What if everyone had a classical education? | Rebekah Hagstrom | TEDxMahtomedi

Galileo William Shakespeare Martin Luther Charles Darwin Albert Einstein John Adams and Thomas Jefferson what do all of these great thinkers have in common a classical education while many of us in America have no idea what this even means this is the method by which the majority of history's most influential people were educated in our search for a school for our children I discovered classical education and the more I read the more I became convinced that this is the best way to educate kids not only is it time-tested but it's experiencing a resurgence today as educators search for more effective ways to teach kids let me tell you my story this is a picture of my husband Peter and our four children ages 28 to 18 when they were young like every parent we search for the best school for our kids we try to public school with an excellent reputation we tried a private college prep program that was also well known and we even tried religious denominational schools and in most cases we just found that our kids weren't being academically challenged and they weren't receiving the values that we thought were so important for them to learn it was very frustrating well it turns out our frustration was warranted if you look at how American students are compared to the rest of the world you may be very surprised of 34 development our students are performing only 14th in reading 17th in science and abysmal 25th in math remember this is out of only 34 developed countries these are appalling results and on the values front things aren't any better some of you may recognize this young woman her name is hadia Pendleton she was the unfortunate victim of a fatal shooting in Chicago just a few months ago in a newspaper article that covered the story a reverend Michael Pfleger who was actually at the funeral was quoted as asking when did we lose our soul clearly he was asking how in this society have we become so filled with violence that we've practically lost our humanity our soul well it was that same frustration with a lack of values and the fact that our kids weren't being academically challenged that caused us to keep searching for other school options as I did that I came across an ad for a school that had opened in Rochester just a few years earlier I read the synopsis of that school and I knew in an instant that's exactly what we were looking for so I contacted the school and I said are there any schools like this in the Twin Cities and they said none that we know of but the school was started by six families and you can do it to what start a school that was the furthest thing from my mind but you know what we were so hungry for this type of education that against all odds that's exactly what we did we started a classical school so you may be wondering what is classical education anyway well let me tell you it involves three stages of learning the grammar stage in the Lower School where we focus on the tools of the subject the logic phase in the middle school where we focus on understanding of the topic and the rhetoric phase in the high school where we focus on application and communication all of these stages integrate beautifully with a child's natural progression of cognitive development let's start by looking at the grammar stage in the grammar stage kids are developmentally speaking able to memorize information very easily they're like sponges those of you who are parents know at this age the kids will watch the same movie over and over they'll read the same book over and over and they never get tired of it so what you do is you pack as much information as we can into songs chants rhyme sound offs things they don't mind repeating over and over we add actions to make them even more engaging and the kids are having so much fun that they hardly we're able to teach the students the chemical elements through a song parts of speech and how to diagram sentences through chants it's amazing what they can learn using this method and another part of classical education is that we teach using the classics beginning in the grammar stage they've stood the test of time they they have all the wisdom of the ages and they're so full of rich content that the kids love reading them all so we teach cursive writing in the grammar stage because of all the well-documented cognitive benefits and Latin is begun in the grammar stage Latin forms the foundation of all the Romance languages and approximately 65% of the English language is based upon Latin so students who know Latin tend to perform much better on standardized tests down the road and more importantly they can learn modern foreign languages easily and also history is an important part where we teach it from ancient all the way through modern sequentially multiple times throughout the 12 years of an education and we focus on using the primary documents rather than textbooks so that the students are actually reading with the people themselves had to think and say at the time now let's look at the logic phase the logic phase is marked by kids who are becoming much more argumentative they want to know how and they want to know why if you're pairing so what we do is we again capture where they're at and now we introduce formal research we do compare/contrast exercises they write from the perspective of historical and literary figures any activity that gets the students to develop a deep understanding of the subject they're learning because that's the goal at the logic phase we give them formal logic class where they learn the art of argumentation how to develop a formal argument a reasoned argument how to recognize logical fallacies and then they can practice these in debates they begin doing a lot of debate in the middle school years also writing becomes very important during the logic phase we teach the students the process of how to write and that gets emphasized all the way through their senior high years then the rhetoric phase the rhetoric phase is marked by kids developmentally speaking who are become dependent they're forming their own opinions and they're starting to separate from their families so now once again we're going to take advantage of where they're at now not only do we want them to know the tools of the subject and then understand that subject now we want them to analyze and synthesize the information form their own opinions and then current communicate those opinions in an effective and persuasive manner this is what we call the crown jewel of a classical education because it's the culmination of everything that we've worked towards the students are given lots of for deep discussion where they can practice those analysts analysis and synthesis ideas they can also practice their debate skills and learn to develop arguments that are based upon reason then they're given two years of formal rhetoric training where they learn the art of writing and speaking articulately and persuasively most important with a classical education is that the students learn how to learn and what about from a values perspective well historically a classical education has addressed both the mind and the soul at our school we nurture the soul through judeo-christian values and beliefs while we don't require our students to be Christian we do want to make sure they understand that's the perspective that we're teaching from and then we expose them to all the other faith traditions and that way they are able to understand the other viewpoints in the world well let me tell you our results our students are performing well on every standardized test but most of you are familiar with the a CTS and the SATs as our college entrance exams our students are performing in the top 13% of the nation on the AC T's and they're performing in the top 17% of the nation in the SATs and I want you to know that we are not just taking cream-of-the-crop children we're taking students who are average and beyond and achieving these kinds of results with this method and you can imagine they're being offered great scholarships as a result approximately $30,000 per student per year of college but even more important than that is these children are learning how to become deep thinkers they're learning how to speak persuasively and articulately they're learning how to reason logically and they're learning how to write well have as I said earned how to learn and other tangible benefits that we're seeing is the kids have learned to develop respect for others including those who have opposing values and beliefs and they're internalizing their values so that they have a guide for moral decision-making they're becoming responsible accountable thing the focus off of themselves onto others and the develop they have developed the strength of character to act compassionately well with these results I finally had peace concerning my children's education not only was I no longer frustrated it's excited to be able to share this method with others so I'd like you to imagine with me for a moment what would it be like if everyone in our cult had a classical education and I mean imagine this from the hallways of Washington DC to our nation's media outlets to our school systems to our comes and into our neighborhoods what would it be like in citizens who know their history so well so deeply that we are less likely to repeat the mistakes to the past imagine citizens who base their opinion upon reason rather than emotion and who recognize logical fallacies so they're not so easily deceived and manipulated imagine citizens being able to express their thoughts and ideas in an articulate and persuasive manner and imagine respectful as opposed to just denigrating those with whom we disagree wouldn't this just be a pleasant change of scenery across all of these different realms of social interaction well with this in mind could it be possible that we'd all be better off with the classical education with the results that we're demonstrating what type of education do you want our future leaders to have what about your own child you know this works you

23 thoughts on “What if everyone had a classical education? | Rebekah Hagstrom | TEDxMahtomedi”

  1. Some great points are made here. I appreciate classical education, but I wonder if there is something inherent in it that produces profound cultural blindspots. I think I'd prefer for my children to receive whatever type of education produced a mind like James Baldwin's, but even he had some interesting blindspots. Plus, I'm sure a great deal of struggle and marginalization have a lot to do with developing the fascinating character of someone like Baldwin, this is a type of struggle most folks would rather spare their children.

  2. I was happy to study in a European school, the last and most important exam was simply an essay. They would call it " maturity exam" . You would have to prove yourself being able to form a well-argumented, well-structured piece of writing. They would give you 10 topics to choose from and 6h, pen, paper and water. No helping materials. I remember my topic was "Eternal values expressed through the works of art". I don't know, if we had a classical education…probably.

  3. Judeo-Christian is an oxymoron.

    Christianity embraces everything of worth that Judaism ever stood for.

  4. What's amazing is that people think she's discovered the wheel or something. Of course classical education is better. Anyone who has studied in Europe or is European knows that the American education system is messed up. This isn't news folks. There is no continuity to our current system. No reason for teaching things that's what the classical system excels in… teaching the whole in order to create an ideal type of citizen.

  5. Martin Luther was not a great thinker he was a religious nutjob who unfortunately convinced a bunch of uneducated people to follow him; just like the Catholic Church he despised so much.

  6. "time tested" is not a thing in the current information age! We need better then ancient system! Very inspiring story though!

  7. In the 1960s the world educators realised to many people now becoming to clever. So the planned to change the way to teach and learn. Yes must keep the workers. Not everyone can become a doctor.

  8. Outstanding. In light of today's hostile and divided atmosphere, many of us I am sure have asked ourselves how we got to this place of incivility. I have always contended that it starts with our educational system. I hope some of you will share this video about a time-tested approach that we should re-visit. I further encourage you learn about John Taylor Gatto by watching the wonderful videos on his YouTube Channel on the history of our education system and how we got to where we are.

  9. The reference to how great thinkers have learned is an appeal to times past, as if we should teach our children without using electrical equipment. The relative poor performance of American students compared to other developed countries does not indicate that classical education would be better, and certainly, the top-performing countries have not achieved this success because of classical education. The implication that classical education would prevent school shootings is very questionable.

    The other aspects of classical education mentioned also have their problems, but it would take too long to point out their drawbacks. For example, the grammar state falls very short of what was actually expected of students in either medieval or proper classical education, requiring rote memorization of parts of speech to learn Latin or Greek. Furthermore, in teaching children with songs and whatnot, it's either extremely limiting in what material should be covered or how long it should last, (as it's a phase that shouldn't last more than a year, or even several months), or lasts far longer than it should to maintain the pretense that it could be remotely equal to the the other sections. Learning the chemical elements and parts of speech is useless, as it will be several years before they can possibly understand this material, and even the most basic explanation of it to them would not only been far too abstract to them, but violate the purpose of the phase. By the time they would start learning the concepts behind the material they're parroting, they would have forgotten it. Teaching history is also hardly in the spirit of the phase either. If this phase is remotely long enough to justify calling it a third of their education, it seems like a medley or parroting and introducing subjects that are far too complex, delaying the teaching of material much more within the capacity of the children, like basic arithmetic.

    This scheme might have some merit, but it would have to be very modified and confined to a single subject. The idea of teaching young children all the knowledge they'll ever need to acquire by rote in their first years, and then teach them a conceptual understanding, then expression would be totally unfeasible, but that's would logically follow from this curriculum division, and made more sense when this curriculum was first devised in medieval times, when it was first demanded that students learn Latin, then how to construct arguments, then how to express them, but makes little sense in today's world.

    Just about anything would be superior to progressive education, but classical education is a false promise. The reference to the school's Christian beliefs is admirable, however.

  10. Where does music and the related arts fit into this? I know that music is one of the quadrivium arts, but this TED talk does not address the fine arts.

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