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On Curriculum, The Great Conversation & Community

By: Mr. Ian Landis and Mr. Burton Gildersleeve

In the 
Art of Teaching, Highet, writing in the year 1950, ruminates on the future impact of television on the classroom. “Through such a medium the possibilities of teaching may be extended over the whole planet, to many different sections of our unhappily divided human race.” Oh, if only Highet could see us now! Perhaps we’re not all unhappy, but we are divided, and certainly have come to know a thing or two about virtual learning; though, of course, we’re happy to communicate through Zoom and not our televisions.
When Mr. Landis and I sat down to consider the distinctives of our Academy Curriculum, the theme of this community update, we instinctively thought first of our present circumstances. Admittedly, the scope and effectiveness of the curriculum is diminished in online learning. At its core, our curriculum, tethered always to our mission and vision, is relational. It centers on the cultivation of the whole person. This is a tall task through solely virtual learning.
 
There is one aspect of our curriculum, however, that transcends the environment in which it’s taught. In all disciplines – in math, science, and certainly the humanities – our students are continually connecting themselves to The Great Conversation, that ongoing dialogue since the dawn of man in which the greatest writers and thinkers build on the thoughts and works of their predecessors. The chief aim of this conversation? To learn, as best we can, just what it means to be human.
 
The Ancient Greeks, certainly the Ancient Romans, the Medieval Kingdoms, and all civilizations to the present day, have always known something of war and strife, even of pandemics. In a very real way, our students in their studies of these civilizations are well prepared to identify themselves, to grasp their place in history, during these turbulent times. I’m not sure we could say the same of most students their age. 
 
What is this all to say? And, what does this have to do with community? After all, this is the community update.
 
First, our faculty is exceptionally thankful that we can, with the help of our curriculum, guide and mentor our students as we engage in the Great Conversation in a most vivid and unexpected way. We’re thankful that our classrooms, from K-11, are built on relationships that were cultivated chiefly in person. Our classrooms are very much a community and continue to be so, even when virtual. 
 
And further, we look forward to next year, when we can again be together in person. That’s where true community is found, and we certainly miss our students dearly. Yet, won’t we, students, teachers, and parents alike, see things differently? Won’t we see our curriculum, and all that we see and do in class, differently? Indeed, we already do.
 
If you were to ask Mr. Landis or me what is currently missing, we’d quickly tell you it's the relationships, that human touch. But we’d also tell you this: our relationships - and these extend beyond the classroom, to our school families and the greater Jackson Hole community - will be all the sweeter, richer when we return. We look forward to that day, but as we close out the year virtually, as unhappily divided as we may be, we continue to take part in The Great Conversation together, and for this we're grateful.
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Jackson Hole Classical Academy
P.O. Box 7466
Jackson, WY 83002
 
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(307) 690-8396
 
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