An Introduction to Classical Education
The Classical Academy of Sarasota is dedicated to the classical model of education. A classical education creates a well-rounded student with a logical mind and a virtuous heart. It is built upon the best of the Western traditional canon through curriculum and philosophy which acknowledges current understanding of child development and growth. Classical education instills in students a large body of factual knowledge, trains them to logically organize and analyze these facts, and gives them the tools to put forth a reasoned and persuasive argument. Classically educated students are coherent, thoughtful and eloquent writers and speakers who are grounded in virtue.
Classical education focuses on a rigorous and content-rich core in which academic marks are given for mastery, not for effort, in every subject. Classical education emphasizes excellence in everything from the literature read to the quality of each assignment completed by students. Acquiring knowledge is highly valued, and moving beyond the ability to simply pass a test, classical education advances this acquisition in order to create logical and articulate citizens.
Classical education has a rich 2500 year history. It began in the time of Plato and Aristotle, matured during the Middle Ages, and continued as the predominant form of education for America’s Founders. Educational trends come and go but the classical approach is timeless, rigorous and still relevant.
A classical education is distinguished by:
A “Back to Basics” Approach
Classical education is a “back to basics” education. All core subjects are taught with the goal of building a foundation of knowledge. Classical education emphasizes content-rich literature, a deep understanding of history, the fundamental principles in math and science, and a deep appreciation for art and music. Rather than moving quickly through topics and gleaning only the highlights, classical education advocates for the mastery of subjects.
Classical education places a clear focus on direct instruction. Teachers are the experts in the classroom, providing direct instruction. Students are not placed in pods around the room, left to learn through self-discovery and group projects. Technology does not take the place of excellent instruction or instructors. Teaching facts and directing students with logical questions are the guiding principles in every classroom.
Teachers do not rely on worksheets, fill in the blank, or multiple choice. Instead, students are taught to answer in complete sentences and create from a blank slate. Classical education strives for mastery of the content, not simply to complete the assignment or pass a test, but for the knowledge to become a part of the fabric of who they are.
A Focus on Moral Virtue
Virtue is foundational in a classical education. From the time of the ancients to the Founders of America, classical education holds that the practicing of virtue is the key to true happiness. Anchoring education in the four ancient virtues of temperance (self-control), prudence (wisdom), fortitude (courage), and justice teaches students to learn the true, do the good, and love the beautiful. Virtue is taught in all grades throughout the curriculum. Classical literature and the study of history offers students enduring examples of virtue and vice to look to when asking the question, how then should I live? Great conversations centered on these characters are fostered within the classrooms. Virtue is modelled by teachers and expected from the students.
“To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.”
~ Theodore Roosevelt
Classical education draws from the best of the Western Canon. It relies on the character, thoughts, and ideas of the great men and women who have preceded us. What students study and read is not just great because it is old but because it is timeless. Aristotle, Augustine, Shakespeare, Euclid, Homer, and many others are the giants upon whose shoulders classical education is built. Introducing young students to the greatest individuals and events from history lays the foundation for greater depth of learning as they grow. History is the backbone of a coherent study of all subjects.
A Standard of Excellence
Classical education emphasizes excellence in all areas. Students learn excellence through the example of their teachers and the curriculum taught in class. Excellence is expected in everything, from academic work to behaviour throughout the school day. Students who are trained in the habit of excellence and are constantly striving to do their best, from their penmanship to the way they dress, are prepared to be successful at whatever they do.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
The Study of Latin
Over 60% of the English language is rooted in Latin. Studying Latin enriches vocabulary and grammar, creates a strong sense of organization in writing, and improves literacy and reading comprehension. A strong knowledge of Latin advances understanding in both math and science as well and students who study Latin consistently score higher in all subject areas of standardized tests, as well as on the verbal portion of the SAT. Latin instruction begins in kindergarten and continues through high school.
A Strong Civic Understanding
Classical education stresses a strong civic understanding. In order to become virtuous and productive citizens, students must understand America’s founding principles, including the concepts of inalienable rights, natural law, American constitutionalism and the free market system. Students will not only read the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, but understand them.
“Educate and inform the whole mass of the people… They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”
~ Thomas Jefferson