We at Chesterton Academy believe that the human pedagogy of instruction and curriculum is elevated and perfected by the divine pedagogy of the Christian faith. Revealed truth and the virtue of religion illuminate our minds and shape our behavior, bringing us truths and virtues we would not otherwise know. “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (Jn 8:32).
Our school is Roman Catholic in tradition and faithful to the teaching authority of the Church. All board members, teachers, and staff take an oath of loyalty to the Magisterium. We exist for the glory of God and the good of His Church; thus, we see our mission to our students as an extension of Our Lord’s command to the Apostles:
“Going therefore, teach ye all nations” (Matthew 28:19).
Practically speaking, the Faith permeates every aspect of the life of the school. It integrates into the content we teach, and it forms the backbone and reference point for our student’s ethical formation. It shows up everywhere, from daily prayer before classes, to retreats, Confession, celebration of holy days, sacred music, and even the Sacred Liturgy. We make it our mission to immerse our students in the rich and inexhaustible heritage of the Faith in order to prepare them to reject the materialism and despair that so often pervade our culture.
Here at Chesterton Academy we offer a classical liberal-arts education. “Classical” can be defined in many different ways. What we mean by it is a particular purpose, a particular method, and a particular curriculum, all aimed at optimal human flourishing. A school might focus on just one of these elements and still call itself “classical.” However, at Chesterton Academy, we believe that all three elements are vital to a rich education; so we incorporate all three.
Purpose: a classical education seeks knowledge for its own sake, not for economic security. This is what was traditionally called a liberal-arts school, as opposed to a trade school or career degree. Its name comes from liber, the Latin word for free. A “liberal” education was what the child of a free man could engage in. When the Church baptized the Greco-Roman patrimony, a Christian liberal-arts school then established theology as the “Queen of the Sciences.” Education then included the idea of training for eternity based on Revelation, something that cannot be underestimated when looking at the history of education. For example, a school might seek to prepare its students to be good engineers; thus its purpose, methodology, and curriculum is specific to engineering. At a classical school, the purpose is not to prepare young men and women for the marketplace (e.g., an engineer), though prepare them for the marketplace it will. The purpose of a classical education is to draw young men and women into a way of life and thinking that is focused on the full flowering of their minds, wills, and hearts. The purpose is to develop our humanity for eternity through loving what is True, Good, and Beautiful.
Method: classical methodology is oral. It focuses on Socratic dialogue, seminars, close reading of texts, and student-to-student conversations. It also includes traditional lectures, as well as persuasive speaking and writing. This methodology is distinct from such trends as “teaching to a test,” where students are not encouraged to engage with ideas in dialectic, but to regurgitate facts apart from personal meaning. This methodology is also opposed to handing students books and materials, and stepping aside. We affirm that the teacher is the guide, expert, and authority in the classroom, and that education is a reciprocal relationship. Both teachers and students engage in a conversation that has been ongoing within the Western Tradition for 2,500 years.
Curriculum: classical curriculum uses classic texts as the foundation of the content. This may vary greatly as to what counts as “classics” or what is appropriate for adolescent men and women, though all classical schools emphasize thinkers of the past whose value has stood the test of time from the Middle Ages as well as Modern. Many schools today neglect Antiquity and the Middle Ages to learn the more “relevant” Modern age. To be classical is to care about the greatest ideas from every age: Ancient to Modern. The classical school also emphasizes that all knowledge is connected and integrated—mathematics and literature are not opposed; science and theology are not at war. Fostering these connections in the methodology becomes an adventure that students (and parents!) grow to love.
G.K. Chesterton believed that small things were good. He believed that local education, small businesses, strong traditional families, and limited government were solutions to the problems he saw in his time and that remain relevant to this day. He was not alone in this view as many respected past and present thinkers agree.
For example, Thomas Jefferson (and many of our Founders), Hillarie Belloc, Wendell Berry, and Benedict XVI all share the idea that human beings and communities flourish when in a close relationship with the created order. This vision of society is encompassed in what can be described as “agrarian.” John Senior said,
“There is no amount of reading, remedial or advanced, no amount of study of any kind, that can substitute for the fact that we are a rooted species, rooted through our senses in the air, water, earth and fire of elemental experience.”
In the Willamette Valley, farming and food production is an important defining characteristic and local economy of the area. From fruits, nuts, wine grapes and vegetables to the production of animals for meat and eggs, the Valley is famous for agriculture. With a focus on small businesses, family centered culture, and local civic and community responsibilities, Chesterton Academy of the Willamette Valley intentionally seeks to include this agrarian vision in its mission.