Ms. Starkey’s take on the value of the 12 Great Ideas in her classical classroom.

The 12 Great Ideas: Self-Sacrifice, Community & Fellowship, Being Chosen, Providence & Will, Do the Right Thing, Faith & Reason, Story, Eucatastrophe, Death & Resurrection, Light vs. Darkness, Hope vs. Despair, and Appearance vs. Reality

The 12 Great Ideas are a vital asset to any classical classroom. In my classes they serve three very important purposes: first, to further integrate subjects; second, to draw my students into the Logic phase of their education; and third, to equip students to better understand the world, their relationships, and their decisions.

The 12 Great Ideas, put simply, are 12 universal concepts that can be found in all kinds of writing. In my fifth grade class we discover them in our study of the Bible, in accounts of American history, in the stories we read in literature, and in the scientific pages of our zoology textbook. Because of their diverse presence throughout time and place, these enduring themes help students make connections across disciplines, which is one of the hallmarks of classical education.

Studying the 12 Great Ideas also challenges students to think critically. In my classes, they are tasked not only with understanding the 12 concepts (a Grammar-level skill), but also with identifying them as they are embedded in a variety of texts (a Logic-level skill). Furthermore, once students have drawn Great Ideas out of a text, they must defend the accuracy of their discoveries with proof (another Logic-level skill). In this way, the 12 Great Ideas aid students in making the transition into the second phase of the Trivium.

Perhaps most importantly, a focus on the 12 Great Ideas gives students a framework for interpreting their lives. These pillars offer lenses through which students can consider their experiences and evaluate their judgments. The Ideas are grounded in Judeo-Christian morality, and therefore give students practical tools for thinking through and acting out their lives as Christians. This kind of personal, spiritual formation is essential to classical education.

I am grateful for the 12 Great Ideas as an educator, but also as an individual. They are not only useful for reinforcing the ideals of classical education, but are also practical, formative, and widely applicable throughout life and study. I hope my students glean fruit from their study of the 12 Great Ideas for the rest of their lives.

*I did not create the 12 Great Ideas. They were presented at a session of the 2016 ACCS Conference.

– Ms. Heather Starkey, 5th grade teacher