In the Rhetoric school, students develop eloquence, poise, diction, and presence. But even more importantly, they practice presenting their knowledge truthfully, humbly inviting listeners to consider and embrace both what is said and the pursuit of truth that led to it. Doing so enables them to fill positions of leadership in any endeavor – in the sciences, humanities, business, politics, or the arts.
Much learning occurs around oval Harkness tables in discussion, and sometimes debate, with one another and teachers. Sophomores present five to seven minute memorized declamations (famous speeches, portions of Scripture, or passages from the great literature) before an audience of peers, parents, teachers, and friends. Each senior presents and defends a researched thesis in public.
In math and science courses students learn to express their understanding of difficult concepts through words, as well as through successful calculation and experiment. Students examine the tradition of art, history, literature, theology, and philosophy chronologically, recognizing the “Great Conversation” of the ages, and considering what it means to participate in it.
The classes are rigorous, but not just for the sake of being hard. We cannot articulate more than we understand, and we cannot understand that with which we have not wrestled. Such effort is unavoidable because our world is complex and challenging. And it is in desperate need of the type of graduates Agathos seeks to produce: Good people who speak well.