Monday, September 27, 2010

Patrick Henry College Core Curricula

This is a repeat of an older column because I had a new comment by a PhD and wanted to bring it forward. Remember that PHC is extremely successful in debating, mock trials, etc. and designed for home schoolers, in particular.

Patrick Henry College Core Curricula
For AndThenSome, I wondered about their majors at PHC and found this in their current catalogue on line
Classical Christian Liberal Arts Education at PHCDespite the success of homeschoolers and classical Christianschools, few Christian colleges have taken an active part inthis educational reform movement. Patrick Henry Collegewas founded specifically to serve the best and the brightestof Christian homeschooled young people. Thus, the classicalliberal arts—with a strong Biblical foundation—is at the heartof PHC’s educational philosophy.PHC has a rigorous and extensive core curriculum of 63 creditsplus intermediate foreign language proficiency. The Universityof Chicago, which is famed for its liberal arts core, only has45. The National Endowment for the Humanities, in a projectdesigned to promote liberal education, proposed 50.The PHC core embraces all seven of the classic liberal arts:grammar (Research and writing; intermediate foreign languageproficiency1), courses in logic, rhetoric, mathematics, geometry,music, and science (with biology and physics taking the placeof the ancient “astronomy”).In addition, PHC requires two courses in the history of theUnited States, and two courses in the history of the WesternWorld, two Western Literature courses, two courses in thetheology of the Bible, Principles of Biblical Reasoning,philosophy, Constitutional Law, economics, and two courses inFreedom’s Foundations.The classical liberal arts, of course, is not just a sequence ofcourses, but a conceptual framework and a methodology. Theseven liberal arts cultivate mastery of language (grammar),analysis (logic), communication (rhetoric), aesthetics (music),numbers (mathematics), spatial relations (geometry), andempirics (astronomy) (Veith & Kern, 2001, pp. 11-16). Thus,other courses in a variety of subjects can contribute to thisbreadth of education.The liberal arts stress content, the imitation of excellence, thepursuit of knowledge that is valuable in itself, and the exerciseof the whole range of talents that God has given. The liberalarts curriculum is broad in scope, but its parts are integratedwith each other, as students explore the connectedness of all thedisciplines.The core curriculum embraces the whole range of the contentareas, as classified according to the “Natural Sciences” (biology,physics, philosophy), the “Moral Sciences” (history, law, thehumanities), and the “Theological Sciences” (the Bible, theology,and the undergirding of every course in Christian truth).The foundational liberal arts are the Trivium of grammar,logic, and rhetoric. These have to do with mastering language.Grammar is about exploring the structure, rules, vocabulary,and conventions by which language operates. Logic has to dowith using the mind to analyze and discover truth, as well asto distinguish between truth and falsehood. Rhetoric is the artof effective communication that persuades others, and is thus akey to cultural influence.1) Latin and Greek have, historically, been touchstones of classical learning and these are taught oncampus; in some programs, PHC accepts other foreign languages as meeting the core requirement.Grammar has to do with basic knowledge; Logic withunderstanding; Rhetoric with creative personal application.The Trivium is a particularly powerful concept, in that everysubject can be said to have its grammar (the foundational facts,rules, and information), its logic (the thinking required forunderstanding), and its rhetoric (its original application). Infact, the Trivium’s emphasis on knowledge, understanding,and application is a direct parallel to Bloom’s Taxonomy, sothat an ancient concept of education is confirmed by moderneducational psychology. Each part of the Trivium has itsappropriate method of learning: grammar by lecture, reading,and practice; logic by dialectic (that is, Socratic questionsand discussion); and rhetoric by student performance andapplication (Joseph, 2002).At Patrick Henry, classes tend to be heavily oriented to reading(often of the “great books” in the field) (grammar), discussion(logic), and student projects (rhetoric). PHC’s emphasis onApprenticeship (specifically, the internship program) exemplifiesthe rhetorical dimension of classical education, and it also followsthe model of how classical universities prepared young people fortheir professions, giving them a rigorous grounding in the liberalarts and then sending them out to practice their craft under amaster/mentor.The classical liberal arts core curriculum is a true core. That is,every student in every program takes every class. There is noelectivity in the core, which means that professors in the upperlevel programs can know what their students have already beenexposed to—what books they have read, what subjects theyhave studied, what skills they have developed—so that learningcan build on a common foundation.One objection to having a core curriculum consisting of 63credits plus intermediate foreign language proficiency wouldbe that it would seem to necessitate fewer courses in the majorprogram. Actually, though, since Patrick Henry—in anotherunusual feature—has a restricted number of majors andspecialties, this is not necessarily the case.A number of the core classes tie into the Government major:A two-semester “Freedoms Foundations” sequence, studyingissues of government by discussing classic texts on the subject;two semesters of American history; two semesters of Europeanhistory; Economics; and Constitutional Law do advance thegovernment program in crucial ways. The same holds true forthe liberal arts majors, with core classes directly impacting theprograms in literature, history, and liberal arts.The upper division courses also employ a liberal artsmethodology. For example, the various Government tracks use the specialized “great books” that have shaped each discipline.Writing at PHC is “across the curriculum,” with requirementsand formats codified in A Handbook for Research and Writing, acollege compilation that is taught in the first Freshman writingcourse and serves as a reference for all courses, including theupper division classes.Another element of the classical liberal arts, according toLittlejohn and Evans (2006), is a particular “ethos,” whichthey describe as “the essence or the ‘feel’ of the school as acommunity of faith and learning” (p. 53).Ethos is the inarticulate expression of what the communityvalues. It includes the quality of the relationships withinthe school, the traditions, the professional comportment,the approach to classroom management, the out-of-classdecorum, the aesthetic personality of the school reflectedin the student and faculty dress codes, the visual andauditory imagery, and the physical plant itself. And ethos isinterfused with the academic culture including curriculum,pedagogy, faculty preparation, and student learning. Ethosis the way in which the school expresses (or doesn’t) truth,goodness, and beauty through the experiences of everyperson who enters our halls (pp. 53-54).I found it difficult to locate a simple and basic list of majors offered, but gleaned the following: Classical Liberal Arts, CLA Music Track, History, Literature. Gov't.Dep't has these major "tracks,": Am. Politics and Policy, Int'l Politics and Policy, Political Theory, strategic Intelligence, Journalism;They offer Russian, Latin, and Greek and numerous internships. It's really impressive and very extensive what is offered --the listing of all the courses. It looks to me like you don't major in science there, but have required science and lab courses same as any liberal arts college plus Bible and theology courses. I'm impressed with a school that focuses on thinking, debating, rhetoric, logic, writing, general classical knowledge, for use in impacting the world, possibly at the level of the decision-makers and gov't leaders.
"God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance and have eternal life."--the Bible
Posted by Barb at 12:03 AM
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Anthony (Tony) V. Manzo said...
Only we know that Teacher Preparation and staff development are seriously flawed, and often painfully inane. There is no real market place in proven ideas, in some ways Teacher Education is controlled by well intentioned but misdirected interests that can include Schools of Education, publishers, self-important foundations, and yes, by weak professors and teachers who get a net gain from generations of ambiguity about our critical mission, powerful professional teaching. Current Teacher Preparation is a mishmash of competing whims and untested practices with no continuity or coherence across the profession. Every other profession has a common core of principles and PRACTICES that everyone is expected to know. Of course, there are outstanding teachers and teacher Education programs but this is random when it needs to be highly replicable.Join the dialogue to raise awareness of this critical problem ironically it has an easy, inexpensive solution. The goal is to craft a system for identifying and refreshing a core curriculum of Best Instructional Principles & Practices as opposed to mere “standards.” Teaching is about doing. This would lift the entire profession since there is no other profession that has not done this in some shape or manner. The absence of preparation in a core curriculum makes teacher education impossible, and therefore, evaluation of teacher effectiveness and accountability based on student outcomes illogical, if not irrational. While there is no consensus on core principles and practices to guide instructional decision-making there has been a pretty remarkable, though unheralded progress in pedagogical science made in the last 50 years; it could be called a Cambrian Period as when many new life forms began to appear on planet earth.The aim to better regulate teacher preparation may only appear to reduce professionalism, but it is in fact next-generation professionalism; especially now when information is massive, but distilled knowledge still thin. For example it is now widely acknowledged that pilots make many fewer errors when they follow the industry wide constructed check-off lists before takeoffs and at landings. Similarly, life threatening errors have been reduced by a considerable degree when surgeons and support staff have carefully followed check-off lists before, during and following surgery; the more error prone surgeons have been made less so, and the more skilled ones even more so. Ideally, and most likely, as teachers are guided to better instructional decisions, an overall enhancement in decision-making, and strategic thinking are also likely to follow. All stakeholders can now be more easily involved in identifying Best Practices, and in the ongoing process of providing field-based guidance of where these choices falter and/or simply need a bit of tweaking or customizing. The effort would take place on the web where all could see and participate, and to that extent would be a transparent and tangible exercise in science, conflict resolution and participatory democracySee: And… our newest site featuring advanced teaching methods for and concerns of Professional Teachers:,Anthony V. Manzo, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus(
September 25, 2010 6:19 PM

Barb said...
Thank you, Dr. Manzo, for your thoughtful contribution here. Since education has been a focus of the Ophrah show and elsewhere lately, I'm moving this to the top of my blog.
September 27, 2010 8:58 AM

"God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance and have eternal life."--the Bible

1 comment:

Steve Finnell said...

you are invited to follow my blog