What is American Classical Education?

Classical education is a sound and time-tested means of leading students towards intellectual, moral, and civic virtue.

Grounded in Human Nature

Classical education begins with reflection upon the common humanity of its students. All young people require formation, but they innately represent all the potential that makes human beings so unique and remarkable. They can speak, which means they are both social and capable of knowing. They are possessed of will and are therefore capable of doing good. They wonder, and they are moved by beauty. These common characteristics point to the virtues and vices that are common to all human beings, and classical education leads students to know, practice, and love the virtues.

Real Content

A classical education takes a content-rich approach to the study of important subjects. As students mature in the curriculum, classical education teaches them to ask and venture answers to the big questions, then goes further to consider how those questions might be answered persuasively and beautifully. Classical education regards both the humanities and the sciences as equally important, because wonder about human nature and the natural world is essential to the human condition, and that knowledge of both leads us towards wisdom and happiness.

Young school children raising their hands in class.

In a classical school, the community works together in the bonds of mutual affection towards truth and virtue. The methods and texts are often ancient, but they are informed by modern knowledge, experience, and circumstances.

Moral Formation

Happiness is not merely an intellectual condition, but a moral one, and classical education attends closely to the moral development of its students. According to both simple observation and millennia-old traditions of literature and philosophy, classical educators understand that moral character is built on a foundation of habit and imitation. This foundation is later justified and reinforced by reason and intellect, but it does not start that way. Classical education begins by instilling good habits, proceeds by offering examples worth of emulation, and continues with robust examination of moral philosophy.

Thoughtful Patriotism

As Americans, students are inheritors of a civic tradition whose central idea is human equality, a truth apparent in our common humanity, and an idea that allows for our common liberty and mutual pursuit of excellence. To use the language of our founding, America’s foundational ideas and institutions were born of reflection and choice, not accident and force. It is essential that our students learn these ideas and how their country has sought to live up to its founding ideals. Their training in civic virtue is also a fulfillment of their human nature, for as Aristotle teaches, man is a political animal who can only access the heights of virtue through participation in a just political community. Through practice, affection, and knowledge, classical education educates citizens with a refined and rational love of their country, the necessary basis for civic virtue.

The project of classical education is engaged in a community that is working together in the bonds of mutual affection towards truth and virtue. Its methods and texts are often ancient, but are informed by modern knowledge, experience, and circumstances. Its intent is to form graduates befitting of their charge, who regardless of their future professions or aspirations seek to perpetuate intellectual, moral, and civic virtue in themselves and future generations. It is an education appropriate to our humanity, and essential for good government and the happiness of mankind.