What is Classical Education?

Classical education is a tried-and-true method that doesn't just teach children what to think, but rather teaches them how to think. One of the core goals in a classical education is to instill within students a desire to learn and to equip them with the tools they will need to be lifelong learners.

The classical model used at BCS recognizes that students learn differently at different ages and it uses these differences to its advantage. The model divides learning into 3 stages known as the Trivium.

 Grammar (K-6) Students absorb the fundamentals about language, numbers and the created world. Their attention is engaged through songs, chants, movement, hands-on projects and field trips.

Logic (7-8) Students extend their grasp of fundamentals while at the same time expand their thinking to a more abstract level. They learn how to apply the principles of formal logic as they analyze and make use of facts and information.

Rhetoric (9-12) Students at this stage are ready to communicate what they know in an original and effective manner. They learn and practice the art of rhetoric in well-written papers, well-spoken speeches and well-reasoned debates.

The trivium is at the center of Classical education. Other hallmarks of Classical education include the use of the Socratic Method in classrooms, a focus on Western Civilization and the Great Books, the study of Latin, and high expectations for students. 

The Socratic Method. The goal of the Socratic Method is to help students discover answers themselves as opposed to being fed answers by the teacher.

A focus on Western Civilization. Not that Western Civilization is better or worse than any other civilization, but as Americans it is our civilization and one needs to understand one's own culture and history in order to understand oneself. Likewise, one needs to understand one’s own culture before one can understand another culture. Knowing our heritage is particularly important given that we as Americans live in a country where we have the right to elect officials and influence policy. If we don’t know why we do what we do, it is easy to disregard good things or to try things that have already been proven to be failures or worse.

A focus on the Great Books. BCS Students learn science and math, but the goal is to help them be mature men and women of character, not successful worker bees able to purchase lots of consumable goods. For that reason we give equal weight to the humanities instead of narrowing our focus on applied science and mathematics like most conventional schools. In our teaching of the humanities we read classic texts in place of textbooks. For example, instead of reading a text on the philosophy of Plato, students read Plato himself; instead of reading a modern professor describe ancient Rome, students read Livy and Plutarch. This is not a new approach, but rather an old one. Like centuries of students before them, our students read the texts that form the backbone of Western Civilization and Culture.

Latin. At Baldwin Christian School students study first Latin and then Greek. This helps them to dive deeper in their understanding of Classical Cultures; it also helps them to better understand the New Testament. Moreover, having a foundation in Latin helps students to learn English grammar. It may be surprising, but English grammar was traditionally taught using Latin. Likewise, an understanding of Latin equips students to be able to quickly learn other languages.

High expectations. We at BCS have high expectations both in terms of academics and behavior. Character formation used to be the core of education. The ancients focused on it and modern psychology is proving that they were right on two fronts. First, your grit, or character, which is a product of your habits, is a far better indicator of your success in every area of life, from job to family, than your IQ. Right now the average student in the United States gives up on a problem they don’t understand in just 20 seconds(!) We lack grit and this shows in our failed marriages, cheap friendships, lazy parenting, job hopping, etc. Second, we have come to recognize that kids that are taught basic etiquette and manners in little things are less likely to do big harms. Right now we as a society (implicitly) teach young men that they can swear in front of girls, that they need not hold doors etc. and then go on to tell them that as adults they had better treat their wives and girlfriends with respect. This, as we are seeing to the harm of many women, simply does not work. If you want to stop people from committing big harms you need to teach them to treat others better in small, day to day things. The habit of holding doors and watching their language as boys will make men far less likely to abuse a woman in the future; likewise, getting kids in the habit of sticking with a hard homework problem will make them far more likely to stick in a hard marriage, remain in a tough job, or complete a difficult task. 

Education used to be centered on the pursuit of the True, Good, and Beautiful. At our school we seek truth in the books we read and in our pursuit of mathematical and scientific knowledge. We teach with the goal of disciplining the characters of our students to know and love the good. We point out beauty in God's creation and the works of men, while we encourage our students to develop beauty of soul. All in all, we believe that a classical education is the best means possible to acquire wisdom and virtue, both of which help one to grow in Christian maturity and to flourish in a variety of human endeavors.