From its beginnings in the academy of Plato and Aristotle, classical educators believed that beauty, truth and goodness could be known and were the ultimate goals of human experience and society.
Logos represents the idea of objective truth, wisdom, reason and divine revelation.
Later, when writers of the gospels referred Christ they used the term Logos, the Word. Thus, in the Western tradition Logos represents the idea of divine truth, the light, revealed in the person of Christ.
Logos informs all aspects of Classical education but importantly prioritises the spiritual and moral formation of students.
A key difference in Classical Education from modern learning is the core principle of human flourishing or eudaimonia, in modern times psychology has embraced and rebranded eudaimonia in the wellbeing movement.
This approach to learning (paideia) means that education is less focussed on job readiness and more focussed on formation of character virtues, spiritual development, physical health and a well-trained mind.
Thus, employment becomes a by-product rather than the purpose of education. Classical educators are far more concerned with developing a student who can fulfil their potential and flourish in all aspects of their life.
Classical education values the accumulated wisdom, eloquence, beauty and mastery handed down over 2000 years through the Western Canon.
The selection of what is taught is very important. This is because the ideas embodied in great works speak to the full range of challenges and experiences faced by all humans. Great works are not only read, but read us back, they have the power to transform, enlighten and equip us for life.
The Great books tradition means that we do not face life alone, but in community with great people throughout history. They also bring us closer to those with whom we share our journey. Helping us to understand and empathise with our fellow human.
Classical education is based on the Liberal Arts tradition which covered three language arts and four mathematical. It does not view subjects as stand alone disciplines, but as different aspects of God's whole reality. This is a subtle but significant difference from a modern perspective that yields significant benefits.
Integrated curriculum is considered a natural and intuitive approach to learning and allows several subjects to be studied within a topic. It is particularly important for studies in humanities which may combine history, geography, civics, philosophy, english and religion in a single in depth unit of study over an extended period.
This approach is demonstrated in literature to be powerful and beneficial for a range of outcomes. It serves to promote curiosity, wonder and engagement and assists students to identify patterns and make connections through critical thinking.
Schole is the root word for school and comes from the Greek view of education as the highest form of leisure. Thus the principle of schole infuses classical education to produce an atmosphere of rest and deep contemplation.
Schole sharply contrasts to the modern education model that has produced crowded curriculum and superficial uptake of facts and figures without time for thorough understanding. It has also lead to a permanently high stakes, high pressure atmosphere that is very stressful, anxiety-producing and neurologically counterproductive to learning and mental health.
Embodied learning is an important aspect of Classical education to articulate, as it highlights a stark contrast to the modern disembodied approach.
Modern education tends to view the student as a mind that is to be opened and information is entered. Much like a computer entering data, thus the job of a teacher is to work out strategies that best facilitate data entry.
In contrast, embodied learning recognises that we are human beings teaching other humans. Thus the physical environment, physical expectations (of sitting in a chair, in a classroom), the emotions and social relationships all form important aspects of the teaching-learning experience and must be respected and integrated with the curriculum.
For 2500 years mainstream education WAS Classical Education. A quick overview of the development of education shows that only in the last 100 years has education been thought of as it is today.
A growing body of literature, websites, podcasts, schools and home-schooling co-ops are devoted to the classical education renewal. Whilst most of this activity has originated in the US, the movement is growing across the globe. A range of resources can be found here
Many factors associated with the modern era impacted a redefining of education including industrialisation, population increase and systematisation of education. Whilst some of these changes ensured more access to education for a broader section of society, the loss of the original purpose of education was an unfortunate consequence. Education has become utilitarian, for the purpose of getting a job.
For the Ancient and Medieval people, education's purpose was human flourishing. The formation of wisdom and virtue in citizens who could contribute positively to society both in their public and private lives. Education today has lost sight of this purpose. It is no longer capable of providing for student wellbeing and thus we see governments spending millions on psychologists and counsellors, where once the content of great literature and the philosophy of education had wellbeing tools embedded naturally.
We must reframe and reclaim the purpose of education as human flourishing as one of the prime definitions and goals of Classical education.