There is much more to education than merely transferring knowledge from one mind to another, for the mind is only one aspect of the human person: we are also body and soul; will and affections; loves and hatreds. A Geneva education, therefore, is not merely a matter of the mind; rather, we seek to cultivate students as whole persons: mind, body, and heart.
But of course education is largely a matter of the mind. Highly problematic, then, is the modern tendency towards the fracturing of knowledge. Compartmentalization and specialization are the order of the day, even in secondary schools, giving rise to a culture that no longer perceives reality as an integrated whole. The Geneva School, in contrast, believes that “all truth is God’s truth” and is, therefore, one. The universe is an ordered whole, and so we seek to mirror that unity by helping students to integrate what they learn. In order to achieve this, the curriculum must provide for students as seamless a transition as possible as they move among the various disciplines—history, literature, art, music, science, and others. This inter-disciplinary approach requires not only that the subjects be integrated within the curriculum, but also that the faculty be capable of making integrative connections evident and meaningful. The Geneva School offers a strong integration of content across disciplines through its use of a historical narrative framework. From the 7th to 11th grades the students find that the content of their various subjects is interwoven through a historical timeline that begins with the ancient Near East (3200 BC) and proceeds down to the present. This approach offers an incredible amount of cross-pollination at the content level, which is further consolidated in the students’ “capstone” senior year.
Education is also hard work—as is life in general. This is as true for students as it is for anyone. At each grade level, therefore, teachers are attuned to the issues that students face because we humans are physical beings who have growing pains, varying energy levels, and different life struggles. That the 17th-century philosopher John Locke understood this is demonstrated by his devoting nearly 80 pages of his treatise on education to describing the physical toils of education and how students must expect it. With Locke, we recognize that our physicality plays a fundamental role in learning and must be respected as integral to who we are. So, we seek not only to develop our intellects, but also our bodies through physical education, athletics, music, drama, and other endeavors.
Students’ hearts also distinctly affect their education, and so the culture of the school is of utmost importance. The loves, moral imagination, and Christian piety developed in the lower school are built upon in the upper school. The faculty continually seek to guide the students’ hearts towards the good, the true, and the beautiful, with the goal of developing in students a passion for lifelong learning. By means of this “affective” objective for intellectual formation we seek more than just comprehension and mastery—we want students to enjoy learning and to love wisdom. This more comprehensive goal can only be reached through winsome, contagious teaching and individual concern. Passion for understanding is caught, not taught. Geneva believes that nurturing this passion is crucial for helping students acquire integrated knowledge under the lordship of Christ.
Educating the whole person is a notion that is fundamental to the Geneva way. The resulting benefit for the student who is educated in this way is a more cohesive world view, a more thorough comprehension of the subject matter, the cultivation of a deeper sense of awe at the world God has created, and an ability to effectively communicate what they know. In other words, classically educated students are on the cutting edge.