Why is a Classical Education Relevant in the Digital Age?


American children are growing up in the digital age. Many of them spend hours a day looking at screens, including at many schools. On their own time, they dive into the superficial topics and trends of social media and gather information from unverified and often inappropriate online sites. They devote countless hours to video games. A recent, multiyear study by the American Psychological Association shows that high-school-aged teens spend more time texting and on social media (average, 4 hours a day) than reading (average, 19 minutes a day). In short, screens foster lazy minds, trained to receive the products of someone else’s thoughts, efforts, and imagination. As a result, parents, teachers, and psychologists are finding increasing problems among children, including moody behavior, shorter attention spans, decreased ability to focus on academics, and a lessening in empathy for others.

Classical education provides the antidote to every one of these alarming trends. Classical education is a systematic, age-appropriate approach to teaching children how to think, how to build values and develop strength of character, how to discover and improve on individual talents, and how to present themselves successfully in the greater world. Classical education’s building- block approach to learning, and its emphasis on the skills and tools of learning nurtures the child’s interest in learning, ability to concentrate and pay attention for extended periods of time, read for depth of understanding, and express his/her thoughts and opinions clearly and persuasively. Its spotlight on the great achievements of civilization engages the child emotionally and morally, as well as intellectually. Instead of receiving the flow of digitized information, the child’s mind is actively and imaginatively engaged in learning.

Language is the foundation of thought, and a classical education fosters a deep understanding of words and appreciation for literature, especially classic works that challenge and enrich the reader. There is a corresponding emphasis on articulate speech and writing, communication skills in high demand by employers in every field.

Ultimately, the goal of a classical education is to teach the student how to think critically and act creatively, how to tackle and solve unfamiliar problems, and how to meet challenges with optimism and set-backs with resilience. These are the very skills that
prepare children for a challenging and unpredictable future. These are the skills demanded in every field of endeavor, including the much-lauded STEM jobs (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math).

There is no magic bullet, quick fix, or online, digital course that produces a well-rounded, knowledgeable, capable, confident person of good character.  But, there is a proven way, and Westminster School stands by its 56-year history of delivering a classical education in a nurturing, forward-looking environment.  The academic program coupled with the emphasis on the arts at Westminster combine to create a unique educational experience for children in preschool-8th grade. The achievements of our graduates, both academic and personal, testify to the effective and lasting influence of a rich, carefully designed, and well-implemented classical education.