Rhetoric School

9th-12th Grade

Classical Christian High School vs. Traditional High Schools

The term "Rhetoric School" in classical Christian education refers to what is commonly known as high school, but the teaching methods and objectives of these schools differ significantly. While students of both types of schools are typically around the same age, classical Christian high schools approach education differently in three main ways: academic vision, curriculum, and virtue cultivation.

Academic Vision - Classical Christian High School Comparison

Classical Christian high schools differ from traditional high schools in their academic vision, which prioritizes the development of critical thinking, intellectual curiosity, and a love of learning. While traditional schools aim to prepare students for college placement, classical Christian schools aim to form rightly ordered affections, and a well-trained mind.

Curriculum - Classical Christian High School Comparison

The curriculum in classical Christian high schools centers around classical education, with a focus on the study of Great Books, engaging Socratic discussions, and enduring ideas. In contrast, traditional high schools design their curriculum to meet state standards and prepare students for college or the workforce.

Spiritual Development and Virtue Cultivation - Classical Christian High School Comparison

Another key difference between classical Christian high schools and traditional high schools is the emphasis on spiritual development and virtue cultivation. A focused effort on cultivating virtues through study and practice permeates classical Christian high schools. Classical Christian schools provide a unique blend of classical education and a biblical worldview that prepares students for a life of faith and learning beyond their high school years. While traditional high schools may sprinkle in the practice and study of virtues, spiritual development and virtue cultivation are not a mainstay of traditional education and cannot reliably be seen in its students.

Rhetoric School Overview

After having studied and mastered the disciplines of grammar and logic, students spend the last four years studying Rhetoric. Like Logic, Rhetoric is a “central” discipline–students do study other traditional subjects (e.g., history, science, math, literature, foreign language) but do so from a Rhetorical perspective, applying the skills and insights of Rhetoric in their other classes.

It is this emphasis on Rhetoric that sets our high school apart from other programs. It is at this final stage of their secondary education that our students not only synthesize all that they have learned in their previous schooling, but they gain a nuanced and complicated understanding of the material that they are studying. Cultivating a broad field of study, not merely limited to the spoken and written word, allows our students to engage meaningfully with our ever-complicating world.

high school student during class discussion

Rhetoric School Pedagogy

Most of us know that one can win an argument but still “lose the person.” Being logically correct does not necessarily mean we will be able to successfully persuade others to follow a course of action or adopt an idea. This is why it is necessary to train students not only in Logic, but also in Rhetoric, for Rhetoric is the art of persuasive speech and writing.

Through their study of Rhetoric, students learn how to speak and write with eloquence, imagination, beauty, and persuasion. Lab reports, literature papers and essays all make use of Rhetorical skill. The Cambridge School students study Rhetoric by the principal means of theory, imitation, and practice. They study the theory of Rhetoric from ancient teachers like Aristotle and modern scholars like Toulmin. By carefully studying the “masters” of oratory and writing, students learn how to imitate these masters, appropriating the techniques and devices they discover for their own use. Then they spend a good deal of time practicing what they learn by writing and delivering their own speeches and presentations, culminating in a capstone Senior Thesis course.

Rhetoric School Curriculum

While Rhetoric is a “paradigm” discipline in the the Rhetoric School, students will study the traditional subjects of history, science, math, literature, foreign language, music and art.

Rhetoric is More Than Merely Speaking Well

Rhetoric is a commonly misunderstood word, discipline, and educational stage. Even within the growing movement of Classical schools, rhetoric is often presented as “the art of persuasion" or "speaking well.” While these definitions are not incorrect, they are certainly incomplete. To understand rhetoric as mere persuasion is to do it a great disservice. Rhetoric is a tool that gets us and our students closer to understanding, closer to truth. Rhetoric creates the space for - and the ability to - navigate the world of ideas with nuance and virtue. Jack Selzer, a contemporary scholar of rhetoric, defines rhetoric as “the study of language and the study of how it is used.” At Cambridge, students are introduced to many modes of communication and are encouraged to cultivate multiple literacies, reaching beyond the written and spoken word to visual, physical, and technological interfaces. To speak in the langauge of John Henry Newman, rhetoric serves to "increase the capacity of our students' ability to perceive reality."

The Stages of Christian Classical Education

Upper School Preview

See the fruits of the Grammar School and the slow, intentional cultivation of wisdom, virtue, and excellence.