Allegra Byron

Despite some media headlines to the contrary, 2022 is a hopeful year for education. Nation-wide, classical education, perhaps once archived on the shelf of Lost Things, has started to emerge as a viable option for Australian families. While home schooling groups have already been dipping into this enriching curriculum and program, classical day schools or schools embracing a liberal arts tradition are preparing to fill classrooms and staffrooms. The fragrance of educational renewal is in the air.

In preparation for these germinating schools, classical education conferences – live and online – in places such as Sydney and Melbourne have also this year welcomed teachers, leaders, the curious and the questioners to come together to create the Big Picture and seek logical solutions to a complex, Australian educational landscape.

But there is a gap that needs filling: who will teach the teachers to teach classically? And what does ‘teaching classically’ look like in Australia in 2022? When most teacher education programs all over the country only prepare for the one-size-fits-all Australian Curriculum, how can teachers readying applications for these new schools demonstrate a classical approach?

Kepler Education, an American-based online ‘marketplace’ for all things classical, makes “[c]lassical Christian Education available, affordable, and accessible to everyone who wants one.” Scott Postma, one of the founders, summarises the company’s philosophy of education here (We’ve Been Schooled) This 11-minute clip is recommended listening. And this accessible and affordable offer of classical education extends to teachers too. Dr Robert Woods, headmaster, author, classical education advocate for over two decades, has designed a course just for Australians, “Australian Teacher Certification Track 3: Paideia Pedagogy”.

Each fortnight, Woods facilitates a group of Aussie teachers to rethink the art of teaching: how to teach classically. The principles of the Paideia method are modelled each session. These principles were developed by the Paideia Group; a group that embraced a new (but old) vision of teaching and learning, privileging masterpieces of the past and focusing on expertise in reading, writing, listening and discussing through great classical books.

Mortimer Adler’s book trilogy published in the 1980s has become the launching pad for this class’s discussions. Adler, professor, philosopher and educational reformer, was already troubled by the state of the 1950s American public education. His Paideia Group and not-for-profit Great Books Program both set out to reform an education system that had lost its way. His teaching and learning books promote didactic instruction, academic coaching and seminar discussion (Socratic method). Each step for any subject works on the belief that learning is “initiated by wonder, sustained by interest and excitement, and reinforced by the pleasure inherent in the activity itself and by delight in its success”[1]. Words such as ‘wonder’, ‘excitement’ and ‘delight’ are seldom used today to describe a modern student’s experience.

To prepare for each class, the teachers-as-learners in this pedagogical course must engage with readings that challenge accepted notions of current teaching practice. Listening, for example, is valued as an active, integral skill that should be explicitly taught. Woods demonstrates how to train pupils to discuss and actively listen to others. Ergo, this course is both philosophical and practical. Teachers want tools. And Australian classical education schools need classical education tools.

Dusk will soon fall on 2022. But the educational colours and flavours of this year will not dull. Many Australian mums and dads, teachers and leaders and others have reached up to the shelves of the Forgotten Things, and together, they are busy reworking and reshaping a classical approach to education, available to all, that fits this time and this culture. They are committed to education that will (re)inject wonderment and excitement into the Aussie kids of today. For further information about a classical teacher pedagogy training for Australian teachers, contact ACES: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

[1] Adler, Mortimer.  “Didactic Instruction” in The Paideia Program: an educational syllabus. McMillan Publishing Company, New York, 1984. p. 47.