip you can listen to in which Dr. Turley answers the question, “What makes a good education?”
Dr. Turley invites us to return to the meaning of the word “education” before we try to discern what a good education is. The word is derived from the Latin infinitive educāre or educere or a combination of the two. Either way, the word carries the meaning “to lead” or even “to lead out.” Understood this way, it is easy to see that any good education must lead the learner to something. Anything that claims to be education but is passive in its application, perhaps allowing the learner to find his own way, isn’t exactly education. To be educated then is to necessarily be led out of ignorance and into a particular knowledge, a particular way of understanding that produces wisdom. Such is a proper classical Christian education.
We talk a lot at Trinitas about subjects we teach not being isolated bodies of knowledge, about how all the things we teach overlap to form a unified understanding of the world and of humanity that finds its cohesion in the Creator of all things. We claim in our documents that our aim is to teach all subjects as an “integrated whole with the Scriptures at the center.” We also often make reference to the “paideia of God,” which is the idea of an entire culture with God at its center. All this points to where we are trying to lead or educere our students.
A second grader learning phonics at Trinitas is certainly learning how to read, spell, and pronounce words, but that isn’t the complete end goal of phonics instruction. An eighth grader learning logic is certainly learning how to discern fallacies and navigate syllogisms, but that isn’t the complete end goal of instruction in logic. A twelfth grader learning Greek … well, you get the idea. Education at Trinitas is designed to lead students out of a secularized, compartmentalized understanding of knowledge that begets a world where phonics and faith don’t mix, and into an understanding that true knowledge has its foundation in the Creator of all things and that therefore the lines between all types of knowledge are blurred.
This kind of education is for the whole man. This kind of education forms virtue. This kind of education has as its goal shaping and forming over time the whole person into the likeness of Christ. This kind of education places higher value on doing one’s best than it does on making an A—though many will make A’s. This kind of education places higher value on humility than it does on making a name for one’s self—though some will have a great name. This kind of education places a higher value on honesty than it does on getting to the head of the class no matter the cost—though some must be at the head of the class. This kind of education places a higher value on a life of selfless service than on service to pad a college application—though many will have excellent college applications. This kind of education aims to make good citizens, good human beings, not only for this brief life, but for eternity.
At Trinitas, education does not take place only in the classroom, but also in the hallways, at the lockers, in the library, at the lunch table, on the playground, and on the athletic field. We are not only teaching subjects, but instead through the teaching of subjects and between the teaching of subjects, what we are teaching is a way of being. We are leading our students to a way of being God’s people in God’s world—and that is a good education.