Monday, April 11, 2011

The New Kid on the Block is Old and Deep

Classical education seems to be the new kid on the block.  The truth is that it is and it isn’t.  The roots of classical education are old and deep.  Sadly, the last two centuries have witnessed the slow decline and then the rapid demise of classical education and the rise of the developmental model and progressive education.  Fortunately, the last thirty years has seen a recovery of the classical notion of education, albeit extremely slow. The popularity of the classical notion of education has begun to grow a bit more rapidly in recent years.

This once common, yet revered, way of educating had its recent rebirth through protestant Christianity.  It has taken root in homeschooling, secular and Christian, as well as in private Christian, Protestant and Catholic, schools. 

The private classical Christian (Protestant) schools number in the hundreds.  The Logos School in Moscow, Idaho, The Cambridge School of Dallas, in Dallas, Texas and the Regents School of Austin, in Austin, Texas are three such schools.  The Logos School was at the very beginning of this rebirth and may be said to be its progenitor.  Douglas Wilson, Andrew Kern, and Charles Evans have been key leaders in the growth of the Christian (protestant) classical school movement.

The Catholic schools, which have been the carriers of the classical notion of education for so long, do not number so many.  Official Catholic schools, Catholic schools under the auspices of a diocese, that claim to be classical number fewer than five.  Two were recently named in a Washington Post article,, St. Jerome Classical School in Hyatsville, Maryland and St. Theresa Catholic School in Sugarland, Texas.   Bryan Smith, Andrew Seeley, and Michael van Hecke are important figures in Catholic classical school  movement.

In the last decade, the charter school movement has begun to pick up on value, quality, and importance of classical education.  The most prominent of these is Ridgeview Classical School in Ft. Collins, Colorado.  There are a number of classical charter schools on the rise.  The only network of classical charter schools is Great Hearts Academies centered in Phoenix, Arizona.  There is great classical charter school work beginning at Hillsdale College.  “The Barney Charter School Initiative is a new project of Hillsdale College to support the launch of classical K-12 charter schools and promote the understanding of liberal and civic education in the larger classical school movement.”  Phillip Kilgore, George Sanker, and Dan Scoggin are important people in this movement.

I move in all three circles.  I am Headmaster at Aristoi Classical Academy in Katy, Texas (  We are transitioning from a performing arts school to classical school.  Transitioning should occupy more of our thought, as a nation.  Though it is hard, it is not at all impossible.  If we are to get better schools, we have to change the schools we have into schools we need.  St. Jerome in Maryland and Aristoi in Katy are showing the way. 

My intention was to explain the difference between a traditional classroom and a classical classroom.  After writing the third sentence, I could not help but to continue as I did.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Education that Makes a Difference

Education matters.  Education that makes a difference is education that understands that truth exists and that it is worthy of pursuit.  Most education in our culture has abandoned the pursuit of truth in favor of the development of skills (Some say this is madness.).   The result is that we have fashioned primary and secondary schools that are more akin to factories than centers of learning.  Development of the intellect is superficial at best.  Purposeful development of the imagination is virtually non-existent (Children are subject to whatever images and stories the commercial world passes before them.).   Their hearts are altogether un-tended.

Friends, a great school exists to provide an education that is thoroughly immersed in truth and aimed at virtue.  It develops a curriculum steeped in the Western intellectual tradition and guided by its timeless mores.  A great school understands what’s at stake: nothing less than the loss of our understanding of liberty and what it means to be human; nothing less than the intellectual and spiritual means to continue to enliven our democratic-republic. 

It is time, before we are unalterably weak, while we remember our past, while some are still friends of truth, to throw-off the yoke of ignorance that comes to us in the guise of skills development.  Our culture is slipping away from us in the name of tolerance, relativity, and skills training.  Let us give our children the opportunity to recapture and live anew the culture we see now only as shades of the past come for a brief visit.  We grow weak as a nation while our skills increase because our character wanes.   Education lived out in the pursuit of the true, the good, and the beautiful not only develops skills, and deepens understanding, but it also builds character and returns a sense of history and purpose to our culture.

Dear friends, a great school works to renew our culture and change the world by helping students become life-long pursuers of the true, the good, and the beautiful.  In so doing, it provides a curriculum and environment that deepens the intellect, broadens the imagination, and widens the heart.  Simply put, Deeper. Broader. Wider. A great school helps our children deepen their intellects by providing them with a sufficiently rigorous curriculum that expects more from them than has ever been expected before and allowing them the opportunity to engage in conversation about the highest things at the highest levels they can achieve.  A great school helps to broaden the imagination of our children by giving them the opportunity and practice to think and navigate outside the norms while helping them grasp and grapple with the norms themselves.  A great school helps our children see themselves and their world more broadly.  They can solve the greatest of problems because they can imagine that there is a solution and that they can find it. A great school helps to widen the hearts of our children by helping them develop an understanding that they have a gift and that they are responsible to their fellow human beings.  They learn that their hearts must become wide enough to embrace all those who need them.

Friends, A great school must not allow itself to become a fortress of solitude.  Instead, it must embrace the challenge set before it: it cannot stand idly by while our culture slips away.  It must prepare our children to go into the world and stand for all that is true and good and beautiful. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


For too long have we allowed our children to range through the world of education with their eyes toward the ground. For too long have we allowed them to grow with their backs hunched and their shoulders slumped forward.
For the past ten decades we have allowed the development of skills to become the focus of education. From educational journals and state agencies across our beloved country we hear cries about our need to do more to help our students develop the skills to be more competitive in the global marketplace. Indeed, we all can see the tremendous push to deliver products, graduates, that are better in math and science. We are told that this is necessary because of our increasing dependence on technology and that if we are not careful, our beloved nation will be left behind. We are in danger of becoming a third-world nation. Education slowly slipped into training and is ramping up to reduce our future citizens to “doing-beings” rather than “thinking-beings” that do.
There are many that agree that replacing education with training is a threat to the future of our children as thinking-beings as well as a threat to the exceptional greatness of our nation and its opportunities for individual prosperity. However, their own notions of education have all the trimmings of a better course to take, but they, too, fall short of what education is in the main. They believe that a college education is the key to the good life. Many parents of primary and secondary school children believe that they must do everything they can to get their children ready for college; they believe that the purpose of education is to get into college. After getting into college, they believe that their children learn what they need to be successful in life. They inadvertently teach their children that the purpose of education is to make a living.

The general notions of education that have arisen over the last ten decades offer nothing truly inviting, nothing that calls forth the childrens' better selves; these notions offer nothing for the soul.

It is time to begin anew, again. Where should we begin?