SENIOR CAPSTONE COURSE
Literally, a capstone is the top stone of a wall or other structure, and it is figuratively used to describe the culmination of a certain work or action. Therefore, as a course for our seniors, Capstone serves as the culmination of our studentsí formal education at Westminster. The two qualities that distinguish Capstone are its content and its format.
The content of Capstone is not simply focused on one subject. Rather, it is an integrative course centered around the foundational ideas that have shaped and continue to shape our civilization. These include ideas such as truth, goodness, beauty, love, justice and freedom. These ideas are approached through reading primary texts that are widely recognized as anchors or catalysts to the ideas. The authors of these texts include Plato, Augustine, Dante, Machiavelli, Galileo, Kierkegaard, Mill, Nietzsche and Weber. The students in Capstone read essays, books, novels, poems, speeches, etc. and come to class ready to discuss what they have read, which leads to the format of the course.
Capstone is a team-taught, dialogue-oriented course. The students do not listen to lectures, take notes and re-state those notes onto an exam. Instead, the students listen to and participate in conversations. The class meets three days out of the week. On two of those days, four or five senior faculty members who teach math, science, English, history, Bible, theology, logic and rhetoric sit at a table and have a conversation about a given text. The students simply listen and perhaps write down statements or questions that they find to be compelling or interesting or even incorrect. The faculty members do not have a ready-made lesson plan to try to cover, rather, they simply engage in a thoughtful, passionate dialogue concerning the text. On the third day that the class meets, it is the studentsí turn to engage in conversation. In groups of four or five, they take turns discussing their own points of view regarding the text. They take into consideration what they have heard from the teachers and offer criticisms or support or a different angle altogether. They do not merely mimic what they have heard, rather, they bring their own thoughts and their own perspectives into the dialogue. As with the teachers, their thoughts incorporate connections made in all subjects.
Dorothy Sayers (see Essay by Dorothy Sayers) claims that the sole purpose of education is to teach students how to learn. The Capstone course acts as a culmination of a kindergarten through twelfth grade experience designed to do just that. Given the writings that are pivotal to understanding the origins of the great ideas and given consistent demonstrations by teachers who passionately discuss the meanings and implications of those writings, our students are learning how to properly think through not only the great ideas but also the multitudes of cacophonous messages that they encounter daily as young people in our modern world. These students are learning to synthesize all the learning they have experienced to this point and to evaluate it against and along side of the great thinkers of ages past and to draw that forward and apply it to the present. They are learning how to learn, and they are learning to love that which is worth loving (see Classical Christian Education Defined).
The Capstsone class meets Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 10:55 - 11:45am. Feel free to join us.
Capstone Reading List:
Art and Illustration, Plato
Science and Creation, Plato
Happiness Is the Goal of Human Life, Aristotle
Justice, the Perfect Virtue, Aristotle
The State's Role in Moral Education, Aristotle
Should a Philosopher Withdraw from the World?, Seneca
A Christian Critique of Pagan Ethics, St. Augustine of Hippo
Why Wealth Is Not the Key to Happiness, Boethius
True Happiness, Boethius
On Jesus, Son of Mary, The Koran
Forbidden Love and Its Punishment, Abelard
The Motivation of Love, Bernard of Clairvaux
The Human Good, Thomas Aquinas
Paolo and Francesca, Dante Alighieri
The Unity of Classical & Christian Learning, Erasmus
Comparing the Old World and the New, Michel de Montaigne
Science and Scripture, Galileo Galilei
The Fruits of the Division of Labor, Adam Smith
The Invisible Hand of the Free Market, Adam Smith
Federalist No. 10, James Madison
Human Rights, Edmund Burke
The Teleological Suspension of the Ethical, Soren Kierkegaard
Suffering, Arthur Schopenhauer
Justice and Utility, John Stuart Mill
God is Dead, Frederich Nietzsche
Calvinism, Max Weber
Making a Revolution, V.I. Lenin