What do we mean by Classical?
By calling ourselves Greyfriars Classical Academy (GCA), we are intentionally emphasizing a certain approach to education. Some of our readers may not be familiar with classical education, and others may have heard it defined in several different ways.
If classical education could be summed up in a single word, that word would be “time.”
First, classical education represents a time-tested approach to education. For over 2,000 years, classical education was the nursery of Western Civilization. Classical education emphasized the liberal arts as a means to develop political and cultural leaders who could think for themselves and govern themselves. the liberal arts as a means to develop political and cultural leaders who could think for themselves and govern themselves. From this great intellectual heritage came many of our early church fathers, the Reformers, the founders of our great country, and many of the world’s most influential people. This rich tradition continued until the late nineteenth century, when progressive educators took modern education into a new era of utilitarianism and pragmatism. In an age where traditions seem weary rather than wise, we began to teach our children how to make a living–not how to live. By a classical approach, we intend to return to the rich heritage of our fathers in educating our students; we intend to shape great minds and great character for the advancement of our Lord’s Kingdom.
Second, classical education is time-integrated. Modern education teaches students to think of academic disciplines in fragmented segments. In contrast, the classical model integrates subject study. The history, literature, language, art, and music of a certain time period are studied together. The events of the time are studied with the words of the time and with the artful expressions of the time. This approach better enables students to see the causal relationships between ideas, individuals, and events of the past. This understanding of how generations have built, for good or for ill, upon what has gone on before is the key to their building our future for God’s glory. Formal study in Greek, logic, and rhetoric gives students the necessary tools to be great thinkers and communicators. Classical teaching of these disciplines includes lecture, debate, and Socratic discussion (i.e., discreet, guided questioning). In 1947, Dorothy Sayers observed that “although we often succeed in teaching our pupils subjects, we fail lamentably on the whole in teaching them how to think.” At Greyfriars Classical Academy, we intend to use the classical model to teach students to think clearly and biblically about the world in which they live.
Third, classical education is time-phased. Classical education recognizes that our students learn in phases, and our teaching them is most effective when it mirrors these phases. The three phases are known as Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. In elementary school (which long ago was called grammar school), students learn the basic building blocks foundational to life-long learning. Memorization is the primary tool in this phase, and by it students acquire a mastery of specific content. In middle school, students begin to critically analyze more complex issues by applying difficult “how” and “why” questions to subject areas. Aided by formal training in logic, students are primarily developing their reasoning skills in this phase. In high school, using their knowledge and reasoning skills, students culminate their academic experience in developing the art of communication. Classical education recognizes that no venture in life can be excellently achieved without excellent communication. Students learn first to write well, and then to speak well. At GCA, our goal is to develop “sharp arrows” who can communicate with great impact in contending with the culture for the cause of the Gospel.
At Greyfriars Classical Academy, our purpose is not merely to develop really smart high school graduates. This is too small of a purpose. Our purpose is to develop intelligent thinkers who think God’s thoughts after him and have the wisdom and communication skills to change a future generation for the benefit of the Kingdom. Classical education provides a time-tested, time-integrated, time-phased framework from which we expect to accomplish this purpose.