The School as a Faculty of Friends
St. Raphael School was founded by Dr. James Taylor, author of Poetic Knowledge: The Recovery of Education, a book which has become a pillar of the Classical Christian Education movement. His work was inspired by an experience at the University of Kansas in the Pearson Integrated Humanities Program, and in particular the work of Dr. John Senior who shaped his views on education.
What is a school? Dr. Senior's answer, and the one which inspires the work at St. Raphael School, is that a school is a "faculty of friends."
We call ourselves a “school,” and that word was intentionally chosen, but it also can mislead if we are not mindful of the specific intended meaning of the mundane term. It is an idea, an ideal to which we aspire, and it is a noble one. A school is not primarily a building, a place, a website, a curriculum, a book list, a diploma granting institution, a base of knowledge, a “method” of education, or (God forbid!) an administration. A school, simply and rightly understood, is a community that is the natural expression of friendship among those who love the Truth. A school is a “faculty of friends,” and the relationship between teachers and parents (who are the primary teachers) and students are all themselves a species of this friendship. Friendship is voluntary, rooted in self-giving love, and exists for a common purpose beyond the “relationship.” We must struggle to sharpen and direct one another to wisdom and virtue, which is to say, faithfulness.
The School as a Place of Rest
Students are often surprised when they learn that the root of the word "school" means "leisure" or "rest." And who could blame them? Teachers and parents talk constantly of school work and homework and working hard in school so that they can get a good job. No doubt, the higher purposes of learning and the restful connotations of words like "scholarship" are lost in our modern schools.
We aim to recover this sense of rest in schooling, an activity which should instead serve to elevate, ennoble, and enrich the human spirit. There is no doubt that vocational and technical training is as important as ever, and that virtues of discipline and courage must begin in the humble obedience to parents in the completion of chores. What is unfortunate is that among these "chores" are often included the slavish consumption and loveless analysis of great artifacts of human culture—works of art and literature—as if the value of Shakespeare or Bach could be reduced to their usefulness in our career paths.
How can schooling be restful?
Make and listen to good music.
Tell and listen to good stories.
Hear and recite good poems.
Marvel at Creation.
Craft and play.
Converse and compose.
Be a merry band.
Attend the feast.
Worship together the Maker of it all.
If we could make it so, and do it with all our hearts, we would be a school worthy of the name. It would be very good indeed. For now, we accept it as a mission, an idea in the making, imperfectly realized, but worth doing even if only in part, working together, as friends. As we grow in our trust and love for one another, even across this no-place we call “cyberspace,” let us do it all unto His Glory.