Sometimes what is very old becomes, through disuse, again quite new. That is certainly true for the Trivium—Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric—the “Classical” model we employ here at SMA, weaving facts (grammar) and reasoning (logic) together through written and oral expression (rhetoric) in pursuit of the unvarnished Truth.
What gives the Classical model its unrivaled horsepower is that we utilize those tried and true learning techniques to tackle the very best of thought and action in human history. Rather than dumbing down the curriculum, our liberal arts and sciences program challenges students to master, through the Socratic Method and Great Books, intellectual heavyweights such as Plato and Aristotle; Homer and Virgil; Augustine and Aquinas; Dante and Shakespeare, just to name a few. Our integrated curriculum does not shy away from rigorous Math and Science instruction, as the Truth resides as much in the world of numbers and the scientific method as in philosophy and theology.
We seek the True, the Good, and the Beautiful by journeying through Athens, Rome, and Jerusalem – and what a wonderful ride it is! Will you join us in America’s fastest growing educational reform movement? You’ll be glad you did.
WHAT IS CLASSICAL EDUCATION?
“Classical education” has become a buzzword in educational circles, yet many are still puzzled by what makes a program distinctly classical. Some believe it merely involves the study of Ancient Greco-Roman culture, language, and literature. Others believe that it must be based on the study of rhetoric, grammar, and logic (called the Trivium in Ancient & Medieval times) combined with the study of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music (called the Quadrivium in Ancient & Medieval times). Still others believe that utilizing the Socratic method (i.e. asking students questions rather than merely lecturing them) is the most essential element of this pedagogical approach. All of these elements are important in a Classical curriculum, but they are merely means to an end.
A Classical curriculum, particularly a Catholic one, seeks to form students by looking beyond the temporal and mundane towards the eternal and transcendent. At SMA, students are not only trained in rhetoric, logic, and oratory, but they are also taught to contemplate the permanent things like love, beauty, justice, and truth, which are found throughout the literature, art, and music of human history. Students study historical attitudes towards these permanent things, as well as man’s never-ending pursuit of them.
1 / Learning Integrated History & Literature
In the modern era, educators tend to compartmentalize academic subjects and to present them independently of each other. This is a disservice to students, especially in history and literature. Students study dry dates and figures in history, while puzzling over historical questions on English exams.
At SMA, we align and integrate the study of history and literature (along with theology and philosophy). This means students studying Ancient Greece are reading Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, while those studying the Middle Ages are reading Chaucer and Joinville, and so on throughout the ages. This helps students to understand the motivations of important historical and literary figures, while also understanding the effects of these individuals on society as a whole.
They also study the Permanent Things (love, beauty, justice, truth, etc.) as they have been perceived throughout history, and the effects these perceptions have had upon history.
2 / Understanding the Natural World
As the great philosopher Aristotle said, “We should venture on the study of every kind of animal without distaste; for each and all will reveal to us something natural and something beautiful.” With this in mind, our students undertake a rigorous course of study in the natural sciences, including biology, chemistry, and physics.
This includes time spent in our St. Albert the Great Science Lab peering at microbes through microscopes, observing chemical reactions, dissecting fetal pigs, growing vegetables, and hatching and raising chicks. The smaller class sizes at St. Michael Academy give students a more personal, hands-on opportunity to explore and study the natural world.
The study of Science, and also Mathematics, require an integrated approach, involving measurement, experimentation, systematic thought, analytical reasoning, and a sense of awe and wonder for God’s created order.
3 / Appreciating the Visual & Performing Arts
The visual arts have always played a vital role in human civilization, from the cave paintings at Lascaux to the frecoes of the Sistine Chapel. Our students continue in this tradition of attempting to express the intangible in a variety of artistic styles.
SMA Students are required to take Oratory class and our Drama class will perform a play this spring. Through study of the performing arts, students are taught the skills needed to present and conduct themselves appropriately and with confidence in a variety of formal and informal situations, as well as to eventually assume leadership roles.
Our students can join the SMA choir, which sings at our Mass twice-weekly and at other school events, and also have the opportunity to take Band class at Petoskey High School.
Music, Art, and Drama cultivates in our students a love of beauty, a penchant for creativity, and a deepened appreciation of the battle between good and evil.