Last week, Florida’s public university system became the first in the country to approve the Classic Learning Test (CLT), an alternative to the SAT and ACT, as a college entrance exam. Florida students who wish to apply to state schools can now take this newer and different test to demonstrate their academic abilities. 

If the SAT and ACT are siblings, the CLT is more like a younger cousin who’s really into history and philosophy. The SAT is designed to measure more aptitude than knowledge; the ACT measures knowledge more than aptitude. The CLT measures how students use logic and reason to engage with big ideas that have shaped the Western world. 

Classical education, and thus the Classic Learning Test, draws heavily from the history of Western Civilization and does not shy away from ethics and religion. The CLT does not judge test-takers based on their own beliefs but expects them to think critically about the belief systems and underlying assumptions presented in the reading passages (and yes, CLT test-takers still have to do math). Given the recent explosive growth of classical education, it makes sense that students should have the option to take a test that matches that model. 

Florida may also soon lead the nation in classical curriculum, not just classical testing. Miami-Dade Schools are in the early stages of considering offering a classical curriculum throughout the district, the largest in the state and one of the largest in the nation. The new curriculum would cover all the same core subjects as any standard K-12 curriculum, but it would emphasize grammar, logic, and rhetoric. In other words, it would train students to develop and articulate their own beliefs, underpinned by philosophical principles. Should Miami-Dade adopt such a curriculum, it would be the first large school district in the nation to do so. 

Like all educational models that differ from the status quo, classical education has encountered substantial opposition. For starters, there is no room in a classical curriculum for critical race theory and gender ideology. Michael Harriot, a columnist at The Grio, called classical education a “dog whistle” and “Daughters of the Confederacy stuff” on MSNBC. His characterization is far from the truth: Classical learning encourages students to examine and debate big ideas, which is a problem for anyone who would prefer students accept the politics of their teacher without ever questioning what he or she is told. 

Miami-Dade would offer the classical curriculum as an option; no one would be forced to take it. But it seems Florida parents are jumping at opportunities to enroll their kids in classical learning: Erika Donalds’ network of public charter classical schools, Optima Ed, is growing exponentially in Florida. It is hard to argue that students should be deprived of this kind of option, especially since it has seen such a massive spike in demand post-pandemic. Similarly, the CLT is optional. No one is forcing a student to take the test. It’s just one more way for students to show colleges what they know and how well they reason through problems. 

Classical education is not some fringe trend that is separate from traditional learning. Rather, it is a form of instruction that dates back to antiquity. Florida’s education leaders would be wise to give it a larger platform in today’s classrooms.