By Russ Spicer
When people ask me what I do for a living, I tell them that I am the headmaster of the best school in Colorado. The next question that comes my way is, “What makes your school so great?” My reply is, “We have awesome teachers, awesome students, awesome parental support and an awesome Core Knowledge curriculum.” “What exactly is Core Knowledge?” is often the question that follows.
Most people think that Core Knowledge is just an approach to learning and not an actual curriculum. They often say that it is a back to basics approach to education. While this is partially true, it is not entirely true. The purpose of this blog posting is to provide assistance in answering the question of “what is Core Knowledge?” I am including a description of the Core Knowledge program that is found in our Liberty Common School Student/Parent handbook. I hope this helps and I encourage anyone who is considering attending a Core Knowledge school or starting a Core Knowledge school to do it. The curriculum is outstanding.
Liberty has selected the Core Knowledge Foundation’s Curriculum Sequence as the framework of its curriculum. The Core Knowledge Sequence is distinguished by planned progression of specific knowledge in history, geography, mathematics, science, language arts, and fine arts.
Children learn by building on what they already know. Thus, it is important for them to begin building foundations of knowledge in the early grades when they are most receptive to attaining an organized body of knowledge. Children are by instinct driven to construct a contextual view of the world. Thus, it is important to provide them an educational framework that assists them in developing the constructs upon which their viewpoints will be based. Academic deficiencies in these areas in the first nine grades can permanently impair the quality of later schooling.
By specifying the knowledge that all children should share, all students can achieve equal access to that knowledge. At-risk children especially suffer from low expectations, which often translate into watered-down curricula. In schools using the Core Knowledge Sequence, however, all children are exposed to a coherent core of challenging, interesting, interwoven knowledge. This knowledge not only provides a foundation for later learning but also defines a common heritage and establishes a common ground for communication and cooperation in a diverse society.
In addition to its specificity, the Core Knowledge curriculum is characterized by knowledge that is solid, sequenced, specific, and shared. Literacy in every subject requires a set of mechanical skills and a shared background. The shared, many-cultured knowledge that promotes effective classroom learning also promotes cooperation and respect among students, both in the classroom and in society. Liberty’s teachers are able to rely on shared background knowledge about the students, which enables them to build sequentially on that knowledge year by year. The ninth grade classical honors curriculum continues the goals of the Core Knowledge curriculum with solid knowledge and skills that build on the previous knowledge and prepares students for further high school study.
As used above we define knowledge not in the simplistic sense of mere facts but in the broader sense of the word, as follows: Knowledge consists of the facts, the relations between them, the thinking about them, and the effort to understand and connect them. It is not out of ignorance that we discover understanding. It is exactly because of what we already know that we can know more, that we can discern organizing principles make and test hypotheses, and act rationally.
Liberty Common School teaches 100% of the Core Knowledge curriculum and is a certified Core Knowledge Visitation Site. Our credential was established the hard way by digging in years ago and selecting a thorough, meaningful curriculum — one that is certainly solid, sequenced, specific and shared.