The Quarterly Newsletter of Wittenberg Academy
The Ninety-Sixth Thesis
Chaplain's Corner- p. 8
Sermon for the Fifteenth
Sunday after Trinity
Rev. David M. Juhl
Ask the Right Questions!
On the Road with Wittenberg Academy- p. 21
Poetry- p. 22
A Point of Confession- p. 23
From Our Teachers p. 10-16
~Christians Question. And
~What is Ideal Humanity?
~ Are My Kids Ready for Life?
Intentionality can be a frustrating endeavor. It requires purposeful and conscientious attention to an end goal that may or may not make sense in our world. Take a classical Lutheran education, for example. The end goal is to equip children for life in this world and the next. Such equipping results in love for man through fulfilled vocations and love for God. The tools for such equipping are the classical Liberal Arts and Catechesis. Such tools require intentionality on the part of the scholar and do not lend themselves to a utilitarian view of learning.
The classical Liberal Arts and Catechesis are not always practical. It is “easy” to take a reading comprehension test. It is not as easy to engage in discussion and mine the depths of big questions. Both require careful reading of a text, but the former is an end in itself and the latter trains the mind to think deeply and express thoughtfully. The teacher may ultimately get the same information out of the reading comprehension test student and discussion question student, but the reading comprehension test student has learned only to get the right answer while the discussion question student has learned that the first answer might not be the right answer and the right answer may not actually be the goal at all! While this illustration is certainly an oversimplification of the circumstances, the point is made. If you are looking for a checklist education, then the classical Liberal Arts and Catechesis may not be the right fit, because a checklist education has no time for goodness, truth, and beauty.
We have all run across a clever chap who hears the question, “Can I go to the bathroom?” and quips back, “I don’t know, can you?” The anxious asker quickly corrects his query with “May I go to the bathroom?” in hope of securing permission to attend to his bodily needs. Our Question Constable, though perhaps only cheeky in his insistence upon correct phraseology, teaches us that the questions we ask do matter. In many circumstances, the questions we ask reveal much about our goals and motivations.
Let us take the example of a student who has failed to meet the requirements of a class and receives an F to communicate the lack of satisfactory learning. The youngster approaches his parents and confesses that he received an F on his transcript. What question is most likely to leap off the tongues of the parents? “What class did you fail?” Imagine this very scenario took place in a gameshow called “Ask the Right Question.” The question “What class did you fail?” elicits a loud buzzer and a giant red X. The gameshow host, with his long Bob Barker-esque microphone and dapper suit, croons with the audience, “No! That’s the wrong question!” Flummoxed, the parents listen as the Rod Roddy voice from the ceiling explains to them that such a question reveals a utilitarian view of learning. A better question, the upbeat voice booms, is “What did you fail to learn?”
Classes exist to structure learning. Learning most certainly takes place outside of the formal structures of classes, but in an effort to approach learning in an orderly way, it is many times structured within the bounds of a class. Classes do not exist to confer grades. The grade is simply the agreed-upon method of communicating if the structured learning has happened. That method of communicating could just as well be a jar of popcorn filled to certain levels, a certain number of chocolate chip cookies, or a series of knots tied in a rope. Thus, if classes exist to structure learning, one technically cannot fail a class, one can only fail to learn.
Teaching and learning are essential for life in this world and the next. We do not come into this world knowing everything. We must be taught so that we may be of good service to our neighbor. We must be taught so we can stand against the assaults of the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh that do not want for us Heaven as our eternal reality. Not everything in a classical Liberal Arts and Catechesis curriculum is practical. Some of it might be fundamentally impractical at first glance. But, if we cast off the checklist mentality and cling to the reality of life in both this world and the next, we will look differently at the structures provided by classes and ask, “please, sir, might I learn some more?” + JCB
Mrs. Jocelyn C. Benson serves as Wittenberg Academy's Head Teacher.
From the Head Teacher's Desk- p. 3
Ask the Right Questions
Mrs. Jocelyn C. Benson
Candor for such a Time as This- p. 6
What are You Doing after High School?
Mrs. Lauren K. Mastin
2018 Witttenberg Academy Family Retreat- P. 25-26
Ask the Right Questions
Help Support Wittenberg Academy!
Adults often ask young children what they would like to be when they grow up. At a young age, it is considered endearing when the child's answer is a wife, mother, father, or husband. When they enter their preteen years, the adults' smiles become a little tighter when provided with the same answer. By the time the students reach their junior year of high school, the question has changed. "What would you like to be when you grow up?" changes into, "Where are you going to college?", or, "What are you planning on majoring in?" It is already made up in their minds that this student must have a career and in order to obtain that career, he must attend college. This creates an awkward situation for all involved if the student answers that he is in fact not going to college. This answer is often met with a disapproving silence and a quick subject change.
Instead of expecting our students to make the life choice of whether or not they even go to college, we make it for them. They are not forced to weigh the option of whether the cost is worth it for them. Very few students actually know which field they would like to go into upon enrollment, and those who do often change their minds. Though they may learn quite a bit, most will not end up using the degree they paid tens of thousands of dollars for. Recent studies show more than half (51%) of those that graduated in the past two years are underemployed.
College is certainly not a waste. Learning for the sake of learning is a worthy cause. However, think about how it will affect students' lives after four years. Those four years have come and gone; they received their diploma, and now they are looking for work. Perhaps they cannot find a job that requires their degree. They have at least four years of college debt that needs to be paid. The total U.S. Student loan debt is $1.45 trillion. College is a wonderful thing for those who need a degree or can afford the tuition to simply learn. However, there are many other learning opportunities available for our students.
We have access to many, many facets of information with the internet now. With the click of a button, you can access many primary sources on any subject you can think of. Many universities offer self paced courses for free, or at least a discounted price. What is wrong with the student who works a full time job and then comes home in the evening and does an hour or so of class online? Perhaps he takes a budgeting class, learning the economic skills that no one bothered to teach him in high school. Or perhaps he takes a history class, still immersing himself in the good, the true, and the beautiful. That's what our classical liberal arts education is all about, isn't it? Recognizing the good, the true, and the beautiful? Isn't a father that works a full time job out of the home, perhaps a little below his educational level, to provide for his family beautiful? Isn't serving your neighbor in the form of serving coffee or fixing their car good? Someone needs to fulfill these duties. There is no shame in serving your neighbor in these vocations.
Most companies now no longer look for workers with a college education. According to a study carried out by The National Association of Colleges and Employers, the skills employers most desire in their employees are the ability to work well on a team and the ability to solve problems and make decisions. Employees who simply do their job are hard to come by these days; ask any employer. Employers simply desire employees who show up on time for their shift and do the work well. Many companies will even train their employees for jobs. We all have seen it time and time again. Those employees who carry out their jobs well rise up the ranks rather quickly.
The point is not that no one should go to college. College is the right answer for many of our students. God has given us many vocations on this earth; being a student is only one of them. Instead of assuming that student is the vocation they have chosen for the next few years, we should change the questions we ask of the 2018 graduates we know in our lives. Instead of asking, "Where are you going to college?", what if we asked instead, "What are you going to do after high school?" Let us help them become the adults they are supposed to be by making this decision within the vocations God has given them.
Mrs. Lauren K. Mastin serves as Wittenberg Academy's Communications Director.
What Are You Doing
After High School?
Sermon for the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity
What's your worry? You worry about the past. You ponder every past decision. You replay in our minds everything we said to people or did for people. All of us have an itty bitty committee that tells us how bad our past was, our present is, and our future will be.
You worry about today. You have more than enough, but it isn't enough. You have fifteen shirts in your closet. If you give five away to charity, you still have ten shirts. But that's one-third less than you have? How can you live with one-third less shirts?
You worry about the future. A surgery is pending. Will you survive? What's going to happen? Children grow up. What sort of future will they have? Will they have to live with us until they are 40? Will they be employable? Will I have enough to make ends meet when I am old? Will I have to live in a "granny pod" behind one of my children's home? What about my congregation? We're old. There are few children. People just don't seem to care about practicing the Christian faith.
Jesus asks, which of you can add a single moment to his lifespan by worrying? You may not add a single moment to our lifespan, but you sure spend a lot of time worrying. Something could change and I'm not ready for it. I'm not in control. I have to know everything before it happens. I can't merely abide in something or someone.
There it is! I can't merely abide in someone. I can't merely believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord. There must be something else alongside Him. I can't merely cling to objective grace given to me in the preaching of His Word, in my baptism, in eating and drinking Christ's very Body and Blood. What is more, I treat these things as a given in my life. They'll always be there for me. I know where I can go when other helpers fail and comforts flee. For now, though, other helpers and comforts will do just fine.
Perhaps it's retail therapy. You buy five more shirts to replace the other five you gave away. Perhaps it's clinging to another god besides the only true God. It wouldn't hurt to have some good old fashioned idolatry in your life. Whatever you look to as your hope for salvation is your god. Maybe a dead relative will work through your thoughts to calm your worry. Maybe something else will show up to get you through these worrisome days.
In one of the last letters Martin Luther wrote before his death in 1546, he tells his wife, "Pray, and let God worry." Prayer seems to be our last resort when it should be the first thing we do when we worry. Our heavenly Father, for the sake of His Son Jesus Christ, is all ears. He wants to hear you ask Him what's on your mind. Yet you see prayer as a last resort. I'll try anything once and, if all else fails, I'll pray. Instead of casting our burdens on the Lord, Who cares for us, we cast lots to find what will be the quick fix for worries.
What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear? The unbelievers chase after all these things. Certainly your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of god and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. When Jesus says to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, he's not asking you to go on a quest for something that isn't yours. The kingdom of God is among you. God's kingdom is the universe, is His Church, and it extends over the angels and saints. You're in His kingdom because Jesus put you there when you heard His Word of reconciliation grab a hold of you. He washed you clean of sin in your baptism. He set you among your fellow reconciled Christians, and even those who don't know Him. He has done everything necessary for you to miss hell. You seek His kingdom when you abide in His kingdom.
This side of Paradise there will be doubt. Yet amid doubt the main thing remains the main thing: Jesus bled and died for you. He has put His salvation in your ear, in your heart, and has watered it in your Baptism. The struggle between doubt and certainty continues until you stop breathing. That's why you abide in Christ where He is found. Your feelings can lie. Your thoughts can waver. Christ never lies nor wavers. He is your strength and stay, even when you worry.
He covers you with His righteousness, a righteousness that avails before the Father's heavenly throne. The garment of incorruption placed upon you at your baptism means you are covered in Christ's blood; dripping wet in blood, water, and the Holy Spirit. What worries you now? Jesus is your only hope for eternity.
Yet day-to-day worries linger. What about clothing and food, house and home, family and friends? Our Lord not only has your salvation covered, He also provides all you need for body and life. That is why He has you consider the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. Worry neither about food nor clothing. Our heavenly Father provides them. So it is for you and me as well. Food and clothing will be there. Everything necessary for life will be there. It may not be a lifestyle of the rich and famous, but it will be enough for the day.
Children of the world worry. They think everything must be earned, even eternal life. Children of the heavenly Father haven't a care for things of the world. They are given to by a God Who cares for them. He gives them life and salvation. If that isn't enough, He gives them material goods in His providential care. Even the work that is done to earn material goods is a gift from our heavenly Father. You will have many things to worry about over time. Have no care for them, for Jesus cares for you. His Father, our Father in heaven, will see that you neither starve nor are homeless. Live, love, and rejoice in the moment. Even if it is all gone tomorrow, Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. + DMJ
Rev. David M. Juhl serves as Chaplain of Wittenberg Academy. Additionally, his vocations include husband of one wife, father of five children, and pastor of Our Savior Evangelical Lutheran Church in Momence, Illinois.
And They Answer.
Have you ever stopped to think how Martin Luther, when he saw the "pitiable, deplorable, and miserable state" of the church in his day, wrote a training manual composed of questions and their answers? Just in case something was missed, later churchmen added "Christian Questions With Their Answers." You are involved in Classical Lutheran Education, so you should be aware that the reason the catechism is structured this way is because it was a given that the best way to present basic truth for quick learning and apprehension was by utilizing the "Socratic Method." Not only that, it was assumed that the art of asking insightful questions was vital to the cultivation of practical wisdom.
Let us make a fresh start, as it were, and begin with a sketch of this vital aim of classical liberal arts learning, the cultivation of practical wisdom, then let us consider how practical wisdom relates to Christian Liberty, on the one hand, and both dialectic and rhetoric, on the other.
Phronesis is the Greek word for practical wisdom, or prudence. I've also seen it translated "intelligence." (Terence Irwin, in his introduction to his translation of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, has a wonderful, lengthy and trenchant footnote regarding his choice of "intelligence" for phronesis.) Aristotle there defines phronesis as "doing the right thing to the right person at the right time for the right reason." It has to do with right action with respect to the other, but also, it has to do with heart attitude. The relation of this view to Luther's wonderful exposition of the essence of the Christian faith, "The Freedom of the Christian," could not be more obvious. In our calling to be "little Christs one to another," we are to serve our neighbor, Luther asserts, expecting nothing in return. He then famously observes that we "live by Christ through faith and by our neighbor through love." This is profound. But I haven't the space here to elucidate that profundity, and besides, this little think piece commits us elsewhere. The reader will kindly note that, excellence in practical wisdom, which impinges directly on service to neighbor, requires also the cultivation of an art of deliberation.
All this virtuous action with regard to the neighbor is motivated by our having first been loved by God and by the power of the Holy Spirit. This begs the question, however: How does one determine what is the right action, and who is the right recipient of a given act, and how on earth are we to determine when is the optimal time to act prudently and lovingly toward the other? In order to excel in loving one's neighbor, one must, therefore, first cultivate the ability to ask the right question of the right person at the right time! This is a habit of inquiry that is a primary fruit of, you guessed it, classical liberal arts education! One may very well ask the right question of the right person, without having had a liberal arts education, but chances are, if he is like me, the question will form in his pea brain just after having hung up the phone!! Just after turning the corner as he drives away. This is called "delayed intelligence"! So, timing is critical!
Here are three keys to cultivating practical wisdom:
Develop an Active Thought Life Learn Topical Logic Master Dialectical Inference
I am a professor of rhetoric, so I am obligated, at the outset, to underscore how all three of these keys relate to rhetorical reasoning in one way or another, and I teach all these in Rhetoric I and Rhetoric II right here at Wittenberg Academy. Let me elaborate briefly on the second and third, then conclude by examining briefly how these 3 keys to cultivating the art of questioning make the Active Thought Life, well, "active."
If you attended CCLE XVII in Cheyenne, Wyoming, you probably remember President Hill talking about "commonplaces." Sir Francis Bacon refers to commonplaces as "promptuary" because, of them he observes that their primary function is to prompt lines of questioning, or inquiry, that lead to the crux of the matter. One can imagine the importance of this habit of mind to excellence in the practical arena, in legal and moral reasoning, where the issue at the heart of tough cases is "clouded" by murkiness of all sorts: prodigious particularity, shady motives, disagreements galore, and all manner of competing viewpoints that must be adjudicated if sound judgment is to be had! This is why Bacon teaches topical logic as an "aid to judgment," and asserts further that, "a faculty of wise interrogation is half a knowledge." This quip, which brings to mind our maxim, "well begun is half done," captures perfectly, in my mind, the value of topical logic to both the exercise of, and acquisition of, practical wisdom.
Interestingly, because it binds together these two keys, Aristotle teaches dialectic in his treatise entitled "Topics." The Topica is all about disputation or debate, and Aristotle teaches his pupils there how to push an argument to its conclusion, by asking questions and following implications, by drawing inferences until one arrives at the "seat of the argument" as Boethius calls it. The student was then to apply the Law of Contradiction which is "the most indisputable of all beliefs." This is, in essence, the Socratic Method. However, beyond disputation, Aristotle also points out that the method of dialectical reasoning is profitable also in terms of intellectual growth because it entails a "method of criticism [read questioning] wherein lies the path to the principles of all inquiries." When one's habit of mind is such that he or she thinks in terms of dialectical inferences one understands, deeply, how various fields of knowledge are related one to another. Unity of knowledge! THIS is one of the greatest blessings of liberal arts education. Why? Because postmodern knowledge is so fragmented. And confusing. The knowledge we believe, teach, and confess is coherent, consistent, and highly integrated. Not so with postmodern knowledge, which breeds confusion with its "questions, questions, questions."
Wait, what? Dr. Tallmon, I thought we were celebrating questions?! Questions for their own sake, arbitrary, boundless, abstract questions–– questions that lead only to further questions, but never to answers–– this is not the stuff of Socratic Method, of dialectic. The questions with which we have to do are purposeful and are guided by logical inference, by following connections within propositions that lead to the seat of the argument, thus exposing the principles upon which the argument rests. Then, as Aristotle would put it, we have but to identify, then embrace, that proposition which passes the muster of the Law of Contradiction. Once this becomes one's habit, one may extricate contradictions from one's thought life, which leads to clarity of thought (or "perspicuity") which allows one to be secure in one's thought life (which, incidentally, or ironically, allows one to be less threatened by those with whom one disagrees!) These sorts of questions cultivate mental discipline. This promptuary or "heuristic" use of topics is animated, at the end of the day, by an active thought life.
One can wish, all day long, for insightful questions to come springing from ones fertile imagination, but if one has not the material from which to formulate an intelligent question, I am afraid it will be a long wait . . . certainly longer than a day! Again, consider how ill-timed is the question that comes springing from one's lips . . . minutes, or even hours, after the relevant train of thought has left the station! And, in celebration of this excellent metaphor, I would like to add that an active thought life, to be truly fruitful, must also benefit from a well-developed "sanctified" imagination. (Sanctified in the sense that it is brought under the discipline of God's Word, the Holy Spirit, and Godly wisdom. Unbridled imagination, like the heart, is full of all sorts of wickedness, frivolity, and silliness.)
But I have not yet touched on how, exactly, one cultivates an active thought life. This is common sense. Read great books, think great thoughts, engage great minds, and check these things against the yardstick of the wisdom of ages. Study grammar, study dialectic, study rhetoric. Internalize them. Became habituated to think in the ways suggested here in this essay. Apply those thought processes to the ideas that have engaged great thinkers since the beginning of recorded history. Participate in the "Great Conversation" (please read the essay by that name in Volume I of The Great Books of the Western World.) But, not only minds, an active thought life involves the heart as well. Truth, yes. But also, Beauty and Goodness. Allow your "loves" to be formed. Meditate on what you love. Think when it's time to think. Do when it's time to do. Be when it's time to be.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Philippians 4:8).
Savor these things. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Now and then, we need to silence the questions. Be still and know that He is God. Only believe.
Dr. James Tallmon serves as a Rhetoric instructor for Wittenberg Academy.
Christians Question. And They Answer.
What is Ideal Humanity?
Classical education is training in the Liberal Arts. Classical education is not vocational training. And yet we are also champions of vocational training because we are advocates of the Doctrine of Vocation.
What does this mean?
God works in the world through vocations (Latin: vocare, to call). All honorable vocations are godly, and it is God Himself who calls each one of us into a calling (or callings!). Doctor and lawyer are well-paid and prestigious vocations. Many parents desire that their children aim for these callings, because they will bring wealth to the family. Martin Luther's father groomed his son for a career in law from young boyhood, as having wealthy children was a kind of 16th century pension plan. To Hans Luther's dismay, his son Martin took a different path, and followed another calling: as pastor and professor.
If the entire world were only comprised of pastors, professors, doctors, and lawyers,
there would be no-one to be fathers and mothers, no-one to invent new forms of technology, no-one to clean streets, remove garbage, keep the books, run the businesses, milk the cows, grow the food, repair the plumbing, or teach the children. And so God calls each one of His creatures into a beautiful diverse tapestry of callings.
But what about liberal arts education? Didn't progressive educators and theorists a century ago serve the Doctrine of Vocation by reforming the old, stuffy elitist curriculum of Latin and rhetoric and history, and replacing it with more useful things to getting jobs in the modern world? After all, nobody speaks Latin. Surely, Spanish or Industrial Arts are better uses of our limited time in the classroom. Surely Latin is a relic of the old racist, elitist past in which indolent aristocrats had the freedom to learn esoteric subjects while the real people learned how to farm and make barrels, and later, to repair automobiles and write computer programs!
Are we against vocations and vocational education? By no means!
In fact, many advocates of classical education disagree with the modern idea that everyone should go to college - especially today where the university experience often involves four or more years of removal from the economy, being taught political and religious propaganda at odds with our Christian worldview, racking up tens of thousands of dollars in debt, and in the end, not really being trained for what the world really needs: the vocational training that universities do not actually provide!
By contrast, many of us in the classical education community are skeptical of the modern university. It may be the right solution for an individual young man or woman, or it may be the right thing to avoid it. There is no one-size-fits-all for God's diverse array of creatures filling a nearly infinite economy of vocations!
And so, having received a classical, Liberal Arts education at a high school like Wittenberg Academy, a student may opt for university (prepared for the academic rigor and likely well-ahead of other students who are not classically-trained), or for vocational/technical school (prepared for vocational life, equipped with facility with language, able to understand complex instructions and logical constructions, able to lead and communicate and make ethical decisions firmly rooted in the Christian worldview). He may also opt for service in the family, church, or some other vocation not primarily driven by money.
We do not teach young people according to the classical model because we oppose vocational training and look down our noses at "getting a job." To the contrary, we celebrate the Doctrine of Vocation in its fullness, and hope
that our students see their careers as more than mere jobs, but rather as divine callings!
We believe that each person is more fit for any vocation - be it in an office or under an automobile, be it in the courtroom or the nursery - if he is truly educated in the Liberal Arts. For no matter his calling, according to the Christian worldview, each person is a servant, and each servant is also free. Free men need the education fitting for liberty before he is free to be a servant of his fellow free men. The liberal in "Liberal Arts" is etymologically related to both the Latin words for "freedom" (libertas) and "children" (liberi) - not to mention the idea of the book (liber). We believe that the previous century's progressive education experiment has been a failure, making men fit for neither freedom nor service - as the progressive model lacks the understanding of the Christian paradox, pointed out by Luther, that a Christian is both servant of all, and lord of all.
The Liberal Arts are traditionally linked with those objects of study known as the Humanities. This is because classical education is a sort of vocational training for what it means to be truly and fully human. We educate in a humane way, not merely training young people to be functional units or cogs in a machine. To be human is to be a unique creature of God, of infinite value, to be created male or female, to be crafted for service in whatever vocation or vocations to which we are called. But the one calling that every person shares is the vocation to be human. Whatever our nationality, language, family situation, wealth, health, or specific station in life - we share the overarching vocation of our humanity.
To be human is corporeal, psychological, and spiritual. To be human is to both transcend our fleshly existence, and to be comfortable in it. To be human is to be rational (as opposed to brute beasts), and yet to also transcend rationality through
recognition of heart and mind (as opposed to bloodless and soulless computer programs or robots). To be human is neither to despise our flesh, nor to disown that part of us that transcends it.
And so for all of us, teachers and students alike, education is firmly rooted in the vocational. It includes "job training" but also transcends this narrow view of what education is. Classical education is liberal; it is vocational, and above all, it is human. We don't go to school for the sake of merely "getting a job." We don't go to school for the sake of some abstract understanding of education. Rather, to call to mind a variation of a statement by the Roman philosopher Secena: "Non scholae sed vitae discimus" - we do not learn for school, but for life."
Pastor Larry Beane serves as a Paideia instructor for Wittenberg Academy.
How Human Can I Be?
Registration is Open
for the 2017-18 Christmas Term!
Here are just a few courses offered during
the Christmas trimester:
Progymnasmata Writing Course I Mrs. Minte Irmer
We write how we think and we think how we write. In Progymnasmata, students will learn rhetorical excellence by using the series of exercises followed by writers through the ages. Through study, imitation, and practice, students will work toward mastery of each important skill. Phillip Melanchthon, in his On Eloquence, said, "Therefore, in order to obtain the ability to speak and judge, nothing is as indispensable as the exercise of the pen.”
Algebra I Mrs. Rebecca McCreary
Algebra is the bridge between arithmetic and an entire world of mathematics. In this course, students will be introduced to the basic principles of algebra, which are the tools necessary for handling abstract mathematical concepts. These tools include real and rational numbers, variables, expressions, and simplification, equations, inequalities, and functions, evaluation and solution, and graphing. This course will emphasize memorization, drilling, and review – the tools which are developed in Algebra I are essential and should become second nature. The different elements of Algebra will be placed within the context of the history of mathematics by means of primary sources and secondary historical literature.
Life Science Mrs. Erika Mildred
Martin Luther said of science, "We are at the dawn of a new era, for we are beginning to recover the knowledge of the external world that was lost through the fall of Adam. We now observe creatures properly .... But by the grace of God we already recognize in the most delicate flower the wonders of divine goodness and omnipotence." Life Science is concerned with the study of living organisms. In this survey course designed for students in 7th or 8th grade, students will explore the life God created.
Art Foundations II Mr. Jonathan Mayer
This course is designed to lay a broad foundation for further study in the visual arts. It combines art theory and criticism, studio projects, and art history from the Renaissance to Post-Impressionism.
Are My Kids Ready for College?
How About: Are My Kids Ready
“That’s just academic. What about the real world?” If you are in middle school or above, you have surely heard that question. It assumes that there is an insuperable wall of separation between the academic and the practical, that never the twain can meet. There is the academic, which is completely irrelevant to everyday life. There is, on the other hand, that which is real. The real is completely divorced from the academic.
I wax poetic, but, in fact, this topic calls for a certain amount of vigor. It is sadly not entirely false when we say that academic work can prove impractical and that practical understanding is often far separated from anything we would learn in school.
In the past two decades, mostly spent on the teacher end of academia, I’ve probably worked with about 5,000 students, not to mention those I’ve known personally and professionally in my work as a parish and campus pastor. Here’s what I’ve noticed about teachers and parents. Most of us would really like students to “play the school game.”
What is this school game? Hockey? Golf? No, not at all. The school game we would like students to play is that of docile compliance disguised as eager curiosity. We want our students to seem really excited and interested. But we want them to be excited and interested about the subject we are teaching, in the direction we are teaching it, using the resources we are making them use.
To some extent, playing the school game effectively is a good thing. There’s some wisdom in using the methods and resources recommended by a master teacher. I observe that during 20 years of teaching Latin, the only students who did badly in my classes, in follow-up classes, and on nationally normed tests were the students who chose to focus their efforts on something other than the priorities I urged upon them. They needed remediation, while those who played along with me would fit into anyone else’s Latin classes also.
What kind of end goals do we find when someone plays the school game? We see some great results, like good grades, a strong class rank, and high SAT scores. We usually count it as a success when our students end up with good scholarships to prestigious academic institutions. We like to hear that they find themselves in positions of influence and respect as they continue through life. And we do hear about it. After all, those people who were 20 year old undergraduates in 2000 are now getting pretty close to 40 and are well established in their careers. It’s great to hear what they are up to!
These are all good things, but they aren’t always strong predictors of what we normally consider “real world success.” The person who plays the school game well might run into trouble on a more practical level. For example, I’ve seen suggestions of practical education on social media in the last few years. Maybe we should have school classes in cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, growing a garden, fixing a faucet, and changing a tire on a car.
There are a few problems with these suggestions. First of all, there are many teachers and students who will remind you that we still have courses in cooking, household management, horticulture, and mechanics. They are underenrolled and underfunded, but they do exist.
There’s a much deeper problem with the suggestion. That is related to the appropriate roles and responsibilities of our educational institutions. Is it the job of the school teacher to be sure you know how to get your clothes clean? How about Dad or Mom? Do you really need a school class to tell you how to change a tire? There’s no teacher like a flat tire and a rainstorm. That teacher can even persuade you that you want to keep your tires in good shape so as to avoid trouble in the future.
Some people would suggest a more radical change. “Ditch all that book learning. It just makes you stupid!” In other words, we might have a temptation to take an entirely pragmatic approach to education. Teach people skills. Teach them to work with their hands. Teach them by moving them into the work force and get them active with something useful.
A pragmatic view of education starts by asking what skills are needed. It then teaches those skills so the laborer can engage in productive effort to achieve a measurable goal. This seems almost like factory labor. In fact, advocates of these systems will talk about “productive units.” It’s been tried before. It will be tried again. And there’s some value to mastery of specific concrete skills. However, when this is done in a vacuum it has always produced obedient and servile revolutionaries incapable of weighing theoretical options or outcomes. Think of drone bees who will slavishly do what their elite masters tell them to do. But it’s actually much worse than that. These workers don’t only do what they are told, they also think what they are told.
Given time, this sort of pragmatic education always falls to pieces. Putting it poetically, Dr. Gene Edward Veith once said in my hearing, “The problem with pragmatic education is that it doesn’t work.”
What can we do instead? We want practical skills. We want intellectual power. How can this be done? We find a truly balanced education as we purposely apply knowledge to life situations.
This is harder than it seems. That’s probably why it is done so rarely. A well rounded education will give students a strong knowledge base. The class will know a lot of facts and figures, names, dates, and ideas. But those facts, figures, names, dates, and ideas are not the goal of education. The goal is to be able to use all the information in a meaningful way. The application may be to complete a circuit which powers the stove rather than giving the homeowner a jolt of electric current. We might find simpler or more complex applications of our knowledge - nutrition, physics, recognizing historical problems and solutions, finding what has moved people’s emotions in the past, recognizing whether a creature is a different species or a variant of the same species, and deciding whether or not it is a good idea to use two chemical substances together. We apply our knowledge of history to new political and cultural ideas. We apply our knowledge of logic to legal propositions. We take information and apply it.
Sometimes our work is very practical and concrete, such as the time my friend and I became tired of waiting for his moving crew to help load a piano, so we did it ourselves. The four guys who arrived later were speechless when we told them, “It’s just science.” All we did was account for a few variables and calculate how much leverage we needed. It worked out fine.
Sometimes our work is much less concrete. We may find ourselves asking or answering “what if” questions in theology or philosophy. However, we use the same procedures, procedures which build on what we learned in school.
These real world situations demand intelligent, well-reasoned planning and actions. If we are busy honing those skills in school we will be prepared for all sorts of challenges. That includes getting good grades, a fine class rank, great SAT scores, and even solving really difficult problems.
The fact is, it’s all academic. It’s also all practical. Just a matter of application. Are we ready for school? Maybe we’d better ask if we’re ready for life. Once we’re ready for life, real life, then school is not a problem.
Pastor Spotts is an ordained pastor in the American Association of Lutheran Churches. He has taught in elementary, secondary, and post-secondary settings since 1995. He currently serves on the faculty of Wittenberg Academy as well as the American Lutheran Theological Seminary. He holds a call as a missionary campus pastor to the colleges and university in Columbia, Missouri.
On the Road with Wittenberg Academy
Recent and upcoming travels
Gottesdienst Oktoberfest October 8-10, 2017
St. Paul's Lutheran Church
Minnesota South District LCMS Fall
Pastor's Conference October 9-10, 2017
Verizon Wireless Center
Hausvater Project Event: Marriage, Children, & Music:
A Reformation Symposium October 14, 2017
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Minnesota South District LCMS Educator's Conference October 19, 2017
Verizon Wireless Center
Rural & Small Town Mission November 9-11, 2017
Hilton Kansas City
Kansas City, MO
Are My Kids Ready for Life?
A point of confession
2017-2018 Academic Calendar
MICHAELMAS TERM: September 5, 2017 - November 22, 2017
CHRISTMAS TERM: November 27, 2017 - March 2, 2018
(Thanksgiving Break November 23-26, Christmas Break December 23 - January 7)
EASTER TERM: March 5, 2018 - May 25, 2018 (Easter Break March 29-April 2)
TRINITY TERM: June 4, 2018 - August 24, 2018 (No Class Independence Day, July 4)
"Paul writes to the Colossians that traditions have "an appearance of wisdom" (2:23). Indeed, they have. Good order is very fitting in the Church, and is for this reason necessary. Human reason, because it does not understand the righteousness of faith, naturally imagines that such works justify people because they reconcile God. "
~ Luther's Large Catechism- The Apology of the Augsburg Confession XV (VIII) 22-23
Philosophers have measured mountains,
Fathom'd the depths of seas, of states, and kings,
Walk'd with a staff to heaven, and traced fountains
But there are two vast, spacious things,
The which to measure it doth more behove:
Yet few there are that sound them; Sin and Love.
Who would know Sin, let him repair
Unto Mount Olivet; there shall he see
A man, so wrung with pains, that all his hair,
His skin, his garments, bloody be.
Sin is that Press and Vice, which forceth pain
To hunt his cruel food through every vein.
Who knows not Love, let him assay,
And taste that juice, which on the cross a pike
Did set again abroach; then let him say
If ever he did taste the like.
Love is that liquor sweet and most divine,
Which my God feels as blood; but I, as wine.
from Kloria Publishing
Wittenberg Academy's 2nd Annual Family Retreat
Wittenberg Academy held their 2nd Annual Family Retreat on April 27-29, 2017. Many good conversations were had and memories made. Our plenary speaker, Dr. Anthony Esolen, spoke on imagination and education, generating many thoughtful discussions. Many families were able to make connections with other homeschool families and exchange thoughts and ideas. We look forward to next year's retreat on April 26-28 with speaker Aaron Wolf. We hope you can join us!
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