For parents who are disillusioned with our nation’s public school systems, there are many other options available. One such alternative is classical education.
A resurgence in classical education, sometimes referred to as the liberal arts, has energized an education system that has sorely disappointed families over the past several years. Between dismal college readiness outcomes, rising violence in schools, and woke and sexualized curricula, many public schools have neglected their duty to children. Families are fed up, and with good reason. The public education system failed to listen to parents’ concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic and prioritized the desires of powerful teachers unions instead. The result for students has been devastating.
So parents have begun to look elsewhere, and many are finding a home within the classical school system.
The classical education movement in the United States is not a completely unified body, nor is it beholden to a centralized entity. Rather, it is a grassroots movement of educators and families whose primary goal is to encourage students in the pursuit of wisdom and virtue.
Rather than providing an education that simply produces satisfactory standardized test scores, classical education approaches education holistically by drawing heavily on the great texts of the Western tradition to provide a liberal arts education to students.
Opponents of classical education have depicted the movement as a project of the religious Right, whose goal is to push “Christian values onto the public sector.” But this mischaracterization of classical education misses the point. Classical education, available in both publicly funded charter and private schools, fosters principles of independent thinking and pushes students to pursue excellence, wisdom, and virtue. Many classical schools do this through a trivium approach, which focuses on grammar, logic, and rhetoric.
Classical education can be accessed through public charter, private, or homeschooling options. In states that support school choice policies — such as Tennessee, Arizona, and Florida — it is more easily accessible. Initiatives like Education Savings Accounts assist families by providing account-based school funds that allow parents to send their children to the school of their choice. Tennessee , for example, provides families with an account of $7,000 per student per year.
Brick-and-mortar classical schools operate across the country, and many more are expected to crop up to meet increasing demand. Some are even tuition-free, such as Great Hearts Academies , the largest provider of tuition-free classical charter schools in the country. The competition for a spot at one of their 33 academies is so great that most prospective students end up on a waitlist . With demand increasing each year, Great Hearts expects to triple enrollment over the next 12 years.
Hillsdale College has also developed curricula for a network of classical schools across the country that “emphasizes the centrality of the Western tradition in the study of history, literature, philosophy, and the fine arts.” These schools also seek to maintain a culture that “demands moral virtue, decorum, respect, discipline, and studiousness among the students and faculty — and simultaneously produces a spirit of wonder and a desire to know that which is good, true, and beautiful.”
Likewise, the Optima Foundation has grown a network of classical schools. Founded by a Florida mother of three, the Florida-based organization operates tuition-free classical schools, including a newly launched virtual reality charter school.
In addition, many homeschool curricula follow the classical education model while giving families the added freedom of flexibility and customization to meet their needs.
For families longing for an escape from dysfunctional, radicalized, and union-centric public school systems, classical schools can be a much-needed educational refuge. As it becomes clear that our public schools will only continue to deteriorate, school choice initiatives that make the tried-and-true classical education approach more accessible are more important than ever before.