16 September 2014

Liberty Common School

So how did they do it? That has been the recurring question in all of the media interviews we have done in the past few weeks as reporters probe for secrets behind the record-breaking academic success of Liberty's students.

The core of the answer lies in the school's classical tradition of doing what works. We draw from the best examples of history and literature, and our historical horizon goes back all the way to ancient Greece and Rome. There is no secret here.

Since the end of the last school year, the faculty and administration at the high school have been reading Tracy Lee Simmons' Climbing Parnassus. The book's subtitle is "A New Apologia For Greek And Latin."

Every year, Liberty employees read a new book together; and this one elaborates the meaning and goals of a classical education, which comports with our school's longstanding philosophy. In fact, in its introduction, Climbing Parnassus quotes the author of Liberty's K-8 curriculum E.D. Hirsch in support of traditional education.

There, Simmons quotes this passage from Hirsch's Cultural Literacy:

"Illiterate and semiliterate Americans are condemned not only to poverty, but also to the powerlessness of incomprehension. Knowing that they do not understand the issues, and feeling prey to manipulative oversimplifications, they do not trust the system of which they are supposed to be the masters. They do not feel themselves to be attractive participants in our republic, and they often do not turn out to vote."

It is reassuring indeed to see the architect of our school's curriculum so sagaciously represented in Climbing Parnassus as Simmons builds an airtight case for classical liberal education. Both he and Hirsch advocate educating children in ways that embrace the best lessons of Western civilization.

Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle stand brilliant against today's standards. Our students should know about them. Homer, Ovid, Chaucer, and Milton are authors our students must read. Pythagoras, Ptolemy, and Euclid revealed truth, beauty, and perfection in ways our students ought to appreciate at the youngest age possible.

If you have not yet seen the recent 9News coverage of Liberty's record-breaking ACT scores, you absolutely should (CLICK HERE). Reporter Nelson Garcia succeeded in capturing the instructional mastery of English teacher Mr. Jared Dybzinski as he led students through Liberty's traditional Grammar Launch.

Mr. Dybzinski teaches grammar the way it ought to be taught - the way the best English teachers have taught grammar for centuries: Classically.

Junior Mady Allen told the camera how a classical education empowers her and her Liberty peers. And, in reply to the persistent question about how Liberty consistently excels, we once again revealed the enigmatic answer.

There really is no secret. We do nothing innovative here. We do what is old and what has been demonstrated to work.

Nonetheless, in the broader context of American education, there are few schools around anymore that truly arm youngsters with the knowledge they will need as adults in order to live freely. Liberty does, and that is what makes the school only seem unique and innovative.

Last Wednesday afternoon, the high-school faculty gathered to discuss Climbing Parnassus at the first of five such all-staff meetings. The discussion was led by six of Liberty's founders.

Classical liberal principles from the book were underscored as reminders of why Liberty maintains some of the traditions we do. For example, a classical approach to education informs Liberty's handwriting policy, our video-viewing policy, our grammar instruction, our Latin instruction, why we memorize things, and of course, the Core Knowledge Sequence.

"Liberal education ought to aim not just at furnishing the mind with serviceable knowledge and information, nor even at habituating the mind to rational methods, but at leading it to wisdom, to a quality of knowledge tempered by experience and imbued with understanding," writes Simmons. "Liberal education civilizes. It transforms us. We are better for having run its course."

And that is the not-so-secret secret to the record-breaking success of Liberty Common School students.



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