As headmaster of the Whitefish Christian Academy, Hal Brunson says his role is primarily that of a problem-solver.
Brunson took over as headmaster at the academy in February and just started his first full year at the helm of the school this fall.
“It’s often a position of headaches, and you have to keep your eyes on the kids in order for your heart to be in the mission, as opposed to keeping your eyes on the problems that you have to solve. Administration is really problem solving, and it’s very unpredictable because problems come up all the time,” he said.
Brunson came to Whitefish with an extensive career as an educator — having taught at the college prep, undergraduate and graduate levels — and administrator.
He has degrees in theology, divinity, interdisciplinary studies and received his doctorate in the humanities from the University of Texas — Dallas. He’s also a published author and has several books available on Amazon.com, the most recent being “Uhm, Like, You Know? Verbal Garbage and the Sacred Art of Speaking Well.”
As a headmaster, Brunson says he likes to focus on growth within his staff and school.
“I think you can’t be stagnant and be a headmaster,” he said. “You have to look constantly for ways to improve. And among things to be improved, I think are the quality of the product, which you improve by improving the quality of the faculty and the curriculum. That’s what I enjoy the most, working with faculty and curriculum.”
The academy teaches a classical Christian education based on the trivium system, a three-phase approach that originates in medieval teaching that combines general grammar, formal logic and classical rhetoric.
Brunson says the focus on critical thinking overall makes the system advantageous for his students.
Another priority is keeping virtue alive in today’s changing world, he said.
“There’s a sense that we’re in a culture war. Philosophically, morally we stand for things that society may stand against, so there’s a sense that we’re fighting a battle for the very soul of Western culture,” he said. “I think that anyone that has any degree of intellectual sophistication understands that western culture is demoralizing. It’s becoming increasingly atheistic, and it is unraveling morally. So we counter that with strong convictions about absolutes.”
In one example, Brunson explained how students at the academy will read materials that challenge their world-view to gain a broader perspective.
For instance, students at WCA read “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins, an author and evolutionary biologist who has been at the forefront of modern atheism.
“We read his book in school, because we want our kids to know who he is, what he thinks, and we want to give our kids the ammunition, the fortitude and information to be able to deal with say an atheist at a university or college,” Brunson said.
While he’s pleased with the school, Brunson said getting WCA out in to the community is one way the school can be better.
“I think we can improve with regard to our public reputation,” he said. “I don’t think the area public understands who we are and what we do as a school and why what we do is so different from what’s happening at other schools. I think we can improve with regards to the internal education of our parent body. There’s not enough familiarity in our community as to what classical Christian education is, so the same way that we need to advertise ourself publicly, we need to do the same internally.”
Brunson also said he’s pleased with the implementation of new programs like the FLEX language learning system and the Singapore math system, both of which are recent additions to the curriculum and bring new ways of learning and developing critical thinking skills to WCA students.
For more information on the academy, visit whitefishchristianacademy.org