My mom found some stacks of paper in our rafters the other day. In the pile was a paper orange folder dubbed “geography,” the kind with the little prongs you push together to squeeze more assignments inside. I uncovered some colored pictures of owls from a fifth grade lesson on birds. The source of my childhood anxiety, aka math speed drills, were there too, scribbled fractions frantically colliding all over the page. I also discovered those fables written in every way possible: condensed, expanded, told from end to beginning. And it was when I looked over these scraps of paper representing my ten years at Providence that I realized how much a classical education had shaped who I became and who I am still becoming.
When I was growing up in those tiny hallways, I would sometimes doubt the effort I put into school. A question would pop in and out of my consciousness—why am I putting all this work into memorizing definitions, reading Paradise Lost, and dissecting Shurley Grammar and cow eyes side by side? I felt like Calvin and Hobbes’ dad was yelling “It builds character!” at me from the front door. But building character was so… vague. And vague wasn’t good enough for me. So what it came down to, as irreligious as it may sound, was: what’s the point?A
Now that I’ve had time to reflect, I’ve realized the big picture was the point. While I may no longer remember specific mathematical equations or Latin stems, Providence gave me the building blocks I needed for the rest of my life. My education gave me the tools to write and to speak and to do both with grace and intelligence. It instilled within me a work ethic and a high-achieving mentality that has helped me to accomplish what I want in life without the fear that I am unqualified or undeserving.
This encouragement to pursue what I wanted was given to me by the teachers at Providence. They taught me life lessons I still hold dear today—lessons about relationships and God and microwave radiation and how to seek truth. When I got to college, I was surprised by how many of my peers were baffled that they could actually be friends with their professors. I had grown up taking for granted that my teachers were the people I saw milling around at church, bringing in McDonald’s for late night drama practices, and cheering on the sidelines at sopping wet soccer games. The opportunity alone to sit under the teachings of some truly wonderful teachers and glean from them made my time at Providence worth it.
To be fair, I’m a journalism major. I actually like to write, and I have that list of rhetorical devices from junior year tucked into the back of my school binder—just in case. So while a classical background that emphasized this skill was especially helpful to me, that doesn’t mean you need to study writing or English or theater or anything else Providence stresses to “get something” out of Providence’s education. You don’t even need to go to college after Providence to make a classical education worth your time.
And that’s because Providence was more than a stepping stone to college for me. It was a safe environment to test my opinions and a sounding board for my ideas. We don’t go to school to graduate to go to college to get a degree to get a job. The point of education isn’t money. The point ofeducation is to find truth and support it. Providence gave me a secure, but not naïve, place to discuss culture and religion and the spaces where they bump against each other. School was not just a place for learning and testing, but a place where teachers and students could meet together to struggle and wrestle with that truth, ultimately recognizing the goodness of God in a fallen world.
A classical education helps you see the world in a way you might not have before, because it gives you the basic grounding that God is involved in all things. It doesn’t give you a lens through which to see the world with your “God glasses.” Rather, it takes off the dirty, smudged pair you already had on, and lets you see the world as it truly is—as God made it to be.
Class of 2013