As any parent or teacher of a Junior High student knows, this particular age is unique and filled with joys as well as challenges. So what does it look like at Evangelical Christian Academy (ECA) to educate, equip and empower students of Junior High age to pursue their purpose in Christ? In the world of Classical Education, this age and stage is called the Logic-level or dialectic-stage and is defined as learning to reason and understand the truth. Therefore students of this age transition from the grammar level of elementary school and start to work with information in new and different ways. The word dialectic is defined as “the art of investigating or discussing the truth of opinions”, and so the Junior High classroom is a place of ideas, of investigation, of discussion, of asking and answering good questions, and of exploring God’s world and working to find what unites the facts and leads to an understanding of the truth.
What then makes the ECA Junior High classroom so strong when it comes to helping students grow in their understanding of the truth? Students of this age naturally ask questions, and so one of the hallmarks of education at this level is asking questions such as “how” and “why”.In each of their classes and throughout the curriculum, students take facts and find the relationships between them. When they look at history or literature, they analyze the texts and critique the author’s purpose and themes. They ask, “Why were the wars of history fought?”, or “Why did the men and women of the Bible act the way they did?” or “Should this character have acted as he did in this situation?” Additionally students look for these connections by comparing and contrasting, examining cause and effect, reading classic texts, and having large and small group discussions around questions and ideas that challenge them to think deeply and that lead to a fuller understanding of the truth. They create flow charts, diagrams, timelines, and science experiments using the scientific method that continue to help them see relationships and develop their dialectic skills. All of these things are designed to encourage this level of learner to grow educationally and spiritually by capitalizing on how this age learns best.
Furthermore, students of this age also desire to argue or debate and discuss the truth of opinions, so we teach students to argue effectively and with wisdom, by including the study of logic. We teach them to avoid common fallacies, such as personal attacks, and instead to argue persuasively by using sound evidence to support their position. Students take their informal and formal logic skills and apply them to constructing and analyzing arguments in the writing of essays, the art of debate, the reading of literature, the investigation of history, and the study of math and science. As they grow in their discussion and debate skills, we teach them to listen to each other and to consider one another’s ideas, to speak kindly, clearly and persuasively, and to lead discussion thoughtfully; we teach them to defend their positions, but be willing to change their views when presented with proof from the text or evidence that they had not considered in their initial argument; we teach them to examine motives, themes, actions, and events in light of the truth of God’s word and the universal nature of human beings, and we teach them to think critically and not be afraid to disagree while maintaining respect for the person. Since each student is made in God’s image, we believe they are capable of thinking and engaging with material in deep and meaningful ways that lead not only to a greater understanding of truth, but also the pursuit of how to recognize and convincingly handle opposition to the truth.
Above all, we teach them that truth, God’s truth, is real and knowable, and that He is worthy of praise and glory because, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:15-17). We work to develop in our students a Biblical worldview that is consistent with God’s revealed truth and to take each subject and help our students learn to love God and others more, as well as redeem His creation and bring about restoration in this broken world. We do this by believing that, though our students are finite and fallible, they are also created to know the truth, to engage with the truth, and to be changed by the truth, into worshippers that respond to the Lord in spirit and in truth. I believe this is what the Junior High teachers at ECA are uniquely engaged in doing on a daily basis in their Christian, Classical, logic-level classrooms–helping students grow in wisdom and understanding of the truth by using tools that specifically engage, challenge and educate our Junior High students to pursue their purpose in Christ.