North Hills Christian School and Classical Education | Schools
SALISBURY - Salisbury's North Hills Christian School is in the midst of a fundamental change in the way students are taught. The school is making a shift to what is known as Classical Christian education.
The emphasis is on Biblical teaching with a reliance on classical works by historic figures like Shakespeare, Plato, Dante, and others.
On Tuesday night the school hosted two forums for the public. School head Matt Mitchell recently published a letter for parents and placed its contents on the school web site explaining the effort:
North Hills Christian School is in the midst of an exciting transition towards classical Christian schooling - an educational pedagogy and content that has potential to dramatically transform the reigning spiritual and intellectual paradigms of American culture. We are delighted by the profound impact that this movement is having across the country, and believe that it provides tremendous potential to make a positive difference in Rowan County.
On the left hand side of this page, please find a link to an article I have written entitled, "Why classical Christian?" Although it may be lengthy, we hope you will take time to understand why we believe this paradigm is in the best interest of your children. The article contains a fairly thorough overview of the history behind and distinctives of classical Christian schooling. For the avid reader or for those interested in learning more, I also suggest the books listed under "Recommended Reading" on the school web site.
Recognizing that some will prefer abbreviated coverage of the subject matter, I have also provided the highlights in summary fashion. In short, classical schooling:
- was the dominant educational paradigm from 600 B.C. until the mid-1800's, providing a highly intellectual educational form that focused more upon educating the child than upon socializing him, as does the modern system of schooling.
- places a great deal of emphasis upon well-roundedness and students' participation in the "Great Conversation" that has developed Western Civilization. The classical approach provides a genuinely broad liberal arts education with rich selections in the study of language and literature, chronological history, theology, and the arts.
- includes extensive study of math, science and technology. A historical survey will reveal that the great minds that formed some of the most significant innovations of their time - such as Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, and Albert Einstein - were both remarkable scientists and logicians, linguists, rhetoricians, theologians, and historians. A quality liberal arts education embraces all of these areas (and the proper definition of "liberal arts" must include science and mathematics). It also rejects the false dichotomy suggesting that one must choose between either the intellectual rigors of the humanities or good training in the sciences, maths, and technology.
- is thoroughly grounded in the truths of God, which are revealed both in His Word (Special Revelation) and His world (General Revelation). As such, classical Christian schools thoroughly integrate Bible into all subject areas. Often, history, literature, and the fine arts are taught in tandem. While students read about Egyptian history, they also study the life of Moses in Bible class. When they read the Epic of Gilgamesh in literature class, they will also reference the Great Flood in Genesis. In classical schooling, all of the various subject matters are interwoven like a beautiful tapestry.
- often relies upon Dorothy Sayers' suggestion that the Trivium provides a model of developmentally-appropriate learning for students. In the grammar stage (roughly K - 6), students are taught the "pieces" of learning. Because they enjoy and take pride in the process of memorization, young students are immersed in rich facts, stories, and information. Teachers extensively use song, chant, and repetition to ensure that students obtain a broad informational knowledge that may be used in later stages of their education. By the time they reach the school of logic (roughly grades 7-9), students have already obtained the "building blocks of learning," and are ready to put them together. While students enjoy debate and argumentation, they are encouraged to think through the "Why?" of their studies, making a complete whole out of the information that they learned in the Grammar School. By the time they are in the school of rhetoric (roughly grades 10-12), students are offered an emphasis upon expression - both oral and written - of the knowledge they have assembled in the school of logic.
- often uses repetition to expose students to content multiple times and at progressively deepening levels. For instance, NHCS is in the process of re-writing its history program so that students will participate in a chronological study of history from grades 1 - 4, and then repeat the same chronological study at a deeper level in grades 5 - 8. Students will be exposed to children's versions of Homer in grades one and five so that they know the main players, themes, and details of the story line. In turn, our high school freshmen will not be caught off guard or intimidated when we place an unabridged version of Illiad or Odyssey in their hands.
- produces some of the strongest students in the nation. Classically educated students score 358 points above the national averages of public schools on the high school SAT. They score nearly 200 points above their peers in parochial and independent schools, which tend to offer more selective admissions policies. It is notable that classically educated students also produce much higher scores in mathematics and science on the high school ACT, providing evidence that the claim that classical schooling may not sufficiently emphasize math and science is bogus.
Although there are more transitions still to occur, North Hills has already implemented many of the elements of classical schooling, including a comprehensive Latin program, heavy emphasis upon the liberal arts, use of classical methodologies, deep study of the works of Western Civilization, use of time-tested materials, and an integrated history curriculum in grades 1 - 5 that focuses upon the thorough, rigorous, and chronological study of history.
While the above information provides a brief synopsis of classical schooling, I hope that your appetite has been whet to read the lengthier overview in the article, "Why classical Christian?" The link may be found in the left hand column. Likewise, since this has become an area of personal passion, I would also be delighted to sit and chat with anyone who wants to learn more. At our annual back to school open house, we will also engage in some dialog about the paradigm.
Head of School