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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Classical ed -- seen as 'a white child's education' -- is thriving in the Bronx


Brilla charter schools in the Bronx teach instrumental music.

Are the liberal arts conservative?, asks Emma Green in a New Yorker story about the revival of "classical education." A growing number of classical-ed charter and private schools are offering "a traditional liberal-arts education, often focusing on the Western canon and the study of citizenship."


Unlike many traditional public schools, "classical schools prize memory work, asking students to internalize math formulas and recite poems," she writes.


Reading lists aren't trendy. "One New York City public-high-school reading list includes graphic novels, Michelle Obama’s memoir, and a coming-of-age book about identity featuring characters named Aristotle and Dante," writes Green. "In classical schools, high-school students read Aristotle and Dante."


At Brilla, a charter-school network in the South Bronx, the middle school is calm and phone free, she writes.


Sixth graders participate in a multiday art project after studying great painters such as Matisse. Seventh graders prepare to debate whether parents should be punished for the crimes of their minor children. Another group of sixth graders, each holding a violin or a cello, read out notes from sheet music. A teacher cues them to play the lines pizzicato, and they pluck their strings in unison.

“Classical education is often seen as a white child’s education," says Stephanie Saroki de Garcia, who co-founded Brilla using the slogan: "This is what the elite get."


Yet Brilla, located in the poorest neighborhood of the Bronx, is filled with English Learners from Central America and West Africa, writes Green. Nearly 90 percent of students come from lower-income black and Hispanic families.


Brilla students attend a daily character class, "where they talk about how to live out the different virtues reflected in the texts they read," she writes. Most classical schools emphasize ethics, not just academics.


In Texas, classical charter schools are recruiting Asian and Hispanic students, writes Green. Espiritu, an Arizona charter network which mostly serves immigrants, "overhauled its curricula to be more classical."


Republican governors such as Florida's Ron DeSantis and Tennessee’s Bill Lee have endorsed the creation of classical charter schools with a traditional, anti-woke curriculum, writes Green. 


Progressive academics have denounced classical charters as “turning back the clock of education and social progress by a century," in the words of Diane Ravitch.


Great Hearts is the largest classic charter network with 28,000 students in Arizona, Texas and Louisiana, another 15,000 on wait lists.


The classical education movement is divided between Christian conservatives and those who want to "diversify" reading lists and expand to urban areas, writes Vince Bielski on RealClear Investigations.


On The Free Press, Julia Steinberg looks at the new wave of old-school education. There are Christian, Jewish and secular private schools opening, as well as public charter schools. Nearly  two percent of 55 million students across the country are being taught in the "classical tradition," estimates Dan Scoggins, co-founder of Great Hearts.

4 Comments


Jim Daniels
Jim Daniels
Mar 26

"Progressive academics have denounced..."


With no due respect, "progressive academics" are unadulterated morons who wouldn't last five minutes teaching in an urban public school.

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Craig Randall
Craig Randall
Mar 26

"Progressive academics have denounced classical charters as “turning back the clock of education and social progress by a century," in the words of Diane Ravitch."


Read: They're upset that their decades-long endeavor to remake education in their image, while public schools churn out graduating classes that are progressively less-well-equipped than their predecessors, is being challenged by those who know better.

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Jim Daniels
Jim Daniels
Mar 26
Replying to

It's sad what a hack Diane Ravitch turned into. She was once a respected ed historian with a somewhat liberal bent. She's been a shill for the unions for years now and her writing quality has reflected that. Her last few books have been unreadable screeds.

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Heresolong
Heresolong
Mar 26

Good. There is hope for the country.

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