Ancient History and Character Formation
Contributed by Dean Yeager
In Ancient History, we have been studying the worldview of the Ancient Greeks by reading and analyzing the epic story of The Odyssey by Homer. This is, of course, an immensely important historic work, but it's also a wildly adventurous read. After reading about the Cyclops, a goddess who turns people into pigs, sea monsters, and beautifully singing mythical creatures that lure you to your death, they started to enjoy this profound work of literature. They may not like to express their joy for school too emphatically, but it bubbles up from time to time!
Analyzing this story helped us discuss how ancient worldviews always saw the divine world being in relationship with the material world. And this was crucial for their understanding of morality, determining how they related to other humans and what values and virtues they pursued. For example, the Ancient Greeks set a high moral standard on hospitality, for they believed one might be welcoming a divine being anytime one welcomed another person. They also had a high value of loyalty to family and friends. Loyalty was often the mark to determine matters of justice.
We've had rich discussions about all these things and more (hospitality, friendship, loyalty, the divine and the created world, sexual ethics, justice, revenge, etc). We've read together, play acted, expressed our creativity through art, and, of course, taken a few quizzes, and will be writing an essay to finish the session.
Character and Virtue Formation
As you can see, character formation is very much alive within our curriculum and classroom subjects. Being a classical school, we integrate the formation of the mind, heart, body, and soul as much as possible. We never merely read a great historical text, but we analyze, chew on it, and extract all the goodness and beauty of it so that our souls are nourished and our hearts are challenged. We place all these profound conversations before the light and knowledge of Christ, allowing the truth of Christ to come through a story like The Odyssey. How does the main hero, Odysseus, share in the virtues of Christ? Where does his life differ? How is the Ancient Greek worldview similar to the Christian worldview? Where does it differ? Where do they both agree in their opposition to the post-modern western worldview? How does this relate to our daily actions among others around us?
So many good things to dialogue about! And this is one of the many reasons we love doing this work. May it all sink deeply into our students, and transform them bit by bit over the years.