Contributing Author: Ms. Leah White, Class of 2017
I was waiting to have coffee with a friend when I received an unexpected phone call from my high school headmaster. “How did a classical education prepare you for life after high school?” It seemed a simple question to answer at the time. I had spent so much time in class thinking about my own beliefs that I should be able to clearly articulate exactly what I learned at Trinity and how that directly impacts my life today. But I am finding that the answer is far more nuanced than I would like.
Many alumni have already discussed at length the practical opportunities they had to analyze opposing worldviews and come to conclusions about their own worldview. In every class, the teachers challenged us to think critically about the answers we provided. “How did you get that answer?” was a common phrase in every room. The heart of that question is simple. If I cannot articulate why I believe what I believe, what foundation do I have for my opinions, worldview, or faith? Even the practice of justifying an answer for a math equation reinforces the idea that it simply is not enough to have an answer. The understanding of why is far more important than the answer itself.
This practice permeates every aspect of my life today. The simple, everyday decisions take on new meaning: how does my choice in clothing represent my character at work? What tasks deserve my time and energy when I get home? Why have I eaten a waffle every morning for the last week? Seemingly mundane tasks become much deeper when I realize that every choice has a reason and a consequence. I need to dress professionally to demonstrate to my colleagues that I value them and their time. I need to prioritize my coursework when I get home because my future depends on the work I am doing now. Maybe I shouldn’t exclusively eat carbs for breakfast! There is a certain power in this kind of understanding of mundane tasks that translates to a deeper understanding of the spiritual and philosophical realms.
In the time I was able to spend at college, I met people from many walks of life. Many of my friends shared my beliefs, and for that I was grateful. But one of the most powerful relationships in my life is with my close friend who is an atheist. When I met her, I was suddenly acutely aware of the impact my actions were having on her life, and on her opinions about God and my faith. We had many conversations about her experience with religion, and why I chose to continue to believe that Jesus saved me now that there was no one to hold me accountable. It would have been easy for me to avoid the conversations, or to pretend I believed the same as she did, or even to abandon my beliefs because she was also aware of her own reasons for her belief. However, the experience provided by Trinity to think critically about my beliefs prepared me to share those views in a respectful way, and to form one of my most treasured friendships.
Moving beyond the impact that classical education has had on my life, it has impressed upon me the importance of passing on these practices to the next generations. I decided that I wanted to become a teacher because of the teachers who poured into my life, and my greatest desire is to pass a love of learning and of critical examination to my students. I have only been in the field properly for a few weeks as a student teacher, but the experiences I have had have only strengthened my resolve to challenge my students and help them rise to meet their expectations, rather than expecting less from them. I teach music, which is a field that teaches critical skills like discipline, collaboration, and dedication to a craft. Some students come into my room, and they have never been told they were good enough to meet the expectations given them. Some have been shuffled along in a system that seems to care more about having them graduate than ensuring learning. My class may be the only time they hear that they are smart enough. It is important to me that they hear those words from me because it was key to my own success at Trinity.
When classes were difficult, or there was a concept I didn’t understand, I never felt that my teachers believed I was not good enough for their classical education. The support I received from them taught me that difficult tasks are not a barrier, but an opportunity to improve and rise to the occasion. It is my belief that every student at Trinity receives the same support, and it is my hope that we all learn to demonstrate that belief to those who need it most. What good is our classical education if we hold it for ourselves as a source of pride? More than anything, the education at Trinity is a challenge to those who leave its doors: we must share what we have been given in whatever way is appropriate to our calling. For those to whom much is given, much is to be expected.
Leah White is a 2017 graduate of Trinity. She is working towards her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education at Grand Canyon University. Currently she is student teaching in Prescott Valley.