After enrolling them in public school, we never really thought much about educational philosophy anymore. It wasn’t until recently that we began to realize that even within public education, parents need to be aware of the educational philosophy of the person running the building in which their child is attending school.
Recently a commenter who posts regularly to local blogs, raised the question of the educational philosophy of the new Superintendent, which piqued my curiosity, as it is a good question.
In my quest to assuage my curiosity about the new administration’s educational philosophy, I began to realize that not only does the Superintendent have a philosophy; so does the Assistant Superintendent, the Director of Curriculum, the principals and each individual teacher. But that's okay, because there is room for more than one educational philosophy in a school district.
There are many philosophies of education; one that I found particularly interesting was the philosophy behind the Lyceum Movement. The Lyceum Movement started in the 19th century in the United States to foster adult education. It took its name from the Lyceum, a school near Athens where the Greek philosopher Aristotle lectured to students.
The movement promoted adult education through lectures and debates in which several transcendentalists participated. The movement also promoted activities to encourage the building of libraries and general participation in other reform movements.
The Lyceum Movement in the 18th Century
The lyceum movement was conceived by Josiah Holbrook in New England in the 1820s. Holbrook, born in Derby, Connecticut, and graduated from Yale in 1810, became a traveling lecturer who first spoke on science and technology, then formed industrial and agricultural schools for young men. Holbrook intended the lyceum to be a local study group which met at weekly intervals. He based his lyceums on the belief that education should continue all through life, regardless of age and gender, and that learning helps stave off the temptation of alcohol.
Besides the goal of education, lyceums also promoted the establishment of libraries, museums, and public schools. Holbrook and other lyceum devotees believed that universal, free education could right the illnesses of society, preserve democracy, and dissolve the oppressive caste system.
Most lyceum experts agree that the early days of lyceums, before the Civil War, were the most education-oriented. In these first days, the members of the lyceum took turns lecturing to each other and met in houses, churches, and schools.
Although lyceums flourished most in New England, by 1839 four to five thousand had popped up as far south as Florida and as far west as Detroit. Easterners flocked west and brought the lyceum movement with them. In the South, however, lyceum activity never caught on with the same fervor because southern aristocrats feared that education of poor whites and slaves would damage the economy. Also, the South lacked a large middle class, the main patronage of lyceums.
As lyceums grew in number and attendance, lecturing became a profession for some traveling teachers who collected fees for their speeches. Lyceums attracted famous writers, historians, explorers, and religious philosophers including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Wendell Phillips, and Horace Greeley.
In the early twentieth century, lyceums slowly died out, but the lyceums’ lasting effects are visible even today. First, the teaching profession raised its standards for teachers and students, and teachers became more widely appreciated. The lyceum movement also brought about state control over education.
Josiah Holbrook’s vision of lyceums spreading knowledge to young and old, male and female was a resounding success, the Lyceum Movement lives on in the changes it brought about in American public education.
The Lyceum movement in the 21st Century
The Lyceum Academy, Wilmington, NC
A school within a school, the Lyceum fosters a thoughtful place where a community of learners (both teachers and students) develops essential habits of mind.
A fully integrated, multidisciplinary curriculum is at the heart of the Academy with each unit of study drawing upon all four core disciplines: English, Math, Science and Social Studies. This two-year program allows the faculty to develop a strong advisor/advisee relationship since they will not only serve as instructors, but they will also assume homeroom responsibilities for these students as well.
Assessments will require students to demonstrate their mastery of both knowledge and intellectual skills. These demonstrations are multi-dimensional and multi-disciplinary. In essence, students offer evidence in portfolios and oral presentations that prove their acquisition and application of essential knowledge.
This, however, does not mean a complete abandonment of traditional testing. Because these students are college-bound, test-taking skills will be important to their future successes. Pencil and paper tests are still utilized, but they no longer serve as the primary indicator of a student’s success.
Students attend the Lyceum from 7:30 AM until 11:40 AM on traditional school days. After Lyceum, students are released to take electives. This is crucial to provide them the opportunity to take not only a foreign language, but to mix with their other classmates as well. While we believe that group cohesiveness will be an important factor in the success of the Lyceum, we also believe that it is important that the students not become isolated.
The Lyceum Academy is neither ordinary nor elitist. It is a rigorous, interdisciplinary program designed for the adventuresome student in pursuit of an academic journey “off the beaten path”. Due to the nature of our program, The Lyceum has abandoned the block scheduling approach in favor of year long classes in order to provide more comprehensive and challenging coursework.
While most schools offer AP and Honors classes, the Lyceum goes beyond that by also integrating these courses through projects, oral presentations, and travel opportunities.