Principal Art Broadwick has high hopes for his students at Robinson Township Christian School in Robinson.
"I would like to think that, in the end, they are going to be lifelong thinkers and learners," he said. "They are going to learn how to connect the dots in life."
To help achieve this goal, the board of directors of the school voted in November to adopt the classical methodology of education.
Classical education is based on a three-part process of training the mind that is called the trivium. During the Grammar Stage (grades K-5), emphasis is placed on learning facts and rules, such as the rules of grammar, phonics, math and spelling as well as historical and scientific facts. Students are introduced also to the study of Latin.
The Logic Stage (grades 6-8) is the "why" stage of a child's development. At this stage, Mr. Broadwick said, a child is more interested in how the facts learned in the grammar stage fit together logically. The study of logic is introduced, as well as algebra and geometry, and students begin to apply logic to all academic studies.
"Kids want to be more argumentative then," Mr. Broadwick said. "They want to challenge the norm and understand the 'why' involved in the subject matter. What we do is we take advantage of that."
The Rhetoric Stage (grades 9-12) builds on the foundation of the other two stages, he said. During this stage, students will organize grammar facts in a logical manner and present their conclusions in a way that is clear, convincing and elegantly written or spoken. They also will begin to specialize in a particular area of study and, at the conclusion of their education, will be required to present and defend, in written and oral forms, a senior thesis.
"We hope that our students can build on the foundations of the other stages, but they'll be able to organize all those grammar facts that they've learned and organize them in a manner that is logical and present things in an interesting and convincing way," Mr. Broadwick said. "It's not just enough to be technically sound in your arguments, we'd like you to be interesting in your arguments, too."
The Robinson school will phase in the classical model over the next two to three years, Mr. Broadwick said.
Mr. Broadwick came to the school in June 2010 after serving as a business manager and athletic director for Redeemer Classical Christian School in Kingsville, Md. It was there that he said he first learned of the classical methodology of education.
Although he fully embraces this method of teaching, he said he came to the Robinson school with the idea that he would not push a classical agenda on the students. However, he said, he noticed that a number of parents in the Beaver County area were using classical models in their children's home-school education and were looking to enroll them in private schools that modeled the methodology. But they didn't have an option on the west side of the city, he said.
"That's part of why we're doing it -- not because we're trying to have necessarily a marketing niche, just because I think there may be people who would like to have this as an option," he said. "Hopefully, we can fill a little void that may exist."
To date, the response has been positive, Mr. Broadwick said, and the reaction of parents has been one of excitement with some saying that they wish the teaching method had been adopted earlier.
Mr. Broadwick said he expects the transition to the classical model to be a smooth one.
"Much of the curriculum won't even change, just how we test with it or how we'll supplement it with what we feel to be a classical approach," he said.
In the grammar school, he said, very little will change since the methodology is already close to being classical. Latin will now be offered to students through sixth grade. Logic, which was once an elective, will now be a required middle school course.
In the upper grades, Mr. Broadwick said, students can expect to be tested differently. An essay-based approach will be taken as opposed to objective, which will give students an opportunity to think through the things they have learned.
"We want our students to get outside that box of being told how to think, and even if they're challenging something that we believe is absolute truth, let's have that discussion," he said. "Let's think it through and let's discuss the facts."
For more information: www.rtcsonline.org.
Shannon Nass, freelance writer: email@example.com