Monday, October 6, 2008

Chesterton Academy - getting it right

Counter-cultural education in a one-room school
by Katherine Kersten (Star Tribune)

Remember the old one-room schoolhouse? We've moved far beyond it with our multimillion-dollar school facilities and our high-tech computer labs, right?

If so, why are John DeJak and Dale Ahlquist back in a one-room school, aiming to start an education revolution in St. Louis Park with 11 students?

DeJak, of Richfield, puts it simply: "We realized that our kids are being robbed."

So began Chesterton Academy -- a school that may point the way to an educational renaissance to match the Renaissance man whose name it bears.

The academy, which opened in September, is a private high school that will expand from ninth and 10th to 12th grade in the next two years. It is named after G.K. Chesterton, an English social commentator, theologian and man of letters who was one of the 20th century's greatest minds and most prolific authors.

Chesterton Academy's "countercultural" identity doesn't spring from theories found in the latest education journals. Nor is the school breaking new ground in Chinese immersion pedagogy or robotics.

Instead, this place exemplifies the real avant-garde.

The bright room in Eliot Community Center is hung with icons and medieval art, and lined with such books as Cicero's "Orations" and Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales." Students sit around a table, engrossed in Latin verbs. One wall displays calligraphy exercises, which include this revealing Chesterton quote: "A dead thing goes with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it."

In future years, the kids will study calculus and chemistry, and immerse themselves in great thinkers from Homer to T.S. Eliot. They will also explore once-celebrated arts such as oil painting and Gregorian chant, which few pursue today.

The educational "robbery" that Chesterton Academy is striving to halt has two components, says DeJak, the school's headmaster.

Read the whole story here.

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