Capstone Thesis Program
“Christianity reveals the sacredness of the word—a truly divine gift to man. For this reason, our speech is endowed with tremendous power. . . . It can sow the seeds of a question, of the possibility of a different approach to life, of the desire to know more. We have no idea, in fact, how we constantly influence one another by our words. . . . To control speech is to recover its seriousness and its sacredness.” Alexander Schmemann
At The Geneva School, words are at the heart of what we do. As our students grow in wisdom and virtue, they learn that eloquent speech has power, whether for good or ill. In their final year of Rhetoric & Christian Thought, our students focus on deliberative speech, which moves an audience toward responsible action in accordance with what is good and fitting. Their training culminates in the Capstone Thesis, a well-researched and carefully articulated argument presented according to classical arrangement and defended before faculty members, parents, and peers.
By the time they reach their senior year, Geneva students have had numerous opportunities to practice logical thinking and public speaking. They understand that to make a good argument requires them to consider an idea in a reasoned way, to take a clear and specific stand, and to go to great lengths to understand and refute opposing viewpoints, establishing their credibility along the way. The Capstone Thesis gives the students a “laboratory” to put these skills of persuasion into practice. With the goal of promoting human flourishing, seniors dig deep into the history of a contemporary issue or problem, looking at its causes and previous attempts to explain or rectify it. Then they propose their solution.
Each senior is assigned a mentor to help them narrow and clarify their argument, give feedback on writing and delivery, and provide encouragement and accountability. During the course of the year, students visit a research library, read, reflect, discuss, and write and revise a number of drafts as well as a short deliberative speech, an annotated bibliography, and a report on a personal interview they conduct with an authority on their topic.
All Geneva seniors write the thesis paper and deliver it as a classical oration. The skills of research, organization, critical thinking, and persuasive eloquence in writing and speaking that the students develop through this project serve them well in college and in life, whether they use them to write a college paper, a business proposal, or an impassioned plea before a school board or city council. But we hope that beyond these practical benefits, the Capstone Thesis helps the students get in touch with—and maintain—a passion for making the world a better place, guided by a love for God and his creation.
2020 Capstone Thesis Award
Each year, at graduation, one student from the senior class is awarded the Capstone Thesis Award. The student recognized in May 2020 approached her task with seriousness, enthusiasm, and courage. She had a dogged determination to uncover truth and share it with others. Her personal commitment to her topic led her to read widely, to secure an interview early in the spring with a major figure in her area of study, and to work diligently through many stages of editing and reframing her argument for maximum impact. This resulted in a thoughtful, persuasive thesis paper and a beautifully delivered, and very effectively defended, oration.
The book of Proverbs says, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.” For her eloquent plea on behalf of vulnerable women and their unborn children, the 2020 Capstone Thesis Award was awarded to Elizabeth Troutman.
Elizabeth’s thesis is entitled “Pro-Life Is Pro-Woman: A New Feminism for a Changing World” You may read it and/or watch it by using the links below: