Thanks to everyone who joined us on Friday for our first Elementary Recitation of the year. Students enjoyed presenting snippets of what they are memorizing and learning, and everyone did a nice job of being on stage. If you missed it, we’ve posted clips of each presentation on our Vimeo channel to watch and share. Don’t forget to join us for our first Secondary Recitation on Thursday, October 25, from 11:45-12:15 p.m. Pack a lunch and eat with students after!
The following four-minute video debuted at Parent Orientation, with the text taken from Mr. Dunham’s “One-of-a-Kind and of One Mind” address to parents.
There isn’t one parent here who doesn’t want the fruits of classical Christian education listed in the video for your child:
We are of one mind here, which is why we are here. As Petra parents:
– we’re finished with academic education that doesn’t contribute to a student’s physical, emotional, and spiritual experience;
– we’re done with curriculum that does not teach the biblical story of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation, tying all subjects together and giving them meaning;
-we’re through fighting trial-and-error educational progressivism, test-driven curricula, and no particular moral end in mind.
Instead, we’re of one mind in pursuing this one-of-a-kind classical Christian education as our desired means to the best of ends for our kids. We intend for them to engage with the best books, impassioned teachers, and most beautiful school culture possible.
Prior to the school year’s start, our staff invested good and profitable time learning and preparing to cultivate in our students four key faculties of flourishing, as presented by Academic Dean Sam Koenen:
1) Attentiveness. We become what we behold because we are worshiping beings. 2 Corinthians 3:18 describes this reality: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” We want to call our kids to study with rigor, defined as “being able to pay close and extended attention to that which is studied.”
2) Memory. The ability of students to access what they have learned in the past so they know how to live in the present is crucial to their success. Memory has always been an essential attribute of God’s people (consider the theme of Deuteronomy: “remember, remember, remember”), and is therefore an important element of our curriculum and pedagogy.
3) Imitation. We are made in the image of God and are called to act as he does – in imitation of the truth, goodness, and beauty of his word and his work in the world. How do students learn this at school? Through our teachers, who do not just handle our curriculum; they are our curriculum.
4) Harmony. Helping students recognize and resolve discord in their character is important for helping them do the same in resolving discord in the world. To learn to love and live at peace with God, man, and themselves is how human flourishing happens.
Ours is a one-of-a-kind education, and we want to be of one mind concerning it. We invite you to get informed, to stay involved, and to pray for our little school as we seek to instill these four characteristics in your students – not only for themselves, but for the flourishing of humanity and the renown of Jesus the Christ.
Memory and memorization get a bad rap these days. We are told that, in the era of Google, there is no need to memorize anything anymore. After all, the argument goes, why take up personal hard drive space when everything we need to know is somewhere in the Cloud?
It’s an attractive idea, I suppose, as it appeals to our preoccupation with convenience, but such catalogued memory does us few favors when the Internet’s down.
Memory is not merely for the sake of nostalgia—“that memory-substitute that remembers only backward, and selectively,” writes James K.A. Smith in his Comment Magazine editorial, “Memory, Forgetting, and Hope.” He continues:
Nostalgia is the selective memory of traditionalism. Instead of drawing on the past like a well to nourish our imagination going forward, nostalgia mourns a mythical ‘golden age’ while conveniently forgetting the injustices in that history. Nostalgia invokes ‘the tradition’ as a white knight while deflecting your attention from the serfs crushed underfoot. Nostalgia ends up being its own form of forgetting.
Our Petra Recitations are a monthly opportunity for students to recite on our stage a little of what they are learning in our classrooms. The purpose of all the memory work leading up to these recitations is not to demonstrate how amazing our students’ little hard drives are (though they are), nor is it to gather together and warm ourselves by the nostalgic flames of psalms and poetry from better days gone by. Rather, we learn and memorize and recite because, as Smith continues,
In our age, bent on ‘progress,’ remembering is a revolutionary act…We’re convinced that there are all sorts of buried treasures in our tradition that can be mined for contemporary challenges. Nourishing intellectual water lies in the deep wells of Christian heritage—and yet, all too often, we don’t realize we’re dying of thirst even while slurping up any ‘new’ thing. There are bottles of joy and wisdom and imagination in the Christian cellar that prior generations have abandoned.
The psalmist writes in Psalm 71:17-18,
O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come.
We have nothing to proclaim without the memory of that which we have been taught. At Petra, ours is an invitation (once again, a la Smith), “to take, eat, remember, believe: this is the rite of a stretched people who know how to hope because they know how to remember.”
This is why we gather for our elementary recitation each month, and why we are planning our first-ever secondary recitation later this week. Perhaps one day, we will have a parental recitation (though I fear most of us have given up on the idea and purpose of memory, reducing it to little more than the process of holding a phone number in our heads before transferring it to our phones).
The degree to which words and ideas have a hold on us has much to do with the degree to which we have a hold on them. As our children learn everything from the Scriptures to “The Skin Song,” may they also learn by way of recitation that there is power in memory – not just to remember the past, but to remember the past for the sake of the present and the future.