Philosophy of Education

This is another in a series of highlighting our dedicated faculty. This philosophy of education is from our Upper School literature instructor, Miss Katherine Sinkovitz.

William Shakespeare, who himself worked as a country schoolmaster in his youth, takes up the topic of education frequently in his plays and refers to the vocation of teaching as "soul-leading." With this phrase, Shakespeare beautifully identifies the deepest significance of the role of the teacher and inspires a greater understanding of the philosophy of education upheld by those of us called to this vocation.

The field of education takes as its aim the formation of the mind in knowledge and understanding and the leading of the soul toward habits of virtue and wisdom. This view of education is comprehensive and holistic, as it consciously considers and develops the whole person, not solely the intellect. Four main components comprise such an education: the inspiration of wonder, the passing on of knowledge, the instilling of virtue, and the continuation of culture.

A first step in the work of education is to place the student in a position to be led forward and educated by instilling within him the phenomenon of wonder. This wonder––the apprehension of his own ignorance and the awareness of that which is beyond and outside of the scope of his experience––prompts the student to desire replacing his ignorance with understanding, encouraging him to continue forward on the journey of learning. We educators can instill wonder by introducing our students to good and beautiful truths, whether found in stories, in music and poetry, or in observation of the order and complexity of the natural world.

Building upon that wonder, as teachers we then foster in our students knowledge and understanding. We center our pursuits of intellectual education upon the foundation of the liberal arts, the seven disciplines composed of the studies of the word, of number, and of the natural world. These studies ground the student in understanding of the power of language and ideas and the remarkable order of creation. Such an education utilizes the writings and observations of "the classics" or "the great books," handing on to the student the wisdom of the generations before him, rather than using only the teachings of the current day.

In addition to the intellectual component, this classical education works to form the character of the student by instilling virtue and passing on culture. The moral aspect of education springs from the goal to promote and require the formation of habits of moral virtue, such as self-discipline and humility. These virtues, exemplified by teachers and by the great works we ask our students to read and consider, enliven the student's intellectual education, enabling him to take what he has learned about the world and apply it to his life. These virtues, partnered with his experience of wonder and his intellectual formation, allow him to live a life steeped in truth, goodness, and beauty. This student is then able to take the culture passed on to him by the wise voices of the texts he has read and of the educators who have formed him and adapt that culture to his own time, making possible the continuation of the great intellectual heritage he has received.

Miss Katherine Sinkovitz 


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