Who Leads the Dance…Pedagogy or Particulars?
Intro: Some necessary history
ACCS is now about twenty-five years old. There are about 250 schools with their own distinctive look and culture, which is natural and appropriate. All of us, regardless of the age of our school, are just at the beginning of recovering classical schooling. Therefore, it’s not at all surprising that we haven’t gotten past the first and foremost question: What is the essence of a classical education and how should it look? For the sake of this writing I am assuming that you are familiar with what has become common terminology in the revival of classical education:
*The trivium (grammar, logic, rhetoric);
*The corresponding three stages Sayers lays out for children’s growth (four counting pre-polly): poll-parrot, pert and poetic;
*The emphasis on Latin as historically and linguistically necessary;
*The emphasis on truth, beauty and goodness;
*Biblical worldview thinking, all subjected to the infallible Word of God.
So I am not going to go over those basics here.
But at the heart of what we call the classical school movement or revival are living, breathing teachers who may understand the above terminology, but who may have little if any idea of how that should and must affect their actual teaching! If your classical school does what many do, in your first or even subsequent years of teaching, you were handed a pack of curriculum materials, some even in solid, heavy books. You were directed to go forth and teach ‘classically.’ Maybe you were even given some brief instruction in Gregory’s Seven Laws. But then what actually happened in your classroom instruction? Assuming you had some knowledge of or prior experience with typical teaching methods, did your being in that classical school make a significant difference in the way you taught? Or was the difference from any previous teaching experience largely in how much and what you taught? What occupied your attention more, the way or the what? My premise here is that one of those will take precedence. And the difference in each is stark and critical to your teaching and your school’s success.
I have had the privilege of visiting a good number of sister schools around the country, sometimes to do training, others more formally as an ACCS accreditation team member. Many of these schools have similar rigorous curriculum course work, academic requirements and even solid behavioral standards. In the self-study documentation packages I receive ahead of time the school’s work can look very impressive, on paper. But one serious downfall that the subsequently un-accredited schools also share is that all those great ideals and classy curriculum materials didn’t make a difference in the way the teachers taught in the classroom! And it was exactly that disconnect that most often made the difference in the school not receiving accreditation.