When I was in high school youth group, we got to play a game called “Bigger and Better.” It is a team building exercise that asks each team to start with an insignificant item like a paper clip, go out into the community, and trade up the item to something bigger and better. The goal is to keep upgrading the object until the time runs out. Each group then returns, and the winner is the group that traded up to the biggest and best item. It is a fun game; however, it teaches people to believe in a logical fallacy.
Assuming something is better simply because it is bigger is erroneous thinking. It was incorrect thinking when David fought Goliath, and it is incorrect thinking today. There are all kinds of things that are absolutely not made better by increasing their size. For example, nobody thinks that having big bills is an improvement. Swallowing big pills? Sorry, I prefer my medicine in tiny pill format. I’ve never had kidney stones before, but people assure me that bigger is not better. I’m also quite thankful that medical tools have been scaled down to microscopic sizes. Surgeries have gotten far less invasive as a result. If the entire world bought into the lie that bigger is better, then things like the Tiny House Revolution wouldn’t exist either. There are other examples of how smaller is better, and school size is a key example. Small schools have distinct advantages over large schools.
Recently, I think it has become fashionable to believe that going to a big high school gives students more opportunities. To be fair, there is some truth to that statement. Big schools do offer things that small schools don’t offer; however, small schools offer just as many student opportunities. The key is that a small school like Calvin is offering things that big schools are unable to offer. For example, small schools have much more freedom to innovate and implement new programs. Calvin Christian’s spring interim sessions are a good example of this kind of innovation. Students are able to study photography while canoeing down the Colorado River, study animals while learning from zookeepers at the San Diego Zoo, and study sound and light production from industry professionals. Being small also allows Calvin to take the entire student body on a multi-day retreat.
A smaller school size has day-to-day strengths that enhance the on campus experience that extends beyond the big, annual events. A small school gives students access to each other on a daily basis. This builds in a sense of camaraderie and community that is absent from a 3,000 student campus. A powerful sense of belonging occurs when everybody knows your name. That deep intimacy was even mainstreamed in the popular culture industry in the title sequence song of the show Cheers. Go ahead, sing it. You know you want to.
“Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name.”
Calvin students know each other, and Calvin’s teachers know their students. Being small means that each teacher gets years of contact time with a student. That builds in a real sense of investment for that teacher. A Calvin student isn’t just a number passing through a classroom for only a single semester. That student is a child of God that the teacher gets to help build and mold over several classes and years.
Finally, a smaller school gives each and every student on campus the chance to try the various programs that the school offers. If a student wants to be a part of the choir, soccer team, debate club, musical, etc., that student can absolutely find a place in those programs regardless of previous experience and talent. This variety of opportunity creates students that are well rounded, diverse, and knowledgeable about a variety of their potential future talents.
Calvin Christian School is a small school, and that is a good thing. I’m a graduate of Calvin Christian, and I have never once regretted being in a place where everybody knew my name. If a family is going to base a school choice on size alone, then they believe that size matters. That’s okay as long as there is a realization that the small can be mightier than the large. I think King David would agree.