Skip To Main Content

Classical Education: Impacting Future Generations

Classical Education: Impacting Future Generations
Paulina Deitrick, LCHS Spanish Instructor and Foreign-Language Department Head

One of the main perks of working at Liberty Common School is you become part of a community of like-minded people who love learning and who encourage you to learn constantly. Our administrators have always done a wonderful job of inspiring us to take classes, sign up for conferences, and do as much as we can to grow in our professional expertise.

It is because of this, I asked to sign up for two summer classes with the Academy for Classical Teachers – Augustine’s Confessions and Grammar as a Key to Meaning. Engaging in conversations led by Professor Elliot Grasso about the amazingly raw and profound reflections of Augustine was a transformative experience. Reconnecting with my love of grammar under the guidance of Professor Kathryn Smith and better understanding what it can do to help us access deeper meaning and the beauty of words gave me newfound joy. Both classes were amazing reminders that I love to learn. Both classes were reminders of the true joy I feel to be an instructor at Liberty Common High School.

And now, my fervor for classical education has found a new level.

A few weeks ago, I attended the National Symposium for Classical Education in Phoenix, AZ with a group of my colleagues from all three Liberty campuses. To say I returned with a new appreciation for classical education would be a complete understatement. Why? The experience inspired me more than I expected. It brought me out of the mundane to remind me why I chose to become a teacher, and why I chose to teach at a classically-oriented school.

At the conference, after hearing one of the keynote speakers, Professor Roosevelt Montás from Columbia University, I was reminded of what truly matters. He quoted Aristotle’s description of the education appropriate for free citizens as “an education given not because it is useful or necessary, but because it is noble and suitable for a free person.” At Liberty Common School, we strive to provide students with an education that gives them the knowledge to become active participants in society, to throw themselves into the pursuit of truth and happiness, and to live what Plato described as “the good life.”

The talk given by Arizona State University’s Professor of Constitutional History, Andrew Porwancher, about his research on the island life of Alexander Hamilton and his very-likely Jewish upbringing was fascinating. It reminded me how much I want my students to find something they are passionate about and pursue knowledge of it. When I think of our seniors, this is especially what I want for them as they leave the school. I want them to be able to navigate the ups and downs of life and still come out on the other side with their essence intact. I want them to be able to be truly free from the constraints society puts on them. I want them to be able, like Socrates, to have beliefs they are unwilling to sacrifice.

Reflecting on my life, I am most grateful to have received a classical education—even without knowing it—at my alma mater, Liceo Eduardo de la Barra de Valparaíso—an institution that has been educating students for 162 years. It is an institution that has seen students go on to become presidents, politicians, poets, writers, artists, lawyers, doctors, war heroes, and teachers—like me. It is an institution with values very similar to Liberty's. It prides itself on forming students academically, civically, and ethically. It is an institution with teachers like Professor Espinoza.

Mr. Alex Espinoza had been teaching for more than half his life by the time I became his student. He had us read Homer, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Tolkien, and Garcia Marquez, and he taught the stories with a passion I can still recall. Mr. Espinoza taught us to fall in love with humanity and to recognize it in the stories. He taught us to see ourselves in the characters. He pushed us to use the heroes of the stories as mirrors of our lives. He helped us to see we could aspire to be more and to do more. It is, in part, because of Mr. Espinoza, I chose to become a teacher.

Sometimes, Mr. Espinoza would wander our schoolyard in the sun with a book in his hand. One afternoon, I found myself drifting towards him. As I got nearer, he gave me a big smile and asked about my future plans. Up to this point, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. However, while talking to him, I realized I was not sure this was my path. In Chile, to make money as a lawyer, you must defend the bad guys. I couldn’t find it in me to do that. Mr. Espinoza asked what it was I truly wanted to do. I said I now thought I may want to be a teacher, but quickly added the problem was I didn’t want to be poor forever. He laughed and said, “A millionaire you will not be if you become a teacher, at least not in money.” But then, he asked me what mattered to me most, money or happiness? It was an obvious answer to me: happiness. Mr. Espinoza replied, “And that costs nothing. You can be happy for free.” He then told me how his students gave him so much he couldn’t imagine not teaching. He said it was our responsibility to make sure the next generations do not forget what truly matters.

So, it was thanks to both Mr. Espinoza and Plato I decided to become a teacher. Both men, one alive and one long gone, brought me to think deeply about more than just what would bring me out of poverty and give me financial security. They made me want to find truth and happiness in my future occupation. Most young people are encouraged to pursue careers which can help them make a living to survive, but they have little concern with helping the next generation find meaning. I would rather encourage students to pursue truth, beauty, goodness, and the freedom of their souls. Teaching gives me all of these.