Academic Departments & Curriculum
The teachers at Lawrence Academy want students to graduate knowing who they are. In order to discover who they are, they must figure out what the world means to them, what they think about art and literature and current world events. As they go off to college, the teachers want them to feel confident in their intellectual strength; to be independent, creative thinkers. The teachers want their students to share the sense of accomplishment of the senior who said, "I came to Lawrence a hockey player, and I left a person," or another senior who said, "Lawrence Academy has helped me develop into me."
In order to help students achieve this goal, Lawrence Academy teachers have designed a curriculum and use teaching methods that invite students to become active participants in their education. Instead of memorizing and regurgitating the thinking of others, most of the students’ time is spent looking at evidence and drawing their own conclusions, formulating and testing their own hypotheses, developing and expressing their own vision of the world. Rather than speak like a parrot, they develop their own voices.
This kind of work is hard work. For example, the history teachers recognize that learning about the Civil War would be much easier if they asked their students to memorize three causes of the Civil War rather than to immerse themselves in all the confusing and conflicting voices of the early 1800s and figure out for themselves what caused the war; that learning would be much easier if students were asked to take notes in a lecture rather than to prepare themselves for a debate or seminar; that learning would be much easier if they asked their students to accept the answers of others rather than to question those answers.
Because Lawrence Academy teachers know their demands are difficult, they work hard to prepare students to meet those demands. Starting in the ninth grade, teachers emphasize essential intellectual skills and habits: reasoning, reading, writing, questioning, research, speaking and listening. Teachers also help students with study and organization skills. Although the students’ education is ultimately their responsibility, they find the teachers responsive to their needs and requests for help. All of the teachers believe deeply in the importance of their students’ education—in their becoming the people they wish to become.