St. Patrick School will transition to a Classical Education model beginning Fall 2022. This announcement has been eagerly anticipated by many after countless hours of research, careful consideration, and prayer. In the past 20 years, over 650 Classical schools have emerged all over the United States in both Christian and secular environments. We believe the change will allow us to maintain Catholic identity at Saint Patrick School for years to come and distinguish ourself from other Catholic schools in the area.
So, what does that mean?
Quite simply, a classical school aims to teach a child “how to think,” and “what to do.” At Saint Patrick School we want to teach our children to seek God in all things, and to base our actions on a desire to do His will. To reach this goal, we have designed our educational program around history and literature. We want to put good literature before them so that they will see and desire to act in the manner of the great men and women of the past, in service to God and their fellow man. A classical education is this kind of education, an education in wisdom and virtue.
Saint Patrick students will read, analyze, and discuss the actions of great people of the past. As they read, we want them to ask questions about the actions of these great men or women—the question every child should ask when first reading about a character: “Was he good or bad? Why did he act as he did? Who was affected by his actions? What were the circumstances? What should he have done differently? If so, what would you have done differently?” This is an education in wisdom and virtue.
To get our children to this place, we need to focus on two levels. The early years we will call the Grammar Stage (Kindergarten through Third grade) we will concentrate on the basic skills of math, reading, spelling, basic grammar and writing. In these years we will spend much time memorizing and reciting basic facts, learning to read and write. Since this is an age of curiosity, we want to awaken in the student the desire to know, to think, ask questions, and recite works they have memorized. Memorization is a major part of the early years, everything from math facts to bible verses, poetry, basic tenets of our faith and the history of our church and nation.
As we move into the upper grades (the Logic and Rhetoric Stages) we will continue to build upon the foundations of the Grammar Stage by going deeper. Using the basic skills to read more challenging literature, write better essays, speak more clearly, and think deeper. In short, to develop in the student the ability to express ideas more meaningfully and to know how and when to act (how to think the truth, and to know what to do!).
This idea to teach students how to think so that they will think truly and act rightly—was the goal of the Romans and the Greeks. It was the education of the Christian Middle Ages, of the American Founding Fathers, and of their Catholic and Puritan predecessors. It was the prevailing education into the early 20th century before it was gradually thrown out over a period of about 40 years.
The proof of a classical education’s success, however, is that many of the keenest minds in history, including such greats as St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Thomas More, William Shakespeare, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Adams, and John Hancock, (and most of the Founding Fathers of the United States), C.S. Lewis, J. R.R. Tolkien, Saint John Henry Newman, and Pope Benedict XVI all were taught in the mode of a classical liberal education.
Our students will still have the same subjects as this past year; math, reading, grammar, science, religion, history… but the way these are taught will look a little different. We will concentrate on the foundational skills at the Grammar Stage, and then begin to develop their skills in the Logic/Rhetoric Stage.