What is Classical Education?

The term “classical education” is commonly used in several distinct senses. Here we use the term to indicate a curriculum rooted in Western history and culture—especially that of Greece, Rome, and the United States—and the use of traditional teaching methods.

Classical education teaches students both to earn a living, to be good citizens and to grow as faithful sons and daughters of God. It is useful, but, as it values knowledge for its own sake, is not utilitarian. It recognizes that value-free education is neither desirable nor possible, and it presupposes a wholesome vision of a good society. It imparts knowledge, inculcates sound thinking, forms intellectual virtue, sharpens discernment, and helps one grapple with the meaning of the good life. It upholds truth and beauty, helping students distinguish between good and bad, better and worse. It does not shrink from enforcing respect and discipline, as these are necessary not only for the establishment of a studious school culture but for the growth and lifelong thriving of students. It transmits culture from generation to generation by implementing a content-rich curriculum whereby it helps students attain a common cultural literacy, and it recognizes that such a task is possible only by emphasizing in this country our own Western and American literary canon and culture.

The greatest strength of a successful classical school is its faculty, and the working relationship of mutual trust between faculty members and administrators can be one of a school’s greatest resources. Strong faculty members are academically adept in their subjects, are devoted to the assistance of parents and the betterment of students, and are inclined to work with other teachers and administrators in an atmosphere of professional courtesy, charity, and respect. They are able to perform rigorous academic training in their subjects and are also informed and curious about other fields. They work with parents to guide their sons and daughters into responsible adulthood, updating parents regularly on how that formative process is progressing. They hold in common a desire to pursue a life of virtue, and the spirit with which they work—reflected in language, piety, honesty, and orderliness—offers students a hopeful vision of mature adulthood. They foster a tone in the classroom both of intellectual and moral virtue, and they engage students with a personal curiosity about life and the world around them.