Last week, I contrasted the cliché junior high classroom—of raucous teenagers throwing spitballs, passing love notes, and giggling at lewd jokes—with a VanDamme Academy junior high classroom—of young adults in raptures over Cyrano de Bergerac. How we produce students with such maturity and enthusiasm for learning is something I hope will be made clear over the life of this newsletter. But for now, I can at least indicate the answer.
The high achievement, the sophistication, and the reverence for learning of VanDamme Academy students ultimately derive from the school's basic philosophy. Our view is that the goal of education is to provide children with the knowledge and skills indispensable to life as an intelligent, informed, flourishing adult. We do not treat school as a holding room for adulthood, where we keep students busy until they reach the age when they can strike out on their own. We do not treat it as a grooming salon, where we prepare them for tests and build them a resume for admission into the best high school, colleges, and careers. We do not treat it as a Boy Scout camp, where we train good citizens with lessons in values and enlist them in the latest political trends. The busywork, the "to the test" teaching, the propaganda that results from these approaches defaults on the real responsibility of education and sours students on learning.
At VanDamme Academy, we believe that the purpose of a real education is to prepare the child for life as a capable and fulfilled adult. The curriculum, therefore, consists of only that which promotes this basic purpose, and is presented with this purpose always firmly in mind.
In literature classes, for example, students read the great classics for children and adults. . . .