While middle school might seem like a time of uncertainty and confusion for both student and parent, it is also a time of wonderful opportunity: students begin to realize that the world of facts is the precursor and foundation to the even more engaging universe of ideas, thought, and personal creativity. This is particularly true in the area of composition and literature, wherein is the opportunity to develop the ability to think logically, through reading great texts and writing about them.
Students do not need to wait until high school to begin to develop their analytical skills in writing, and in fact, after climbing that initial steep hill, they discover that what at first appeared to be a long, painful journey has turned out to be the preparation for entering an entirely new kingdom which they now have the keys to enter. Truth to tell, it’s the best time in life for them to part the curtain and enter into entire the adult world. They now can unlock the codes which open the doors to understanding the mature thought found in great literature. The ability to grasp the themes and deep riches of literature is also the ability to truly grasp history within the context of human nature. Dostoevsky knew this, and stated that it is through literature that the Russian people understand history. Perhaps this explains the love people have of historical fiction, or any great novels which thematically reflect the history of various incidents and people in history.
The book which has most influenced my own understanding of Dostoevsky’s assertion is Witness, by Whittaker Chambers. One of the unsung masterpieces of 20th century literature, this historically accurate book (not fiction) is the story of an influential American journalist’s journey from being a communist spy when he was Time Magazine’s religion editor to his gradual change of worldview during the 1950s and the “Mccarthy Era.” Witness had a profound influence on me when I was a young college student, and shaped my philosophy and future approach to life in immeasurable ways. I will forever be grateful to the college friend who handed that book to me when I was questioning my own belief system.
Perhaps you have a book which has meant a lot to you throughout the years; I personally find that revisiting my own experience with Witness is rejuvenating and encouraging, especially in times of discouragement or doubt. The ways in which literature can shape our consciences and define our lives are myriad because the relationship between words and the ways they express truths about our reality is profound and never-ending. There is no logic or understanding without a grasp of language and its handmaid, writing.
In my experience middle school students are ready for this philosophical and literary journey: in fact, though they may not know how to express their desires yet, they are yearning for it. When a parent/teacher/mentor guides the way, most students jump at the opportunity to begin the pilgrimage. Even if it means a steep climb at the beginning of the trip, the reward is worthwhile. Surrounding students with fine literature is a wise way to start them on the path to learning to write and the foundation for their developing the logic they need to help them fulfill their life callings.
Questions about our courses? Check our website, integritasacademy.com, or email us at Cindy@integritasacademy.com.