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Thinking Well

Thinking well is powerful because it changes not just how we see the world, but how we live in it.  Students are taught to think well, because the better they think, the better they know how to live, work, and engage the world around them.  At its highest, thinking well doesn’t simply benefit the individual student, but also the world.  Pacifica teaches its students to think well for purposes higher than their own. Students are not simply attempting to grow in knowledge, but to renew their minds to see more clearly, act more justly, and love more lavishly.

Liberal Arts – Historically, the liberal arts didn’t merely prepare students for careers—though they are remarkably suited to do that. They were subjects that free people enjoyed spending time learning.  The process of study, discussion, debate, and learning produced joy and revealed new areas of interest to students.  It simultaneously taught students to read, write, calculate, and think.  The liberal arts freed students to know their world and themselves.  They allowed students to uncover their passions and to see the world differently and more accurately. Following in the liberal arts tradition, proper study at Pacifica helps our students find their places in God’s unfolding story and become ready for all that life and God have to offer. Through studying a range of subjects—the liberal arts—we can actually become more human and enjoy more freedom from the world’s confusion: we learn how to think for ourselves, make important connections, and understand God’s, and our, place in the larger story. Click here to read about the practical benefits of the liberal arts.

Faith & Learning – Throughout Pacifica’s curriculum, we allow both secular and sacred texts to speak for themselves.  At the same time, we reflect on the biblical narrative.  In that way, our students discover two things simultaneously: important works of human creation and how they fit into God’s order.  Therefore, for example, we study the works of William Shakespeare, the intricacies of the human genome, and the varying political philosophies of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau.  We take time to pursue truth by faith, showing how these subjects can help a person better experience the fullness of God’s Kingdom. We call this the integration of faith with learning. This commitment provides the foundation from which we explore.

Western Civilization – We have founded our curriculum upon the Western tradition. We rely heavily on primary texts, letting students engage directly with history’s greatest authors and thinkers.  From ancient civilizations to the Renaissance to the founding of the United States of America, Pacifica engages its students in the “Great Conversation.”  Students learn to understand our civilization’s great debates and to enter that discussion for themselves.  This approach provides them with a foundation from which they can explore, understand, and critique societal movements, scientists, artists, mathematicians, philosophers, and writers from any era or culture, including our own.

Grace & Truth – Pacifica’s school culture emanates from the pursuit of grace and truth in all relationships. We believe that the truth sets students free.  By studying the truth, they are free to know God, themselves, and their world.  We also want Pacifica students to be honest and truthful with one another, their teachers, and the texts they study.  The more truthful they are the more they can grow in character individually and the more the Pacifica community grows together.  At the same time, we seek and display God’s grace when encountering truth.  We want the fullness of God’s grace in all our relationships:  extending compassion, understanding, and forgiveness to others. According to John’s Gospel, the Father’s gift to mankind is Jesus’ model, which integrated grace and truth throughout his life. That is the example we seek to follow in shaping Pacifica’s culture and each of its students.

Conviction & Compassion – All truth is God’s truth.  Thus, we can freely explore the past 2,500 years of human thought and experience with great confidence that we will discover truth in scripture and in revelation from our created world. We know that faith and reason are complementary and that the pursuits of the mind and the passions of the heart work together to see clearly, act justly, and love lavishly. 

We are not intimidated by truth; rather we build the courage to say that one thing is right and another wrong. That one thing is beautiful and another ugly. That one thing is good and another bad.  This is conviction.  We direct our students to “dwell on whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise,” we want Pacifica students dwelling on these things.

But we teach the pursuit of truth, honor, and beauty to be done with compassion and grace. Convictions need not alienate students from those with whom they disagree; the disagreement can actually draw them closer as scholars and friends—if handled with grace. Our students’ curiosity and their love for people work to keep them engaged in conversations that matter, with people who matter. Like Aristotle, we teach them to entertain a thought without accepting it, and like Jesus, we teach them to love their neighbor, no matter how different they may be. 

“Grace and truth,” as well as “conviction and compassion,” may seem at odds.  But at Pacifica, we teach and demonstrate they must be held together in order both to think well and to live well.

Socratic Seminar – Pacifica asks students to participate directly in the “Great Conversation” as a way of learning and living.  Teachers challenge them to ask real questions and to desire to know the answers. While students must learn from the wisdom of others—great authors, scripture, their teachers, and their classmates—we also want them to be able to explain their own opinions well.  In both writing and speech, Pacifica teaches its students to communicate well. Socratic seminars are an important tool to teach these skills.  Students are not simply given lectures.  Instead, teachers engage them in a dialogue from their readings.  Because students are active in the classroom, rather than just passive listeners, they learn to study and prepare more thoroughly.  They want a deeper understanding of their texts.  They know teachers will call on them not just to give simple answers, but actually to explain their beliefs.  This creates thrilling discussions in and out of the classroom.  It also teaches students to think critically and wisely, to articulate their own thoughts, and to respond to others’ thoughts. Socratic seminars are one of the best teaching tools we have to allow students to seek and discuss the truth.  Students also have the opportunity, guided by their teachers’ wisdom, to work together and to challenge each other intelligently and civilly.

Joy in Learning – Joy in learning is abundant through it all! Students are learning about what it is to be human, in God’s world.  The more they know about how to live life—per God’s plan and design—the more they can live well.  Living well produces joy.  Learning produces joy.

Click on a link to read how we do this: 

THINKING WELL   |   LIVING WELL   |   LIFE TOGETHER

How We Do What We Do: