Beyond Thinking: Bold and Gracious Speech

Editor’s note: This post is the fifth in a series on how we teach the Trivium at Morning Star Academy. The Trivium forms the structure of classical education. It includes three stages: Grammar (grades K-5), Logic (6-8) and Rhetoric (9-12).

Susan Hixenbaugh

Comparisons are my favorite thing. In my literature classes, one might hear students arguing the validity of the comparison between Achilles and King David, or Milton’s Satan and Anakin Skywalker. Mr. Baker’s modern history students compare contemporary leaders to the vision of the ideal prince laid out by Machiavelli. In Ms. Cox’s geometry class, students discuss how a mathematically themed science fiction novel parodies the culture of Victorian England. These comparisons do not simply spark vigorous discussion—they stick with the students. And like any good analogy, comparisons require them to think about what characteristics really matter. For that, they look to God’s Word as Truth.

In all classes, students are encouraged to exercise judgment and evaluation, comparing primary texts and artifacts to the Bible. Specifically, in comparative religion and apologetics classes, students analyze tenets of competing worldviews, comparing them to those of Christianity. Students bring their practical, theoretical, and theological tools from the logic school to the rhetoric school and employ them in the humanities, in the sciences, and—as we teachers and parents all hope—in their lives outside the classroom.

But the ability to think carefully is not our final goal. Students must learn to display this intellectually rigorous thinking with the God-given gift of language. At Morning Star Academy, students are taught that reason is a reflection of God’s character, and that if they are to reflect God’s character, reason should guide their voice and their actions. Students learn how to distinguish between good and bad reasoning and how to employ the former when proving their claims. For reason to be evident when they express their ideas, students need to learn to express their ideas clearly and concisely, with vigor and grace. This is one of the goals of the rhetoric course that students take in their freshman year, and they reach it through their student-led discussions, written compositions, and oral presentations.

Students build on the foundation of rhetoric class in their upper-level classes when they deliver speeches and present projects. For final exams in history and literature, students deliver a speech synthesizing a theme from each discipline into a single thesis statement and supporting it. By their senior year, students have practiced these skills in all of their classes—from ancient history to calculus—and they immerse themselves in an eight-month long endeavor of writing, delivering, and defending a senior thesis.

As they complete the final stage of their classical Christian journey, students understand that as creations of God, they are a reflection of His character. They must be bold. They must be reasoned. They must be gracious. They must embrace the responsibility to express His Truth in all they do.

Susan Hixenbaugh teaches logic, literature, and writing at Morning Star Academy. She relishes art, movies, and great books. She and her husband, Eric, have two daughters.

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