You go to school at the age of twelve or thirteen; and for the next four or five years you are not engaged so much in acquiring knowledge as in making mental efforts under criticism. A certain amount of knowledge you can indeed with average faculties acquire so as to retain; nor need you regret the hours that you spent on much that is forgotten, for the shadow of lost knowledge at least protects you from many illusions. But you go to a great school , not for knowledge so much as for arts and habits; the habit of attention, for the art of expression, for the art of assuming at a moment’s notice a new intellectual posture, for the art of entering quickly into another person’s thoughts, for the habit of submitting to censure and refutation, for the art of indicating assent or dissent in graduated terms, for the habit of regarding minute points of accuracy, for the habit of working out what is possible in a given time, for taste, for discrimination, for mental courage and mental soberness. Above all, you go to a great school for self-knowledge.
William Johnston Cory, 19th c. Eton Schoolmaster
The Middle School of St. Anselm’s Abbey School is dedicated to advancing the 1,500-year-old Benedictine tradition of preparing boys to embark on a broad classical education in the liberal arts. At the same time, the Middle School strives to plant the seeds of the classical and Christian understanding of Western civilization’s constant intellectual and cultural striving towards that which is true, good, and beautiful. In partnership with parents, we joyfully labor to form young men who are supple of mind, facile in expression, and steadfast of character; and who, as adults confident in God’s ever-abiding love and abundant grace, will dedicate their lives to loving service of God, family, and neighbor.
Our Middle School program is tripartite, with equal emphasis on each part. It is preparatory. It is formative. It is developmental.
That is to say, it is skill-driven. We teach the academic skills and personal habits which best prepare young boys for success in our Upper School. Subject content is, in some ways, secondary in importance; it is simply the context through which we help our students develop tools for learning that will serve them well throughout their lives.
We see the spiritual, or inner, life of a student as something which must be, by overt means, “formed”. The better part of this formation is grounded in the teaching and practice of the age-old classical virtues of Prudence, Justice, Temperance and Fortitude, along with the universal Christian virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love.
We set the bar high, just outside of the vision and comfort zone of most boys, in an effort to cultivate growth and to instill the abiding sense of self-confidence which stems from the accomplishment of goals and work excellently done. Having set the bar, we know it will take years for any boy to become an adroit, virtuous, and polished man. We expect students to strive, to fail, to accept consequences, to get help when needed, and to try again. We do not expect an 11-year-boy to function at the same academic or social level as an upperclassman. In Middle School a student has up to three years to develop the skills and habits necessary to ensure his success at the next level. At times he will take two steps forward and one step back. At other times he will seem to be spinning his wheels, stuck in the mud of his own immaturity, silliness, or laziness. Still, by the end of Form II, most boys will have turned the corner, mature and skilled enough to take on the pursuit of the broad course of study we offer in our Upper School: a liberal arts education that will prepare them to pursue a living in any field of their choosing and, more importantly, to live a life of human freedom.