A small, Christian college in southern Michigan has become a quiet but influential player in a national debate over public schools.
Hillsdale College — a 177-year old institute founded by Free Will Baptists, boasting approximately 1,50 0 undergraduates — built its education model around an explicitly conservative and Christian reading of American history. Kathryn Joyce of Salon writes about how the Orange County Classical Academy (OCCA), a charter school, aims to replicate the Christian, conservative model of history education. Not only has the western-centric focus drawn criticism, but charter schools utilize taxpayer money, which some read as the state subsidizing standards that wouldn’t be considered acceptable in public schools. Joyce continues:
The parents who rose to speak at the monthly meeting of the Orange County Board of Education weren’t shouting about mask mandates, vaccine requirements, trans kids on sports teams or books about racism. They didn’t have to. Instead, mother after mother, with young children in tow or on their hips, came to the podium to say that their kids used to cry before going to school, but now were filled with confidence and wonder; that they had found a transformative community among the school’s other moms; that the teachers were giving their children “the best education in the entire country.”
One former homeschooler said she’d always sworn to keep her kids out of public school, but the one they attended now had changed all that. One father was moved to talk about sunsets in explaining how the school’s mission was uniquely equipped to guide children toward goodness, beauty and truth. From the dais, the board members beamed back at the parents, and when a lone trustee protested that they should address a conflict of interest that appeared to undermine the entire proceedings, the audience burst into laughter and the trustee’s colleagues, amid jokes, voted her down.
The school under discussion that night wasn’t a regular public school. It was a recently-launched charter called the Orange County Classical Academy (OCCA), which is funded with taxpayer money but follows a private school-like curriculum centered “on the history and cultural achievements of Western civilization” and an ambiguous mission to instill “virtue.”
But what does this have to do with Hillsdale? The college — which has hosted lectures that called the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol a hoax and called Vladimir Putin a populist hero for conservatives — offers a curriculum that is free to license. Joyce continues:
Across the nation, conservative officials from state leaders to insurgent school board members are clamoring to implement Hillsdale’s proudly anti-woke lesson plans, including the “patriotic education” premises of its recently released 1776 Curriculum, or add to its growing network of affiliated classical charter schools.
These linked trends amount to a vision of things to come if Republicans win their current war on public education. And war is how they see it. As one Republican leader promised at Hillsdale last spring, if conservatives can “get education right,” they’ll “win” the country “back.” Or as Hillsdale’s president himself likes to say, “Teaching is our trade; also, I confess, it’s our weapon.”
Read full article here.