What is Truth?
“You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said,
“I find no basis for a charge against him.”-- John 18:37-38
Day after day, as I criss-cross campus, I am struck anew with the beauty that is classical education. It is a distinctly human education in that it respects the three stages of learning that all children pass through: grammar, dialectic/logic, and rhetoric. In the elementary building, filled with students in the “grammatical stage” I hear them recite poetry, sing songs, or practice multiplication facts. Children in this phase are naturally adept at memorizing, particularly through songs, chants, and rhymes, and these types of activities make the most of their academic strengths at this stage. For Latin scholars learning to conjugate verbs, the chant “amo, amas, amat…” will be very familiar. And I wonder how many of us can still sing or recite the Preamble to the Constitution because of the Schoolhouse Rock videos of our youth?
In the second stage of the trivium, the dialectic or logic stage (typically grades 7-9) teenagers are naturally more argumentative and begin to question authority and facts. Sound familiar? They begin to want to know the logic or reasoning behind what they are being taught. It is good for us, teachers and parents alike, to remember that through their arguing and questioning, they eventually learn sound reasoning, logic, and how to argue with eloquence. Currently, Ms. Rodriguez and Mr. Tremblay are teaching logical fallacies in guild and Humanities Seminar. Don’t be surprised if your students begin to correct the flaws in your arguments!
The dialectic stage naturally flows into the third stage of the trivium: the rhetoric stage. At this stage (grades 10-12) students have developed a more mature approach to communication and are independent thinkers. They practice rhetoric,which is the art of persuasive speaking and writing. Their argumentative tendencies have diminished and are being replaced with logical reasoning.
The essays that I have read by students in this stage reflect this growth.
One aspect of classical education that sets it apart is that its purpose is to teach a child “how” to think, not “what” to think. Students are introduced to original sources and some of the greatest thinkers of ancient and modern times. They are asked to think critically and deeply to discover the truth and wisdom embedded in the text.
In our modern world, where truth is presented as subjective, ie., you have “your” truth and I have “my” truth, being able to discern properly is more essential than ever. We are bombarded with propaganda, opinions expressed as fact, distortions, and outright falsehood from social media, news broadcasts, political ads, and the culture at large. It is our job, and our privilege, as a Catholic classical school to inform, instruct, and train these young minds to appreciate and recognize the truth.
However, Truth is more, and this is where being a classical school is not enough. When things get really confusing, when the “logic” of the world is too loud, how do we discern correctly? Having a well developed intellect is a great benefit in this circumstance, but it is not enough. When the powers of our intellect are subject to the truths that God has set before us, only then can we be assured that we “will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path;” Proverbs 2:20
This is the gift of Mount Royal Academy. The beauty of a thoughtful, rigorous classical education, coupled with an authentic, dynamic Catholic faith. While our students recite poetry, sing songs, chant multiplication facts, read scripture, write essays, and engage in class discussions, they are being enriched with the wisdom of the ages, indisputable knowledge, and eternal Truths. We are educating them, ultimately, to one day be citizens of Heaven.
Jesus told us, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” -- John 14:6.
Our search for Truth leads us to Him who is Truth itself. He, in turn, leads us to the Father. It is a privilege to be part of this journey with our students.
-Mrs. Lisa Sweet, Academic Dean