The story of the St John of Kronstadt Academy begins a little over 6 years ago shortly after the birth of my daughter. My wife and I were new parents and trying to understand how to look after this small baby that God had blessed us with (no manual was provided to us at the hospital!). Even though it was years away, it was around this time that I started thinking about my daughter’s education and the kind of person she would grow up to be.
I received what would be considered by most people as a ‘regular’ education. But even after completing my under-graduate and post-graduate studies, I still didn’t feel educated. Since finishing high school in the early 90’s, I’d kept an eye on education and what I saw happening in schools scared me. From my perspective, children seemed to be graduating from high school knowing less and less and, more alarmingly, nihilistic and without purpose. All that mattered were their final year results and what university course they got into. The type of person they were was not even a thought.
This led me to looking at education overseas and there were clearly countries doing much better than us in Australia. After much research, I decided we had no choice but to move if we wanted to give our children a better education than we had received.
It was about this time that someone at church gave me a book that they asked me to review. I began to read through it and got to a chapter on what was called ‘classical education’. I had never heard the term let alone understood what it meant. This type of education was about forming the mind, body and soul, the love of all things true, good and beautiful, the cultivation of wisdom and virtue, reading the ‘great books’ and graduating students who would be lifelong learners.
From this one chapter I immediately knew that this was the type of education that I desperately wanted for my children and that I wish I had received. I began to research this thing called ‘classical education’ and discovered how it was the way we educated people for over 2000 years, that it had produced some of the greatest thinkers and writers in world history, that modern/progressive education is a recent change in education (around about the 1950’s), the reasons behind modern/progressive education (think factory workers after WWII) and the resurgence of classical education in the USA since the early 1980’s.
This opened up a whole new world to me and one with a lot of opportunities. The only problem was that as far as I was aware, although there were literally hundreds of classical schools in the US (including classical Orthodox schools), there were no classical schools in Australia. At this point, the easy thing to do would have been to pack up the family and to move to the US to be close to one of the established classical schools there (not something I was keen to do). But the more I thought about it, the more one consistent thought continued to occur to me, I could either be selfish and move to the US to look after my own children or I could start a classical school here in Australia and benefit many families who are also looking for a better alternative.
After much prayer and thought the decision was clear, we had to start a classical school!
I immediately contacted my Bishop (His Grace Bishop George, Bishop of Sydney, Australia and NZ) to ask for a blessing to undertake this project. He was very supportive and agreed to the project.
This was an exciting prospect but one that was also very frightening. See, I never received a classical education, I’m not a teacher, I don’t have an educational background, I’ve never been the administrator of a school let alone build one from scratch. And to make it even more of a challenge, we were going to establish a type of school that doesn’t even exist in Australia.
Undertaking this huge task meant facing some hard truths:
Yes it’s going to be hard.
Yes, we're going to have to find a school board, a place for the new school, the money to pay for it and for all the resources and teaching staff to run it.
Yes, we're going to have to go through the long accreditation process with the governing body so that we could open our doors.
Yes, we're going to have to learn how to teach classically.
But what other options do we have? To give our children over to institutions that are going to fill their minds with ideologies and propaganda that will corrupt and confuse them? Where instead of the truth they are taught lies? Where God is completely absent from the worldview presented to them?
But as Orthodox Christians we believe that all things are possible with God and I firmly believe that all the hard work, and the challenges that come with it, are worth it for the sake of our children.
And our vision for our future students is clear: to cultivate saints who will love God and their neighbour and live a holy and righteous life.
And through much prayer, many things have become possible. We have a wonderful Academy Board and group of volunteers who are wholly dedicated to seeing the Academy succeed. After much work, we lodged our application for accreditation with the Qld Non-State Schools Accreditation Board in January 2023 and are awaiting an outcome to our application (expected in July 2023) and we have found a very suitable location to rent that is perfect for the Academy.
But there is so much more that still needs to be done to be able to open our doors in January 2024. We need to find the money to pay the bond for our new campus, buy tables and chairs for the classrooms, books and curriculums, photocopiers and phones, fit out costs for the Academy……the list is long!
We also need to employ and begin to pay our staff before the end of 2023 (our teachers can’t start on the first day of school!) but our tuition fees and Commonwealth/State funding won’t be available to us until early to mid-2024.
All of this requires money to make it happen.
Please, we need your help to make the Academy a reality, to give our children an education that will instil in them wisdom and virtue, that will teach them not what to think but how to think and that will place Christ at the very centre of their education.
Every donation will help us greatly, so I ask you to please give generously.
You can read more about the Academy at our website at: www.stjohnacademy.com.au
May our risen Lord bless, support and guide you all and please remember the Academy, and all who labour in this task, in your prayers.
Christ is Risen!
Fr Stephen David
Director of the St John of Kronstadt Academy