Why a Classical Education?

Posted on Friday, July 8, 2016 at 6:49 PM

A Classical Education is Simply Better

By Mike McPartlin, Headmaster, Bridgedale Academy


How did a Classical Education come about?

What we today call a Classical Education began in ancient Greece and was later adopted by the Romans. It faltered after the fall of the Roman Empire but then experienced a rebirth during the Middle Ages. It was brought to “perfection” during the Italian Renaissance.

It was thereafter adopted in England, and passed to America during colonial times.

Classical Education Simply BetterWhat is a Classical Education?

It is not an exaggeration to suggest that a Classical Education is the cornerstone of western civilization. (See "What is a Classical Education?", an essay by Susan Wise Bauer.)

The reason we can say this has to do with what a classical education is, and what it ultimately stands for. One prominent commentator points out that, at its essence, a Classical Education has four (4) core tenets that “define” it:

1) It is a system of education that values knowledge for its own sake;

2) It upholds the standards of correctness, logic, beauty, weightiness and truth, all intrinsic to the liberal arts;

3) It demands moral virtue of its adherents/followers; and

4) It prepares human beings to assume their place as responsible citizens in the political order.

Plato and Aristotle in Greece

How does a Classical Education differ from today’s education system?

It is certainly arguable that today’s progressive education system rejects each of the core tenets that are at the foundation of a Classical Education.

Knowledge for its own sake

Humans are naturally curious, with an innate longing to learn about things and to know the good, the beautiful and the true. 

Classical Greek Athlete

Children especially embody these qualities and have untapped learning capabilities at their disposal that they instinctively want to develop.

But as with physical development, intellectual development needs to be guided.

And so unlike today’s “progressive” education system, a Classical Education does NOT leave children to their own mental urges or inclinations.

Rather it seeks to feed, direct and strengthen a child’s mental capabilities.

"In this sense a Classical Education works much in the same way that rigorous sports training aids in a child’s physical development."


A Classical Education puts children’s mind to work, guiding them to develop their learning capabilities, and leading them to understand themselves and the world around them. 

High standards of literacy

A Classical Education teaches students high standards of grammar, precision in word choice, and an eloquence based in a love for language. Language of course is the very thing that distinguishes humans - it is the very source of the human intellect. 

And so a Classical Education focuses on a study of the greatest writers, speakers and thinkers in history, teaching a cultural literacy and a love for the beauty of language.

What today’s modern education system regards as acceptable literacy is, frankly, a disgrace.


Churchill Speech

Education is at its root a “moral” enterprise

That education should be first and foremost a moral enterprise has for some reason fallen into disfavor in today’s education system, which either ignores or actively debases this notion.

But students who receive a Classical Education are confronted with the great lessons that are found in an honest telling of history and in western civilization’s greatest literature. 

And whereas a progressive education might present things from a perspective of moral equivalence, a Classical Education presents stories with real heroes and heroines, stories in which actions have consequences and where there is a clearcut difference between right and wrong, between good and evil.

Literacy in Classical Education


Responsible citizens in the political order

A Classical Education is concerned with how humans fit into society, specifically into their community. And becauseit has a moral foundation, it teaches not only about how actions have consequences, but also about how with each freedom comes a corresponding responsibility.

A Classical Education seeks to foster independent thinkers, people not only who have a sense of community but also who think for themselves.

Political wisdom does not come easy. But people who can think for themselves are far less likely to be duped or otherwise become pawns to the politically ambitious.


A Classical Education provides the cultural, moral and civic foundations that guide young people toward productive and happy lives. It feeds an innate love of learning that animates young people especially, at the same time inspiring them with timeless life lessons.

As such it stands in stark contrast to the types of conformist, one-size-fits-all, top-down education systems that predominate in our nation today.

Learn more at:

Read "The Lost Tools of Learning," an Essay by Dorothy Sayers

Bridgedale Academy is an all-male school for athletes, offering grades 5 through 8. All our students are hockey players and we focus on leadership training. We use a classical academic curriculum and our graduates go on to attend some of the most prestigious high schools in the midwest, including Lake Forest Academy, Culver Military Academy, Shattuck St. Mary’s, Benet Academy, Fenwick Prep, St. Ignatius Prep, Latin School and Providence Catholic. Three of our students have been offered spots with USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program.

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