The Classical Tradition and the Purpose of an Education

The author, Michael C. Carbone, is the Chief Academic Officer for the Brilla Schools Network.  In this role, Michael hopes to cultivate a focused, yet holistic approach to student achievement across the network. Mr. Carbone delivered an in-depth presentation on Brilla’s approach to the classical tradition in August of 2018 during Staff On-Boarding.

Staff On-Boarding 2018: Mr. Carbone presented on Brilla’s approach to the classical tradition.

At its core, Classical Education is about helping people grow in wisdom and virtue.  The great 5th century philosopher, St. Augustine of Hippo, wrote that “Patience is the companion of wisdom.”  In order to truly become the best one can be – the core of a Classical Education – a person must understand that learning and growing in virtue is a lifelong endeavor.  At Brilla, the classical tradition teaches our scholars how to think instead of what to think. It is an endeavor that takes years, but we know will have profound effects in high school, college and beyond.  As a Classically inspired school, Brilla sets a new standard in our community.

At Brilla, the classical tradition teaches our scholars how to think instead of what to think.

The method of the Classical Tradition is not new.  Afterall, it’s called a tradition for a reason! Like many traditions, a Classical Education is grounded in ideas and truths that have withstood the test of time.  A cornerstone truth being that all persons are born with inherent dignity. Accordingly, serving others is good and expected. For millennia, those receiving a Classical Education progressed through three distinct phases – Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric.  Simply, in the Grammar phase, students learn the mechanics of language and make sense of the world around them through the five senses. In the Logic phase, students learn through analysis and reason in order to know what is true, and, finally, in the Rhetoric phase, students learn to apply language and knowledge to persuade and inform others.

A balanced study of the Liberal Arts not only develops one’s knowledge, it also helps one develop virtue.

With this strong foundation, a student is better equipped to study the fuller array of Liberal Arts (beyond Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric), which traditionally also included Astronomy, Geometry, Arithmetic, and Music.  In recent centuries, the Liberal Arts have expanded to include the Humanities, Social Sciences and Natural Sciences. A balanced study of the Liberal Arts not only develops one’s knowledge, it also helps one develop virtue.

At Brilla, we are deepening our commitment to the Classical Tradition.  We continue to evaluate our own practices and teacher development in order to provide a better learning experience for our scholars.  As one concrete example, last summer during on-boarding, we brought in a leading expert on Socratic discourse to train our teachers how to support scholars in reflecting on the deeper meaning of texts to uncover truth, beauty and goodness.  A deeper engagement with rich content also encourages Brilla scholars to think critically and communicate clearly.

The Classical Tradition empowers scholars to discover deep meaning in the content they interact with, not only to learn how to take a skill-based test.

The Classical Tradition empowers scholars to discover deep meaning in the content they interact with, not only to learn how to take a skill-based test.  By engaging with literary tales such as The Adventures of Robin Hood and Sarah, Plain and Tall in elementary school to The Phantom Tollbooth and The Odyssey in middle school, scholars across Brilla Schools learn from characters and thinkers whose truths have withstood the test of time. Brilla cares deeply about Joy IN Rigor – inspiring students to learn from the thinkers across millennia in order to live joyful, meaningful lives where they never stop learning, face challenges with graceful poise, and contribute meaningfully to their families and society.  

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