Kathleen O'Toole, Ph.D.

Assistant Provost for K-12 Education

B.A., Politics, University of Dallas
M.A. Political Science, Claremont Graduate University
Ph.D., Political Philosophy and American Government, Claremont Graduate University

Dr. Kathleen O’Toole is the assistant provost for K-12 Education at Hillsdale College, where she leads Hillsdale’s work in K-12 education, including the K-12 Education Office and Hillsdale Academy. Prior to joining Hillsdale, she was the founding headmaster of Founders Classical Academy of Leander, a classical charter school serving 700 students in grades K-12. She has taught at the college and high school levels at Claremont McKenna College, Morehead State University, and Founders Classical Academy of Leander. Dr. O’Toole was an editor for the Claremont Review of Books, a Publius Fellow at the Claremont Institute, and serves on the board of the Classic Learning Test. ‚Äč

Dr. O’Toole has presented academic papers on Aristotle, Cicero, St. Augustine, Shakespeare, and Alexis de Tocqueville, and her doctoral dissertation, on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and Politics, examines the place of moral virtue in the happy life, focusing on magnanimity, justice, and prudence. Her career in higher education showed her how important good moral and intellectual formation is before college and before adulthood. She lives in Hillsdale, Michigan with her husband Daniel and their children Charlotte and William. 

What’s your favorite book in the the curriculum?
“My favorite book to read, again and again, is Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Like the best books, it can’t be mastered, and I’ve learned that it always has something to teach. When I taught high school students, I had the most fun teaching Hobbes’s Leviathan and Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels."

What’s your favorite quote about education? 
"Liberal education, which consists in the constant intercourse with the greatest minds, is a training in the highest form of modesty, not to say of humility. It is at the same time a training in boldness: it demands from us the complete break with the noise, the rush, the thoughtlessness, the cheapness of the Vanity Fair of the intellectuals as well as of their enemies. It demands from us the boldness implied in the resolve to regard the accepted views as mere opinions, or to regard the average opinions as extreme opinions which are at least as likely to be wrong as the most strange or the least popular opinions. Liberal education is liberation from vulgarity. The Greeks had a beautiful word for “vulgarity;" they called it apeirokalia, lack of experience in things beautiful. Liberal education supplies us with experience in things beautiful.” — Leo Strauss 

What is the most inspiring part of your job?
"I'm inspired every time I watch a school leader at work in the hallways and the lunchroom."

Writing

Interest in Charter Schools is Surging, Washington Examiner, July 2022

The History Education our Children Deserve, RealClearPublicAffairs, August 2021

Parents Learn that Educating their Children is an Art, Not a Science, Washington Examiner, May 2020