Being elitist is a common critique of educational reform movements. We believe that in many ways the expectations for students have dropped to levels that are demeaning. Our society has created a culture of “the teenager” that has reduced these critical years of preparation into a long vacation/shopping trip. In addition we know that all children are called to live lives that bring glory to God, and it is our intent to set high standards for them in every area of their lives. Finally, “elitism” implies exclusion of some. Contemporary education is student-centered, which sets standards based on the student and as such relegates so many to “special ed” quagmires and thus excludes many from reaching their potential. We believe that an educational philosophy based on the truth of scripture and our created reality, rather than a humanistic vision, will result in much higher student achievement for all students, not just a select few. In light of the “lowest common denominator” inclination of student-centered contemporary education, those higher expectations and that higher achievement will no doubt be perceived as “elitist”.
ACA will be accredited by two organizations: the Association of Classical and Christian Schools and the New York State Association of Independent Schools. ACCS will provide our classical credentials, insuring that our methods are sound, our standards high, and our teachers well-trained from a classical perspective. NYSAIS offers us an alternative to the NYS Board of Regents. While colleges outside of NY play little attention to whether a high school degree is approved by the NY Regents, SUNY colleges certainly do. For students from New York, a NYSAIS diploma is the only alternative to a Regents diploma that is acceptable to SUNY colleges. Unlike the Regents, NYSAIS does not dictate philosophy or curriculum in return for accreditation.
Our confidence is in the following: We are not starting something new. We are simply returning to philosophies and methods that have been tested and perfected over many hundreds of years. A classical school might be a new idea to the Capital District today, but it is certainly not new or unique from a historical or national perspective. We are joining a very healthy community of schools, associations, and publishing houses that make up a movement that is over a quarter century old. We are committed to not re-inventing the wheel. Instead, we will follow in the footsteps (quite literally) of some very excellent schools nationwide. For more information on other existing classical schools or the larger movement to revive classical education, please see the links and the information found on our website.
The study of classical languages are certainly a distinctive of classical schools. ACA’s motivation for studying Latin is three-fold. First, it has been the language of the church (and science) for much of its history. We, as believers, should have at the very least a familiarity with Latin so as to better understand the roots of the church. For this same reason, we hope to one day offer studies in both Greek (the language of the New Testament) and Hebrew (the language of the Old Testament). Secondly, about 80% of English vocabulary is derived from Latin and Greek, with over 50% of that coming from Latin. God has chosen language (the Word) to reveal Himself to us, and Latin is a very powerful tool for gaining mastery of this means of God’s revelation. Lastly, language is more than just a pile of vocabulary words; it involves grammar and syntax. The study of Latin grammar greatly refines the student’s knowledge of grammar in general, which then carries over into English and the study of all other languages.
#1 – Yes, it is true that ACA does not follow a Regents curriculum and no, it is not a liability. Instead, it is one of our greatest assets. Proverbs establishes a pattern of learning that begins with knowledge (information), followed by understanding (logic and reasoning), and culminating with wisdom (just application of knowledge). This pattern hinges on two biblical presuppositions: that knowledge is grounded in truth and righteousness and that the entire learning process is in submission to God. The NYS Board of Regents does not adhere to either this pattern of learning or the presuppositions behind it. Rather, they adhere to radically different understandings of how people learn and what they should learn. ACA has chosen not to follow the Regents curriculum because we believe that a Biblically consistent curriculum and methodology that has stood the test of centuries and produced architecture, literature, music, science, and art that we still marvel at will yield a more excellent course of study and also a more God-honoring one.
#2 – A founding understanding at Augustine is that all education is discipleship. By this we mean that it is not possible to teach anyone anything without also communicating a worldview. The question isn’t is a teacher discipling? but instead how are they discipling? This understanding is rooted in our conviction that there is no truth apart from God, indeed that God is sovereign over things. The NYS Board of Regents promotes an alternate understanding. First it presents secularism as ideological neutrality, putting students in the precarious situation of being under an authority that refuses to recognize that it is preaching a worldview. In a philosophical battle the dragon guarding his lair is not nearly as dangerous a foe as the wolf in sheep’s clothing who lurks among you. Secondly, by teaching that there exists academic truth apart from God, say that 2 + 2 = 4 is true independent of God, they teach their students that God, if he exists is quite small, as much of reality can go on independent of Him. In effect, a secular education disciples Christian students into believing that there are two worlds: the real world that operates and exists independent of God, and then the spiritual realm that can comfort them on Sundays and Wednesday evenings. We believe that this dualistic perspective produced by secular education is at the core of the discipleship crisis that has resulted in the majority of students growing up in Christian homes graduate from their parent’s faith before their freshman year in college. Rather than try and redeem this flawed philosophy with a veneer of Christianity, we are committed to departing from it and returning to the philosophies and standards of an age when the church led the world in education. Just as we would never invite the Board of Regents to direct our Sunday Schools or our pastor’s sermon teaching, we would never see the Regents as a suitable partner in discipling our students. Jesus made this clear when he warned us not to render unto Caesar what is God’s.
Full-day kindergarten has certainly been embraced through much of our culture. It is seen as both a way to stem the tide of declining student performance and to better meet the needs of single parents and of families with two parents working out of the home. Unlike contemporary educational settings, classical schools have not seen the lowering of standards that has driven the move to full-day K. We don’t have the problem of an ailing system, so we don’t need the solution. Instead we hold to the historic belief that 5 year olds and families are best served by a half day of school. As a school, our first concern is what is best for the student. That said, we are sympathetic to the needs of single parents and dual income families and are prepared to coordinate after school care for Kindergarteners as needed. Please feel free to contact Ann Baker, our Head of Grammar School, to discuss your needs in this area.
This is a common question whose answer has a few parts. Our first answer is that we don’t feel that it is accurate to say that classical education puts a large emphasis on memorization. Any educational method worth the effort will lean on memorization as a learning tool. The distinction in a classical context is that we unashamedly embrace this valuable tool and use it as well as we can rather than ignore it or minimize it. We recently heard a parent from another school complain that their child’s teacher expected her to memorize her multiplication tables, yet no class time was dedicated to the task and no memorization skills were taught. Ultimately this parent had to undertake this worthy goal of teaching basic mathematical literacy on her own at home. Secondly, we would enthusiastically state the classical perspective that memorization is nothing to be ashamed of. Which of us would dismiss a pastor’s sermon or seminary preparation if we had caught a glimpse of him memorizing scripture? Who among us would dismiss a doctor because he had memorized the massive amounts of anatomy required of medical students? Memorization is a powerful learning tool that should be used wisely and effectively, not dismissed and forgotten. Finally,* we would point to the most creative minds of the last few centuries, the overwhelming majority of which were educated classically and who where able to produce the art, music, architecture, science and political leadership which we hold in such high esteem. Certainly being literate and having stored away a vast array of basic knowledge did not hinder the creativity of the likes of Bach, Edison, Einstein, Churchill, and DaVinci.
Without a doubt this is a less than ideal situation, but it is certainly worth pursuing. While we have rather limited practical experience with this at ACA, we have heard from many other established classical schools about bringing in students from the side, as this practice is often called. There is general consensus from these schools that with strong parental support and effective use of the summer prior to entering (a strong reading list, Latin classes, et cetera) a diligent student can assimilate well into a classical context. It is worth noting that classical methodologies have been founded on over 1500 years of honest study of human nature, in contrast to contemporary methodologies which are the deliberate effort to conform our students natures to a humanistic vision. As such, even though a classical context might be very different for the student coming in from the side, they will be swimming with the current of their created nature and not against it. At ACA we are committed to make such transitions as smooth as possible.
We graduated our first senior class in the Spring of 2012 and are pleased to report that from that first class to the current class of 2017, %95 of our graduates have been accepted to their first choice college.
The list of colleges that have accepted our students includes:
Baylor University, University of Binghamton, Boston University, Cornell University, Covenant College, Christendom College, University of Dallas, Gordon College, Hillsdale College, The Kings College, Liberty University, Messiah College, Princeton University, RPI, Embry-Riddle, and Smith College.
Our philosophy is that college admissions is about making a good match, not winning the biggest prize and we think that our parents would agree that our graduates have found very good fits.