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When Classical Meets Contemporary: What Do We Keep, What Do We Kick Out and Why?

We regard the Classical tradition of education as tried and true, the well-worn path of wisdom that we are wise to follow. We also know that just because something is old doesn’t make it best; nor is something that is contemporary necessarily bad. The reverse is also true: Just because something is old doesn’t make it bad; nor is something that is contemporary necessarily good. What then makes something good? The classical tradition has always extolled the true, the good and the beautiful, and has generally acknowledged them as transcending time. Are there any new insights into the good produced by our contemporary culture? Is there any recent research that validates and deepens our understanding of Classical education? What trends, beliefs and practices produced by our current culture should be resisted? Are there some that can be embraced or co-opted? In this seminar, we will examine some major contemporary ideas that complement the ideals of Classical education, as well as some that undermine them. We will examine trends in scientific research (cognitive science), technology, social interaction and assessment (testing and metrics). The seminar will conclude with some discussion about how we can wisely engage contemporary culture in our schools, allowing the ideals of the true, good and beautiful to help us assess, sift and create a rich school culture that is both Classical and contemporary.