September 4, 2020
Dear Faculty and Staff,
The work that Great Hearts teachers have done to adapt our classical, liberal arts program and bring students into it through the technologies of distance learning in the last month has literally saved education for thousands of Texas families. We have put classical Latin, ancient history, Greek geometry, medieval literature, and renaissance music on-line; we have used computers to teach the old-fashioned manual skills of spelling and handwriting and drawing; through Zoom, we have brought students together to recite old poetry and discuss classic literature by perennial writers and thinkers from the past three thousand years of the Western tradition. The great English author G.K. Chesterton once wrote that the oldest things should be taught to the youngest people—and in the age of non-voluntary distance learning, we might do well to add that if we have to employ the newest technologies, we should only use them to teach those oldest things.
2020—the year of non-voluntary distance learning—has presented Great Hearts Texas with an opportunity to build upon our success in this temporary crisis and turn it into something lasting. The Texas Education Agency has granted school districts emergency permission to enroll on-line students outside of their geographical boundaries in ’20-’21, and over the next few months, Great Hearts Texas will use this opportunity to establish a fully on-line academy for children from all over Texas, from El Paso to Beaumont, Brownsville to Perryton and all points in between. Our plan is to start small, with just a few hundred students, and build upon our nascent expertise in virtual instruction for a classical education. It is an opportunity to reach outside of the three major urban areas where we currently operate and bring a Great Hearts education to families not just in new cities, but in small towns and rural communities across the state who, until now, have only been able to dream of it.
It is only because we have identified wise and loving philanthropists who care deeply about Great Hearts’ mission and have generously consented to fund the start-up costs that we are willing to do this within the school year. One of those potential donors expressed both surprise and delight that Great Hearts, of all people, wanted to start an on-line school: “I never would have imagined it would be you—but I’m thrilled that it is you,” meaning, who better than the state’s leading exponent of low-tech, classical education to go digital? Who else might we hope could do on-line school without falling into the trap of confusing technology for intelligence, of clever videos for wisdom, of “content delivery” for the pursuit of truth? Who other than Great Hearts so clearly loves learning and teaching more than it loves devices and software platforms that we could trust them to build an on-line program that is rich, rigorous, and humane, rather than slick, superficial, and ephemeral?
Over the next few days, GH Texas will announce this undertaking and begin to gauge the level of interest among our currently waitlisted families and those outside of San Antonio and D/FW. We wanted you to know about our intentions before the news goes public.
My hope is that all of you are in at least some measure excited by this, even if you are now more certain than ever that you are called to fulfill your teaching vocation inside the real classroom with physically present students in all of their tangible humanity. There may also be some among you who want to learn more about what this new Great Hearts initiative could mean for your own careers. I look forward to keeping you informed as we take the next steps to bring this into being.
I remain grateful for all of your work in this extraordinary season of change and challenge, and I eagerly await the fast approaching return of students to our campuses.