Benedictine College Called ‘Key Player’ in Classical Education

Benedictine College Called ‘Key Player’ in Classical Education

CLT Test and New Concentration Spotlight Growing Movement

Published: Monday, September 5, 2016

A Student Looks over a Classic DocumentTwo new developments at Benedictine College have one national newspaper calling the college “a key player in a movement to return to classical education, even at the earliest levels of education.”

The college has begun to accept the Classical Learning Test — the CLT — alongside the ACT and SAT among the standard exams used for entrance and for granting academic scholarships at the college. CLT scores will be accepted immediately.

And this fall, the college will begin a concentration in its education department that the National Catholic Register reports “makes Benedictine a key player in a movement to return to classical education, even at the earliest levels of education."

Matthew Ramsey, associate professor and chair of Benedictine’s education department, helped spearhead the effort to begin training teachers.

“The benefit of a classical education is the benefit of an education in which students are taught to become independent learners and thinkers through the use of sound pedagogy, reason and the great intellectual tradition of our society,” he said.

The impetus of the new idea came from a student’s parent who approached Dr. Edward Mulholland to discuss the huge recent success of classical education programs for students from elementary to secondary education. What was needed is teachers at these popular new schools.

When Ramsey was receptive to the idea, the two helped develop a classical concentration for primary-education majors. The program requires Latin, Greek and courses offered through the school’s Great Books curriculum.

Ramsey compared the concentration to the certification Benedictine students can earn to teach theology.

“Those students get jobs at really great Catholic high schools in the region and across the country,” Ramsey said. “I can’t see any reason that the classical program wouldn’t yield the same results. One of our great missions is to fill up the Catholic high schools in the region and across the country.”

Dean of Students Dr. Joseph Wurtz agreed.

“To me, it makes perfect sense,” Wurtz said. “More employers are looking for teachers of classical education. There are not enough grads to support demand. There is tremendous growth in classical education because of home-school or charter programs. It’s gaining ground. The demand for teachers who are fluent in that curricula is going to be growing. We want to position ourselves as a college to be the answer, at least from the Catholic perspective.”

The CLT Test

In one reflection of the growing Classical Education trend, the college has fully embraced the new CLT test, said the school’s dean of enrollment management, Pete Helgesen.

“Academic scholarships for the CLT will mirror those scholarships given for the ACT and SAT,” he said. “This is a way for us to recognize the many classical academies we have seen develop across the nation.”

According to the CLT website, the test provides the most accurate and rigorous measure of academic formation, accomplishment and potential among the standard entrance exams. Material reflecting both theistic and secular perspectives benefits and enriches the student in the test-taking process. Students take this two-hour exam at a local testing center and receive test scores immediately. Results are sent directly to any of the colleges listed on the site.

Student Perspective

Students are already responding to the new emphasis on classical education.

Senior Lucy Leighton, of West St. Paul, Minn., spoke about the program in the National Catholic Register article. She graduated from middle-school and high-school classical education studies, taking four years of Latin and two semesters of Greek.

“I also engaged in Socratic-style discussions during ‘Humane Letters’ class all four years, reading works like The Iliad, The Republic and The Odyssey, as well as more modern classics like Huckleberry Finn or The Brothers Karamazov,” she told the paper. “Elementary students can benefit from such instruction, in that they will be exposed to a set of rich histories and traditions from which our modern cultures have grown, learning about the roots of democracy from Demosthenes’ speeches or the process of a complete education from Cicero.”

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas.  The school is proud to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report as well as one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide.  It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging.  It has a mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.