Charter School Walks Church, State Line

Classical Academy plans to teach conservative worldview, Bible



Isaac Moffett, founder and operations director at the Nampa Classical Academy, a publicly funded charter school that opens in the fall, did not like school. While studying education at several colleges, including the College of Southern Idaho and Boise State, Moffett revolted against the major educational philosophies of the day.

"While there, I did not agree, or believe, what was being taught to me as an education student," Moffett said. "I did not agree with it, first as a parent, second as a human being."

Moffett bemoaned the works of secular progressives and atheists like John Dewey, Jean Piaget, Lawrence Kohlberg and Howard Gardner that are taught at teacher colleges.

So he moved to Nampa and started a public charter school to fit his worldview.

"We're not a liberal school, we're not ... liberal may be too strong of a word, we are a conservative school, and I think people confuse that with religious," Moffett said.

Nampa Classical will teach Latin and Western classics, including the Bible. The school will not teach "certain sex ed," will eschew anti-American rhetoric and troop bashing and will impart the "good of America, the good of Western civilization," Moffett said.

Teachers will also discuss where America has failed to live up to its principles, he allowed, without being "presentist," or judging earlier epochs with modern values.

"In its proper context, the kids will learn about Native Americans," said Moffett, who will teach American history and geography. "If we're talking about westward expansion ... you can't understand why they were conquered so easily without understanding their culture."

Christopher Columbus will not be judged for introducing disease to the New World.

"In reality, he didn't do anything, it was a natural consequence of biology," Moffett said.

The academy borrows much of its curriculum from Hillsdale Academy, a private Christian prep school in Michigan, which is located on the campus of Hillsdale College, home of the William F. Buckley Jr. archives. But Moffett is modifying the curriculum to make it appropriate for public schools.

"Some of the books are too devotional, if you will, so we're not going to use that particular one," Moffett said of Hillsdale's reading list.

Moffett recommends that teachers and parents read the book Classical Education: The Movement Sweeping America published by Capital Research Center, a conservative think tank.

The book was written by Gene Edward Veith, provost at Patrick Henry College and author of some 20 books on engaging society with Christianity, and Andrew Kern, who once worked at Boise's Foundations Academy Christian School and now runs the Circe Institute, a Christian classical education consultancy based in North Carolina.

Kern was back in Boise last month to train the Nampa Classical Academy staff. It was the first public school that Circe, which identifies itself as a ministry, has been involved with.

According to Moffett, the Christian classical school movement started in the 1980s in Moscow, Idaho, with the Christ Church-affiliated Logos School. The Association of Classical and Christian Schools is also located in Moscow and Moffett has met with that group, but Nampa Classical is not a member.

Moffett said his school is not of the Christian classical variety, but a hybrid of the moral and democratic schools of classical education.

"There's just things we can't do because of being a public school," Moffett said. "Let's put it this way: you can still get a spanking at that school [Logos], which I'm not opposed to one iota. They are Christ-centered. We take a little different approach to that. Our version and their version is almost incompatible because of the God issue."

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