The study of history in classical Christian schools often mirrors the model taken by our non-classical counterparts. Students read a textbook filled with a variety of facts that attempt to condense the progression of history to a few “high points” and key facts. Teachers use class time to lecture on the facts and connect them to a timeline that traces the “change” and “progress” of human existence through the generations. Often, activities and video presentations are brought in to help make history “come alive” for our students. Students are assessed in a manner that asks them to recall dates and facts and reproduce them quickly and simply. Rinse and repeat. What if, instead of this model, we rooted our students in an understanding that history is not the study of human progress, but rather a study of wisdom? If this is the case, it behooves us as classical educators to give our students the opportunity to both see this wisdom for themselves and to have the skills to mine the wisdom of those that have gone before. In this presentation, I will articulate an approach to medieval history that may help to not only train our students to read primary historical texts well, but also to consider that history goes beyond the study of what human beings did in the past. In this approach, primary texts all but replace the textbook and the teacher goes from a connector of facts to an advocate of historical wisdom.
Mr. Adam Roate currently serves at Westminster School at Oak Mountain in Birmingham, Alabama as a teacher of medieval history and the upper school’s humanities department chair. His “road” to classical education includes learning on military bases as a child, encountering the Great Books in a small undergrad program in Montgomery, Alabama, and taking on the responsibility of a long-term high school mathematics substitute as a college sophomore. While originally designed to be a temporary solution to the age-old money problems of a college undergraduate, this substitute role turned into 17 years as a math and humanities teacher in Alabama, Texas, and Idaho. While in Alabama, Mr. Roate helped to plan, organize, and implement a Great Books program at his first school, believing his efforts were unique in the educational movement as a whole. When he was contacted by a classical school in Texas, he quickly realized that what he was building in his two Great Books classes was actually fundamental to the foundation of many classical schools throughout the nation. This initial encounter with other classical educators led to 7 challenging but fruitful years in classical schools, leading to his current role at Westminster.