Integration. To some, it’s a dirty word. To others, it’s a beautiful thing.
God is the author of all subjects. If they are all authored by Him and all point to Him, then they must point to one another, as well. Your history discussions will quite naturally call to mind your literature discussions. Your math discussions might very well call to mind your history discussions. And so on.
Integration does happen naturally, as Mr. Matt Bianco states in his article “Defeating the Integration Monster.” If you are a new Challenge director, you may find that difficult to believe. However, as you begin to try forcing integration amongst the subjects, you will find more and more that it comes naturally, that it is fairly easy, and that forcing the integration quickly fades into allowing the integration to flow.
If subject integration is so natural, why does it seem so unnatural at first?
In his article, Mr. Bianco explains that our culture’s education system has removed the natural integration of subjects by moving students “to another room designated for the teaching of a different subject. Waiting for them in each classroom was a new teacher, a specialist in that subject, who had no idea what they had just learned to another room designated for the teaching of a different subject. Waiting for them in each classroom was a new teacher, a specialist in that subject, who had no idea what they [the students] had just learned.” New subject, new teacher; continuity of subjects evaporates.
The Classical Conversations model for maintaining this continuity is ideal; a single tutor for all subjects. With this continuity, integration between subjects is made possible. But, might it be possible to maintain this continuity beyond the subjects?
In his article, one of Mr. Bianco’s examples of integration comes from his Challenge III class: “When the child uses the topic of comparison, discussion of the assassination of Julius Caesar in literature class (from Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar) quite naturally draws a comparison to American history and John Wilkes Booth’s assassination of Abraham Lincoln.” That is, indeed, a great example of integration across subjects. Couldn’t that scenario also exact a comparison to the assassination of JFK (which was discussed in Challenge I)? Couldn’t that same Challenge III scenario be integrated with the assassination of our culture’s basis for Truth, where we willingly stared into the face of that Truth and drove a dagger into it (which was discussed in Challenge II)? And couldn’t we whet the appetites of our students by integrating the same Challenge III event with the assassination of Galileo’s character which those students will see next year in Challenge IV? Is it possible to create continuity and integration not only between the subjects of a Challenge level, but also between and across the Challenge levels themselves?
In a perfect world, this seems possible, but this is not a perfect world. It would involve an enormous paradigm shift, it would require tutors to take on massive amounts of extra work, and, in many cases, it would simply not be logistically possible.
What if you, as an individual Challenge tutor, could change Challenge levels? What if you actually had the time to do it? What if you had the inclination to do it? What if the opportunity presented itself on your campus? Just, what if?
Some might say that having a director move to a different Challenge level is not a good model. I offer that perhaps it is the best model, albeit most often not a practical one. What better way can you think of to incorporate integration not just across the subjects, but across the years?
Take, for example, our Challenge B History of Science class this week. We studied Isaac Newton. His famous Second Law states that Force equals Mass times Acceleration. “Acceleration” comes from the Latin term “accelerātiō, accelerātiōnis” (a hastening). His gravitational law governs the physical movements of all bodies in the universe, much like the laws of logic govern the ideas throughout history. And both the law of gravitation and the laws of logic originate from the same Source. We learned that Newton proved any force applied will have an equal and opposite reaction, much like the opposite reactions we see in our Current Events discussions. In other words, we integrated across the Challenge B subjects. However, we didn’t stop there. We integrated our study of Isaac Newton with a concept the students will not learn until Challenge IV—physics. We discussed briefly how Newton’s writings affected the Enlightenment, which influenced the French Revolution (Challenge I and II). Newton’s mathematical discoveries in the area of calculus—which they found fascinating—will appear again in Challenge III. In addition, I was able to whet their appetites with a brief discussion of the controversy between Newton and Leibniz, causing them to look forward to both math and world history in Challenge IV. In other words, we integrated across the Challenge levels.
Integrating across subjects is fantastic, but integrating across Challenge levels is phenomenal. Allowing students to see the connections to God from within their Challenge-level subjects is awesome, but showing them the connections to God from across Challenge levels they have experienced or have yet to experience is astounding.
If you have been considering changing Challenge levels, I am here to encourage you. Take that opportunity if it presents itself. It involves starting over from scratch every time you change levels. It involves more learning that you can ever remember enduring. It involves time, labor, patience, tenacity, and commitment, but it is well worth it. And it affords the opportunity and the ability to integrate even more.