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In Classical Schools, Even The Least Bookish Kid Can Shine


Three-decade public-school educator Phillip Schwenk remembers an April day that crystallized for him what an American classical education means. It also epitomized the political climate in which parents are seeking them.

On this spring day in the Toledo, Ohio classical public school he helped start, Schwenk saw a second-grade student and a 73-year-old teacher of different skin colors on stage together. During the daily all-school assembly at Northwest Ohio Classical Academy, the two were reciting the poem “Harriet Tubman,” by African-American poet Eloise Greenfield. Listening were students of every hue and family income.

Schwenk particularly remembers this vignette, he said, because the previous day he had read a New York Times attack on his school’s curriculum. The Times alleged it was racist and so was its publisher, Hillsdale College (this author’s alma mater), for including positive aspects of American history and competing with the Times’ anti-American 1619 Project.

Classical education has been taking a battery of negative fire in recent years, all of it untethered to students and teachers’ daily work. A Washington Post report in June, for example, claimed pictures of the Founding Fathers and the colors red, white, and blue are racist. In May, NBC News attacked a small-town…

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