Return of the Classics?

The term 'classical education' now embraces the whole notion of the liberal arts



I took part in a seminar in Melbourne early this week at which parents, teachers, and representatives from Catholic, Protestant, and secular schools came together from around Australia to learn more about what constitutes a classical education.

The term classical education has become an important buzz word in conservative circles. It no longer refers narrowly to the study of the classical languages Greek and Latin but carries a much broader connotation: it embraces the whole notion of the liberal arts with their emphasis on young people acquiring the highest standards in reading, writing, and clear analytical thinking, by concentrating on the greatest works by the best authors, before proceeding to specialist studies. The big issue here is premature specialization: even at late primary level children are being pushed into making subject choices before they acquire the basic skills, and class time that would be better used learning basic skills is being diverted to “progressive fads” (see below).

The event was organized by Kevin Donnelly in association with the Page Research Centre. Dr. Donnelly writes:

Whether overseas or in Australia, parents are concerned about falling standards, lack of discipline, teachers being overworked and a curriculum that is superficial and characterized by progressive fads like child-centered, enquiry-based, 21st century learning… those involved in the Melbourne seminar argue that the curriculum should embrace a classical, liberal view of education based on Western civilization’s best validated knowledge and artistic achievements.

High standards in reading and writing, clear analytical thinking, the best of Western civilization; what’s not to love?


David Daintree was President of Campion College (Australia’s only Catholic liberal arts college) from 2008 to 2012. In 2013 he founded and is now Director of the Christopher Dawson Centre for Cultural Studies, under the patronage of the Archbishop of Hobart.

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