monastic college experience

Whole Education

The educations of kindergarten, elementary, junior high, high school, and college students all under one roof is good for students, teachers, professors, and parents.

Everyone longs for family and community, but few find either, because we live in a fierce meritocracy. When everything is based on merit or on competition, then the finer things that cannot be quantified are lost. You cannot have a family that bases status (“grade”) only on chronological age or that cuts off one group of humans (the elderly, college students, babies) from everyone else. For a real education, we need the full image of God to be visible to us and that requires diversity: of ages, experiences, and backgrounds.

A school with only one type of students (elementary or college) will tend to cater to the needs of that age group. This is understandable, but unnatural. We are born into families with parents, grandparents, and as part of a church community. We are born into the whole family of God, but sin wishes to divorce us from some segment of that family. Racism drives us apart, but so does age segregation.

Isn’t it a time that a school had the diversity of a church? Holistic education for everyone is wholesome, because it is never cut off from the rest of the community. Those of us who are older gain energy from the younger, and the college student is reminded of whence he has come and whither he is going.

The old college model was based on monastic life, and that was good so long as colleges were monasteries. Over time, they have move further from this unique calling with the helpful structures that keep it from going bad to a customer-driven, consumer model. You cannot run a monastery for profit and retain what was good about the monastic life.

The richness of life–where you move from gardening with one group of students, to discussing the Odyssey with another, then to hearing a Bible story read by a teacher to small ones–is unsurpassed. A college student can understand life and her future better when she is not cut off from most of life! Our college students are in a home where there are faculty babies, teachers who are also Dads, and where spiritual fathers come to teach us every day.

There is a place for highly specialized programs that may mostly contain students of a certain age. The old liberal arts college was not “fun” and nobody would have wanted to stay there on a perpetual holiday. Like a man who looks back on boot camp with a certain fondness, a former undergraduate in the old schools (still strongly influenced by monastic roots) could recall the trials of Latin, Greek, or a highly competitive program with nostalgia mixed with relief that it is done.

Graduate education still works as well as it does because it is a highly rigorous focus with monastic rigor on one area. Nobody is more serious about education that the graduate engineering student, or they soon find themselves out of the community. But without this intense focus and high academic quality, even graduate education can degenerate into night school to earn the union card that will promote a career. The multiplication of programs produces mere credentials and cease to have true value. They lack the intensity of focus and the robust learning that is still common in medical programs, scientific areas, and a few of the humanities such as philosophy.

Compare this to the American experiment of local education built in the community. Students spent more time at home than in school. Homework did not consume all leisure time and children had time for chores (work!) and undirected play. Of course, there is no golden age and too often Americans segregated themselves by race or by economic status. The new American school, the Constantine model, can reverse this by seeking both sorts of diversity.

The result is education that is whole and joyful and can still lead some students to the more specialized graduate education or majors at other schools. We can send a Constantine graduate often to a nursing program knowing he has received a sound, liberal arts education. He can learn the job skills now. For most professions and for most lives in present America, sixteen years of The Saint Constantine School will end with a student ready for life. He will have an accredited college degree, but more importantly will already know what it is to be in a diverse and thriving community.

Few schools have been able to implement such a vision. We are excited to try, and covet your prayers and help.

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