Friday, December 12, 2008

St. Augustine's Academy

Continuing Anglicans need, more than anything, a good boost to their faith, and the realization that we can build and do. Too often we allow our critics, Anglican and non-Anglican alike, to define us to ourselves; when that happens we let them imprison our imaginations as well as our faith, and keep us trapped in low expectations. The vision of my friend, Fr. Steven Dart, Rector of Christ Anglican Church in Carefree, Arizona, to create a Christian school, is exactly the kind of boost I am thinking of. With the hard work of the school's Headmaster, Mr. Oliver Vietor, this school is underway. I encourage you to visit the website of the school, and to listen to Mr. Vietor's talk, or read it below (but visit the website in any case).

Special Announcement

The Pillars of Faith Campaign for the establishment of Saint Augustine's Academy continues to move forward. Last Sunday, December 7th, Mr. Vietor addressed the parish on the question, How do we measure success in education? The answer to this question is eye-opening.

Here is the text of his address:

Thank you for this opportunity to speak with you this morning, and let me say once more what a great privilege it is to be working on Saint Augustine's Academy.

By now you should have received two more letters regarding Saint Augustine's Academy in addition to the first letter that we sent in October. Copies of that first letter, which gives a full description of our plans, are available on the table in the Narthex and on the school's web site, I hope that if you have not yet done so, you will take a look at both places in order to learn some more about the school.

You should have received recently a letter asking for your participation in the Pillars of Faith Campaign and including an envelope in which to return your gift or pledge. I am very thankful to those of you who have given already, and I would like to thank especially the anonymous donor who gave a one-hundred dollar bill in an envelope two Sundays ago.

Every gift makes a difference. Your participation will demonstrate progress toward our goal and will inspire others to give as well. I wrote that by coming together as one Christian family, we will reach our goal. But I would also like to say that by reaching for our goal, we will come together as one family. Please participate in this Campaign.

Secondly, you should have received a letter about the Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization, or ACSTO for short. Through this program, you can help families afford Christian education at no cost to you. The money that you would otherwise have to pay as income tax to the state of Arizona, you can give instead as a designated scholarship. You can even specify the student and school that you would like to receive your funds. This is a wonderful way to benefit Saint Augustine's Academy and I hope you will take advantage of it.

Christian education is so important for so many reasons - for the love of children, first of all, to give them the best education possible, to educate them in the truth. Christian education puts Christ at the center. Founding a Christian school is also a way for the parish to extend its mission over a much broader area. Schools are a powerful way to reach new families in particular. Christian education draws people together. Through the Statement of Faith, the Bylaws, and the daily chapel service, which will be lead by a priest from this parish serving as the Chaplain, Saint Augustine's Academy will remain an Anglican school, and yet it will reach out to all people.

Our job now is to prime the pump. Saint Augustine's Academy will be self-supporting through tuition, and over time it will develop a larger and larger base of support, but the school needs a first push in order to get going. By doing what we can do, we will get the ball rolling. And then we will keep it rolling through all the churches in the north valley until we reach the level of funding that we need. The monies raised in this Campaign are being held in a separate account where they will remain until we reach our goal. When we reach the goal, then we will move forward and begin enrolling students.

I know that many of you have questions and I wish I could answer them all! I would very much like that opportunity. There is one question, though, that we can address right now, a question that boils down many different issues. How do we measure success in education? The bottom line is that we want the school to be successful. And successful in what? In educating our children. And so the question is: How do we measure success in education?

Now, I can think of several things that constitute success in my mind. I know what success looks like to me. The trouble is that we all might have different ideas about what success looks like. My idea of success might not be your idea. This is why the question is how we measure success. We want something objective, an objective standard on which we all can agree. I suggest that the clearest way to measure success in education is through college matriculations. We can say that the most successful schools are those whose graduates matriculate at the best colleges.

Here is another question then: What are the best colleges? We might have different ideas about this, too. Once again, we want something as objective as possible. I suggest that the best colleges are those that are the highest ranked, the most prestigious, and the most selective. According to this standard, the ten best colleges are the eight of the Ivy League (which are Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, and the University of Pennsylvania) plus MIT and Stanford. At a minimum, these colleges are certainly among the best, and a student has to be highly qualified in order to matriculate at any one of them.

Going back to our original question, then - How do we measure success in education? - by asking this question: Which schools send the highest percentage of their graduates to these colleges? And here is the answer: The ten best schools in the country send between 34 and 45 percent of their graduates to these ten best colleges.* The names of these schools do not matter. What matters are the qualities that make them so successful. How do they do it? What do these schools have in common? The answer to this question will give us the real gauge on success in education. What do these ten best schools have in common?

Nine of them are day-schools located in urban areas. Seven of them are single-sex. Six of them begin with Kindergarten (and only one of them is high school only). Their average class size is fourteen students. The number one school, with nearly half of its graduates matriculating at the best colleges, is a Latin school. Its curriculum is centered on the Latin language. In other words, it is a classical school. In fact, all ten schools offer Latin and three of the top four require it.

Here is another point of major significance: Six of these ten best schools were founded by Christian churches - one of them by the Dutch Reformed Church and the other five by Anglicans (and of these, four are still affiliated with the Episcopal Church). Let me say this again, five of the ten best schools in America were founded by Anglicans. In addition, all of these schools are private. In fact, out of the top 137 schools, 135 are private and 2 are public.

What do we make of this? The following: If you wanted to start a school with the greatest potential for success in education, it would be a private K - 12 day-school located in an urban area with small classes offering single-sex classical education founded by Anglicans. In order to actually achieve success, the only other thing needed is sufficient funding. This is our vision for Saint Augustine's Academy.

What we choose to do with our success is another question altogether. We might choose to send our children to different colleges. They might have their own ideas. God might have some say in the matter. After all, God is our greatest good. In terms of secondary goods, however, such as the ability to go to the best colleges, our children will be highly qualified. As a wise man once said: Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.

* America's Top 50 High School Ranking 2008;

Check out SaintAugustinesAcademy.Org

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Anonymous said...

I read an article the other day that suggested that if you go Ivy League you get a smorgasbord of postmodern non-subjects; if you want the classics, you'd be better to go to a conservative Christian college. After the school's up, perhaps they'll have to start on the university.

And by the way, I do applaud this. Schools are very important, and a proper relationship between school and parish, with proper daily prayers, lays down the best possible foundation.

Fr_Rob said...

This is exactly the kind of thing we Continuing Anglicans need to do if we want our expression of the Faith to continue and be viable for future generations. I know Fr. Dart, and he is a remarkable Christian leader and organizer. Thank you for posting this truly good news.