To understand the purpose and direction of our work with charter schools, we must first revisit the mission of Hillsdale College. Since 1844, our mission has been “to furnish all persons who wish, irrespective of nationality, color, or sex, a literary and scientific education” outstanding among American colleges, “and to combine with this such moral and social instruction as will best develop the minds and improve the hearts of its pupils. 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.”
This mission has led us to consider how we can lead in the effort to recover our public schools from the tide of a hundred years of progressivism that has corrupted our nation’s original faithfulness to the previous 24 centuries of teaching the young the liberal arts in the West. The public school is arguably among the most important battlegrounds in our war to reclaim our country from forces that have drawn so many away from first principles. Almost 90 percent of our nation’s youth attend public schools, and there is no question that public education across America is in trouble. To abandon the majority of our children to bad education is unconscionable.
American public education’s origin is in the states’ constitutions and from a day when those state founders still widely understood the importance of the common good, the res publica. Seeing the key role education plays in that common good, these state founders were compelled to provide for public schools.
Finally, any victories today in a return to our nation’s founding principles will be short-lived if we do not educate the next generation to love those things which are lovely, and esteem and pursue wisdom and virtue. The charter school vehicle possesses the conceptual elements that permit the launching of a significant campaign of classical school planting to redeem American public education.