Shirley and I are proud great grand-parents of seventeen, each one of whom is a gift and a blessing in our lives. We delight in almost-daily reports from the “field” where life plays out and family adventures are the currency of everyday. Since the beginning of the current school year we have been noticing something new and exciting taking place in the lives of our three Denver-area kids: Aged seven, ten and thirteen and all highly intelligent and doing well in school, their lives as “scholars” seemed suddenly to literally “take off” with their acceptance into Golden View Classical Academy.
Golden View is a K-12 school founded and organized on principles and programs developed and supervised by The Barney Charter School Initiative at Hillsdale College with the aim of delivering a classical education with an emphasis on our own history and civic ethics and a sense of individual responsibility. Qualifying standards are very demanding and parents who end up requesting consideration for their children are generally highly motivated to partner with their kids in “going the extra mile”. And it shows everywhere we looked both on the campus and at home where our three have turned a serious circle in the enthusiasm and dedication to learning and achieving we all notice.
After meeting the Principal, my wife and I together with our grand-daughter were invited to sit in as officially-welcomed guests to 10-year old Taj’s 5th grade history class, where I could see where his excited interest in the American Civil War had come from to bubble over in so many of our conversations. As the class of thirty or so students, obviously proud of their sharp, neat uniforms moved through their well-ordered discussion groups and class presentations, they would pause to greet or shake hands with us as they passed close by, perfectly at ease with our presence. Several individuals – including our Taj reported on the results of science projects they had just completed outside class, in which they had been challenged with a particular hypothesis leading them to a conclusion. I was impressed by their teacher explaining that they would be scored as much on their attitude as an attentive audience as they would as a presenter.
Noticeable at every juncture in our school walking tour was the overwhelming presence of a patriotic ambience, including a large study area hung with classic art pieces illustrating the importance of the classical virtues in our national consciousness, and an education which places a heavy emphasis on an undergirding honor system. Young kids were anxious to stop and explain to us just what the iconic portraits stood for, including the qualities of courage, moderation, justice, responsibility, prudence, friendship and wonder; and they knew the stories behind them. It was also easy to see that this campus had rules and expectations. I was also impressed by the conspicuous absence of “big brother” computer stations at every bend and curve at the same time that cordial and happy conversations seemed to be welcome fare between students wherever we roamed; there was even an off-the-beaten-path corner where a kid could pause to touch the keyboard of a handy piano!
Our most charming demonstration was put on by 7-year-old Asha who volunteered to teach the adults in our Denver home a lesson introducing the Riggs method of English pronunciation; a system which breaks down grammar-based phonetics into recognized mouth sounds. It was a revolutionary “discovery” for several of us, as we were practically mesmerized by our 1st grade-aged “professor” who understood “articulatory phonology” so well as to be able to explain it to us with surprising self-confidence. I wondered how much faster I might have progressed in the world of language, radio and public speaking if I had been exposed to this International System at so early an age.
By the way it was little Asha who managed to place in humorous perspective for us all just how she digested these changes she sees taking place in her book-conscious older sibling, Taj.
“I now have a brother who is one of those people who has to read all that stuff they print on cereal boxes!”