When we started Founders Classical Academy of Leander in the Fall of 2013, in the middle of countless unknowns there were a few things we were certain of: we were going to commit to the ten points on the Barney Charter School Initiative’s list of what makes a true classical school, we were going to teach our students to love and protect their country, we were going to talk about the virtues, and all of our students would write a senior thesis before graduation. Among our high school students that last one is a sticking point, and I thought it would be helpful to talk about how the senior thesis works and why it is such an important part of a student’s education at our school, and classicalschoolsaroundthe country.
- It’s an opportunity for students to reflect upon their education before graduation. For some, this will be the last time they are asked to read a text closely or write carefully. For all of them, it is an rare opportunity to bring their elementary and secondary education to a conclusion and take stock of who they are as students before they go on to college and adulthood. It is a chance for them to ask themselves what they are interested in, what is important to them, and what they want to understand more fully.
- It’s an opportunity to practice and demonstrate the ability of speaking authoritatively about something one has learned. Think about everything a Founders student learns in high school or, in the future, what our students who have been with us since Kindergarten will know. Then think about what a shame it would be if our students lacked the ability to explain what they know in a clear and systematic way to others. What a missed opportunity that would be.
- It’s an opportunity to work closely with a member of the faculty on an academic work. The experience of working one-on-one with a trusted teacher over a period of several months is an chance to deepen one’s learning, and explore something important in more depth than is possible in the classroom.
When a student graduates from Founders Classical Academy, he or she has the education to be a successful and virtuous adult and a powerful force for good in the world. The senior thesis prepares students to take their place as citizens in our republic and serve as examples to others of the value of a liberal arts education.
Let’s take a look at the prompt the students are given when it’s time to begin their senior thesis. The question is simple, and it’s the same for all students:
Choose a book from the curriculum and show what it teaches about human nature and the human good.
If you think about it, this is a way for students to talk about the question – the thing that is most important for all of us. Aristotle says at the beginning of the Nicomachean Ethics that for all of us human beings, our primary question is what will make us happy in life, or, what is the good? All of the books we read at Founders Classical Academy have something to teach us about who we are and what we should pursue in life, and by choosing one of them, a Founders student has an opportunity to consider the most important question in depth.
Take a look below at the books our current seniors are writing on. We invite you to take an hour one afternoon this spring to listen to one of our seniors talk about what they have learned in high school. Senior thesis presentations are open to all members of the Founders Classical Academy community and they are one of the best ways to see what is possible when students receive a classical education in high school.