Alienum phaedrum torquatos nec eu, vis detraxit periculis ex, nihil expetendis in mei. Mei an pericula euripidis, hinc partem.

The Director’s Take

by Robert Jackson

K-12 classical is shaping the minds and hearts of the next generation: recovering the lost tools of argument that can renew and improve civic discourse; enlisting and training good men and women to serve as models for our children; exploring the craft of language, number, science, and the arts, in the development of creative intelligence; and constantly deepening our understanding of the wisdom of the ages.

headshotEven as our nation continues its struggle with a global pandemic, we find ourselves in the midst of national turmoil, the type of unrest that reveals deep- seated frustration among the citizenry. Protesters and rioters have given voice to a profound dissatisfaction that articulates itself in angry slogans and screeds against injustice. They demand immediate changes to public policy—believing that a change of policy will obtain greater equity for all Americans.

But, I’m unconvinced for two reasons.

First, because human minds and hearts are not changed by fiat, but by reasonable, winsome persuasion. Moreover, the collective minds and hearts of society will not be changed overnight, but through consistent, thoughtful, compelling arguments from men and women of goodwill. Such arguments are the inspiration we need to produce a national conversation that spans the political spectrum.

Second, because genuine social change in our free Republic involves the acceptance of limitations: namely, the responsibilities that accompany the rights of citizenship. While we are all quick to claim rights, there seems far less awareness of the many responsibilities we bear as citizens. Consider for a moment the infrastructure that provides for us; the laws that protect us; and the communities that sustain us. All of these undeserved benefits come at a price: the support of ordinary citizens who contribute taxes, abide by the rule of law, and participate as productive members of their local communities. Such essential responsibilities must be carried by every citizen of this American experiment. “We the People” must renew our commitment to the Republic, generation after generation, lest it be lost. As Benjamin Franklin so famously quipped following the Constitutional Convention, “It’s a Republic, but only if you can keep it!”

Keeping it requires those civic virtues that sustain a free people. This is where classical pedagogy enters the conversation, for it is in our methods and manners that we develop the habits of a virtuous citizenry.

In that vein, this issue of VIRTUE highlights the work of scholars, practitioners, and an alumnus of a classical academy, all of whom speak to the relevance of classical pedagogy in the formation of good humans and faithful citizens.

Dr. Gregory Roper walks us through an ancient form of argumentation, called Stasis Theory, that provides the essential tools for opposing sides to disagree effectively. Every good policy debate (which is what we must recover) requires these foundations of argument. Otherwise, the opposing sides simply talk past each other.

Good arguments follow good men and women. Which is why Dr. Daniel Coupland encourages us to pursue good, sound teaching, based on mission, manners, instruction, and resources—all developed under the watchful care of good mentors.

We are also pleased to have a short excerpt from Dr. Scott Newstok’s most recent book, How to Think Like Shakespeare (Princeton University Press), showing us how to apply the genius of the Bard to our children’s education: developing the craft at the heart of every liberal art.

Author and experienced K-12 classical teacher, Dr. Kevin Clark, challenges us to move beyond the surface by exploring the deeper sources of classical education, essential to sustaining our work.

By its distinctive approach to human development, K-12 classical is shaping the minds and hearts of the next generation: recovering the lost tools of argument that can renew and improve civic discourse; enlisting and training good men and women to serve as models for our children; exploring the craft of language, number, science, and the arts, in the development of creative intelligence; and constantly deepening our understanding of the wisdom of the ages.

These features of classical pedagogy are equipping the next generation to take on the rights and responsibilities of well-trained citizens. This pedagogy will prepare them to join the great conversation about justice, truth, and the foundations of our Republic—and to take up the centuries-long pursuit of “a more perfect Union.”


Dr. Robert L. Jackson is the chief academic officer of Great Hearts America and the founding director of the Institute for Classical Education.

K-12 classical is shaping the minds and hearts of the next generation: recovering the lost tools of argument that can renew and improve civic discourse; enlisting and training good men and women to serve as models for our children; exploring the craft of language, number, science, and the arts, in the development of creative intelligence; and constantly deepening our understanding of the wisdom of the ages.

All arguments, Stasis Theory says, run along a pattern: from arguments about Fact, to Definition, to Causes, to Evaluation, and finally to Policy. Finding where in this pattern the two sides are really arguing is the key to making a good argument.

Good teachers demonstrate in their instruction a knowledge of and commitment to the mission of the school. Additionally, they exhibit the value of learning for its own sake and cultivate a sense of wonder and delight in their students and in themselves.

Classical schools look at classic texts and teach students to make distinctions between what is always true and what is bound by time or culture.

William Wordsworth (1770–1850) was one of the founders of English Romanticism and among the most influential English-language poets of all time. He served as Poet Laureate of England, until his death in 1850.

Nowadays, “craft” tends to evoke either products targeted for niche markets or projects made by hand at home. The former can be abused for marketing ends by corporations whose methods resemble nothing like artisanal practices; the latter conveys a diminutive, often gendered, sense of isolated production.

To grasp the logic of classical pedagogy, it is necessary to focus upon this moment of crisis. In so doing, we perceive both how classical education breaks decisively with merely modern education, and how adopting the great books as our curriculum, the liberal arts as our essential tools of learning, and wisdom as our goal, implies a distinct classical pedagogy.

Virtue is the flagship publication of the Great Hearts Institute. It disseminates stories, ideas, research and experiences in classical education to readers across the nation, helping them pursue the classical ideals of truth, goodness, and beauty.

Subscribing to Virtue’s mailing list is absolutely free. Sign-up today to receive your first copy!