Did you play the game “Authors” as a child? This game introduces the youngest to the brightest, its cards displaying portraits of preeminent authors: Alfred Lord Tennyson, Louisa May Alcott, William Makepeace Thackeray. While making initial introductions, children will no doubt stumble over these syllables: how exactly does one pronounce “Dante Alighieri”? In time, however, these syllables will become savored. In time, the august brows, inscrutable eyes, and ponderous mouths of these authors will evince good humor in addition to the gravity that children expect to find there.
Growing up with Veritas Press curriculum was like playing a life-size version of “Authors.” The curriculum introduced us to Shakespeare in the fourth grade and Defoe in the fifth; there followed a handshake with Dickens in the sixth grade and Homer in the seventh. The atmosphere of play made possible a life-giving familiarity between the youngest and the brightest. We did not fear and tremble at the ancients, squint at the medievals, tiptoe around the moderns; no, the ancients, medievals, and moderns alike became our “kindred of the shelves,” as Emily Dickinson would have us call them.
As this life-size game of “Authors” plays on at Veritas Scholars Academy, my work as admissions coordinator for the VSA Diploma Program allows me a window into the ongoing activity of the game. Just the other day, the parent of one of our newest Diploma Program students reported that her “daughter's eyes lit up when she opened the Veritas Press catalog to the literature that she will read as a fifth grader.” This young Diploma Program student seems already to have discovered a smile in Robert Louis Stevenson’s doleful aspect and a twinkle beneath the opinionated stare of Frances Hodgson Burnett.
Reflecting upon the activity under my window, I find that there is, and always has been, a second game tucked within the life-size game of “Authors”: one might call this subsidiary game, “Characters.” The literary characters of the Veritas Press curriculum instruct me that my own and our students’ potential is not restricted to ordinary dimensions. Heroes like Achilles, prodigals like Henry V, and villains like Ebenezer Scrooge exemplify traits, both virtuous and vicious, that are almost larger than life: Achilles’ enormous pettiness, Henry V’s lofty nobleness and capacious rascality, Scrooge’s prodigious rigidness and unplumbable malleability. The monolithic stage upon which these characters perform reminds me that our students are likewise capable of acting, living, and thinking on the grand scale. This knowledge spurs my admissions work with the VSA Diploma Program; may the program continue to introduce more and more students to the monumental characters who have animated, cautioned, galvanized, admonished, goaded, and vivified students before them.
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