Hillsdale’s Dr. Kathleen O’Toole on K-12 Classical Education

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The Learning Curve Dr. Kathleen O’Toole 11/29/2023

[00:00:00] Albert: Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of the Learning Curve podcast. I am your host, Dr. Albert Cheng from the University of Arkansas, and I’m recording this morning from our nation’s capital in Washington, D.C. And with me is my co-host, Mariam Memarsadeghi. Hey, Mariam. Nice to have you back on the show.

[00:00:45] Mariam: Hey, Albert. Great to be with you again.

[00:00:47] Albert: Yeah, I guess you were last. talking with Professor Leo Damrosch about Jonathan Swift and I think we’re going to touch upon that with our guest today, Katie O’Toole, as we talk about classical education.

[00:00:58] Mariam: Yeah. I’m looking forward to this conversation because it’s going to be refreshing and the antidote to a lot of the things that we usually discuss on the negative side.

[00:01:07] Albert: Yeah. I think so. I think there’s a lot of reason for hope with what’s going on in classical education.

Mariam: Fantastic.

[00:01:14] Albert: So, we’ve got a couple of new stories to start us off here before we get Katie. So, Mariam, I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention to what’s going on across the states with school choice legislation. Here in my state in Arkansas, we passed a major universal education savings accounts bill not too long ago.

[00:01:31] Albert: But our neighbors in Texas seem to be having a lack of success actually passing their own bill. And so, you know, our friends, Cory DeAngelis and Nathan Kunin have an opinion piece at Fox News, kind of giving really the skinny and the update of what’s been going on in the legislature there. And so, it looks like it’s been several tries to get a bill passed in the Texas state legislature, but to no avail, it seems. So how about you Mariam? What have you seen in the news lately?

[00:01:58] Mariam: I spotted a piece in The Wall Street Journal about a high school in Evanston, Illinois that is separating black and Latino students from white students. And the stated goal is that this will help black and Latino students to improve their performance in math and writing and some other skill areas. But, you know, I was alarmed, frankly, because of the idea that students can’t be comfortable learning alongside each other, the idea that they need to be essentialized down to their race above all else when it comes to getting the attention that they need from educators — it’s a dangerous trajectory. It’s a dangerous a trend, I think, and we’re not certain, not only are we not serving the black and Latino students that way, even if test scores might improve for some of them as compared to their prior experience, it’s, bad in the larger sense, I think psychologically for all students.

[00:02:59] Mariam: And it is a narrative about race that is the polar opposite. I think of Martin Luther King’s vision of all children, regardless of color, playing alongside each other and learning alongside each other in equality. When I came to this country, I was seven years old, and I was put into an English as a second language class. I would be pulled out of regular class to go to ESL for a few hours a day and I was with other students who didn’t speak English and I’m extremely grateful for the ESL instruction that I had, but I remember thinking. particularly after a little while that, you know, this is actually keeping me back and that I really want to be with the rest of my classmates. I really want to learn alongside them. Even if I am far behind, I want to hear what they’re hearing. I want to have the same common experience. And when I read the story about these high schoolers in Evanston, Illinois. I thought, hmm, you think you’re doing these young people a favor by cordoning them off, from white people, but it is such a corrosive, harmful narrative that they’re absorbing about themselves, about “white people” and of their own abilities.

[00:04:12] Mariam: The idea that they can’t be comfortable unless they’re with people who look exactly like them, which of course we never look exactly like anybody else anyway I think is a disservice.

[00:04:23] Albert: Yeah, again, check out that article in The Wall Street Journal, you know, I came across it too and definitely a lot of hard questions to ask there. Coming up after the break, we’ve got Dr. Kathleen O’Toole, who’s going to come and talk to us about classical education.

[00:05:01] Albert: Dr. Kathleen O’Toole is the assistant provost for K-12 education at Hillsdale College, where she leads Hillsdale’s work in K-12 education, including the K-12 education office and Hillsdale Academy. Prior to joining Hillsdale, she was the founding headmaster of Founders Classical Academy of Leander, a classical charter school serving 700 students in grades K-12. She has taught at the college and high school levels at Claremont McKenna College, Moorhead State University, and Founders Classical Academy of Leander. Dr. O’Toole was an editor for the Claremont Review of Books, a Publius Fellow at the Claremont Institute, and serves on the board of the Classic Learning Test. She earned a BA from the University of Dallas, an MA from Claremont Graduate University, and a PhD from Claremont Graduate University. Dr. O’Toole, great to have you on the show.

[00:05:56] Kathleen: Hey, thanks for having me.

[00:05:59] Albert: Yeah, so, let’s make sure our audience is all up to speed. I don’t know if everyone listening knows about Hillsdale College. So, can you start us off by telling us about some of the background and the mission of the school? And talk about your own academic experience and path to becoming the assistant provost for K-12 education there.

[00:06:20] Kathleen: Well, Hillsdale College is old. Hillsdale College is independent. Hillsdale College is excellent. The college was founded in 1844. We are a liberal arts college in southern Michigan, serving about 1,500 graduate and undergraduate students.

[00:06:38] Kathleen: But we have a nationwide following of many millions of people follow online courses that we produce, participate in many of the conferences and things that we host nationwide and all of the outreach that we do, which is substantial is guided by the mission of the college and representative of the good work and the essential work that happens here with the teaching of our beloved students.

[00:07:02] Kathleen: The K-12 work is the work that I oversee. I got my start in that back in 2014 when I was the founding headmaster of one of Hillsdale’s affiliated charter schools. Since 2012, Hillsdale has helped local people start private and charter classical schools. And we provide, here at the college, we provide curriculum, we provide teacher training, we provide all of the things that it takes to establish an excellent K-12 school.

[00:07:33] Kathleen: And that work I got to participate in it as a school founder and headmaster for five years and then came up here to the college. Where I now work with Hillsdale Academy, our school here in town, and help it grow and help it thrive.

[00:07:47] Albert: Great, so, let’s talk philosophy a little bit. You mentioned liberal arts education, classical education this certainly connects to the ancient Greeks view of paideia, right rearing and the  education of the ideal member of the Greek polis or city state at that time. And those ideas then were kind of adopted in the Roman world with Latin and humanitas. Could you speak briefly about what these terms mean, especially paideia to the Greco Roman world and bring us up to speed of how they apply today with what you do at Hillsdale, and the K-12 schools that you operate?

[00:08:20] Kathleen: Yeah, well, I’ll do my best, these are serious questions for a brief interview, Albert.

[00:08:26] Albert: I know, that’s why we’re asking!

[00:08:30] Kathleen: We do not mess around here on The Learning Curve. Well, okay, so ancient Greeks and ancient Rome and education. I think the origins of what we call liberal education can be found in ancient Greece and Rome. It’s in ancient Greece that we get the idea that the individual human being can be shaped and formed through education for citizenship. And that the education that a human being receives can enable the human being to be a good citizen, enable the human being to be a good person, a good man, or the opposite.

[00:09:03] Kathleen: The ancient Greeks were the first to talk about the virtues of citizenship. Ancient Greece is the birth of democracy. And so, there’s discussion there about what kind of virtues, what kind of capacities do you have to have in your citizenry in order to have the deliberation, the participation that a democracy would require.

[00:09:23] Kathleen: The term liberal education can mean a couple of things. Liberal is a reference to freedom. And so, a liberal education is the education that a free person has or would have to have in order to be free. You know, in ancient times, what that meant is you’re a participant in democracy. You are a citizen. You are a — rather than living a servile or slavish life. And so, what is the content of this ancient Greek liberal education? Well, it’s doing the things that you need to do in order to participate. You have to have some courage, you have to have some justice, or a sense of justice, you have to have some moderation, some self-control, and, you have to love your polis, love your Greek city state, love your regime that you’re participating in.

[00:10:10] Kathleen: And that’s transformative, those ideas. Today, when we talk about liberal education, I think we’re taking our roots, certainly, from this ancient Greek idea, which, as you say, developed in Rome. But there’s a different sense in which we use the term liberal education.

[00:10:27] Kathleen: We also use it to mean the education that makes you free in the sense of opening your mind. A wide-ranging education that doesn’t confine you to a specific place, an education that makes you free to ask big questions and think outside of your polis or your regime. And that’s a very different kind of freedom, than the freedom that the ancient Greeks were contemplating when they thought about the virtue of a citizen. And so, I think inherent in the very term liberal education is a little bit of a tension or a question. What exactly do we mean by freedom? Do we mean the freedom to participate in and defend a specific regime or do we mean the freedom to think beyond the bounds of one’s regime?

[00:11:16] Kathleen: And that question: What does it mean to be free, or what kind of freedom are we trying to promote through education? is implicit in the writings of Plato, who wrote about Socrates. And it’s taken up by Aristotle, too. The story of Socrates is the story of those two senses of freedom coming into tension with each other. Because Socrates was a citizen of Athens and was expected as a citizen of Athens to promote the regime, promote Athenian democracy. But he was asking all of these impertinent questions and raising up these young Athenian men to question the Athenian regime. Ask big questions, not about, what is the right thing for an Athenian to do, but…What is the right thing simply? What is justice truly? And is there some sense of justice, some sense of beauty, some understanding of courage that’s fundamental and would go beyond the bounds of this Athenian regime. And Socrates, as we know, was put on trial and executed for doing that a clear demonstration of the fact that That kind of questioning, that kind of investigation is not good for the regime, necessarily.

[00:12:36] Kathleen: It’s not good for Athens to have Socrates asking those questions, even though he is the first person to have asked these important questions and the source that we follow. In our pursuit of truth today, and so anyway, we see in the story of ancient Greece, this kind of fundamental tension. Aristotle is my guy. I wrote a dissertation on him and studied him. Although anyone who studied Aristotle can know that you can spend your whole life studying him and still learn more. But Aristotle takes up that question of what’s the relationship between the good man and the good citizen?

[00:13:14] Kathleen: And are they in tension with each other and, and what can be done to conceive of virtue and citizenship in a way that is both good for the human being and good for the regime in which the human being lives or exists. And so, if you look at his ethics, and if you look at his politics, there’s a kind of a description of virtue That tries to find common ground or tries to find a way of thinking about those things that brings the virtue of the citizen and the virtue of the human being simply together.

[00:13:45] Kathleen: Fast forward to today, and I think we still see that tension in our sense of liberal education and our sense of freedom playing out as we go to the founding of our country, and then as we fast forward to debates over education that are currently happening right now.

[00:14:02] Albert: Let’s unpack that a little bit, fast forwarding to today, or maybe not as far, you mentioned the Founding and some of the educational ideals of the Enlightenment they’ve been described as the science of freedom. In fact, you know, you could say that the Enlightenment thinkers were in dialogue with ancient Greece and, and Rome. So yeah, could you talk more about the founders and their relation to this? For instance, you know, Jefferson had a vision of education. How did that vision of education harmonize with classical ideals? And how might we think about those as we think about K-12 education today?

[00:14:38] Kathleen: Well, I think it’s a really good lesson in theory and practice. Because although the founders were deeply steeped in all of this philosophy that we were just talking about and many other things, you know, there were learned human beings, the American founders were, they also had a job to do, and they had to do it right now.

[00:14:57] Kathleen: And at points in their lifetime, their very lives were at stake. And so, they were eminently practical human beings as well. There’s a lot to be learned by studying their actions. that you might not be able to learn by merely theorizing about it. So, if you look at the time of the American founding and you look at what Adams said about education, what Thomas Jefferson said about education, you see them working out these tensions between liberal education, meaning freeing of the mind to pursue truth simply, and liberal education, meaning something more like civic education.

[00:15:37] Kathleen: The education that produces a free citizen and what you see is that in there thinking about it and their prescriptions about it, there was not this deep tension there, partly because of the nature of the American constitution and the reasons for America’s, in the first place. So, let me try to explain that. John Adams wrote in a letter to John Quincy Adams, his son, I wish for you to become a good man and a good citizen and everything that I do as your father will be conducive to those two things together. So anyway, he thought his role is his father.

[00:16:10] Kathleen: His role as a father, his role as an educator was to produce a son who embodied the virtues of both. a great human being simply and a great citizen of this country. How is it possible that those two things went together? Well, if you look at what Jefferson wrote about, the University of Virginia and if you look at his own thinking about what it means to be an educated person, you see a kind of harmony between all of these ideas.

[00:16:40] Kathleen: Jefferson thought that there is a place for scientific discovery. He writes a lot about progress that can be made through studying the sciences. And he’s a very kind of personally innovative and curious human being about every type of subject. And he thought that massive improvement in our conditions was possible through the study of science. But the founders in general did not believe that improvement was possible or choice worthy regarding human affairs. They thought by looking back on what we know as human beings, about politics, about justice, about virtue, there’s not a lot of innovation to be had. In other words, the essential truths about politics, the essential truths about virtue, the essential truths about what it means to be a human being are already known to us.

[00:17:31] Kathleen: And we should build a regime, build a government that is built upon those principles, rather than try to innovate on things that we know are true. The innovation comes — and this is the new science of politics that you were referring to — the innovation comes in the structure of the American regime, which is built to be a democracy, in that it rests on the sovereignty of the people.

[00:18:00] Kathleen: And relies on the ability of the people at large to participate through voting, but it’s not a simple democracy, it’s a democracy with some aristocratic elements built into it, like the Senate, like the, eventually the Electoral College, and elements that will temper the will of the majority, which the founders say our study of, Greece and Rome teaches us can be very damaging. They carefully create this political system, which you can still see in the constitution and the original provisions of the constitution and understand through reading Madison’s notes on the Constitution and the Federalist Papers. So, you can still understand all of that and see that It’s carefully constructed so that it’s a representative democracy, which tends to the right decision, the just decision, the truth being pursued.

[00:18:58] Albert: Yeah, great. So, let’s just talk about these ideals that you’ve been explaining, and talk about how these apply in your work today with the K-12 office. So yeah, tell us more about what you do at the K-12 office. I mean, your goal really is to in some sense, make classical education more available. What are some of the obstacles that you run into when you’re exporting this work? And what are some of the successes that you’ve seen?

[00:19:24] Kathleen: So, our work here in the K-12 office is to teach anyone who wishes to learn about the principles of excellent K-12 education, we’re a college Hillsdale’s a college, the K-12 office is part of the college, and so our primary job is to teach, and what we teach about is board governance, what it means to serve on a school board, how to lead a classical school, what are the things that one ought to learn in one’s K-12 years, How should they be taught? What is the art of teaching and how do you practice it? How do you become an excellent teacher? And then the culture of the school. How do you establish a little community of people, teachers, parents, students, altogether, who are pursuing the mission of the school and what should the mission of the school be if it is to be excellent?

[00:20:09] Kathleen: So, we teach about that. We work with a network of excellent schools across the country. There are 30 of them right now. And we provide resources and teaching and free conferences and all kinds of things to anyone across the country through the Hoagland Center for Teacher Excellence and many other programs. We think of our mission as just reminding teachers and parents and students and others in this country about the things that we used to know about excellence in K-12 education in this country. And we believe that if people are reminded and if people are taught, then they can rise to the challenge and bring excellent schools to their communities.

[00:20:51] Mariam: Dr. O’Toole, Hillsdale offers a very different vision of higher and K-12 education alike. Much of American higher education remains the envy of the world, though mostly in the STEM fields. Well, our K-12 system lags far behind our international peers and economic competitors. Would you talk about some of the anti-intellectual or pedagogical fads that have plagued American education for decades and how Hillsdale’s outlook addresses these long-standing academic weaknesses?

[00:21:25] Kathleen: Yes, absolutely. So, we talked earlier about founder’s vision for education in America, for helping people grow up to be not just good citizens of the country, but good human beings simply, and how Jefferson and others thought that that was possible under practical circumstances present at the time, if you fast forward a little bit American history, you’ll see a kind of intentional new way of thinking about education and government and human virtue and all kinds of things with the progressive era. We talked about how the founders look back to ancient Greece and Rome.

[00:22:01] Kathleen: We talked about how John Adams was raising his son, John Quincy Adams. And thought he was responsible for his son’s education. Woodrow Wilson, one of the chief Progressives and one of the chief architects of all of the changes that happened at the time of the Progressive era, said that he wished for American schoolchildren to learn to be as unlike their fathers as possible. In other words, we should institute a way of thinking about school that cultivated innovation and experimentation and being different from the past for the sake of being different. And I think that that spirit was present and is still present in a lot of American education. Think about the way that we teach children to read, or we did teach children to read in the early days of American schooling. The most effective way of teaching children to read is through phonics instruction. And that’s just proven. It’s just set, it just is. And nevertheless, we innovated in this country, and we introduced sight words and the Lucy Calkins approach without ever having truly tested it.

[00:23:13] Kathleen: We experimented on our children with this new approach that ended up not working, and the result has been predictably very damaging for students reading ability and what we’re trying to do in this country and what we especially at the college are trying to do is remind schools and remind teachers that it is actually possible to help students become strong readers. At a very early age, kindergarten, first grade, if you have a sound curriculum, Albert asked, what are the obstacles that we’re dealing with? One of the obstacles is this desire for innovation, for the sake of innovation, without knowing whether it’s a good idea or not.

[00:23:55] Mariam: Previously, you mentioned that your favorite books include Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Recently, we hosted Harvard professor Leo Damrosch to discuss Swift and Gulliver’s Travels, in fact. Could you talk about a few lessons you’ve drawn from these two timeless books? Books that you think K-12 teachers and students could benefit from knowing more about?

[00:24:21] Kathleen: Yeah, absolutely. I love those two books. When I was at old school, I used to teach both of those books to 11th graders, and it was — it’s about the most fun teaching I’ve ever had. I guess we’ll do Aristotle first. So, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics is the first and best book written about virtue. And what does it mean to be a good person? What does it mean to be a happy person? That’s the question that Aristotle asks at the beginning of the book. And if you read that book, what you learn is that what he says in there rings true.

[00:24:56] Kathleen: Even though he was writing many thousands of years ago, at a time and place very different from ours. He goes through and explains the virtues, beginning with the moral virtues, and then the intellectual virtues. And he sort of paints a picture of a well-rounded, happy, thriving human being that is very compelling.

[00:25:17] Kathleen: That book is the source of the famous point that virtue is a mean. Virtue is pursued by choosing the middle path. And that’s something that we say a lot and remember a lot when we are talking about Aristotle, but sometimes we fail to fully understand what it means. What Aristotle’s saying there is that virtue is not a binary. It’s not either you do the virtuous thing, or you do the vicious thing, either the right thing or the wrong thing. He’s saying that there are two wrong things, and that virtue is in the middle. The right thing to do is in the middle. So, think about the virtue of courage, or the virtue of moderation.

[00:25:54] Kathleen: The right thing to do is the courageous thing. The right thing to do is the moderate thing. But there are two ways to go wrong for each of those. With courage, of course, there’s the cowardly thing to do, but equally vicious is the reckless thing to do. With moderation, the moderate thing is the right thing to do. The wrong thing to do would be indulging oneself, being greedy or something. But the other vice is failing to enjoy something which one ought to enjoy. So I think that’s fascinating, and I think that… if you teach virtue using Aristotle’s ethics and explaining that there are two vices, it opens up in students a desire to think through what the virtuous thing to do is because it’s, it’s no longer, don’t do the wrong thing that’s fun, do the virtuous thing, which is hard work, but better for you in the end. It’s something much more complicated and interesting than that. What is the right thing to do here? And what does your reason say is the right thing to do here? And how do you actually choose it? That’s Aristotle.

[00:27:00] Mariam: Yeah. Yeah. Pioneer Institute recently released a book, Restoring the City on a Hill, U.S. History and Civics in America Schools, that includes a report card of current major K-12 U. S. history and civics offerings in which Hillsdale earned high grades. Would you share with us the basic characteristics of your K-12 U.S. history and civics curriculum and why Hillsdale’s is particularly strong in terms of academic quality, primary sources and imparting enduring civic knowledge.

[00:27:35] Kathleen: The history and civics curriculum that we are about to finish releasing started many decades ago out of you know, scholarship related to American history, the American founding, and how to think about American political thought and American history in light of the principles of the American founding. The curriculum has been in scope and sequence form in our K-12 program guide for a long time. It’s our scope and sequence for the schools we work with. And a few years ago, we decided to put it out in the form of lesson plans. and primary source readings and guides for teachers of American history, because we detected that especially regarding history instruction, there was a lack of understanding about how exactly to pursue the truth through the study of history.

[00:28:27] Kathleen: The curriculum is very much geared to the teacher, and it respects the teacher’s role and also responsibility in the classroom. We never provide scripted lessons for teachers because the teacher is not a script reader. The teacher is a knowledgeable person who explains. Curriculum takes that form and it’s for teachers. It’s developed by teachers in our affiliated schools, and it aims to set them up to teach American history. In a way that is captivating to students, in a way that is effective for teachers, and above all, in a way that pursues the truth, we get into a lot of arguments today when we talk about history instruction with one side accusing the other side of indoctrinating students and importing politics into the classroom. And the solution to that is to acknowledge that in everything that we are studying, we are pursuing the truth. And to the extent that we are pursuing the truth, every idea should be on the table, as long as it is subject to the rigors of reason. And we should be conveying in our speech to each other and in our thought individually, we are going to seek the truth above all, discard opinions when they’re wrong, pursue opinions when they seem right. Jefferson himself said something that I think is really helpful here. He said, we’re not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor tolerate any error. So long as reason is left free to combat it, and that’s the thinking behind the history curriculum that we’ve produced here at the college and really everything that we produce for K-12 schools.

[00:30:17] Mariam: Excellent. Finally, the country, higher education, K-12 alike seem hopelessly divided and very balkanized. Could you close by discussing how a robust traditional liberal arts education can help bridge these partisan political divides and present young people with a more unified vision of humanity in our nation?

[00:30:39] Kathleen: I think that’s a really good question, this idea of pursuing the truth is the unifying idea, right? Truth is one, and error is many. And if we can approach education with a common… Commitment to pursuing what is true. And then if we can cultivate. Within the students that we are educating, and ourselves, the people doing the educating, a commitment to the truth, a responsible approach to the way in which we teach, and a commitment to educating for the benefit of the individual human beings in our classrooms. That will be the beginning of repairing what’s been broken.

[00:31:25] Mariam: Dr. O’Toole, thank you so very much for being with us today. This was an inspiring conversation with you. Thank you for all your service to Hillsdale and the inspiration it serves for education across our country.

[00:31:40] Albert: And I’ll add my thanks for being on the show as well Dr. O’Toole looking forward to when we cross paths again.

[00:31:46] Kathleen: Thank you so much. It was a pleasure to be here.

[00:31:49] Albert: Thanks again for being with us Dr. O’Toole. It’s always great to chat with you. And thank you Miriam for co-hosting with me today.

[00:32:23] Mariam: It was a fascinating discussion.

[00:32:26] Albert: And, before we wrap up this week’s tweet of the week comes from the historian Anne Applebaum. Who tweeted about the Day of Remembrance for Holodomor.

[00:32:35] Albert: Mariam, I’m guessing you’re probably familiar with this. Every fourth Saturday in November is a day of remembrance for that. And that refers to the Ukrainian famine man made. You know, back when Ukraine was under Soviet rule in the early 1930s estimates what, seven to 10 million people died of starvation. And so, incidentally, you know, I mentioned I was recording today from D.C. I, this morning as I was taking a stroll, I actually passed the memorial to that. So, I thought it was appropriate to mention this.

[00:33:07] Mariam: Yes. And it’s important right now because what Stalin did to the Ukrainian people. by a famine is not unlike what Putin is doing to that people, that nation now with war.

[00:33:21] Albert: Yeah, yeah. check it out if you want to learn more about that. Give it a quick search on the internet and read up on that. Really important to know our history and… to help us understand where we might go tomorrow. other than that, don’t forget to join us next week, where we have Francine Klagsbrun, who will be talking about her book, Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel. Until then we will see you next week.

This week on The Learning Curve, guest co-hosts Prof. Albert Cheng of the University of Arkansas and Mariam Memarsadeghi interview Hillsdale College’s assistant provost for K-12 Education, Dr. Kathleen O’Toole. She explores Hillsdale’s mission and its impact on K-12 education, delving into classical education, Greco-Roman ideals, Enlightenment principles, and the college’s efforts to enhance education. She discusses the challenges faced in exporting Hillsdale’s model to K-12 public schooling, critiques of American education, and the role of the liberal arts in fostering academic unity amidst societal divisions.

Stories of the Week: Prof. Cheng discussed a story from Fox News about the Texas House rejecting school choice in a recent vote, despite widespread Republican and public support. Mariam addressed a story from The Wall Street Journal critiquing the implementation of optional race-specific math and writing classes that are intended to address academic disparities.


Dr. Kathleen O’Toole is the assistant provost for K-12 Education at Hillsdale College, where she leads Hillsdale’s work in K-12 education, including the K-12 Education Office and Hillsdale Academy. Prior to joining Hillsdale, she was the founding headmaster of Founders Classical Academy of Leander, a classical charter school serving 700 students in grades K-12. She has taught at the college and high school levels at Claremont McKenna College, Morehead State University, and Founders Classical Academy of Leander. Dr. O’Toole was an editor for the Claremont Review of Books, a Publius Fellow at the Claremont Institute, and serves on the board of the Classic Learning Test. ?She earned a B.A. from the University of Dallas; an M.A. from Claremont Graduate University; and a Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University.

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