Classical Tradition

Informed by the classical tradition…

Many definitions of a classical education can be found in modern America; many, too, of a Christian and classical school. Indeed, the classical tradition of education, from Plato to Augustine, from Aquinas to modern day classicists, is so broad and deep that it encompasses many ideas and principles. Modern education’s abandonment of any respect for the history of educational philosophy can only be described as foolish and arrogant.

In contrast, Clapham School has embraced the classical tradition in ways that inform what we teach, how we teach, and why we teach, making us classical in content, method and purpose.

Classical in Content

Our curriculum trains students in the traditional liberal arts, aiming to make students masters of both words and numbers. As students grow in the skills of reading, discussing and writing, they do so through studying the best that that has been thought and written throughout history. Students read through the Western canon of great books and study math, science, art, music, history, literature and both ancient and modern languages. Teachers put before student the vast array of subjects through which they can understand the world around them. Education is more than the transfer of facts, but rather involves the passing down to future generations the tradition and heritage of accumulated wisdom. Clapham School hopes to educate students who will live fruitful lives in the present,because they are rooted in the wisdom of the past.

Classical in Method

Using traditional methods, Clapham School’s classrooms hearken back to the disciplines of the past. Narration, or the telling back of what has been read or heard, hones a student’s power of attention, training the ability to focus on the subject at hand. Students memorize math facts and phonics sounds to advance their growing skills in a discipline. They learn Scripture passages and poems by heart, storing away in treasure trove of their memory things that are true, good and beautiful. As their thinking is trained through these disciplines, they are able to engage deeply with ideas through socratic discussions. Clapham School students are thus able, even a very young ages, to engage books in this way, drawing out the ideas, applications, and aspirations inherent in them.

Classical in Purpose

Distinctively, the classical tradition insists that an education should not only instruct the mind, but inspire the heart. Learning should provide the training of discipline for both mind and body, forming moral and intellectual virtues that prepare students for life-long learning and service. Classroom books should inspire students with models of virtue, goodness, and nobility of character. In this sense, the purpose of a classical education is to liberate students from slavery to their own interests and desires, and to make them noble and virtuous servants of the world around them. A liberal education gives a person the freedom to live a good life. As Jesus himself said, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32 NIV).