Our Program

Welcome to Unity Classical Charter School.  We will grow into a K-8 School, and will start August 2017 as a K-2 School.  We will add a grade a year.  It is important to realize that we are intentionally working with a renewing movement in education that is capturing teachers and students wherever it is being used.  And it is also notable that classical schools tend to outperform anything else.  This model was almost lost to America in the last two generations, as progressive educational practices replaced classical approaches.  Classical had worked for all of America’s history and thousands of years before that, but in the 1960’s America was quickly moving into new models of teaching.

Interestingly, where classical education is being practiced again the outcomes are almost universally superior.

Classical education builds in a spiraling and sequential manner so that in each stage of a child’s developing mental ability they are taken more deeply into subject matter with which they are already acquainted.  Each subject has its own grammar, logic and rhetoric.  Those stages of learning also correspond to the formal breaks in the K-12 education system that offers elementary, middle and high school.

Elementary school students tend to think concretely (this is when they readily absorb the grammar of each subject), middle school students tend to think conceptually (this is when they want to know why, and then want to argue with the subject.  This is the phase they more naturally learn logic), and high school students become almost obsessed with self expression (so this is the stage called rhetoric in which we teach the student how to express their argument winsomely, thoroughly and with depth of fact).  These stages of learning correspond appropriately with learning the grammar of a subject (elementary), the logic of a subject (middle school) and the rhetoric of a subject (high school).

For example, in elementary school history class a student might learn the dates and participants in the American Civil War, even such things as the color of uniforms.  While they memorize this kind of information, they still do not understand it.  This is fine.  But then when their mental approach to learning transitions from obsession with concrete understanding of facts, to conceptual understanding of information (that is, they have moved from elementary to middle school years), now they become interested in the reasons why and the forces that played in to those reasons.  Now they want to argue about what they are learning.  So, in this stage of learning they are taught the rules of logic and how to go more deeply into the subject with which they were first acquainted in elementary school.  Then in high school, when most students are deeply concerned with self expression we teach the student how to winsomely express deeper understanding of their subject.  Now they learn about the wide array of forces that played in to the reasons for the Civil War, how those reasons were understood and misunderstood in their day, and what that might mean for our own day and the issues of conflict that enter our culture.

So, how does classical education compare to modern education?

Classical (traditional)                   verses              Progressive (modern)

  1. Original documents based           –              Textbook based
  2. Education for formation                –            Education for information
  3. Focus on critical thinking(why) – Focus on correct procedures(how)
  4. Emphasis on the true, good and beautiful   –   Emphasis on politically correct
  5. Integrated Interdisciplinary learning   –  Fragmented and disjointed learning
  6. Appreciation of western civilization       –    Critique of western civilization
  7. Latin taught as a core requirement      –    Latin is an elective
  8. Humanities and fine arts emphasis       –    Techno-rational emphasis
  9. Wants the student to learn how to learn  – Wants the student to pass tests
  10. Mastery is working to one’s fullest potential – Measured by test grades
  11. Life long love of learning is the goal    –      Graduation is the goal
  12. Truth is knowable, objective and absolute –  Self-actualized, peace and money
  13. Parents are primary educators   –   Teachers are primary educators.
  14. Education centered on timeless values – Education centered on modern man

 

1. Textbooks were only written when education was democratized (a good thing).  No longer was it only something for the wealthy.  At this point the poor, the lower  and middle income could have an education, but no one could afford to buy the original books of Plato, Aristotle, Acquinas, Smith and other contributors to the great conversations about humanity.  So textbooks were written to tell us what someone else thought (at least what the text book writer thought someone else thought).   I’d rather hear from the source.  Classical education in middle and high school years returns to the great books.

2. It is more important to shape the character and the soul of the child so that they hunger for freedom, and exhibit virtue in their conduct.  Education is not about playing with interesting disconnected ideas, it is about shaping the student for personal and civic virtue.

3. Since critical thinking emanates from teaching a child how to learn, and not what to learn, we can expect a classical student to go deeply underneath the surface of any subject to seek to know “why.”  When a student seeks to know the answer to the “why” question they will develop an understanding of procedure, but if procedure (how) is the only concern, they will never develop a depth of knowing.

4. The great thinkers have all struggled with the question of what is true, and good and beautiful.  Accordingly, philosophical questions of being and purpose become increasingly important to the classical student.  The arts are often where these questions have ultimate expression.  Yet these same arts, like questions of philosophy, are being edged out of modern education.

5. Classical education moves successively through stages of learning so that important subjects are revisited and opened to deeper understanding in each cycle of learning (each subject has its grammar, logic and rhetoric, and each child moves through corresponding stages of intellectual ability and depth so that learning becomes cyclic, deepening and empowering.  Conversely progressive education simply is a series of disconnected informational texts that never allow a student to gain depth and understanding of the subject’s capacity to be viewed as part of an interrelated nature.

6. Classical education celebrates a people founded in a freedom that comes from moral imperative and not the power of a king.  As such our American experiment in a republic is far from perfect, but nonetheless one to be celebrated and strengthened.  In contrast most progressive education simply denigrates America.

7. In 1998 the national verbal S.A.T. score was 505, whereas those that had the benefit of Latin classes had a score of 657.  Latin teaches one how to understand English and by extension all romance languages.  It therefore is vital to education.

8. One great purpose of education is to know oneself and the human condition.  With an emphasis on humanities a student becomes naturally, to some degree,  more humane.  The techno rational emphasis of progressive education (more appropriately deferred until career selection guides this decision) sees all humanity through the lens of how best does the person fit the larger purposes of the economy.  That is to say, it is more about training for a job, than training for life.

9. Classical education teaches a student how to think, not what to think.  Essentially it provides the tools of learning so that learning becomes a life long pleasure.  Interestingly, the futurists now talk about the next generation of employment belonging, not to the knowledge worker (someone with a limited and defined body of information, called knowledge).  Rather the next generation of employment belongs to the learning worker (that is someone that knows how to learn – which is the thrust of classical education).

10. The point of classical education is learning the tools of learning so that one moves past gaining a grade on a test and rather seeks subject mastery.  So, for example, when the progressive schools asks a student to pass a test in French, the classical school will hope the student might go to a restaurant someday and order the meal in the French language.   In a classical school one keeps delving deeper into the subject until mastery becomes a part of the experience.    In contrast the progressively educated student simply has to regurgitate the material sufficiently to pass the test, then move on.

11. A classical school teaches a love of learning, not only a desire to pass the test with no impact from the subject other than remembering some information long enough to satisfy the test.  The classical student will eagerly and much more easily learn any discipline they might desire as life takes them in different directions.  Whereas the progressively educated student will have a more difficult time learning new subjects.

12.  The classical student will engage the great books of the Western tradition, and read them in depth.  Such readings include: the Federalist Papers, the anti-Federalist Papers, Autobiography of an American Slave, Beowulf, The Brothers Karamazov, Brown vs. the Board of Education, the Canterbury Tales, the Communist Manifesto, Confessions of St. Augustine, The Constitution of the U.S., Crime and Punishment, the Declaration of Independence, Democracy in America, the Divine Comedy, Don Quixote, The Epic of Gilgamesh, the Grapes of Wrath, Iliad, King Lear, Letter from a Birmingham Jail, portions of the Bible, Lincoln’s second Inaugural address, Macbeth, Paradise Lost.  The list is too long to provide here, but it is extensive and complete.  It requires a depth of reading, and understanding not provided in progressive education which in contrast focuses on text books and informational materials.  The purpose of such reading is to learn how persons of great stature have hungered to know and live by the truth.  It is to learn what is important and what you will serve with resolve and purpose.  Such means that a life is shaped for virtue rather than self aggrandizement.

13.  The Classical school considers the parent(s) to be the primary educators.  The school seeks to honor the student’s family and recognize the value of the family in promoting the goals of learning.

14.  Education that centers on timeless values never seeks easy and ultimately inadequate answers to complex questions.  Such education is comfortable with life’s paradox and recognizes the validity to seeking deeper understanding of complex truth.