What is Classical Education?

A classical education emphasizes human virtue and moral character, responsible citizenship, a content-rich course of study, and teacher-led classrooms.

Classical education describes the time-tested curricula, materials, methods, and aims that have traditionally been used to educate our youth and that have served to build our nation and preserve Western civilization. It is an education in the liberal arts and sciences that includes teaching of objective standards as well as instruction in moral character and civic virtue.

An education at Cincinnati Classical Academy:

  • aims to cultivate human virtue
  • emphasizes the humanities, encompassing the general learning that should be the possession of all people
  • is founded on logocentrism, the principle that truth exists and can be known through the exercise of reason, and that there are objective standards of truth, beauty, and virtue
  • stresses competence in science and mathematics, which are necessary to comprehend the changing world and the challenges it faces
  • aims to cultivate moral character and civic virtue, grounded in prudence, justice, courage, humility, gratitude, perseverance, and compassion
  • holds that the purpose of education is to enable human happiness. It seeks to engage the inquisitive nature and the need for purpose, which are innate in human mind and soul
  • aims to instill appreciation and discernment of the good, the true, and the beautiful
  • recognizes that the Western and American traditions are our precious heritage and transmits the accumulated wisdom of Western civilization (yet not at the expense of that which is good from other civilizations)
  • relies on traditional methods; it holds that teachers, instructing in classrooms, are indispensable as sources of inspiration and models of virtuous character
  • is language-rich and employs a variety of instructional approaches including Socratic dialogue, seminar, lecture, debate, and recitation
  • employs a rigorous, content-rich curriculum in the liberal arts and sciences; this includes the use of primary sources in the humanities to convey the stories and mysteries of the human condition as told by the great authors and thinkers
  • is one in which the great books feature prominently; these works, as well as those of great art and music, contain profound explorations of the questions that have occupied the noblest minds of every generation
  • is an education fitting for free citizens, one that liberates students from the bonds of ignorance and vice
  • celebrates mystery, seeking to tap students’ sense of wonder and to draw them toward wisdom
  • prizes a well-ordered mind and heart, and every effort is made to reflect this order in the environment, from good manners to a well-adorned campus
  • aims to cultivate human flourishing in the individual, in communities, and in our nation

What Is Classical Education Is Not

Classical education is not elitist.

Historically, classical education was reserved for the upper classes, but that is no longer the case. Charter schools are public and anyone may enroll. No tuition is charged and no tests are given to determine eligibility. If there happens to be a waiting list, the order of admission is decided by lottery. Classical charter schools offer a classical education to anyone who desires it, without consideration of social status, race, or income.

Classical education is not stifling.

It is true, classical schools are characterized by the old-fashioned belief that students should memorize a great many facts. But the learning of facts is merely preparatory. Lower-order thinking is for the sake of higher-order thinking. Of far greater importance are the creativity and good conversation made possible by virtuous habits and a well-stocked mind.

Classical education is not faddish.

The last half century has seen an endless parade of education reforms, and ever-increasing costs have yielded persistently lackluster results. Classical education made possible the greatest achievements of Western civilization, not least its political and economic philosophy, science and technology, material prosperity, law codes and free institutions. Classical educators think it wise to keep hold of the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Classical education is not outdated.

The ends of a classical education did not cease to be relevant with the opening of the twenty-first century. They were not made obsolete by technological advances of the telegraph, the television, the computer, or the internet. They were not extinguished with the expansion of trade between Europe and the East during the Renaissance, and they will not be extinguished in the global economy that continues today. A classical education is in every essential point a timeless education. Its aims are good for every person and at all times.