Spring 2019

CCE Trains National Journalists

By Nicole Ault

My first journalism exercise, of sorts, was on my senior class capstone trip to Europe, and I didn’t even know it. As we trekked through Greece and Italy with pens and notebooks, taking notes and sketching scenes, we recorded and synthesized experiences like reporters. In keeping with an important tenet of classical Christian education (CCE), we imitated a master work—in our case Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad, his account of his Mediterranean travels. (Twain was a journalist, before he reached Tom Sawyer fame.)

At the time, I didn’t think much about journalism formally. But with its liberal-arts emphasis, CCE is supposed to prepare students for any field of work and that includes reporting. What if our country’s most persuasive, top-notch journalists were classically educated? It almost goes without saying that CCE, done well, equips students with the basics for good journalism. The emphasis on logic and structured writing particularly develops expertise in the writing process. From our seventh-grade essays on The Epic of Gilgamesh through our senior thesis, our assignments drilled into us universal principles of good writing. But compelling writing needs to answer thought-provoking, creative questions that carry the reader to the heart of the story. In the world of reporting, we need more of what CCE teaches, especially in the dialectic stage—courteous discussion of meaningful, often hard, questions.

As I delve further into journalism, one principle stands out: the best journalists are well read. Beyond the nuts and bolts of writing and arguing, the great literature so essential to CCE provides an intellectual context, a depth of mind and of creativity, essential to good journalism. I have begun to learn, I hope, to know what images will make readers exclaim, “Wait, that’s from Shakespeare!” and to convey multiple layers of meaning with a single word or meaningful metaphor. This literacy includes, perhaps most of all, biblical literacy, which pervades even the works of non-Christian writers. Memorizing Bible verses in grammar school and sweating over junior-year analyses of biblical texts allow a writer to add depth to his work by referencing the most read book in the world.

Through literature and all other subjects of the liberal arts education, CCE provides something more fundamental as well: an understanding that the world is integrated and purposeful, and therefore abundantly fascinating. Everything in creation, CCE teaches, belongs to God, and studying the world—from ancient literature to calculus— is a way of knowing Him better. There is nothing to fear and everything to learn. Life is rich.

The motto of Rockbridge Academy, the classical school I attended K–12, epitomizes this: In captivitatem redigentes, omnem intellectum, from 2 Corinthians 10:5, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” That mindset makes journalism much more exciting, and beautiful. A journalist will have to tackle any number of subjects, and sometimes, they won’t be appealing. I’ve dragged my feet on many an assignment. But recognizing that all things glorify one God, and that all humans are made in His image, gives purpose and meaning and interest to each assignment.

It becomes a gift, then, to tell each story.

NICOLE AULT currently attends Hillsdale College where she is editor for the school newspaper. During summer internships, she has contributed to and written more than 60 articles, which have appeared in The Washington Times, Industry Dive, and World magazine. She has also been published in The Wall Street Journal. She believes Rockbridge Academy laid much of the foundation for her current pursuits by teaching strong, logical writing and encouraging a curiosity about the world that’s essential for good reporting.