Thank you for your interest in Saint Agatha Academy. We are excited about the opportunity to embark on an enhanced academic experience for our students.
In our local effort to raise the standard of your child’s education, the leadership of our school has been in prayerful consideration of a new educational pathway that will both enrich our faith and deepen our intellectual knowledge as Catholics and Christians. It will allow us to be more intentional about our faith and our studies. The practical application of classical/liberal arts-based teaching integrated with religious context will define our new Classical Education Curriculum. This exciting initiative is scheduled to begin in Fall 2013.
It is no secret that education in our great nation is not what we would like it to be. It hasn’t been for years. We all know it, and we all wish something could be done, but it can be hard sometimes to see what that something is. Over the last few decades, we as a society have seen a number of problems emerge in our educational system. We have become obsessed with test scores, and in school we spend much of our time teaching to the test. We have decided our children need to know more and more at an earlier age, and we have placed upon our teachers an unreasonable burden regarding the amount and speed at which they are to teach. The result has been to give our children an education that is a mile wide and an inch deep, an approach that flits from topic to topic so quickly in an effort to cover them all that most students struggle to achieve true mastery of any subject. Subjects have become so specialized and fragmented that they are walled off from one another, and students are unable to draw connections between history and religion or math and science, let alone between subjects like literature and logic, the latter of which is almost never taught in today’s prescriptive curriculum. Students have been taught in such a way that every subject fits neatly in its own box, and never do the subjects come in contact with one another. Finally, modern education in our country has become increasingly focused on utility – or to put it another way, “how will this help me get a job?”, “When will I use this in ‘real life’?” We have lost sight of the fact that the goal of education is not simply to convert our children into worker bees, cogs in a vast economic machine. Education is meant to help shape who we are. What we do is supposed to flow from that.
Many of you send your children to Saint Agatha Academy to escape the systematic problems that afflict our nation’s schools. Our school has a proud tradition and a strong history of solid Catholic education. It is centered on Christ and we are proud of the diversity of religious denominations represented with our school community. We have great teachers and committed parents. We are blessed to do the work we do in the sight of God and under the guidance of His Church, and we strive to serve you and your children well. Even here, however, some of these societal problems have crept in. Even the briefest conversation with our teachers can lead to an explanation from them of how much more they could do if we were to strike off the shackles of these modern problems. Teaching, they know, is a vocation, not just a job. It suffers when it is forced into the shape of a modern, fragmented education.
A growing number of schools are working to reverse this national trend. We are starting to see the rebirth of what is now called classical education, but was once known simply as education. Classical education is in many ways the exact opposite of the problems listed above. Subjects are intentionally integrated into each other to show that all the branches of knowledge fit together. Not only are the subjects integrated together, but religion is integrated into all of them – not in such a way as to teach religion instead of that subject, but to Christianize the subject, to show that all branches of knowledge point back to the God who created and ordered all things. The result of this is to show each subject in its fullness. Teaching to the test is not part of classical education, although it cannot be denied that classical model schools often see test scores soar as a result. The classical model school in Louisville, for example, has achieved test scores in the top one percent of the nation for the last eight years in a row. While, this is a nice benefit, however, it is not the point of a classical education. Neither, strictly speaking, is classical education simply a form of integrated curriculum. It is instead the fullness of a truly Christian education. It integrates subjects to show connections while teaching Latin and Logic to encourage organized, systematic thinking. It puts Christ at the summit of all endeavors. It restores teachers to the dignity of their vocation. Classical education recognizes the truth that what we do flows from who we are, and strives to make each person, student and teacher alike, the most complete person he or she can be.
In the first year of our transition, we are focusing on integration of subjects such as history, literature, and Latin. In most grades, we will not change our strong math and science disciplines at this time. We are confident that this transition can be implemented beginning Fall 2013. The foundation of our new curriculum objectives will meet and exceed the current accreditation standards of the KY Non-Public Schools Commission, and the new Kentucky Common Core Curriculum. The new curriculum objectives are based on three stages; Lower Grammar, Upper Grammar, and Logic Stages. At each stage there are things we want to ensure students know, things they ought to be able to do, and habits, dispositions, and aptitudes they ought to have acquired or be acquiring. Each stage builds on upon the previous stage following developmental and historical segments:
Lower Grammar Stage
Upper Grammar Stage:
The decision to transform Saint Agatha Academy to a classical education format was not made lightly. It was the result of many hours spent in prayer, in study, in consultation with academic specialists, and in visits to other classical model schools. Our new classical program has been endorsed by our School Council, St. Joseph Church Parish and Finance Councils, and has the enthusiastic support of our the Diocesan Superintendent, and the Most Reverend Bishop Ronald Gainer. Our SAA faculty are actively engaged in this process and a core group of teachers are now serving on our curriculum committee as we begin planning and implementation.
We would like to invite you to please take the time to read them and acquaint yourselves with classical education through the following source: What is Classical Education?, by Susan Wise Bauer. We also ask you to remember the classical idea that what we do flows from who we are. Teachers and staff will be demonstrating a great commitment in the coming months, a commitment to giving your children the absolute best of everything. In the end, that is what this change is all about. We want the best for your children, and we are willing to make the necessary sacrifices to give them the most distinguishing education possible. We are willing to do this because we are truly and deeply excited for this opportunity. We ask you to share this passion, as it will surely take all of us together to effect this wondrous, mighty change.
May God bless you and your families, and may He watch over our school as we prepare for this transition. Sancta Agatha, ora pro nobis! (Saint Agatha, pray for us!)
John A. Pica
Saint Agatha Academy
Saint Joseph Catholic Church