December 3rd, 2019
Parents have options when it comes to giving their children a quality education. They can school their children at home. They can participate in a homeschool co-op. They can send their children to a private brick-and-mortar school, or they can enroll them in a private, online school. With all the options available to help parents educate their children, it certainly begs the question: why introduce another option?
It’s a fair question, one we are attempting to answer within this series of blog posts explaining what makes Kepler unique. So far we have shared the benefits of giving students a Christian liberal arts education. Next, we highlighted the benefit of having the ability to attend class from anywhere there is an internet connection, making education more convenient than ever before. Third, we showed the benefit of having an abundance of flexibility when creating a student's schedules.
In this post, I want to highlight the benefit of having access to a consortium of highly-qualified educators from which parents can choose their child’s teacher over simply sending their children to school.
At Kepler, we are not only advocates of flipping the classroom, but we are also advocates of flipping the entire school. To say it another way, our goal is to not only maximize the use of classroom time, but to also eliminate the impediments of “the school” so teachers can focus on educating students. And of all the characteristics that make Kepler a unique option for parents and students, this characteristic is key.
What is sometimes called the flipped classroom is really another way of talking about the “Oxford model” or “University method” of educating students. In a flipped classroom, the students attend a weekly lecture or watch a pre-recorded lecture on their own time. Additionally, they read primary works by authors of great books, taking notes, asking questions, and annotating in the margins as they read. When students attend class, they come prepared to have Socratic discussions with their teacher. The value of the flipped classroom is that it allows students maximum time with a wise instructor or tutor who will lead them in the process of discovery. To state it in Socratic terms, teachers of flipped classrooms are like midwifes—they don’t give the students the truth as it were; they help the students give birth to the truth already conceived from their time in the lectures and readings.
Instead of designing a school that hires teachers to fill teaching positions in the classroom, Kepler contracts experienced, educated Christian teachers to create and teach courses designed to meet the educational needs of students. At Kepler, parents don't send their children to school for their education, they choose the teachers they want to help educate their children.
Obviously, this idea of "eliminating the school" in order to provide quality education for students needs some unpacking, so let's break it down starting with the assertion just given.
First, Kepler’s teachers are experienced. Whether they have spent long years educating their own children at home, have had careers teaching at the junior high and high school levels, or whether they have invested years teaching at colleges or universities, our teachers are experienced educators.
Next, Kepler’s consortium is made up of highly-educated teachers. At the time of this writing, 95% percent of Kepler’s teachers have graduate degrees and nearly 50% of them have earned Ph.D.s or are in the dissertation stage of completing their Ph.D. Most importantly, all of Kepler’s teachers are committed to life-long learning both in their own lives and as part of their teaching objectives for their students.
Third, Kepler’s teachers are Christian classical teachers. At Kepler, parents can be confident their child’s teacher will guide them through primary sources and first principles from an orthodox Christian worldview while personally modeling the Christian life in their own ethics and morality.
But that is just the foundation. Teachers who teach at Kepler are here because they are committed to and passionate about educating young people and they choose to teach with Kepler because Kepler affords them the opportunity to flourish in their work of teaching students.
Because we begin with the (right kind of) teacher, we are able to provide an environment where good teachers are not stifled by constrained budgets or limited by bloated administrations with lots of red tape. These educated professionals are free and empowered to pursue their calling of educating young people in the classical Chrsitian tradition.
An important way to conceive of Kepler's unique approach to education can be understood in terms of the Aristotelean philosophy of ethics.
Aristotle has notably argued that there are some things that are good for their own sake and not for the sake of something else. Knowledge falls into this category of "goods," as does happiness. There are other goods that are good for the sake of something else, and not necessarily for its own sake. Wealth would fall into this category since money is not a good in itself, but is good for the sake of what it can purchase. The third category would be the good that is undesirable for its own sake, but desirable for the sake of some better good. Healthcare falls into this category as some medicines may taste bad and surgery may be painful, but these are still desirable for their ends, good health.
In essence, the key to understanding Aristotelean ethics is understanding whether something is good for its own sake or for some greater good. This line of thinking then leads to a conversation about what is the greatest good for which all other goods exist.
Business marketing strategists have long drawn from this philosophy. Good business models will focus on the benefits of their product or service rather than the features of the product or service itself. This is because, as one marketer put it, people are not buying a 1/4” drill bit because they want a 1/4” drill bit. They buy the drill bit because they want a 1/4” hole.
Perhaps the customer wants the hole because he or she wants to hang a picture on a wall in the room to make it aesthetically pleasing, for example. Maybe it's for another reason. In any case, good businesses don’t just want to make and sell 1/4” drill bits, they want to give their customers the 1/4” hole they are looking for. The best businesses, however, focus on why the customer wants to drill the hole in the first place.
This philosophy is what makes Kepler's approach unique.
We believe parents send their children to school (whether brick and mortar or online) not because school is a good in and of itself, but because school is where children are educated. Schools are not the goal. Education is the goal. Schools, like wealth, are merely a means to an end. What happens too often in modern education (even modern Christian education) is what happens too often in ethics and business. The emphasis gets placed on the means (the school) and not on the real good—the end (an educated child living out the best expression of his humanity).
Asking what the school is for is an important first step, but asking what education is for is probably the most important question of all. Therefore, a good educator focuses on educating students, not on building up the school. And the best educators know the reason parents want their children to receive a good education is to prepare their child for a professional and private life, well-lived.
While we are not the only educational institution that advocates for the classical model of the flipped classroom, we do take it one step further and flip the entire school.
In the Kepler model, we are leveraging available technology to create a consortium of highly qualified teachers who provide excellent education that will prepare your child for a professional and private life, well-lived. And we do it around a schedule and budget tailored to the needs of your family.