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Exploring Augustine College

Yesterday Miss 15 and I were students for a day at Augustine College in Ottawa, Canada, a Christian college that reminds me of both classical and Charlotte Mason education.

Our visit was inspiring as well as mind-expanding.  In fact, I’d love to take a year ‘off’ to study at Augustine if yesterday’s lectures were representative.

First we, students and visitors, had three hours (!!) of Art in Western Culture taught by Dr. Tingley.  He spoke about Romanticism in Art, tying in history, theology, philosophy, literature, and music.  He showed slides and discussed their meaning.  He didn’t spare the students; the content was heavy, and though the artwork contained violence and eroticism he used them to show God’s truth and expose man’s lies. Rather than merely describing the Romantic movement, he carefully analyzed it, its sources, its results, and its representatives.

At end of this intense talk, Dr. Tingley discussed ‘On the Sailing Boat’ by Caspar David Friedrich . Do you see the man and woman, holding hands, gazing at the horizon?  They are together but focusing on something beyond themselves, the hazy spires on the distant shore. To his audience of young adults, Tingley explained, step by step, how Friedrich painted an image of marriage itself instead of merely a married couple.  There is something to learn here, he pointed out:  Marriage is being bound to someone by a shared, independently accepted destiny, so that the two of you eagerly focus on the future, symbolized by the church spires, rather than merely on each other.

Recently I reviewed Schaeffer’s Art and the Bible, but it wasn’t until this lecture that I really understood how Schaeffer’s ideas can be applied to movements and to individual works of art.  That is probably why those three hours whizzed by so quickly!

Later, students told me that the concepts they learned in Dr. Tingley’s class echoed what they were learning in other classes, and that there were so many overlapping ideas across their various subjects.  The students’ comments reminded me of our time with Ambleside Online, when we learned from authors passionate about their subjects and when connections among the various books and topics developed naturally.

In the afternoon we had two hours with Dr. John Patrick, physician, apologist, lecturer, lover of Truth, and teacher of the Science, Medicine, and Faith class.  This lecture, like the morning’s, began with prayer. Then Dr. Patrick, seated comfortably on a table, began to discuss…The Sermon on the Mount!  He explained to the visitors that past students had told him this was the most important part of his course, so now he goes through the Sermon on the Mount each year.

Then he continued with the history of science where, rather than emphasizing memorization, he focusses on the key ideas that did and didn’t work and the major players.  Yesterday’s topic was the history of chemistry, so he told stories about early chemists, their activities, and the theories of the day. He read aloud excerpts from Mendeleyev’s Dream by Strathern (this may be our next lunch time read aloud).  There was a wonderful excursion into Polanyi’s idea that we know more than we can verbalize and how that relates to conversion. Somehow that morphed into a discussion of how to become a good teacher: by loving the subject and the students rather than by learning rules.

The final few minutes of his lecture were as unexpected as the first ones:  Dr. Patrick taught the students to defend Judeo-Christian ideas, and to recognize and deconstruct foolish arguments.  There is a list of topics he cycles through, repeating them until the students thoroughly understand them. This time it was tolerance, but at other times he discusses ideas such as the myth of neutrality or the sanctity of life.

I rather suspect that Dr. Patrick’s course should really be called critical thinking, for that seems to be his passion:  to teach the students how to think critically, to prepare them for attacks on Christianity and Christian values, and to show them key ideas and players in the history of science from a Christian point of view.

In both lectures the students were given a huge amount of subject material but they were also taught about life.  While both professors were passionate about their subject, they seemed equally passionate about preparing the students to live as Christians in their future education, in their interaction with others, and in their future marriages.

This is the kind of education I try to provide, in a small way, for my teens at home. However, at a post-secondary level, nothing can compare with the expertise of gifted teachers passionate about their subject and their faith.

Is this the kind of education your family is interested in?  Then you should check out Augustine College, a small interdenominational liberal arts college that provides a classical education in one intense but moderately-priced year.

  • Explore the website.
  • Visit the media center where you can listen to profs, students, and guest lecturers.  While there, be sure to check out Sound Bites, which explains why Christian post-secondary education is so important.  One family yesterday had come to Student for a Day because they heard Dr. Patrick speak on CBC radio; that talk is also available.
  • Check out What We Study’ and the Course Details.

Whatever you decide to do later, for now just keep teaching your kids at home, doing your best to pass on wisdom as well as knowledge.  As an aside, the full-length online lectures available from the Augustine College media center could help you with this.

May God bless all Christian education, whether at home, at day-schools, or at post-secondary institutions.

Rereading this article, I am aware it sounds like an advertisement.  Hence the disclosure:  I am in no way compensated for writing this post.

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6 Comments

  1. Amy says:

    I have never heard of this college! Perhaps because I’m not from Canada? I’m going to go check out their website, thanks for sharing your experience!

    1. Annie Kate says:

      Probably because it’s very small and has only been around for 16 years.

      I think they actually have an enrollment limit, but I’m not sure. The profs and students really get to know each other, have regular meals together, etc, so that’s probably why they like it small.

      1. Brian Hempel says:

        The official enrollment limit is 25. The class of 2013 was only 16, but the rumor mill says that applications for the class of 2014 are flooding in much quicker, so apply soon!

        1. Annie Kate says:

          Thanks, Brian, for clarifying that.

  2. Mama Squirrel says:

    I remember reading their catalogue when they first opened–sounds like it has flourished!

  3. JoAnn says:

    Sounds like you had a great time. 🙂

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