By Vincent Kane
In just over six months, Idaho Novus Classical Academy will open in the Eagle foothills. There, students will receive an excellent education in the liberal arts and sciences. But there’s more to it than that. The education we offer is grounded in the American traditions of history, literature, and philosophy. Through these studies, they will gain a deep understanding and appreciation of the American principles of equality, liberty, and self-government. We call this an American classical education.
American classical education aims to perpetuate our republic by forming citizens of knowledge and virtue. We will accomplish this through an approach to character development rooted in essential virtues including courage, courtesy, honesty, perseverance, self-government, and service. Yet there is a broader civic vision at play.
From the earliest grades, students at Idaho Novus Classical Academy will learn about both the tragedies and triumphs of their country and reflect on their responsibilities as citizens and inheritors of America’s experiment with self-government. By combining strong academics with a character development program and a transparent and comprehensive civics education, we strive to prepare a generation of citizens with the depth of knowledge and strength of character required to be a positive force in their communities. As the health of the community ultimately affects the nation, this is a civic vision focused on improving individuals for the benefit of all.
Throughout my career, I’ve met parents from across the United States and listened to their priorities. I’ve been involved in K-12 education as a teacher, school leader, and district assistant superintendent in places ranging from urban and small-town environments on the east coast to a village on an island in the Bering Sea. I’ve come to know families from many different backgrounds, including those who still provide for their children primarily through subsistence hunting and gathering. These relationships have reinforced my belief that parents are united by a desire to see their children grow up and achieve felicitas — true, long-lasting happiness. As the adage goes, we reap what we sow, and so happiness is closely related to the decisions that we make throughout our lives. American classical education is about supporting parents as they prepare their children for this journey.
One of the ways schools can be a good partner to the families they serve is by carefully selecting the literature that they teach. C.S. Lewis remarked on the importance of great stories in his famous essay “On Three Ways of Writing for Children,” declaring: “Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise, you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.” As a parent of four children, this is a compelling thought. The best and most enduring stories of all time help students reflect on recurring themes in the human condition. With the help of an empathetic teacher, contemplation leads to meaningful discussion, and, ultimately, a greater understanding of who we are.
Families and schools are two of the most powerful influences on the development of young people and both are strengthened when they work together. Part of what inspired me to lead an American classical school is to see education become a true partnership between families and the school they’ve chosen for their children. Many parents out there are searching for this. Leading up to opening day, our job is to find them.
Dr. Vincent Kane is the founding principal of Idaho Novus Classical Academy, a new, public, tuition-free charter school governed by American Classical Schools of Idaho (ACS-I). Novus is the sister school of Treasure Valley Classical Academy in Fruitland and North Idaho Classical Academy in Bonners Ferry.