By Carolyn G. DeRaad, Founder and Emeritus Steering Committee Member
Most people are familiar with the standard high school core curriculum--English, History, Science, and Math-- recommended by ACT, SAT, and colleges, for high school students to study in preparation for college. Fewer understand how that curriculum differs from a traditional liberal arts curriculum. Liberal Arts classes, unlike a core curriculum, interconnect into a whole.
Our D'Evelyn curriculum requires its students to study 4 years each of English and History, 1 year each of Biology, Chemistry, and Physics, 3 years of Mathematics beginning with Algebra 1 or above, plus 3 years of one Foreign Language. All classes are taught in a chronological, sequential manner at or above grade level, emphasizing facts and ideas. Our teachers weave the courses together by showing how the disciplines interconnect. The study of the liberal arts--taught through the core disciplines--helps students understand that all knowledge is part of a whole.
While each discipline is "distinct," as noted in the D'Evelyn Program Document, all knowledge is connected, just as life on earth is connected. Everyone living now is connected to men and women who lived, thought, fought, built, created, discovered, and died before us. Their greatest thoughts and ideas live today in their literature, philosophy, history, scientific discoveries and mathematics. Knowing those great ideas, with their rich diversity, helps us assess the value and possible outcomes of the dominant ideas today, even as we consider various solutions to problems. And, we are connected to those who follow us. It matters what we leave for them.
One of the gifts of the liberal arts is that it constitutes the cumulative memory of mankind. History notes ideas and actions dominant in a given period and place, always contemporary to those living at the time. The literature of each time reflects the changes in man's views of himself, the value he placed on human life, and the institutions and cultures supporting human life. For instance, Charles Dickens' novels reflect the tension between the industrial progress of the early 1800's and the degradation of the sweatshop labor that supported this progress. He evokes the pollution, the long hours, the child labor, the poverty, and the debtors' prisons, capturing all the human pain and cost. Yet, Dickens shows hope for better times, for justice. He tells stories of individuals who overcame the burdens of their lives. Stories of men and women who, like men and women today, struggle to make sense of their lives, to live good lives, and to leave the world a better place. Advances in science made possible the industrial revolution. And, as progress is always uneven, produced pollution just as fast as it produced jobs, something later generations of scientists needed to ameliorate.
The rigor of academic disciplines is important, but core to the liberal arts is the celebration of good character. Good character involves being trustworthy, respectful of others, loving the good, the true, and the beautiful. Ovid said, "Note too that a faithful study of the liberal arts humanizes character and permits it not to be cruel."
D'Evelyn offers its students this strong, rich liberal arts curriculum with student discipline supporting those studies.
The Steering Committee is the governing board of the school and establishes policies designed to maintain and enhance its liberal arts philosophy. The Steering Committee appoints Directors to the Board of the D'Evelyn Education Foundation.