Peter Searby is a teacher, musician, and director of the Riverside Center for Education, a center dedicated to providing boys a new landscape of action where they can learn to become young men of courage and imagination. Riverside is a new educational model that combines active hands-on learning with the great heritage of the liberal arts. His web site is located at: http://www.rside.org/art-of-boyhood/.
Imagine a small troupe of young writers and speakers reading great literature; publishing journals and newspapers on a variety of topics; producing radio shows; and short documentaries; and performing dialogues and dramatic scenes from classic literature and drama. Imagine these young fellows engaged in wordsmithing games or decoding etymologies, or engaging in debates over timeless issues in the history of Western Civilization. Imagine an engaged and small troupe of understudies putting great quotes, stories, speeches, and ballads to memory, and performing them in creative ways.
Imagine a tutor working side-by-side with these understudies helping them craft narratives, present their ideas with clarity, and tell stories by listening and imitating the greatest storytellers. Imagine a boy practicing a dialogue or speech, like Demosthenes of old, learning how to use appropriate sayings and choice words. Imagine a room of these young fellows engaged in projects through which they express their own lore knowledge - whether it be their rock collection, dinosaurs, or their love for baseball. Imagine a tutorial set in nature, where they film short documentaries on natural history and record voiceovers imitating David Attenborough and his well-known nature films. Imagine this troupe working throughout the year with a tutor on active and engaging projects.
This kind of workshop is here. It is called The Riverside Tutorial. It's a better way to teach boys how to speak and write because it is active, engaging, and geared towards producing creative projects they can exhibit. Boys yearn to be part of a troupe, wherein the skills they master lead to visible/tangible end goals. They need to play the roles they will someday take on as professional men. They need to be steeped in ideas, stories, and characters that inspire their imaginations, form their consciences, and build up a storehouse of words, wonder, and wit.
We are living in an age of sound-bytes and hyperlinks, where rhetoric is trite and merely informational. We are losing the ability to communicate in meaningful ways because we are racing our young through curriculum that is a mile wide and an inch deep. We are forgetting the importance of the essentials in education. We have hordes of students filling out bubbles on papers they throw away, their minds full of information that they soon forget as summer approaches. How often do they stand up and defend an idea, tell a story, or present on a topic - with a teacher guiding them in the art of speaking? It doesn't happen because we are not making room in schedules or curricula for the kind of learning the old masters once received.
C. S. Lewis, as a young boy, was trained by a master tutor to whom he attributed his love for literature and his ability to write and speak. "The Great Knock," as he called him, introduced him to the classics and taught young Jack how to criticize and analyze; he taught him how to think, speak, and write logically. Lewis, many years later, wrote in Surprised by Joy, "My debt to him is very great, my reverence to this day is undiminished."
The Riverside Tutorial is a more focused and deeper way to approach the core skills of speaking, writing, and reading. It is not tutoring in the modern sense of this word. It is a workshop replete with creative lessons that guide your sons in the art of communication through projects that are active and engaging. Ben Franklin published on his printing press at a very young age; Don Bosco had his orphan lads, whom he saved from the streets of Italy, produce newspapers and sell them. The history of young men who have produced quality work at a very young age is astounding! Our sons need to do the same. They are yearning for it.
Riverside is now poised to begin a series of tutorials, beginning with this most important academic discipline of writing, speaking, and reading. We have developed a network of liberal arts teachers, rooted in the Western canon and a catholic understanding of man and the purpose of education. Professor Anthony Esolen of Providence college - a teacher and guide who embodies the kind of learning advocated by C. S. Lewis - has endorsed our vision. We have a core group of families committed to our tutorial starting in September 2014.
This is an exciting time in the world of education! It will take an adventure to renew our culture, and now is the time to act. *