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Taking Back America By Taking Back Our Schools

“A Classical Curriculum Produces Strong Math and Science Learning” Principal Benjamin Payne

By Bill Korach 3-18-14

Benjamin Payne Principal Savannah Classical Academy

Savannah Classical Academy opened in fall of this year using a classical curriculum developed by Hillsdale College. Hillsdale President Larry Arnn was greatly concerned about K-12 public education in American and wished to make a positive impact by encouraging the growth of Classical charter schools serving K-12.

Dr. Larry Arnn was seriously concerned about the deterioration of American public school from their peak of about 80 years ago.  Given Hillsdale’s mission, the development is a natural:

“The College considers itself a trustee of modern man’s intellectual and spiritual inheritance from the Judeo-Christian faith and Greco-Roman culture, a heritage finding its clearest expression in the American experiment of self-government under law.

By training the young in the liberal arts, Hillsdale College prepares students to become leaders worthy of that legacy. By encouraging the scholarship of its faculty, it contributes to the preservation of that legacy for future generations. By publicly defending that legacy, it enlists the aid of other friends of free civilization and thus secures the conditions of its own survival and independence.”

The Barney Charter School Initiative is a project of Hillsdale College devoted to the education of young Americans. Through this initiative, the College will support the launch of K-12 charter schools. These schools will train the minds and improve the hearts of young people through a rigorous, classical education in the liberal arts and sciences, with instruction in the principles of moral character and civic virtue.

The Classical charter school movement can claim significant success in education across the board and in all subject areas. Ridgeview Charter School in Ft. Collins Colorado is ranked second in the state my U.S. News and World Report. Great Hearts, a Charter Management Organization headquartered in Phoenix, out scores all other schools in Arizona, public or private in SAT results. 95% of Great Hearts students go on to attend 4-year colleges.

Classical Charter supporters believe that a classical education with its emphasis on the Liberal Arts and a western curriculum encourage students to think. For this reason, Classical charter students tend to perform well on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) tests and in STEM courses. STEM is very much encouraged by the business and education community because American students rank in the bottom 1/3 of developed nations in math and science.

The Report Card interviewed Savannah Classical Academy Principal Benjamin Payne who himself majored in engineering at the University of Virginia and eared an MA in architecture at the University of North Carolina. Mr. Payne was a practicing architect in Louisville and his office was located next to Highland Latin a private school. He was asked to teach calculus at Highland and was later asked to teach math and social studies at West End, a private college preparatory school for at risk young men. Mr. Payne said that he found his calling teaching and soon became the virtual principal of the school. He responded to a call to interview at Savannah Classical Academy: “I believe that liberal arts is critical for language and understanding. The Savannah Classical Academy planned strong liberal arts curriculum and I was impressed by the school and the opportunity.”

Savannah opened as a K-6 school with plans to become K-12 within a few years.

Mr. Payne and his family relocated to Savannah. Although Mr. Payne has a math and engineering background, be believes that liberal arts particularly history have much to offer: “History offers wonderful virtuous role models in a culture that is moving away from substance and is overly concerned about accommodating every trendy notion.”

He believes in the individuality of each child, but: “I think each child should be held to the same standards and hold to durable truth. Although our school currently has 75% black and 25 % white enrollment, all are held to the same standard. We agree with Dr. Mortimer Adler who said that the best education for the best is the best education for all.”

Mr. Payne, who is white, says that black and white families are want their children in Savannah Classical Academy because they want the best education for their kids. Some of the white students come from well-to-do families who want the best for their children.

We asked Mr. Payne why he with a math and engineering background, believes that a Classical Liberal Arts education also can provide good results in STEM. “I believe that great ideas and inventions come from a strong understanding of our environment. In order to have this understanding, strong written and spoken language skills must be taught. We do just that at Savannah Classical Academy.”

Mr. Payne believes that excessive use of technology today can inhibit learning, communication, and social skills. As a result, students may not bring i phones or tablets to school. Computers are reserved for research labs. Cursive and book reading are encouraged.

Mr. Payne said a parent told him: “Savannah is a small town and people will know if you are doing the right thing.” Mr. Payne says that it is too soon to have metrics for students since Savannah Classical Academy is on 26 weeks old, but “we have 464 applications for 64 openings next fall. If you have the right people who care, patience and structure for students, you have a good formula for success.”

For more information about Savannah Classical Academy:

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