Timeline of the Renewal in Classical Education

The Seven Liberal Arts and the Canons of Great Books

For millennia, classical and later Jewish, Christian, and Muslim educators from vast areas of the world recognized the seven liberal arts and the canons of great texts as central to the formation of virtuous and flourishing humans. Our word school comes from the Greek scholé which means a time set aside for contemplation. This ruminative approach from the days of Pythagoras and Plato suited the lives and learning of Christian monastic communities through the Middle Ages. (See our many related courses with an introduction, a survey of key principles, a consideration of scholé learning, a look at the liberal arts, a course on teaching great books, a look at the monastic tradition of education, and a brief history of classical education.)

Antiquity–19th Century

Prussian Educational System Mandated in Massachusetts and the Entire Nation

Governor Edward Everett of Massachusetts instituted a mandatory education policy based on ideas from the Prussian education system. New York state soon opened 12 schools providing free and compulsory education for students in their local region. Andrew Carnegie (American steel industry magnate) and his Carnegie Group advanced these mandates and advocated for a teacher certification system. In 1857, the National Education Association was founded as a union for teachers in state-funded schools, and it continued to advocate for many aspects of the new Prussian educational model. (See a related course here as well as "Lesson 2: The History of Grading" by Dr. Brian Williams in another related course here.)

1852

Anna Julia Cooper



American educator, writer, sociologist, and activist Anna Julia Cooper defended classical schools in African American communities from educational mandates that were closing down these schools and replacing their teachers. Cooper left a powerful legacy recognized by many later educators who have defended classical education, including Marva Collins. (See our related course here.)

1858–1964

John Dewey

John Dewey played a leading role in promoting the state educational system in America, and many of his ideas dismantled long-standing insights into the liberal arts and the great books as central to human formation. Over time, employment and workforce training came to dominate thinking about education. (See our related courses here and here.)

1914–1930

Harkness Method

Edward Harkness (oil magnate and philanthropist) presented Phillips Exeter Academy with a gift of large hardwood tables for all of their classrooms. These tables became associated with the “Harkness method” now used in many independent schools and colleges to encourage discussion within their classes using methods loosely associated with Socratic teaching. (See related courses here and here.)

1930

St. John’s College Adopts a Great Books Curriculum

St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland adopted a Great Books curriculum. The state of Maryland chartered St. John’s College in 1784, merging it with King William’s School (from 1696). Four of the college founders signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. (See interviews and sample lessons with two St. John's College tutors within our course on socratic teaching.)

1937

The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis

Publication of The Abolition of Man: Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools, a minor classic on education and moral values by C. S. Lewis. (See related course here.)

1943

Dorothy Sayers

"The Lost Tools of Learning" was a paper read during a Vacation Course in Education at Oxford by Dorothy Sayers. This paper later inspired many educators in America to reconsider the liberal arts tradition.

1947

Leisure: the Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper

Only a year after the word “workaholic” was coined in Canada, the German philosopher Josef Pieper penned Leisure: the Basis of Culture (translated into English in 1952 by Alexander Dru with an introduction by T. S. Eliot).

1948

Mortimer Adler and the Great Books of the Western World

Great Books of the Western World series (54-volume set) published. With collaboration by Robert Hutchins and Mortimer Adler at the University of Chicago (based on a course they developed that was in a format originated by John Erskine at Columbia University in 1921 with a "round table" approach to reading and discussing great books among professors and undergraduates).

1952

Integrated Humanities Program

Integrated Humanities Program (IHP, aka Pearson integrated Humanities Program) at the University of Kansas in the 1970s offered by Dr. Dennis Quinn, Dr. John Senior, and Dr. Frank Nelick. In the words of Dennis Quinn, the program sought to "teach the Great Books, the classics, from the Greeks up through the Romans and through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance into the modern times.” (See “Where Wonder Cultivated Catholicity” by Dana Lorelle in the National Catholic Register from March 2005.) In addition to studying the great books, the students also got together for poetry memorization, singing folk songs, formal waltzing lessons, and stargazing, an activity the founders thought to be one of the greatest sources of wonder.

1970–1979

Cair Paravel Latin School (Topeka, Kansas)

Cair Paravel Latin School founded in Topeka, Kansas. “A small group of families seeking the very best in education for their children founded Cair Paravel School. They did not represent a certain church, organization, or political persuasion. However, they were friends who shared a common vision for educating their children. Several of the founders were shaped by their participation in the Integrated Humanities Program at the University of Kansas. They wanted to establish an educational experience that would culminate in similar dynamic learning. In addition to KU professors, the greatest influence on the founders was the twentieth century Christian philosopher and author, C.S. Lewis. The founders adopted the school’s name from Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia and the castle of Cair Paravel.”

1980

Logos School (Moscow, Idaho)

Logos School founded in Moscow, Idaho. “Logos School opened its doors in September of 1981. It represented the concerted efforts and convictions of primarily three individuals: Doug Wilson, Shirley Quist, and Larry Lucas. Their goal was to provide high-quality Christian education for children. These three people were Logos School’s first and founding board of directors. Tom Garfield was hired in January, 1981, to be Logos School’s first administrator.”

1981

Trinity School at Greenlawn (South Bend, Indiana)

Trinity School at Greenlawn founded in South Bend, Indiana. “Discontent with the status quo of education in the United States …led a small group of parents in South Bend, IN, all of whom were members of the People of Praise Christian community, to open the first Trinity School two years earlier in 1981. From the beginning, Trinity School has been a local and national leader in educational reform, and has since opened two additional schools: Trinity School at River Ridge (Eagan, MN) in 1987 and Trinity School at Meadow View (Falls Church, VA) in 1998.”

1981

The Paideia Proposal by Mortimer Adler

Mortimer Adler (see above, 1952) writes The Paideia Proposal: An Educational Manifesto and launches the Paideia Group for the restoration of classical education.

1982

Canon Press

Canon Press founded as a Christian publishing house in Moscow, Idaho providing some curriculum for classical Christian schools. Originally started as a literature ministry of Christ Church (pastored by Doug Wilson, see 1981 and Logos School above), the press was sold in 2012 to become a privately owned company.

1988

Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning by Doug Wilson

Publication of Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning: An Approach to Distinctively Christian Education by Doug Wilson (see above, 1981 and the Logos School).

1991

Norms & Nobility by David Hicks

Publication of Norms & Nobility: A Treatise on Education by David Hicks.

1991

Association of Classical Christian Schools

Association of Classical Christian Schools was incorporated to support independent classical Christian schools.

1994

Memoria Press

Memoria Press founded by Cheryl Lowe as a family-run publishing company to produce classical Christian education materials for home and private schools. This press offers a K-12 classical curriculum piloted by the Highlands Latin School in Louisville, Kentucky with author and educator Martin Cothran.

1994

Society for Classical Learning

Formation of the Society for Classical Learning to facilitate and encourage thinking and discussion among professionals associated with Christ-centered education in the liberal arts tradition.

1995

CiRCE Institute

CiRCE Institute founded as Circe Ministries. Originally Circe Ministries was a research and tutoring service formed by Andrew Kern for the purpose of writing a book, Classical Education: The Movement Sweeping America (co-authored with Gene Edward Veith Jr. and now in its third edition), and for teaching high school aged home school students in a university style great books class. CiRCE Institute now hosts national conferences, publishes curriculum, offers teacher and student training, and provides a wide range of media including many popular podcasts and blogs.

1996

Veritas Press

Veritas Press founded by Marlin and Laurie Detweiler as a family owned publishing company (and later school with Veritas Scholars Academy) to produce classical Christian education materials for home and private schools.

1996

The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer

Publication of The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise.

1999

Institute for Catholic Liberal Education

Institute for Catholic Liberal Education founded to help educators renew today’s Catholic schools by drawing on the Church’s tradition, which frees teachers and students for the joyful pursuit of faith, wisdom, and virtue. “The task of rebuilding Catholic education upon its foundational principles is urgent. Evidence shows that young Catholics are falling away from their faith in alarming numbers, and those in Catholic schools have fared no better. For too long, we have taken our cues and curriculum from the troubled secular model without realizing their corrosive effect.”

1999

Classical Academic Press

Classical Academic Press started as a privately-owned publishing company with multiple partners, including Christopher Perrin, to produce classical Christian education materials for home and private schools. The press also offers live online classes for students through Scholé Academy, online teacher training courses through ClasscialU.com, and support to local homeschool co-ops and hybrid model schools through the Scholé Communities network.

2001

Wisdom and Eloquence by Robert Littlejohn and Charles Evans

Publication of Wisdom and Eloquence: A Christian Paradigm for Classical Learning by Robert Littlejohn and Charles T. Evans.

2006

Great Hearts Academies, Barney Charter School Initiative, and Other Classical Charter Schools

Great Hearts Academies founded to provide classical education to students through public charter schools. Many other classical charter schools exist as well including the Barney Charter School Initiative started in 2010 at Hillsdale Academy (a private school on the Hillsdale College campus).

2007

The Liberal Arts Tradition by Ravi Jain and Kevin Clark

Publication of The Liberal Arts Tradition: A Philosophy of Christian Classical Education by Ravi Jain and Kevin Clark. This book is now in a third edition that released in 2021. (See our course here.)

2014