American Classical Leadership Curriculum
“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”
American Classical Leadership Education is distinct from modern educational systems in both structure and content. Its form is that of the trivium (Latin for the three ways), which is comprised of the principle interdependent subjects of classical learning: Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric.The content of American Classical Leadership Education is values based, and focused on the ideals and liberty, virtue, morality, entrepreneurship, and democracy.
While these three subjects were originally taught as independent disciplines, they can and have been adapted to a variety of modern subjects as "stages" of learning, rather than discrete branches of study. In this way, the classical model of education is to teach first the "grammar" or basic ideas, skills, concepts, language, and methods of a given subject before encouraging pupils to explore the "logic" or inter-relatedness of such concepts. Once mastery of the "grammar" of a subject has been achieved, students in a classical model are guided through an exploration of the connections and implications of the concepts they have learned as they proceed through the "logic" portion of their educational journey. The final stage of classical education is that of "rhetoric" or the art of persuasively expressing to others the implications of the knowledge they have acquired through the first two stages of learning. It is during the rhetoric stage that pupils in the classical model find and express their own voice in the "great conversation" of the western tradition, and become "scholars" who attempt to ethically influence the world around them through skillful presentation of the knowledge they possess. While classical learning is intended to progress roughly along this trajectory, the path to "scholarship" is rarely linear. At any given time, the scholars at John Adams Academy are engaged in all three stages of classical learning and are constantly seeking to improve their understanding of the world.
These three stages have been loosely mapped onto the grade levels of the academy, with a fourth "Pre-Grammar Stage" added to encompass the educational efforts of our TK-2nd Grade teachers. Brief descriptions of each stage can be found on the curriculum pages of each grade range. As noted above, these delineations are not rigid descriptions of the methods and practices of each grade range, and instead should be understood as relative points of emphasis as teachers "organize learning around the maturing capacity of the child's mind."1 Simply put, classical educators "teach children what they want to know when they want to know. When children are astonished with the human tongue, we teach them language and grammar. When children are ready to challenge every assumption, we teach them logic. When students are yearning to express themselves with passion, we teach them rhetoric."2
In addition to following the classical form of instruction, the content of instruction at John Adams Academy is also classically based. This does not mean that instruction will be primarily centered on the classical civilizations of the Greeks and the Romans, although scholars will study these great western civilizations in depth. It instead means that scholars will be urged to read and study the greatest works, or "classics," of the Western Tradition. In conjunction with an emphasis on the great books of the Western Tradition, the "American Classical Leadership" curriculum of John Adams Academy facilitates scholar engagement with the uniquely American ideals and statesmen that have shaped the truly great American democratic heritage. Scholars will investigate great American works highlighting the principles of liberty, virtue, morality, entrepreneurship, and democracy. In this way, classical education has been adapted at John Adams Academy to support our vision of "restoring America's heritage by developing servant-leaders who are keepers and defenders of the principles of freedom for which our Founding Fathers pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor."
1 Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise, The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home, (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2016), 7.
2 Christopher A. Perrin, An Introduction to Classical Education: A Guide for Parents, (Camp Hill, PA: Classical Academic Press, 2004), 5.