I spend my days with young people who are thoughtful, engaged, and funny. And, because I teach 12th grade students at a classical Christian school, my students also possess extraordinarily well-trained minds. They are the product of a different educational system than I was, and I never cease to be impressed with them, as individuals and as a group.
Many of our seniors have been at our school for 6, 8, or 10+ years. Many have spent most, if not all, of their time in school learning classically by reading great books and discussing big ideas for the purpose of searching out the transcendentals of truth, beauty, and goodness. They have studied Latin, maths and sciences, as well as logic and rhetoric.
By the time these students get to their final year of high school, they have learned a great deal about the world and their place in it. They are inquisitive, analytical, and have a solid foundation on which to build, as they have been shaped by a Christian worldview and classical methodology. As a result, even as I introduce them to a new subject, they already have many of the tools they need to master it.
This became very apparent earlier this spring when seven seniors and I traveled to Helena to participate in the Montana Economics Challenge, a competition open to all high school students in Montana (this year approximately 100 students participated). Montana high school teachers are invited to incorporate economic learning in their classrooms and assemble teams to compete in a challenging array of tests covering concepts, issues, and reasoning.
Teams were comprised of three or four students who competed individually and as a team. Participants took a 15-question, multiple choice test in each of the following three areas: microeconomics, macroeconomics, and international trade and economics. The top two teams from each division after the first three rounds compete against each other in a buzzer round on general economics and current events to determine overall division winners.
Out of 26 teams from public and independent schools across Montana, Petra’s two squads made it to the final and faced off in the championship match, taking first and second place. In addition to their team wins, Petra had the top three individual performances out of 65 students in their division, with Hannah Palmer coming in first, Mackenzie Miller second, and Abby Laird third.
In April, the Petra team of Brianna Anderson, Hannah Palmer, Mac Miller and Elsa Bentz tested well enough to advance to the national semi-finals, where they finished 16th out of 35 teams from across the country – the highest finish ever for a Montana team.
Of course, economics is made up of a lot more than just numbers; it involves consideration of resources, distribution, trade, employment, supply and demand, and the populations involved in all of them. In short, economics is about people and behavior, which is why our students did so well in the competition. Our students had had just over a semester of formal economics education before the competition, yet because of the quality of their mathematics courses (combined with all they had previously read and written about in their literature and history studies in humanities), they were able to easily master economic concepts.
I’m eager for graduation and the beginning of a new chapter in the lives of these graduates. I am confident that no matter what trajectory their lives take, or what fields they choose to study, they have been wonderfully prepared to pursue whatever vocation to which the Lord calls them.