Two aspects of classical learning stand out as essential in our experience here at Augustine Christian Academy: truth and relationships. “This truth,” according to James V. Schall, author of “A Student’s Guide to Liberal Learning” and professor at Georgetown University, “… is the spiritual bond that potentially unites us to all other members of the human race as well as to the God who is the source of our reasoning powers.” According to him, the average student today is not challenged to develop these powers of reasoning, but finds himself bored with learning that offers no hope for truth and no appreciation of what is good and beautiful.
At ACA, while encouraging, even pushing, our students to read great books, our goal is not that they love books. Rather, we want them to love truth and to learn how to recognize truth when it shows up in the thinking and ideas of many different authors. The very beginning of true learning is the realization that there is something more, something greater than ourselves. That realization comes in different ways. For some, it comes in small, quiet steps, as the student explores the great books that free him from enslavement to the present and “relevant” and opens his mind to consider greater thoughts and ideas of another time. This freedom grows in stages and leads to a love of truth and wisdom.
… we want them to love truth and to learn how to recognize truth …
St. Augustine’s philosophy of Christian teaching reminds us, “A person who is a good and true Christian should realize that truth belongs to his Lord, wherever it is found, gathering and acknowledging it even in pagan literature …” Accepting universal truth not only opens a bridge for relationships based upon a solid foundation for communication, it also allows those relationships to become the best means of teaching one other.
Education requires trust. It involves opening ourselves, becoming vulnerable, allowing new ideas and thoughts to be explored and examined. At ACA we have discovered that the greater the appropriate relationship between teacher and student, the greater the learning that is possible.
Each colloquium studies one book, epic poem, piece of music, art, or topic, so that the focus is limited and “bite-sized.”
It is for both of these reasons — the importance of truth and the importance of relationships — that ACA added colloquia to its study program in the high school. These small discussion groups add another level to our academic challenge. Each colloquium studies one book, epic poem, piece of music, art, or topic, so that the focus is limited and “bite-sized.” It has only a handful of students to allow for intimate discussions of the topic. Each colloquium is offered by a mentor and is based on a work he loves. The colloquium meets outside the normal classroom and centers on discussion of the great elements of the piece. While students must prepare for the meetings and are expected to participate, there are no tests or grades … only a love for what can be learned for its own sake.
Some examples of colloquium offerings this semester include Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” Plato’s “Republic,” “The Abolition of Man” by C.S. Lewis, and “Assumptions That Affect Our Lives” by Christian Overman.
What students receive from a colloquium is proportional to their desire for truth, goodness, and beauty, and their willingness to build relationships with the mentor and the work. We have found that in this nontraditional setting, the student often gains a greater appreciation for the mentor and the mentor for the student, and both gain a greater love for the truth they discover together.