Classical Education is one of the Benjamin Franklin Classical Charter Public Schools four pillars. We believe that a classical approach ensures that students will receive a well-rounded and rich educational experience.
The following pillar document outlines the defining principles and background for our approach to Classical Education.
1. Students are grounded in the fundamental subjects of literature, history, mathematics, science, language, music and the arts in order to understand culture and enable active participation in it.
2. The developmental stages of classical education (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) guide how our curriculum is taught. In addition to learning the content of a wide range of subjects, students develop the ability to analyze, reason, and express themselves.
3. The Core Knowledge Sequence and the MA Curriculum Frameworks guide our curriculum. These provide the “body of knowledge of proved, lasting significance, assumed in public discourse and known by a broad majority of literate people” (original BFCCPS charter).
4. The curriculum is systematic, rigorous and challenging.
5. There is an emphasis on learning through reading, writing and spoken language.
6. A variety of thoughtful, engaging teaching methods promote a student’s active role in learning. These may include collaborative learning, writing process workshops, hands-on projects, plays, interdisciplinary and theme-based units, seminars, differentiated instruction and cooperative education.
Classical Education Background
When taking on the task of defining the principles of classical education at BFCCPS, the Mission Committee consulted a variety of sources to better understand the concept of classical education. The first source studied was the original charter language submitted to the commonwealth in 1994 by the founding families of BFCCPS. The language on the school’s website giving an overview of the Core Knowledge program further enhanced our understanding of the founders’ intent.
To supplement these sources, three additional documents were studied. First, Dr. William Schmitt, headmaster of the Trivium School, in Lancaster, MA, prepared a presentation for the Mission Committee on the topic of classical education. Dr. Schmitt’s paper that formed the basis for the presentation was a great resource as well. The Committee read an essay on classical education, “The Lost Tools of Learning” by Dorothy Sayers, a British writer, scholar, and expert on the Middle Ages. Lastly, an essay titled “What is Classical Education?” by the educator, Susan Wise Bauer, provided additional thoughts and concepts for our consideration.
One component of a classical education is learning about the Greeks and Romans. Their history, literature, languages, and philosophy can provide a basis for a classical education curriculum. Understanding the past and learning about the essential truths about man and nature discovered by these ancient civilizations can help prepare our children for the future. (Schmitt)
An extension of this component is the belief that a classical education provides a “body of knowledge of proved, lasting significance, assumed in public discourse and known by a broad majority of literate people” (BFCCPS original charter). There is a shared history and shared literacy.
Another component is an emphasis on the concept of the trivium – the tools of grammar, logic, and rhetoric – which shape the approach used to teach a classical education curriculum. These tools of learning can be applied to any subject being studied. The grammar stage focuses on learning the structure and building blocks of a subject – facts, names, dates, etc. As children get older, they develop logic skills and learn how to argue, contradict and debate issues within the subject. They can learn how to really use a language or subject and recognize cause and effect. The rhetoric stage, usually reached around high school age, leads young adults to express themselves in a more nuanced manner, focus on the big picture and produce more originality in thought. (Schmitt; Sayers; Bauer)
A classical education is often language focused. Learning is primarily done through written and spoken words and less through images. Language learning requires the mind to work harder and be more active and engaged than image learning (Bauer).
A classical education uses history as its organizing structure and includes science, literature, art and music of each era (Bauer). All knowledge is interrelated.
A classical education is systematic and rigorous. This rigorous study helps develop virtue, the ability to act in accordance to what one knows to be right. “Classical education asks students to work against his baser inclination in order to reach a goal – the mastery of a subject”. (Bauer)
BFCCPS believes in blending these components in defining its classical education pillar.