4 Myths About Classical Education

Four Myths about Classical Education*

Myth #1: Classical education was fine back then, but we need modern education in a modern world.

Fact: Classical education teaches students facts, provides them with logical tools to use those facts, and perfects the student’s ability to relate those facts to others. This fundamental skill-set is more valuable today than it has ever been. The process of teaching students to think extends far beyond filling their heads with knowledge. Modern education, to varying degrees, has succeeded in teaching facts and some skills. Classical education helps students draw original, creative, and accurate conclusions from facts and then formulate those conclusions into logical and persuasive arguments.

Modern subjects based in science and technology are taught in classical schools, through classical methods. Parents who are exposed to classical education recognize that its back to the basics approach contrasts with the distractions of modern education. Is the classical method applicable in a modern, technological age? The technology we have today was invented, in large part, by the classically educated. Man inhabited the earth for thousands of years without developing technology until the last two centuries. It is no coincidence that the groundwork for these achievements was laid within the last 400 years when classical education was at its height. Classical education teaches children the timeless skills of thinking, reasoning, logic, and expression. Our subject matter is as up-to-date as that found in other schools. We simply add a depth and dimension through this time-tested method.

Myth #2: My child is not intelligent enough to attend a classical school.

Fact: Students at Geneva Academy vary in intelligence from exceptionally intelligent to below average. Many parents assume that a classical education is only accessible to gifted children. In fact, all children benefit greatly from the classical method. If you were educated in Western society prior to 1850, you were classically educated.

Often, myths start from a spark of reality. Many parents observe the classroom and curriculum of Geneva Academy and assume the children are abnormally bright. In reality, classical education challenges children and is uniquely able to leverage their natural abilities during different stages of childhood. In short, we help ordinary children and deliver extraordinary results by employing proven methods tested for centuries. Not just for “A” students!

Myth #3: Classical education is too extreme.

Fact: Classical education teaches children with the grain – complementing their developmental phase with the appropriate teaching method. The classical method is different from today’s conventional education. Parents are rightfully skeptical of anything that differs so boldly from the norm. However, classical education was the norm 100 years ago because it worked.

Conventional education has taken an experimental approach to educating our children over the past four decades. Many different methods have been tried and later scrapped when they fail. This constant state of change in education creates an environment where anything traditional seems extreme. Unfortunately, this is where modern educational thought is upside down. Classical education provides a basic structure upon which we can build effective, successful students. We are not advocating an experiment. Rather, we are seeking a return to a system proven for over 1,000 years.

Myth #4: Classical education is unnecessarily difficult or harsh.

Fact: Children enjoy learning. They are wired for it. Assuming that a child will not be able to succeed in a challenging environment is tempting, but simply untrue.

A common assumption is that a demanding curriculum results in unhappy children. As adults, learning new things can be uncomfortable. However, most children are fascinated by what they learn at Geneva Academy. The excitement of children learning Latin grows as they become able to describe the world in a language that most adults do not understand. The rich and complex texture of classical literature is strangely amplified by youth. Science and the history of Western Civilization come alive for those who hunger to know about their world. For the unconvinced, a visit to Geneva Academy is sure to demonstrate that our students love to learn.

Classical schools maintain order in the classroom. This does not translate to stoic classes where interaction is limited to an occasional downcast “yes, sir.” In fact, Geneva Academy encourages extensive interaction between students and teachers. Students are not allowed to be disruptive, but they are constantly encouraged to offer observations, ask questions, interact, and make comments. The classical method at Geneva encourages and succeeds at creating a stimulating and enjoyable learning environment for students.

The spark of truth in Myth #4 may lie in student grading at Geneva Academy. As public school grade point averages (GPA’s) continue to edge upward (even though our national scores related to other countries continue to be disappointing), parents of students in classical schools find that a “C” truly means their child is doing average work in a particular subject. It is important that grading standards be upheld and that students earn their marks. This can create some frustration among students who are accustomed to achieving easy A’s in other schools. Some parents are concerned that outside entities may not understand the value of an education at Geneva Academy. Other classical schools that have graduated college-bound students find the benefits of classical education more than outweigh the relatively lower GPA’s. The relative success of classically educated students on standardized tests more than compensates for their slightly lower GPA’s.

*Credit: The Ambrose School in Boise, Idaho.
“The Four Myths About Classical Education” excerpted from their article “Understanding the Classical and Christian Difference – A Parent’s Primer”