Monthly Archives: January 2015

Transitions: The Seventh Grade Experience

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By Ethan Shaw, Class of 2015

The stage lights turn on as students and family members anxiously take their seats in the familiar setting of the OMPC sanctuary. The front rows house three or four dozen 12 year-olds all racked with a sense of nervous excitement. The scene is the sixth grade Salutatio, a time- honored ceremony that marks the transition of a Westminster student from the lower into the Upper School. The Salutatio is in effect a coming of age, granting freedom coupled with an expectation of responsibility. Thus, beneath the fidgeting with neckties and the dreadful anticipation of house assignments, this is a moment that clearly and uniquely articulates the culture of Westminster.

For the students sitting in that room each May, the coming August may seem like a distant dream; yet the joys and challenges of Upper School life are in truth right around the corner. Ready or not, sixth graders are thrust headfirst into a new way of life that may at first seem largely foreign. In an instant they become seventh graders, a species of student trapped between the years of carefree simplicity and the looming prospect of young adulthood. In an effort to offer the school community better insight into the nature of this transition, several members of this year’s seventh grade class (or the class of 2020, if you prefer) have been interviewed concerning their Upper School experience thus far. My hope is that hearing their answers to the questions posed will both introduce us to several members of this special class while also giving us their thoughts on what the transition really means. We begin with the perspective of the seventh grade boys, hearing from two Johns (out of the grade’s three).

John Wolfe

First up is John Wolfe, a proud member of the house of Tolkien divided between his passions for fishing and tennis. He has been at Westminster since Kindergarten and especially enjoys humanities and science. His fears coming into the Upper School had to do with academic pressures regarding exams, a heavier workload, and preparation for college. Thankfully, he tells us that these fears have not really proved true. While he admits there is more work, he enjoys the freedom and ‘prestige’ of being in the Upper School that he had looked forward to. Wolfe remarks that he knows the essay writing he is doing in Bible and other classes will profit him greatly in the years ahead as he moves toward college. One of the few things he dislikes about the Upper School experience is the fact that teachers seem less personal than they were before. Some fun facts about John include his die-hard support of Texas A&M, making him one of a very small minority in the Upper School (and the future bane of one of our beloved Bible teachers). His favorite movie is Guardians of the Galaxy, his favorite home-cooked meal is steak, and he for some reason cannot bring himself to like glazed donuts (though he swears he enjoys the powdered kind). A day off from school would not be complete without lots of fishing, playing/watching football, eating wings, and staying up late to watch TV.

 

John Richardson

Next we turn to John Richardson, one of last year’s recipients of the Becky Cox award. He is a member of Calvin and has two Upper School siblings, Daniel (2015) and Anna (2017), along with a younger brother Luke in the lower school. His favorite class is humanities, and he is involved with both the cross-country and track teams this year. He especially enjoys reading and playing club soccer, along with just about anything Disney. He informed me that his college loyalty lies unequivocally with Alabama. Although having older siblings in the Upper School certainly tempered his fears coming into seventh grade, Richardson informed me that the idea of referrals was the scariest thing for him. On the contrary, he was most excited about engaging with teachers on a higher level and—of course—the prospect of a new building. While the fear of referrals admittedly does remain, Richardson notes that he especially enjoys the privilege of having a tutorial period to get work done and a long lunch period to socialize with friends. On a more personal note, his favorite season is spring and his favorite home-cooked meal is his grandmother’s dressing. He loves the The Hobbit movies along with the Harry Potter series. Even so, he told me if he had to choose one book series to take on a deserted island, it would definitely be The Lord of the Rings because he has not read them yet and has very high expectations of Tolkien’s work.

In summary, getting to know John Wolfe and John Richardson will hopefully help the rest of us in the Upper School to remember our days in the seventh grade. It is in this recognition of shared experiences that older students have the opportunity to connect with their younger counterparts and inspire a spirit of mutual understanding. It is this very spirit that will go a long way to preserve that unique and all-important interaction between middle school and high school that in part defines Westminster. Because hearing from only two of this year’s seventh grade by no means offers a holistic viewpoint, these will be supplemented by further interviews in a future article that will also serve to bring in the girls’ perspective. Until then, may we all remember our daily call to build one another up with the love of God shown forth in Christ.

A Very Lego Christmas

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By Sarah McDaniel, Class of 2017

Christmas is surrounded by many traditions designed to bring families together. From decorating tress to preparing cookies and milk for Santa, every family celebrates Christmas differently. My family is a littler different, though. Every year we construct a complex structure known as the Lego® Christmas Village.

Five years ago Lego® created a Christmas Village set. Each year, the company adds another set to the series. My entire family will sit down at our dining room table and drink hot apple cider while building each set. Christmas music plays in the background while we work. Then I am put in charge of pulling out our old card table and setting up the entire Village, which this year is named “Snow Valley.” It has mini-figures that are decorating Christmas trees, ice skating, and buying gifts from the stores around the town. This year the North Pole was added, and now rests on a mountain I constructed out of a box. There is a black diamond ski slope coming off the mountain, along with a skier who got himself stuck in a snow drift.

Snow Valley looks as if it came right out of a Hallmark movie. But my favorite aspect of the Village, however, is how it brings my family together. Throughout the year, we all get stressed out and pass each other going out separate ways. But when we all sit down to build the Village, we forget everything else and once again become a family. Christmas traditions remind everybody that even in a world where everything is constantly changing, some things will always be the same.

Screwtape’s Legacy: Slogbud’s Education

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By Patrick McGucken, Class of 2015

To my apprentice Slogbud,
I am so pleased to hear that you are interested in attending the Belial University of Master Tempters. It seems like only yesterday that you joined the Screwtape Academy of Young Tempters. Iʼd like to introduce myself to you. I am Torid, and I will be helping you through the final stages of your application. As you know, you must prove to be a talented tempter to get accepted. To show this you must convert a man who is a firm believer in the Enemyʼs camp. While I know it might be frightening to attempt to convert a patient who is already a Christian, but I have faith that you can accomplish such a task. Understand, however, the simple ploys like haunting him with a deceased family member or twisting relationships with his parents will not work well with this patient. You will need to rely on some of the more subtle and deceitful traps.

Because I am officially sponsoring you through your trial, I would like to remind you that your failure would result in punishment. As the head of the Secret Police, I would have no trouble in reporting you for punishment. However, I have never had an apprentice fail. I will do what I can to make you successful. To further help your endeavors, Iʼve done some research on your patient. It appears that he attends a private Christian school known as Westminster School at Oak Mountain (how predictable that it would be named after a church) and is a musician. I recommend that you prevent him from playing his music for it attracts the Enemy. You must distract him at all costs! For your sake, I have attached a plan that I would use if I were converting this patient. It is of absolute necessity that you plant the seeds of pride, uncertainty, and flippancy in the patientʼs heart. With these seeds of discord, you can reap the very virtues of Our Father Below in your patient.

Earlier I mentioned that you must prevent your patient from playing music as it draws the presence of the Enemy nearer. However, I believe that you possess the capabilities to corrupt his music to a prideful state. While this does involve some risk, I believe that it will hasten the fall of the patient, for pride strictly comes before the fall. For when the patient is subject to pride, in forms of showing off to his friends, he will instantly seek to become humble. That is when you spring the trap. Show him how he is being humble and convince him to have pride in his humility. I promise you that this tactic is successful, for even the honorable Screwtape suggested it in his letters: “Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, ʻBy jove! Iʼm being humble,ʼ (Lewis, 69). Screwtape knows that the power of pride is so great that it can be used to completely destroy humility. While being humble is a threat, it is very easy for you to convince your patient to rejoice in his ʻhumility.ʼ In our current situation, you must fill him with arrogance to the extent that his friends are avoiding him. In this situation, he will ask for forgiveness and attempt to become a more humble person. You must take advantage of his weakness and convince him that he has been humble. This will end up corrupting his sense of humility and will lead to him being even more prideful. Overall, this tactic alone will not be enough to make the patient reject the Enemy, but it does provide a step in the right direction.

Once you have implanted the idea of this ʻhumilityʼ in the patient, you need to strike with your next attack. As you know, humans have colleges that accept students based on their academic performances on tests and other classes. I believe you will find some humor in the desperation that many of your patients will show in attempting to get into one of the more prestigious universities. These colleges give you the perfect opportunity to make him focus on the future, as opposed to the Present. I would like you to recall what Screwtape writes on the ideas of the Present and future: “The humans live in time but our Enemy destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present,” (Lewis, 75). You see the Enemy wants them to be attracted to the present, because as Screwtape later writes, that the Present is closest time to eternity (Lewis, 75). Since our goal is to deter the ways of the Enemy, we must use forces other than the Present to distract our patients. Ideally, we force them to focus on the future. Screwtape explains that the goal is to have patients waiting for happiness in the future, preventing them from being happy now (Lewis.78). So for the sake of your patient, fill him with fantasies of the joys of college. Give him the hope of being accepted, and how he will be happier than he is currently. You can also manipulate his failed relationships, and convince him that a good relationship is lying in the future. Anything that you can use to distract him from the now is of upmost importance. With his mind set in the future, it will lead to a state of misery in the Present.

I donʼt mean to drown you in all this information, but I care for you deeply and would hate to see you end up like Wormwood did. However, Iʼm sure you would be very tasty. Never mind that, I would like to advise you that the final step to corrupting your patient is through flippancy. The corruption of a personʼs humor is one of the most effective tools we have at our disposal, Especially given the popularity of sexual based jokes, I believe that this would be the final nail in the coffin. Flippancy is effective because it mocks virtues, which will influence the patient to not value these virtues. Screwtape writes, “Only a clever human can make a real Joke about virtue…If prolonged, the habit of Flippancy builds up around a man the finest armour-plating against the Enemy that I know.” (11.56). When joking about virtues, it devalues these actions and makes the patient view them in a less-serious light. When he thinks of virtues, he will mock them instead of accepting them. In our case, I believe that surrounding him with his work friends is the best idea. A majority of them are already on our side, and have no limits on their jokes. If we encourage him to spend time with them, he will certainly pick up on their flippancy because he is too dependent on their respect. He will soon become just like them in their jokes, and over time will be won over to our side.

My final request is that you merely do not disappoint me. I do not wish to be plagued by having a pathetic and insolent tempter fail under my watch. While I am one of the heads of the Secret Police, I have no ability to protect you from punishment if things do not work out. With that said, I wish you only the best of luck and give you my full support.

All Hail Our Father Below, T orid
Chief Evil of Secret Police