Classical schools are less concerned about whether students can handle iPads than if they grasp Plato. They generally aim to cultivate wisdom and virtue through teaching students Latin, exposing them to great books of Western civilization and focusing on appreciation of “truth, goodness and beauty.” Students are typically held to strict behavioral standards in terms of conduct and politeness, and given examples of characters from history to copy, ranging from the Roman nobleman Cincinnatus to St. Augustine of Hippo.
Parents like them, too; the number of classical schools – public and private – is growing. The curriculum has helped to boost enrollment at religious schools and inspired new public schools.
There are more than 55,000 members on the forums at welltrainedmind.com, a site started by Susan Wise Bauer, an author and educator who in 1999 published “The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home.” The book has sold more than a half-million copies, and has become a bible for the classical education movement.
Some supporters will gather this week at the annual meeting of the Association of Classical and Christian Schools – an organization of 235 schools with more than 38,000 students. They’ll attend workshops about how to delight students with poetry and strategies on how to introduce Van Gogh and Matisse to kindergarteners. Also in June, the Lynchburg, Virginia-based Society for Classical Learning will meet in San Antonio, where seminars focus on everything from rhetoric skills to overviews of ancient and medieval education methods.