My education started at home with reading, math, history, a little Greek, Legos, and church. I came to Providence in third grade. I remember in grammar school learning jingles about history, geography, and what-not; building medieval catapults; utterly failing in athletic competitions; even getting disciplined by my teachers on some occasions.
In the sixth grade, I was advanced a grade in the middle of the year. It was an awkward transition since I did not know many of my new classmates. They thought I was strange, and I thought they were strange too, and I am told there were other dramas which I was oblivious to. That’s what middle schoolers are like.
But at Providence, they don’t remain like that. When you have to stay with the same eight people through difficult papers, silly stories, and enlightening class discussions, in an environment that stresses excellence and humility and submission to the will of God, with supportive teachers who care about the culture and community of the school, you will eventually come to regard your classmates as friends, despite your differences.
Class itself was a key factor in my own maturation. We read and studied the whole Bible—the Bible as philosophy, the Bible as literature, the Bible as the lived experience of the people of God. We didn’t leave out the hard passages, and we argued about interpretive and ethical questions that we did not agree on.
We read Greek, Roman, medieval, and modern literature not merely as information or even as experience, but as a dialogue about the nature of man and God and the good life. Art exists, not only for the sake of beauty, but for our moral improvement, and the two cannot really be separated. I came to see my own life in light of the maturation of Pip from Great Expectations, the pride and blindness of Victor Frankenstein, the wise leadership of Shakespeare’s Henry V.
But the most influential book for me was Dante’s Commedia. Through the organized realms of the afterlife, through the intimate portraits of sinful souls, the poet and his readers come to a vision of divine Love that orders the world, and of a society which, by forsaking that love, has fallen into corruption and factionalism. Only by loving God first and placing Him at the center will we be able to keep our lives and communities in the proper order.
This idea is central to Providence’s philosophy: The school exists to fill our lives with wholesome and interesting things, each valued by the correct priorities in submission to Christ. While my mind was filled with literature and history and philosophy and math, my “spare time”was filled with drama, yearbook, and basketball. At one point, Drew Black, Kenton Schlimmer, and I took ownership of the yearbook, and laid the foundation for a project that has gotten better every year. Basketball and drama were good experiences because they were things I was not naturally good at. Having the chance to be involved in all kinds of activities, not the just the ones a person has a natural bent for is one of the benefits of a smaller school.
As our class prepared for college, Rachael Grotte and I wrote rhetoric papers discussing the pros and cons of attending a private, Christian college versus a public university. I opted for the public university. I felt that Providence had given me a solid foundation in Christianity, and a vision of human knowledge that was interdisciplinary, rooted in history, and organized in submission to God. Thus, in college, I could take charge of my own curriculum (in mathematics and classics) and gain experience with the secular world and the many kinds of people there, while still living close to my family and church.
Four years later, I think this was the right decision. God granted me success at the University of Washington just as He had at Providence. My Providence and UW education complemented each other, giving me perspective that I don’t think I could have gotten by going through a Christian education all the way or a secular education all the way. And it was better to lay the Christian foundation first: The moral framework, intellectual curiosity, and thinking skills established at Providence were the starting point for processing the specialized knowledge, new experiences, and non-Christian perspectives of the UW.
Providence filled me with the desire to understand and live the good life, seeking God’s truth in everything and obeying it. While Providence is certainly not perfect, it succeeded in what is most important: Teaching responsibility and integrity, honesty and humility, respect and charity, love for learning, and obedience to God.