The Washington Post’s pearl-clutching over classical education is especially ironic because the newspaper’s oh-so-progressive motto—“Democracy Dies in Darkness”—demonstrates the relevance: A complete education includes a foundation in the Western traditions that gave us democracy in the first place.
The Post contends that classical charter schools “push limits on separation of church, state” (again, a concept formulated by those awful dead, white males).
And the Post cites a new report from a progressive education group: “While private classical schools have a long history — emphasizing Eurocentric texts and the study of Latin and Greek — what is new is ‘the use of taxpayer dollars to fund them when they become or are established as charter schools,’ the report said.”
Here’s what the Post misses: No education is complete without a clear understanding of how we got here—and that means those “Eurocentric texts.” What’s more, classical education is incredibly popular right now. In a time when elementary schools hold secret gay pride events, hide emotional turmoil from parents and insist that no child can be anything more than his or her skin color and sexual proclivities, parents want something different. And classical education offers exactly that—the Good, the True and the Beautiful.
That’s certainly the case in Texas. While enrollment has doubled among non-classical charter schools over the decade from 2011 to 2021, enrollment has increased about sevenfold among classical charter schools in the Lone Star State.
Why? It’s not complicated. Our research shows that parents’ educational priorities are generally aligned with the priorities of classical education. Parents express strong desires for their children to grow in wisdom and virtue through the pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty within the context of a liberal arts education. Parents also highly value the formation of civic virtues and preparation for citizenship. These school invite students and their families to “live the fullest life possible, one directed by wisdom, animated by wonder, and anchored in friendship.” They show what education can be at its best.
Although career and college readiness and learning how to address social problems were important educational priorities for many parents, they were less important than the other priorities.
And parents are happy with the results they’re seeing. More than 90% of parents said they were “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with the “overall quality” of their child’s school. Parents expressed similarly high levels of satisfaction with their child’s teachers and learning progress as well as the quality of the school’s academic standards, instruction in character, and climate.
In summary, classical charter schools offer a distinct education rooted in the liberal arts and the pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty. That’s why it’s so popular—and so confusing to the Washington Post.
The Post should try again to understand why parents are seeking a classical education. Shockingly absent from their article is any reference to parents—and the only mention of families explains that classical schools “have websites designed to attract White conservative families.” This lazy neo-Marxist view which attributes everything to racial motivations overlooks the fact in Texas, Asian American and Hispanic students represent the fastest growing groups of classical charter students. Classical education isn’t racist. Perhaps WaPo would know that if its writers received a classical education.
Rather, classical education celebrates the good things that humans have inherited from the past while reminding us that even the greatest heroes had tragic flaws. In so doing, it provides us heroes to look up to and learn from. It inspires courage and moderation.
Those virtues are worth preserving—and passing down.