Martin Cothran, writer and educator, provides us with this perspective: “Classical education sees schools in cultural and human terms. Its societal goal is to pass on the culture from one generation to the next, and its individual goal is to form the souls of students in accordance with traditional philosophical principles. It is both philosophically-minded and culturally-oriented.” In other words, in addition to sharing knowledge -- i.e. content about the world around us -- education must also inspire young people to discover their strengths, their passions, and evoke a desire to use their talents well, to practice virtue, and to make their world a better place.
This requires us, as educators and mentors, to model, encourage, and foster virtue in young people. One of the most powerful tools for helping students to choose the good is story. Story helps us understand people -- past and present -- real and imaginary. The essence of story helps shape one’s conscience by sharing lessons without preaching or demanding. Story leads students to reflect on what moves them, what challenges them, what surprises them, what angers them, and what opens their minds. Ultimately, these reflections enrich and transform students’ perspectives. Story can teach the virtues needed to meet difficulties, to offer compassion, to live humbly, to share, to struggle, and to learn.
All of this can happen in a rich curriculum. We know a steady diet of classical literature begins to form the moral imagination, but history is equally powerful as we teach the story of us and our mistakes, our losses, our achievements, and greatest discoveries. There is the wonder of science -- another great story about experiments, failures, attempts and more attempts, and sometimes, breakthroughs and great successes. Many men and women of science have provided the world with great knowledge and scientific advancements and they have taught lessons of practical wisdom that young people can aspire to emulate.
A classical education opens the door to the arts. Yes, students enjoy lessons about line, color, meter, rhythm, and composition. But through the arts, students see the goodness and beauty of the world captured and shared in a wide variety of forms. Students begin to appreciate how each individual expresses the world’s beauty differently while also learning how much we share in common. Through art, students can embrace the virtues of patience, empathy, and openness.
A classical program, steeped in Western tradition, great literature, mathematics, the arts, and languages strives to teach virtue and is rooted in the belief that the practicing of virtue is the key to true happiness. This classical, challenging academic curriculum with emphasis on character development supports Brookfield Academy’s vision to teach students to seek the truth always, do the good, and love the beautiful.
View our latest Classical Heritage Series presentation: “How Classical and Character Education Can Thrive.” Receive your linkHERE