Of Course We Are a Prep School

This is from Sean Higgins’ contribution to our recent Information Night.  Enjoy. 

A frequent knock against classical Christian schools is that they grow up into prep schools. These critics usually refer to a “prep school” as one that belabors study and grades and competition and success. A prep school defines success as high scores on standardized tests and graduates who are accepted at esteemed universities. The margin for error on these campuses is thin, just like their sense of humor.

I understand that “prep school” is a thing. But when the final bell rings, every student in every school has been prepared to do something. The question is, prepped for what? When it comes to Evangel Classical Schoolof course we are a prep school. We are preparing our students to worship.

We love Jesus Christ. We love Him as Lord and we love that He is Lord. His Lordship touches everything that He made and, “without Him was not anything made that was made.” In other words, nothing is not His. He controls it all, He cares about it all, and He commanded men to manage the world under His sovereignty. His wholesale Lordship is good for us since it means that everything on earth is on the table for us to examine and use and enjoy. Where do we begin as a school?

We begin with worship. We start by submitting to His Lordship. We don’t teach and test so that future graduates can take God’s place. We educate in confidence that God is in His place. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 1:8). Education built on any other than ground than glad obedience to Jesus, whether through ignorant neglect or willful denial of His Lordship, will crumble. ECS will only be as strong as we start by depending on Christ.

Then the doors to every classroom in creation open for our study. Whether we use a telescope or a microscope, all that we see serves Him. Every verse in every book of the Bible, every sound of every letter in the alphabet, every rise and fall of every nation, every meter of every Latin poem, it all belongs to Him.

Because truth depends on Christ, we can depend on truth. Because we can depend on truth, we can spread that truth to students even when they can’t yet explain how it all works. In fact, our youngest students love gathering truth-nuggets, or what is called the “grammar” of every subject. They sing events and chant facts for fun, all the while soaking up the basics in multiple subjects. This is the first stage, also known as the Grammar stage, where we stuff their brains with knowledge.

As the students mature they start to ask more questions about why things are the way they are and how such diversity survives, even thrives, within the universe. Around junior high, when the questions (and arguments) flow freely, we work through principles of logic and practice debating with the goal of discerning what is true and fitting. This second stage, referred to as the Logic or Dialectic stage, is where we train them to better understand the world.

Then, armed with an arsenal of truth and senses trained to taste what is good, the third stage involves developing the ability to put it all into practice, especially in written and spoken forms. This is called the Rhetoric stage when wisdom takes shape and puts on nice clothes before going out.

The whole process teaches students about learning and, even after thirteen years, we will only have exposed them to the tip of Christ’s created iceberg. Whether we are counting quarters or defending capitalism, practicing cursive or mocking Greek mythology, reading about the Caesars or obeying Jesus’ command to pay Caesar his money, all of it is part of education.

This is why we do what we do at ECS. Every school is a prep school. We are a prep school, but not primarily prep for college. We are a prep school for worship. We are worshiping Christ, growing up in Christ, and learning to sing about and steward all that He’s given us.

For more on the Trivium as part of classical education, read Dorthy Sayers seminal lecture, “The Lost Tools of Learning.”

And here is a longer version of our Vision of Education, or, how we want it to work at ECS.