Maspeth High School
54-40 74th St
Maspeth NY 11373-4702
What is Classical Education?
Classical education is a language intensive and knowledge-centered approach to education existing for over 2,500 years producing great minds like Socrates, Copernicus, Galileo, Shakespeare, Goethe, Newton and Einstein. A classical education is more than simply a pattern of learning. It trains the mind to collect and analyze data and to draw conclusions based on that information; it demands self-discipline and instills virtue; it produces intelligent, literate, curious young adults who can read, write, calculate, think, understand, solve problems, and follow through on a wide range of interests.
The first pillar of classical education is language-focused; learning is accomplished through words, written and spoken, rather than through images (computers, videos, and television). Language-learning and image-learning require very different habits of thought. Language requires the mind to work harder; in reading, the brain is forced to translate a symbol (words on the page) into a concept. Images, such as those on videos and television, allow the mind to be passive. In front of a video screen, the brain can “sit back” and relax; faced with the written page, the mind is required to roll its sleeves up and get to work. A classical education, then, has two important aspects. It is language-focused. And it follows a specific three-part pattern: the mind must be first supplied with facts and figures, then given the logical tools to organize them, and finally equipped to express conclusions in written and oral form. Furthermore, to the classical mind, all knowledge is interrelated.
Classical education is that it uses history as its organizing principle, students learn the place of their lives, families, and communities in the broad landscape of human existence and achievement. It imparts the skills and passion for thinking and learning that allow a person to teach themselves for the rest of their lives. Classical education is systematic and rigorous; it has purpose, goals, and a method to reach those goals.
The second pillar of classical education is that it rests on the concept of the Trivium— Grammar, Dialectics, and Rhetoric—not as subjects, although these subjects are studied, but as the structure of every subject and discipline. The Trivium is a structured approach that is highly effective when implemented correctly. Every subject we attempt to learn, at any time in our lives, has its grammar, dialectics, and rhetoric, from reading and math, to gardening and law, to music and auto mechanics. In a classical education, we seek to find common threads amongst our various content areas and use inquiry to push students to connect our curriculum to their lives. We stress the open exchange of ideas through reading, writing and speaking. We will guide our students to mastery of both content and process.