Laying the Foundation: Leadership in Classical Education

525 525 BLUUM
  • 0

by Clinton Condra, Idaho School Leadership Fellow, Treasure Valley Classical Academy

I was introduced to Idaho in January 2018, when I arrived in snow-covered Coeur d’Alene to teach American government at North Idaho College. The Gem State made a good impression on me: its landscape was varied and beautiful; its climate was desirable; and, last but not least, its people were uncommonly amiable, self-reliant, and patriotic. Idaho struck me as a place that was still “young”—still growing and still full of unrealized potential.

While in Coeur d’Alene, I kept an eye out for new charter schools scheduled to open in the near future. Knowing that my job at NIC was only temporary, I faced the necessity of finding new employment. But much more importantly, among the prospects open to liberal-arts PhDs, that of helping to lead a classical, liberal-arts charter school ranked as the most attractive to me.

One reason for this was that I had the good fortune to receive such an education myself. After a chance first encounter with great works of political philosophy as an undergraduate at the College of William and Mary in my home state of Virginia, I continued my studies in Santa Fe, New Mexico at St. John’s College, a school renowned for its curriculum of great books. There I wrote a thesis on the thought of Edmund Burke and earned a master’s degree in the liberal arts in 2010.

More recently, as a graduate student in Baylor University’s political science department, I took classes on Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Politics and Ethics, Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War, Xenophon’s Education of Cyrus, American literature and the American Founding; I wrote and presented papers on the statesmanship and diplomacy of extraordinary leaders like Salisbury and Bismarck; and, in February 2019, I successfully defended a dissertation on the political thought of Jonathan Swift.

A second reason for my attraction to classical liberal-arts charter schools was that I had seen their results first-hand in the high school students I taught at Veritas Preparatory Academy in Phoenix, Arizona before starting graduate school. Those students were intellectually curious, morally and civically serious, and—to invoke Ed Hirsch, Jr.’s famous phrase—culturally literate.

I was therefore pleased to discover one day that a new school called Treasure Valley Classical Academy (TVCA) would open in Fruitland in 2019. By then I’d taken the scenic drive down highway 95 from Coeur d’Alene into the Treasure Valley, and I was amenable to the prospect of living in a smaller town. My initial conversations with the board chair and the founding principal (Idaho New School Fellow Steve Lambert) encouraged my interest.

Further conversations with Mr. Lambert and Bluum made clear to me how favorable the circumstances were for the school’s success and, soon enough, even its replication.

Now that I am on the ground at TVCA, I am learning very quickly what it takes to lay the foundations for a new charter school’s long-term success. Thanks to Bluum’s sponsorship, I have already gained invaluable experience and will continue to gain much more. This will empower me to play a leading role in the Idaho charter school movement for a long time to come, and I am grateful for the opportunity to do so.

The views expressed by guest authors do not necessarily reflect those of Bluum.