In the Middle Ages, the scriptorium was the room where monks read, thought, wrote, and passed on the true, the good, and the beautiful from the Western heritage. Scriptorium Hall aims to do the same. In addition to gaining skill in discerning between truth and falsehood, good and evil, beauty and ugliness, Scriptorium students will gain skill in thinking, speaking, and writing clearly, and will develop habits of wisdom, diligence, promptness, and courtesy in their work.
Is Scriptorium a Christian organization?
Scriptorium courses are open to students regardless of religious belief.
The Lord as the Author of all truth and the Bible as His Word are the ultimate foundations for Scriptorium courses. While in this sense, Scriptorium Hall can be considered a Christian organization, no student or family registering for courses through Scriptorium is ever required to subscribe to any type of religious confession.
However, this does not mean that Christian scriptures, themes, or principles are never mentioned in Scriptorium courses. Because Western Civilization is the product of the interactions between non-Christian and Christian cultures, students must understand some basic Christian principles to understand the texts covered in Scriptorium courses. When these principles relate to the topic at hand, we discuss them without using church vocabulary. This allows Christian students to think more deeply about these ideas and gives non-Christian students a clear understanding of them. Finally, books assigned to be read in Scriptorium courses are chosen solely because of their significance to the Western heritage that shaped our current culture; many of these books were not written by Christian authors, but all present valuable truths about the human condition.
What is it like to be a Scriptorium student?
Scriptorium courses are reading and writing intensive so that students can come mind-to-mind with the great thinkers of the past. Most courses cover six to eight books during the school year. Between class meetings, students spend several hours reading and thinking to develop brief written responses to questions debated in class. Formal assessment is based on essays and exams. The highlight of each semester is Defense Day, when students exhibit their semester projects and defend their essays. The day ends with an awards ceremony, a feast, and English country dancing.
Why does Scriptorium not use textbooks?
Textbooks tell what modern historians and literary critics say about the past. At Scriptorium, we read primary sources: documents written by people from the past about their own times. Unrestricted by twenty-first-century concerns, authors of the past described their observations on the human condition in their own ways. As C.S. Lewis wrote,
“Firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire.”
Some works are more enjoyable or more complex than others, but all works read for Scriptorium courses contain important ideas for students to discover and debate.
While secondary sources are also vital for understanding the past, Scriptorium’s emphasis on primary sources comes from a concern to help students better understand the mindset of time-periods other than their own. As Lewis also recognized, our era has its own weaknesses and blindspots, but reading works written by people who had very different ways of viewing the world can give us insight into our own time if we have the humility to read those works, and if we allow ourselves the leisure for contemplation.
Are Scriptorium courses college preparatory?
Yes! The skills of close reading, analysis, debate, and writing developed in every Scriptorium course are necessary for success in and enjoyment of college. However, these skills—and students’ own thinking about the greatest ideas of the past—help equip all students for all of life. The robust humanities education provided by Scriptorium prepares well-rounded students who will be able to enrich their own lives—regardless of academic discipline—because of their familiarity with great ideas, great literature, and great art. Recent studies are increasingly demonstrating the inadequacy of a purely scientific-technical education and the value of an education that emphasizes a variety of ideas and communication skills. To adapt a phrase from the Everlasting Man, man does not live by technology alone; Scriptorium aims to bring truth, goodness, and beauty to the feast.
Image: Duomo, Milan, Italy