Letter from Kelly Kusch, Head of School:
I graduated from a Jesuit high school in Chicago where I fell in love with Latin and Greek. I then went on to get a double major in Biological Sciences and Classical Languages & Literature from the University of Chicago, a liberal arts school with a required core curriculum. We were taught to read carefully, think deeply, write accurately, and debate actively.
But as much as I enjoyed my classical liberal arts education, my reason for making it the backbone of Covington Classical Academy is pragmatic. It is the best way to prepare today’s students to thrive in a world where the pace of change continues to accelerate.
McKinsey’s 2019 report The Future of Work in America forecasts that technology will eliminate more than 40 million jobs by 2030. This is more than the number of jobs lost during the COVID-19 shutdown. The authors of the report conclude that today’s students need to develop skills to become lifelong learners.
“Now technology demands new and higher-level skills, including more critical thinking, creativity, and socioemotional skills. The skills needed in fast-growing STEM roles, in particular, are continuously evolving. The old model of front-loading education early in life needs to give way to lifelong learning. Training and education can no longer end when workers are in their twenties and carry them through the decades.” -- Future of work in America
While many of the jobs lost in the next ten years will be to automation (i.e. factory workers), Artificial Intelligence will create a following wave of job replacements. An article published by the National Institute of Health in 2019 noted:
“There are already a number of research studies suggesting that AI can perform as well as or better than humans at key healthcare tasks, such as diagnosing disease. Today, algorithms are already outperforming radiologists at spotting malignant tumours, and guiding researchers in how to construct cohorts for costly clinical trials.” The potential for Artificial Intelligence in Health Care
How do you prepare the students of today for this pace of change? And what skills will still be needed into the future? Joseph Aoun, President of Northeastern University, makes the case in his book, Robot Proof (published by MIT Press), that the answer lies in the principles of classical liberal arts.
“We live in the digital age, and students face a digital future in which robots, software, and machines powered by artificial intelligence perform an increasing share of the work humans do now. Employment will less often involve the routine application of facts, so education should follow suit. To ensure that graduates are “robot-proof” in the workplace, institutions of higher learning will have to rebalance their curricula.
A robot-proof model of higher education is not concerned solely with topping up students’ minds with high-octane facts. Rather, it refits their mental engines, calibrating them with a creative mindset and the mental elasticity to invent, discover, or otherwise produce something society deems valuable. This could be anything at all—a scientific proof, a hip-hop recording, a new workout regimen, a web comic, a cure for cancer. Whatever the creation, it must in some manner be original enough to evade the label of “routine” and hence the threat of automation. Instead of training laborers, a robot-proof education trains creators.”
Santa Ono, also a University of Chicago graduate and the former President of the University of Cincinnati, made a different, but equally important case for liberal arts education in a recent interview:
“Some critics might respond that while that’s all very nice, for most students, majoring in the humanities will not lead to a rewarding career. Get a liberal arts education and you’ll end up as a barista in a coffee shop, they say.
But here are some statistics that refute that: 55 percent of the world’s professional leaders are social sciences and humanities grads.” - Education without liberal arts is a threat to humanity
This isn’t too surprising given that a classical liberal arts education provides a foundation for whatever fields of study and careers a student chooses!
At CCA we have one mission: developing a passion for learning in young minds. As noted by McKinsey, to succeed in today’s world, students need to learn not just as young adults, but throughout their careers. We designed the CCA curriculum to expose students to the languages and great thinkers of the classical world, to train them to communicate effectively, and to build a real desire to understand.
One of the many ways we differ from other schools is our focus on experiential learning. On every Friday in a week without a holiday (like Presidents Day), we have a special, all-day program we call "Fifth Day." These activities fall into four categories: STEM, humanities, physical activity, and service. Faculty members lead the activities, sharing their passion with the students and modeling the traits of lifelong learning. Sadly, schools have abandoned this classical approach to learning. Parents are invited to join us on these days.
We are currently accepting students into the 8th, 9th, and 10th grades for the upcoming school year. If you are interested in learning more about our school and community, please email me at Kelly.Kusch@covingtonclassicalacademy.org.
I look forward to meeting you!