This is the final installment of our three-part series looking into our mission and what it means to cultivate loving, serving, thinking students. You can read part 1 (Loving) here and part 2 (Serving) here.
"Children must be taught how to think, not what to think."
This famous quote from renowned 20th century anthropologist Margaret Mead speaks to something truly crucial.
When your child finishes high school and sets out on their own - whether they're heading to college or in a career - they will be inundated with an array of ideas that you have not planted. Whether these ideas take root and grow in their minds and lives - for better or for worse - largely depends on your child's ability to think critically and clearly about them.
Social media. College professors. Coworkers. Peers. Political activists. Elected officials. Influencers. These will all be competing for your child's attention, affection, and affiliation.
One Veritas parent, who has a son graduating this year and a daughter still in high school, explains why this was important to their family:
"In today’s culture of polarized public opinions and varied news reporting, we value that Veritas Academy’s curriculum is designed to develop our children’s critical thinking skills. It is one of the key reasons we send our children to Veritas. We desire an education that helps our children challenge faulty arguments and discern what is true so they can stand strong in what they believe in the face of an increasingly hostile environment to the gospel."
Keep in mind that children are not ready to truly "think well" in kindergarten, third, or in many cases even fifth grade. They must first have a grasp on the facts. They must understand well the "grammar" (that is, the essential knowledge) of the things about which they will think.
That's why the Classical model equips students in Grammar school with the ability to love learning and understand the facts about their subjects, before graduating them into the Logic stage of 7th-9th grade, where they begin to take that knowledge and learn how to apply critical thinking skills to it.
Want to know more about how Veritas Academy prepares students who "think well," as the final step in our "loving, serving, thinking" mission? Read on!
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. - Romans 12:2
A Veritas graduate pursues thoughtful, critical, Biblical engagement of ideas and culture.
Thanks to extensive instruction and practice in applying logic and critical thinking skills to everyday conversations and big-picture ideas, Classically-educated graduates are uniquely prepared to bring a strong, valid voice of reason to the world around them.
They understand common fallacies, can spot faulty arguments, and have trained their minds to look deeply into the truth of statements and ideas. But even before this, a foundational concept that students are repeatedly taught is the importance of listening well (in Logic I, their first formal logic course, 7th graders learn the concepts and practices of good listening at the beginning of the year). Veritas students understand that the first step toward any constructive conversation is listening to the other person with respect, seeking to thoroughly understand their perspective.
Because they have learned how to reconcile each subject to God's word, knowing scripture well and understanding how to apply the Bible as a litmus test, their cultural engagement shows itself as a thoughtful and Biblical response to a chaotic, polarized, postmodern society.
One Veritas Alum, Matt Sailer, currently a meteorology and oceanography officer in the U.S. Navy, recently mused that "I realized going through college, and even more so after graduating, that Veritas' curriculum was invaluable to my success in college. Building an early foundation with logic, rhetoric, omnibus, and junior/senior thesis classes ingrained in me the essential art of reasoning which seems to be rare in today's world."
A Veritas graduate is a compelling, winsome, effective communicator, in both the spoken and written word.
What good is having solid, critical thinking skills if you cannot adequately express the reasoning and truth behind your thoughts? That is where a Veritas graduate's Rhetoric training comes into play.
These students have not only learned the theoretical and technical steps in how to speak persuasively, but they practice these concepts regularly in every class. They are evaluated on their ability to express themselves and their ideas with clarity and poise, and trained constantly in how to improve these vital communication skills.
These first two competencies - the ability to think critically and communication winsomely - themselves comprise some of the most important skills any graduate must have to be successful in any career, any relationship, or any endeavor. This is one way that we prepare Veritas graduates to thrive in whatever calling Christ has placed on their lives.
A Veritas graduate cultivates broad interests and passions as a widely read, lifelong learner.
Thanks to our Great Books and liberal arts tradition, Veritas students are exposed to a range of disciplines. The curriculum itself requires students to be voracious readers (a Veritas student will read approximately 175 books, most of them literary masterpieces and some of the world's most influential, provocative works). Through their deep, dynamic discussions, students come to appreciate the depth of understanding that can be revealed through literature of all kinds, and because they are accustomed to ready profusely, they tend to carry that desire to read through the rest of their lives. (Again, the proof of this can be found in the aforementioned results of Cardus and Notre Dame study).
When Veritas alumna Annie Hoover considered what it was about Veritas that made her time there so exceptional, she came to this conclusion: "Veritas is extraordinary in the way that they taught us to find JOY in learning! Education is a gift and the teachers and fellow students at Veritas are who made me realize that learning is not only crucial to life, but it can be so enjoyable and FUN! I wrote longer papers than I ever thought I would, gave numerous speeches about a myriad of topics, wrote poems, dissected animals and solved math problems, all in the wonderment of joy.
"Much of that learning has stuck with me. I still remember specific classrooms and discussions; hashing out the meaning behind Plato's Republic, or pushing aside chairs to create space to act out Shakespeare's MacBeth. No two days were the same, and because of the variety and the immense amount of time and ground we covered, I truly felt like I had a holistic picture of history and humanity's timeline that also coincided with the redemptive narrative.
"Another surprising blessing was arriving to college only to realize I was more than prepared. I actually wondered if this was all there was to college, as it felt like the first semester or two were almost, dare I say, "easy." However, I think it's more likely that I had learned through Veritas how to truly study and learn and that I was equipped for life after high school because of it."
A Veritas graduate is adroit at handling data and solving problems.
This liberal arts education by no means considers math and science disciples as afterthoughts. On the contrary, Veritas students' math and science progression takes them through some of the most advanced concepts. Many of our graduates finish Calculus II, with all of its mind-bending equations. Because of the meticulous, proven Classical method, Veritas students not only enter secondary school (7th grade) ready to master Algebra, but they generally finish their high school careers completing and understanding more advanced math than their peers across the state and country.
Additionally, students are exposed to the core and advanced sciences, with the opportunity to take Advanced Chemistry, Anatomy and Physiology, Physics, and Scientific Research and Design (requiring students to present a hypothesis and create a year-long, scientifically accurate research experiment that is entered into the North Museum's Science and Engineering Fair). Our new Robotics program allows students to build and develop machines and apply coding knowledge.
Hand in hand with the critical thinking skills, Veritas graduates are exceptionally capable at solving problems presented to them. This is evident not only in the advanced math and science courses they complete during their high school education, but simply in their competency to apply logic and critical thinking to real-world data, numbers, theories and more.
A Veritas graduate possesses a deep and thoughtful appreciation of music and the fine arts.
A Classical Christian Education holds the fine arts in high esteem. Rather than make cuts to these programs to make more room for what many education systems have deemed "more important" subjects, we make intentional space in our school for the fine arts to flourish. In fact, students must take a minimum number of fine arts credits in order to graduate.
We believe that part of our calling as disciples of Christ is to awaken and develop our creativity and to appreciate that beauty and goodness in others. Whether through music, visual arts, or creative writing, we work to cultivate that appreciation in each student to help them grow in their gifts and creativity.
"It’s part of developing us into a full image-bearer," Elisa Chodan, Head of the Veritas Music Department, says of music disciplines in a past blog post. "God created us with these capacities. He, by nature, is creative. He was the first Creator, and it’s part of His mandate that we also be creative. We're called to make disciples, which means helping people to be more like Christ."
Veritas cultivates graduates who are well-rounded, well-read, well-spoken, and well-prepared for the unique calling that Christ has placed upon their lives. The skills and the desires that are formed in them during these school years will help carry them forward to go and make disciples, to be diligent and effective in the work of their hands, and to love God and their neighbors well.
As the Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 4, we want to cultivate "thinking" students so that they "will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, [they] will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ."
And that is a commitment we make to the parents and students of our school. It's a good feeling to have, when your child receives that diploma, knowing they are equipped as loving, serving, thinking individuals ready for what's ahead.
Come visit us (virtually, for now)! If this sounds like something that you desire for your child - to be a loving, serving, thinking graduate who is well-thought, well-spoken and prepared to engage the world from a Biblical foundation, then we welcome you to learn more about Veritas and get to know us yourselves!