Middle School: the Logic Stage

“Logic!” said the Professor half to himself. “Why don’t they teach logic at these schools?”

–C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

The Middle School of Good Shepherd has students enter into the “Logic stage” of their education.  It is a time when the novelty and wonder of pure facts wanes and when rational inquiry takes center stage.  Students are pushed to deduce conclusions rather than have them provided, to establish relationships between subjects, to detect the assumptions of a statement, and to challenge fallacious arguments.  Accordingly, the Logic stage is a time when algebraic concepts and equations are introduced in mathematics, when writing moves from clear and accurate expression to convincing argument, and when formal logic is studied. Finally, it is a time for the student to move from catechesis, being told true statements of the faith, to theology, understanding why it is true.

Language Arts

Language Arts in the Middle School transitions from focusing on the mechanics of writing (grammar, spelling, syntax) to cohesive argument and thesis-driven papers.  Students are trained to use the elements of good grammar and style in order to argue a coherent claim.

7th Grade

  • Writing of Literature by Michael Clay Thompson
  • The Vocabulary of Literature by Michael Clay Thompson
  • The Magic Lensby Michael Clay Thompson
  • Selections from Ward Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric and Arthur Quinn’s How to Turn a Phrase

8th Grade

  • Academic Writing by Michael Clay Thompson
  • The Word Within the Word Iby Michael Clay Thompson
  • The Magic Lensby Michael Clay Thompson
  • Selections from Ward Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric and Arthur Quinn’s How to Turn a Phrase

Literature

From C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to Homer’s Iliad, students at Good Shepherd read perennial literature from the ancient world as well as recent works of fiction. Books rotate between accessible, enjoyable stories and challenging classics—all of which have the potential to transform the moral imagination of the reader. More is asked of the Middle School student, as they are expected to read carefully, prepare questions for seminar discussions, contrast authors’ styles, write analytical essays, and recall stories from memory.  Poetry selections are memorized (both as a class and as individual projects), meter is formally studied, and students even produce their own poems.  In the Middle School, literature is not chosen for specific didactic purposes, but for the transcendental qualities of truth, beauty, and goodness.

7th Grade

  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
  • The Narnia Code by Michael Ward
  • Beowulf, translated by Burton Raffel
  • The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  • Myths of Ancient Egypt by Roger Lancelyn Green
  • Gods, Heroes, and Men of Ancient Greece by W.H.D. Rouse
  • Tales of the Norsemen by Roger Lancelyn Green
  • “Markheim” by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • “Silver Blaze” by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • “The Secret of Father Brown” and “The Queer Feet” by G.K. Chesterton
  • “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • Poetry selections from G.K. Chesterton, George Herbert, William Shakespeare, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and others
  • Poetry and Humanity by Michael Clay Thompson

8th Grade

  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • Macbeth by William Shakespeare
  • The Ballad of the White Horse by G.K. Chesterton
  • The Iliad by Homer, translated by Stanley Lombardo
  • “To Build a Fire” by Jack London
  • “Earth’s Holocasut” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • “Lepanto” by G.K. Chesterton
  • Poetry selections from Robert Frost, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Edgar Allen Poe, William Shakespeare, Alfred Lord Tennyson, William Wordsworth, and others.
  • Poetry and Humanityby Michael Clay Thompson

History

As an overview of Western Civilization, History in the Middle School serves both to understand the world as it is, where it came from, and finally one’s place in such an inheritance.  Beginning with Greek and Roman biography, 7th grade History covers a brief overview of Western Paganism, the advent of Christianity in the Roman world, the decline of Rome, the Dark Ages, the Medieval Era, the Reformation and the Renaissance, and the beginning of the Enlightenment.  The 8th grade course picks up with the Scientific Revolution, the American Founding, the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, Metternich Europe, the Age of Industry, Romanticism, the Victorian Era, the American Civil War, the First and Second World Wars, and finally the Cold War.

Students are taught to understand men, events, and movements in their own terms rather than in modern categories.  Moral realities of good and evil, virtue and vice, wisdom and folly are explored in the context of historical events, but without recourse to artificially black-and-white moralizing.  We recall Solzhenitsyn’s wisdom, that “the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.”

7th Grade

  • Famous Men of Greece (selections)
  • Famous Men of Rome (selections)
  • Famous Men of the Middle Ages (selections)
  • A Light to the Nations I
  • Primary source selections

8th Grade

  • A Light to the Nations II
  • S. Companion to the Light to the Nations II
  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
  • Primary source selections

Latin

When learning our native tongue, we never learn what a noun isbefore we learn our first nouns: “Mama, Dada, bottle,” etc. In the Middle School, we study the Latin tongue in the same way—by putting the experience of the language before a discussion of grammar. Using an interactive and immersive method, our Latin program challenges students to speak simple Latin from the first day of class, with grammar introduced as experience is built.

7th & 8th Grades:

  • Lingua Latina: Familia Romani by Hans Ørberg
  • Lingua Latina: Colloquia Personarum by Hans Ørberg

Theology

Students begin their study of theology with the simple question: who or what is God?  Drawing on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the Sacred Scriptures, and arguments from St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine, students are challenged to ponder the logic of our knowledge of God.  We use the Faith and Life series (7 & 8) to guide–but not limit–our theo-logical studies.  We investigate reasons for believing in God (particularly St. Thomas’s “ontological” argument), objections to faith (the problem of suffering and scientific causation), divine revelation, the divine and human natures of Christ, the founding of the Church, and the institution of the sacraments.  Students are challenged to grow in the knowledge of their faith as they prepare for the sacrament of confirmation.

Logic

While it is an educational truism that every school seeks to impart “critical thinking” to its students, such a term cannot actually mean anything without something to think criticallyabout.

  1. We want our students to think logically.
  2. Studying logic equips the mind with tools to think logically.
  3. Therefore, we study logic.

In 7th grade, informal fallacies are studied, memorized, and identified.  A vocabulary of logical fallacies allows students to recognize illogical arguments they encounter all the time–but more importantly, it helps them to avoid such fallacies in their own thinking. In 8th grade, formal logic studies the art of the syllogism.  Such a study trains the mind to draw valid conclusions from premises, to identify the premises of an argument, and to carefully find the point of disagreement should we differ from the conclusion.

7th Grade

  • The Art of Argument (Classical Academic Press)

8th Grade

  • The Discovery of Deduction (Classical Academic Press)

Science

Students study astronomy in their 7th year, as they are taught to see order in the universe which surrounds them.  The constellations are mapped, the planets of our solar system are explored, the life-cycle of stars is pondered, and the breathtaking scale of the universe is explained.  Additionally, astronomy is learned about historically.  From the mathematical precision of the Greeks and Medievals, to the heliocentric proposal of Copernicus, to the telescope of Galileo, the law of universal gravitation of Newton, and even the puzzling revelation of Einstein’s general relativity, we see how knowledge of the heavens have unfolded itself to man.

In 8th grade, we turn our attention to electricity and modern technology. But we do not train young people to be passive consumersof electronic technology, wherein we simply watch a screen for content given to us; rather, we encourage students to be thoughtful creators, as they learn about electricity by constructing their own circuits and program microprocessors.  We use the Arduino system, as it is simple enough to form foundational knowledge of circuits and programming language (a simplified C++) as students gain insight into the technology world they have been born into.

7th Grade

  • Real Science Odyssey: Astronomy II
  • The Friendly Stars by Martha Evans Martin (selections)
  • Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil Degrasse Tyson (selections)
  • Star charts and night observations

8th Grade

  • Arduino microprocessor
  • Various projects and experiments, both prescribed and creative

Math

Students have the opportunity to take Math Mammoth 6, 7, or Algebra I in the Middle School. Before progressing to more advanced mathematics, it is important that earlier concepts are mastered and practiced. In each class, algebraic concepts are introduced alongside traditional mathematics, as they move from what is either self-evident or mechanical (e.g., addition, long-division) to what must be logically deduced (e.g., solving an equation).

Fine Arts

Art: In the Fall semester, Middle School students take an initial instructive course which serves to introduce the student to the icon through drawing.  We begin with drawing eyes, nose, mouth, face shape and differing hair types, then put it all together for the final project.  Each student has a sketchbook for homework assignments to redraw what they learn in class.

Music:  All students participate in the music program, as they learn musical notation and scales, and practice their voices on classical, folk, and liturgical songs.

Drama:  A drama club is offered as an elective, where students learn stage presence, projection, and the art of adopting a character on stage.  Finally, in the middle-school, students work together to put on a play from their studies.

Shop

Manual labor is an education in itself.  As we are not merely souls but bodies too, we participate in creation not just in our minds, but in our hands.  Students are taught the value of hard work as they use a variety of power and hand tools (drills, hand planes, chisels, disc sanders, etc.) to complete various projects in wood.