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What is Classical Education?

Saint Justin Academy is an Orthodox Christian education community in the Classical tradition... but what does that mean?

 

A Classical Education gathers up the best of the language, literature, ideas, culture, and art shared between the Greco-Roman and the Judeo-Christian traditions. In immersing students in the exploration of these two mighty traditions, classical education takes them on a journey through history.  Just as an individual’s personal identity is contingent on his memory, so too cultural identity is contingent on thorough historical knowledge. 

Such an exploration is not easy, and demands a mastery of skills known throughout many centuries as the Liberal Arts (from the Latin liber, free). Skills-development such as grammar, logic, and arithmetic are not seen as goals in their own right but as prerequisites for mastering the classical canon and exploring the ideals of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty that underlie its seminal works. The ultimate product of a Classical Education is a wise, young person who can distinguish the Beautiful things from the Ugly, the True from the False, and the Good from the Wicked.

 

Laden with this capacity, the student steps into the future not simply to adapt to its anticipated demands, but to shape and determine them.

What is Orthodox Education?

Our cultural and historic journey at St. Justin’s takes a uniquely Eastward posture compared to many other Classical schools in the United States.  A guiding question through a student’s time at St. Justin’s will be, “What does it mean to be an Orthodox Christian living in the West?” To this end, both Eastern and Western texts will act as our guides. Among the various texts on our shelves, we find St. Bede, Dante, and Shakespeare alongside St. Basil, St. Evagrius, and St. Siluan.

 

Like any Classical School, we are confident in the canon of Greco-Roman literature in its ability to assist us in our journey toward Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. We believe in the importance of understanding the works of Plato in order that we further understand the works of Paul. We believe in the stories of Greek Heroes and their ability to ennoble our hearts. We believe in the captivating power of studying Euclid’s Geometric proofs. Each of these things, being a part of our deep cultural history, stirs up wonder in us and compels us to do all that in our power to learn, and thereby, become more wholly human. 

As the students will quickly recognize, the cultural bounty of the Orthodox East will not only be present in their readings, but also in their classrooms and structure of their school days. Each room is laden with icons set at the student’s eye-level, ready for daily veneration. Each school day has set apart times for prayers of the hours, the Jesus prayer, and scriptural readings. It is precisely the lived experience of the Orthodox Church that we believe to be the beginning and the end of a Classical Orthodox Education. Simply put, our studies will begin with prayer and will be for the purpose of being able to pray better.