What Makes Us Unique

Paradigm Schools is unique in that is has deliberately attempted to make this challenging education accessible to all students. We have done this by coupling it with proven tools that make learning more reachable. Some of these tools are:

  • Mentoring:
    • A recent Research Brief published by Child Trends and titled, "Mentoring: A Promising Strategy for Youth Development," found that youth who participate in mentoring relationships experience a number of positive benefits. In terms of educational achievement, mentored youth have better attendance; a better chance of going on to higher education; and better attitudes towards school. In terms of health and safety, mentoring appears to help prevent substance abuse and reduce some negative youth behaviors. On the social and emotional development front, taking part in mentoring promotes positive social attitudes and relationships. Mentored youth tend to trust their parents more and communicate better with them. They also feel they get more emotional support from their friends than do youth who are not mentored.
  • Multiple Modes of Learning:
    • This program recognizes that people learn in different ways, and if they are taught in their preferred mode, they will progress at a faster pace, with more understanding.
  • Relevance-Based Learning:
    • This style of learning engages the student in discussion and hands on applications. It applies to relevance to educational principles and makes learning come alive. Also as part of our relevance based learning, we offer opportunities for apprenticeships, internships, job shadowing, and service opportunities.
  • Individual Mission Program:
    • Unique to Paradigm, this portfolio tool is similar to an IEP, for every student. An informal team is formed comprised to of the student, his parents, and a seminar mentor. A goal path is set in which the student takes the lead in planning for their seminar class, school year, and ultimately experiences and planning that builds on and impacts goals for future years. Through parent feedback, student review, and mentor reports, the student's progress is easily followed and this allows for prompt alterations and feedback when needed.
  • Small School and Class Sizes:
    • The advantages of small school and class size are well documented in many studies. A lower student-to-teacher ratio creates a more personal environment to ensure that no child will slip through the cracks, and be left behind.

Every student at Paradigm Schools is required to take seminar classes which will ensure a wide breadth and depth of knowledge integral to a liberal arts education. However, each student is also viewed as an individual person with a unique mission. Paradigm seeks to aid the student in identifying and forming that mission, through helping him to understand and capitalize on his strengths and interests and to strengthen those areas of weakness that might hinder the fulfillment of his mission.

Great Books

"If there is some purpose of the things we do...will not knowledge of it have a great influence on life? Shall we not, like archers who have a mark to aim at, be more likely to hit upon what we should? If so, we must try, in outline at least, to determine what it is." -Aristotle

Greatness means excellence - the highest and best materials on which the human mind can work in order to gain insight, understanding, and wisdom. In 1921, John Erskine taught a General Honors course at Columbia University, using a list of 52 books he had complied called the "Classics of Western Civilization." He combined the classics with a discussion group approach - now commonly called a Socratic discussion or Socratic seminar. He had his students read one classic a week and then meet for a two-hour discussion sitting round a large oval table.

Mortimer J. Alder took the course as a student. He wrote this tongue-in-cheek statement: "Most professionals teach by telling; amateurs, among whom Socrates was a paragon, teach by questioning." It wasn't just the excellence of the materials which Erskine had selected that made the course effective, it was the excellence of the Socratic teaching method as well. It was the fortuitous combination of the two that clicked. Erskine's students were stimulated, delighted, and enlightened by his course.

In 1927, Alder was appointed to reconsider Erskine's list of classics. Alder's revised list included 130 authors. Finally, in 1947, Sen. William Benton asked Alder and others to draw up a definitive list for publication by Encyclopedia Britannica as the Great Books of the Western World set. The advisory board, now with many years and broad experience in the Great Books movement, after consultation, re-examination and many votes, complied a final list including 74 authors (433 works) which was published in a 54-volume set, including a 2-volume "great ideas" index (the Syntopicon) edited by Alder.

The selection criteria are interesting:

  1. Contemporary significance
  2. Readability
  3. Extensive relevance to the great ideas
  4. Indispensability to anyone's education

They gradually discovered in their discussion groups that they were also participating in a much larger group discussion, one spanning the centuries of 3000 years (the Great Conversation). The authors of the classics often wrote about what their predecessors had to say about this idea or that, and responded to it by commenting on it or refuting it. The topics they wrote about tended to be the same, and they carried the discussion one or more steps further. After two years, 102 key ideas had been selected and called the Great Ideas. Through their books, the thoughts of the authors of the classics continually influence the living, in each generation right up to our day.

(Taken from an article called "The Great Books Movement" by Patrick S. J. Carmack)

Individual Mission

"In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it." -Michelangelo

As so often happens when any organization, or enterprise is asked to give an explanation of themselves, they will usually describe what they do, or how they do it. This is the case with Paradigm as well. We talk in terms of "Socratic dialogue" and "reading classics," "learning how to think, not what to think" and "servant leadership," etc. These are the things we do, or how we do it. While these things are important, they are not why Paradigm exists, they only facilitate our why.

Let me refer you to the Michelangelo quote above. If we were able to watch the sculptor work on rough stone, I think most of us would see the artist from the stone into an image. An image of his choosing. His words change that perspective. He is not forming the stone into an image he wants. He recognizes within the stone an image that already exists. Michaelangelo says in another place, (More)

"Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it."

Sometimes in education, it is assumed that the student is to be molded into a predetermined form, that it is the school's job to shape the student into an image of its making. That image is a person who has been trained with certain skills and knowledge that can later be used to accomplish assigned tasks. These skills and knowledge we all know; a knowledge of mastery of mathematics, science, history, government, reading, writing, art, and so on. With these, the student is finished; they have been formed by the sculptor and now are ready.

At Paradigm, we try to start with a different premise.

"I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free." -Michelangelo

Each student has within them something more than what is demonstrated by outward appearances and it is up to the sculptor to discover, or uncover what that something is. In this case, the sculptor is the student. Mentors are guides to help students understand that a knowledge and mastery of mathematics, science, history, government, reading, writing, art, and so on are the sculptor's (student's) tools to discover the image within. With this understanding, the student begins a life of self-discovery; beginning with these basic tools, then discovering more as they learn to use more advanced tools and techniques. This perspective may not change much of how or what a student learns in school, but it changes everything about why they learn. Instead of a person who can only accomplish tasks and assignments through the application of skills, they become the sculptor of their life. One who is able to introduce who they are into every task and assignment they accomplish. They learn that every experience in life is an opportunity for their image to come forth from the stone, and that knowledge and skills have far more value to them, and the world, than they ever before considered.

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