One Year: Reflections on Leading a Revolution in Education

One year ago today the first Leading a Revolution in Education newsletter went out. As we move into a new season, a new school year, and a new year for Revolution in Education, I can’t help but feel reflective.

My wife, Linda, spoke recently to a group of John Adams Academy parents. She reminded them of an educational framework taken from Oliver DeMille’s A Thomas Jefferson Education. It’s called the “Seven Keys of Great Teaching.” Linda reminded the audience, “His seventh key is ‘YOU, NOT THEM.’ I consider this to be the most important key. Everyone here, whether teacher, parent or scholar, who stays at this academy is setting the example of learning, teaching and serving.”

Learning, serving, and becoming are among the foundational principles of Leading a Revolution in Education. Just as Linda was primarily to the adults in her audience the other night, my aim is to reach the adults and caretakers of the young in my own audience. You—the parents and grandparents out there—are mentors to the next generation. But in order to be the best mentors, you cannot neglect your own education and knowledge base.

Oliver DeMille insists you must be willing to set the educational example.

“The best mentors (parents are a child’s most important mentors) are continually learning and pushing themselves. Read the classics. Study hard…pay the price in your own studies…In our modern society, whenever education is the subject, we always want to talk about the kids. We care about them, and we know their education is important, but we also find that it’s easier to talk about their education than to improve our own. In reality, you are unlikely to pass on to your children a better education than you have earned yourself, no matter how much you push them or how good the teachers… Children tend to rise to the educational level of their parents…The most effective way to ensure the quality of their education is to consistently improve your own.”

Oliver DeMille, A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-First Century

There’s a reason Leading a Revolution in Education starts with Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. It is the allegory for our lives. When Linda and I started out on our journey to open the first John Adams Academy, we found ourselves coming out of a cave. Over and over, my life’s journey has invited me to throw off the chains and darkness of ignorance and embrace greater knowledge and wisdom for greater liberty and ultimate freedom. Revolution in Education is my invitation to you to put yourself on the path out of your own cave.

In essence, you may say that this is my attempt to give you the John Adams Academy experience. And in that spirit I’d like to share the objectives and principles Linda and I laid down for the Academy 11 years ago.

  • We are here to replace industrial education for the industrial age with an American Classical Leadership Education® for a new age where leadership will matter more because employers, communities and nations want people who lead by solving problems.
  • We are serving a huge, underserved population that pays taxes but doesn’t want a conveyor belt industrial education. This group includes home school children, those at private schools, those that want a values-based refuge of learning, those in public schools that want classics, and those who prize reading, thinking, discussing and writing in lieu of textbooks and rote memorization of facts.
  • Arete is the Greek for ‘special excellence.’ This education recognizes that each child is a genius and it is designed to draw out their moral and special excellence. They will be taught the core values of moral excellence. Thus, they will be ready to contribute their gifts and their cultivated virtues to their community as servant-leaders.
  • Jefferson told us America would be different from Europe where education depended on your place of birth or your place in the economic pecking order. He envisioned a natural aristocracy where all had an equal chance at learning and education thus allowing us the freedom to discover our potential. Similarly, our academy is public and open to all.
  • Just before his passing, Thomas Jefferson penned the epitaph to his own headstone. It reads ‘Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia.’ If Jefferson were alive today, he might change the order in which these are stated. Independence has been won, religious freedom is established, but it is widespread education in the liberal arts that will maintain our liberties and independence.
  • Our scholars will read from original sources and become familiar with the organic documents of the country. By examining and having appreciation for the historical past, we learn the principles on which our country was founded, why those precepts worked, and how they apply today. Another key to a JAA education in the high school years is a solid foundation in economic principles.
  • Classically educated children are ready to enter the ‘Great Debate’ about who they are, and why they are here. Through servant leadership, they will help our country prosper.
  • We are pleased we have been able to offer employment to over 30 teachers and administrators. (We now have over 400.) However, John Adams Academy is not an employment agency, but an empowerment agency. Those that have chosen to come here have come because they are educational entrepreneurs. They are statesmen and women who have seen where education is and where it should be and have put themselves in the middle to restore it. G.K. Chesterton is credited to have said that ‘every revolution is a restoration of something that once guided and inspired people in the past.’ They understand their role of loving each child and inspiring scholars to love learning and become who they were meant to be.
  • A proper understanding and application of economics will provide the path to financial independence and liberate and inform a life of serving.
  • Now a word to you parents and grandparents. We recognize you have placed with us your most valuable asset–your children and posterity. In them is a part of you, your aspirations, hopes and dreams. We want you to know we count this as a consecrated trust, and we will do our best to help your children find their special excellence.

May our mutual commitment and the guiding hand of Providence bless us in this effort. I hope you will continue to journey with me into the next year of Leading a Revolution in Education. The outcome of this odyssey is becoming great citizens, souls, and leaders.

“Children should be educated in the principles of freedom.” —John Adams

Image attribution: Paul Buffet (1864-1941), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Published by Dean Forman

I am co-founder and CEO of the John Adams Academies, an institution that is perhaps the most unique charter school system in America today. The Academies’ curriculum is designed to give its students an American Classical Leadership Education®. This is an education that pursues truth, beauty and goodness and turns its scholars outward in search of those whom they can serve in becoming servant leaders. This website is dedicated to sharing the concepts of an American Classical Leadership Education with its readers so that more citizens can benefit from the truth, virtue and wisdom of the past. The thoughts and opinions I share on this page are my personal views.

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