Around thirty years ago, a movement began to restore classical education in American elementary schools and high schools. The first stage of the restoration of classical education was the recovery of classical texts. Around fifteen years ago, the second stage undertook the recovery of classical pedagogy. Today, I believe a third stage is underway. We have begun the recovery of classical assessment, grading, and class management.
The third stage will be the most difficult, though, because so far as assessment, grades, and class management are concerned, there is not much to recover from antiquity. These are all relatively new features of education, and not the kind of matters about which Plato or Augustine had much to say. Neither the monk nor the aristocrat’s son received tests and quizzes, and one need not achieve a certain score on a written exam to become abbot or Duke of York. While education is an ancient enterprise, sorting through the modern realities of GPAs, college applications, and compulsory school attendance requires a gymnastic application of classical ideals.
This is just what I’ve set out to do in my second book, Something They Will Not Forget: A Handbook for Classical Teachers.
When I first began writing Something They Will Not Forget, I intended for it be nothing more than a pamphlet describing use of classroom catechisms. However, the pamphlet became a book, and the book grew longer and more comprehensive as I realized, page by page, that the catechism was the lynchpin which held together every last belief I have about education, classicism, conservatism, pedagogy, and assessment. I could not talk about the catechism without also talking about classical education as a whole and so the book became a practical defense of old things, a reflection on classroom decorum and manners, and a how-to guide for writing, explaining, and grading interesting tests. Something They Will Not Forget offers readers a classroom where manners, assessment, time management, curriculum, and grades are unified and harmonized in a single vision.
This is not just a book for literature teachers. Something They Will Not Forget is a book for biology teachers, algebra teachers, Latin teachers, rhetoric teachers, philosophy teachers, theology teachers, elementary school teachers, homeschoolers, administrators, and board members. The principles of classroom management and assessment set forth in Something They Will Not Forget have the potential to unify the math/science side of your school with the history/literature side of your school in a way not possible before. Ten weeks from now, most classical schools will reconvene teachers for two weeks of in-service meetings and discussions in preparation for the coming school year. Something They Will Not Forget is the ideal book for getting the entire faculty on the same page so far as the big questions of classical education are concerned: What are we doing? How are we doing it?
I do not want to suggest Something They Will Not Forget is a cheap cure for every classroom ill, because such claims are appropriate only to faddish products which quickly go out of fashion. Nonetheless, the approach to classroom management put forward in this book is both simple and rigorous, easy and powerful, elegant and effective. My beliefs about classroom management are neither novel nor innovative, but born out of a deep respect for tradition, and thus I borrow from the stability of ancient things and transcendent things. I want to help classical schools become classical in all ways and in all things, not merely in scope and sequence. I want to help teachers— both rookies and veterans— create cohesive classrooms, wherein every aspect of school life is reconciled to classical ideals. Something They Will Not Forget is a guide for the next stage of the classical renewal, the most difficult stage yet.