Saint Michael nurtures the mind, body, and soul of each student...
Saint Michael Catholic school, in collaboration with our parish and parents, makes it our mission to educate children in Truth. Utilizing our great Catholic Tradition of the liberal arts, we guide students in their pursuit of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. Recognizing that each student is a beloved child of God, we respect the freedom of every student and instill a spirit of Love in all we do.
"TRUTH, BEAUTY, AND GOODNESS WILL HOLD THE ATTENTION OF THE SOUL."
- CHRISTOPHER PERRIN
"EDUCATION IS NOT A SUBJECT, AND IT DOES NOT DEAL IN SUBJECTS. IT IS INSTEAD THE TRANSFER OF A WAY OF LIFE."
- G.K. CHESTERTON
Classical Education Transition
The 2021 school year saw the unveiling of the Saint Michael strategic plan: a roadmap that charts the school's transition towards a fully classical model of education — all in service of the school’s core values: Truth, Beauty, and Goodness.
We are one of a handful of Roman Catholic schools in the country to have a classical curriculum. “Classical” education aims to include instruction on the virtues and a love of Truth, Goodness and Beauty in ordinary lesson plans.
What is Classical Education?
Classical Christian Education (CCE) is a traditional approach to education rooted in western civilization and culture, employing the historic curriculum and pedagogy of the seven liberal arts in order to cultivate men and women characterized by wisdom, virtue, and eloquence. Saint Michael believes that education is formation, and affords a chance to build a stronger community and stronger families.
The Seven Liberal Arts
Considering the liberal arts are possibly the most influential element in classical education, understanding what they are is paramount. Classically understood, the liberal arts are skills that a person needs to direct themselves and lead others well. Once, the term “art” simply meant that skill which produced something new. On one hand, a person can build a rocking chair by imitating or copying someone else, but mere imitation is not art. On the other hand, if a person had read many books about building rocking chairs but did not build them themself, their knowledge would be considered “science” rather than art. “Science” in this sense comes from the Latin word scientia meaning knowledge. Rather, an art is a skill. Someone may learn a skill through imitation and knowledge, but in order to really have a skill a person needs to add their own mind to the equation. An art, or skill, requires a mind that can think and reason.
So what is a liberal art, then? The liberal arts tower above the other arts because they produce the works of reason which are needed for every art. While fine arts produce beautiful music and art, and mechanical arts produce solid rocking chairs and car engines, liberal arts train the mind to think. They train the human mind in logic, language, mathematics. In doing so, they strengthen one’s mind, which benefits the other arts and gives one the tools of learning needed to find knowledge (i.e. science). They are called “liberal,” because they make for free-thinking people, people who don’t need others to direct them but can direct themselves, people who can lead others.
During the middle ages writers like Aquinas organized the liberal arts, identifying seven subjects under two categories: the trivium and the quadrivium. The subjects of the trivium and quadrivium existed as areas of study in the ancient world and were codified as such in the early medieval era, but it was not until the middle ages that writers like Cassiodorus combined them under the heading of liberal arts.
"These seven [the ancients] considered so to excel all the rest in usefulness that anyone who had been thoroughly schooled in them might afterward come to a knowledge of the others by his own inquiry and effort rather than by listening to a teacher."
Didascalicon of Hugh of Saint Victor
Early 12th century
The three core stages of Classical Education, also known as the three arts of language, are called the Trivium: Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. The three core stages in the trivium are, first, courses of study. Classical schools make an effort to teach these three subjects because they train reasoning and language skills.
The trivium are the liberal arts that involve language. And we must not forget that, according to ancient and medieval understanding, the ability to use language goes hand in hand with the ability to reason and think; his ability to reason and speak sets man apart from animals. The curriculum of the trivium are grammar, logic, and rhetoric, and classical schools implement these three in a variety of ways.
Many classical schools organize grade levels into grammar school, logic school, and rhetoric school. This comes from Dorothy Sayers’ astute observation that these three subjects are especially well suited to the developmental stages of a child. Young children enjoy memorizing facts and rules (grammar), older students become argumentative and want to know why things are the way they are (logic), and the oldest students begin to be capable of expressing themselves in meaningful ways (rhetoric). Although these developmental stages may be useful, they are not exclusive. At Saint Michael, we employ the Grammar Stage from ages PK 3 to Third Year, with Fourth Year through Sixth Year studying the Logic Stage, and 7th and 8th Year studying the Rhetoric Stage. Many of our classical educators also apply the principles of grammar, logic, and rhetoric to other subjects. For instance, the grammar of history might be facts and information, the logic might be making historical arguments and conclusions, and the rhetoric might be presenting or writing about a topic. Most teachers look to teach grammar, logic, and rhetoric in every subject.
The Grammar Stage is defined by knowledge, accumulating facts, and learning through repetition, and is taught in years PK3-3. Grammar involves learning the fundamentals of a language and how to use it properly. In the middle ages and early modern era, this language was Latin, which, because it was simple to learn, was the universal language of communication and scholarship in the West well into the modern era. This is why Saint Michael will be introducing Latin studies into our foreign language options starting in the 2022-2023 school year.
The Logic Stage is defined by understanding, critical reasoning, debate, argument, and discussion, and is taught in years 4-6. Logic (dialectic) trains a person in good reasoning so they properly understand questions and make good arguments; the study of logic is built on formal logic which allows a person to follow the logic of an argument. This is why many classical schools embrace Socratic discussion.
The Rhetoric Stage is defined by wisdom, self expression, and the ability to independently interrogate knowledge, and is taught in the 7th and 8th year in preparation for high school.
Rhetoric teaches a student to winsomely and persuasively convey their ideas to others whether that be in writing or in speech.
The Quadrivium, the noble fourfold way of understanding the universe.
The quadrivium involves mathematics - reasoning with numbers and quantities. The four subjects that the medievals categorized under mathematics were: arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. The first, arithmetic, is concerned with the infinite linear array of numbers. Moving beyond the line to higher-dimensional spaces is geometry. The third discipline is music or harmony, which is, fundamentally, an application of the pure science of numbers evolving in time. Fourth comes astronomy, the application of geometry to the world of space.
Today, arithmetic and geometry are considered mathematical, although astronomy and music might seem out of place. The classical art of arithmetic dealt less in rote computation than in finding number patterns and number theory. Geometry, too, was less about plugging in the proper equation than about understanding magnitudes and doing proofs to understand and deduce equations for oneself. The ancients and medievals considered astronomy a subject of the same sort, because it involved meticulous observation and calculation to predict the movements of the stars. Music as math may sound foreign to us today, but the Greeks believed music was what numbers did in space and time because harmony, the key to music, deals in proportions.
Today, we tend to think of math primarily as a practical tool, but early Greek mathematicians like Pythagoras thought more highly of mathematics, believing it offered theoretical keys to understanding the world. Because the medievals and ancients thought of mathematics abstractly and theoretically, they learned it by figuring out for themselves how equations worked. The quadrivium was considered a liberal art because it was an exercise in logic, reasoning, and thinking, rather than in rote imitation.
″The study of arithmetic is endowed with much praise, since the Lord, maker of things, arranged the universe by number, weight and measure…. Although we can call all teaching theoretical, [the word ‘theoretical’] applies particularly to mathematics because of its excellence."
Cassiodorus, Institutes of Divine and Secular Learning, Book II