The Learning Curve Podcast

Wednesdays at 12 pm

The Learning Curve is where you’ll find straight talk about the nation’s hottest education stories—news and opinion from the schoolyard to the campaign trail. Cohosts Gerard Robinson and Cara Candal serve up provocative commentary and interview school leaders, innovators, bestselling authors, policymakers and more.

Listeners can find The Learning Curve on iTunes (Apple Podcasts), Stitcher, Spotify, and the Choice Media mobile app. Also find it online at Ricochet and Pioneer Institute. Follow The Learning Curve on:

Award-Winning UK Author & Filmmaker Laurence Rees on the Holocaust, Auschwitz, and Remembrance

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This week The Learning Curve podcast marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day with guest host Dr. Jay Greene and Laurence Rees, a former head of BBC TV History Programmes, founder, writer, and producer of the award-winning WW2History.com, and author of The Holocaust: A New History. Mr. Rees sheds light on the historical context of Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, including the rise of the cultural and political conditions which led to the Holocaust.

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About Our Cohosts

 Cara Stillings Candal, Ed.D. is Managing Director for Policy at ExcelinEd. Cara has spent the last 10 years working in education policy as a Senior Fellow with both Pioneer Institute and the Center for Education Reform. She was also a founding team member of the National Academy of Advanced Teacher Education (NAATE) and a research assistant professor at Boston University in the Department of Educational Leadership and Development. Cara has authored/edited more than 25 papers and three books on education policy. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Indiana University, a Masters of Arts in Social Science from the University of Chicago, and a Doctorate of Education from Boston University. Cara is the author most recently of Pioneer Institute’s book, The Fight for the Best Charter Public Schools in the Nation.

Gerard Robinson is a Fellow of Practice at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Charlottesville, Virginia. ASCF uses basic and applied research to educate the public and key societal leadership groups about the nature and challenges of late-modern society and conducts inquiry into humane and democratic responses to these challenges. Previously, he was Executive Director of the Center for Advancing Opportunity, in Washington, D.C. Robinson is a fellow with AEI, and was Secretary of Education in Virginia and Commissioner of Education in Florida. Gerard tweets at @gerard_924.

Browse all episodes below:

Award-Winning UK Author & Filmmaker Laurence Rees on the Holocaust, Auschwitz, and Remembrance

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This week The Learning Curve podcast marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day with guest host Dr. Jay Greene and Laurence Rees, a former head of BBC TV History Programmes, founder, writer, and producer of the award-winning WW2History.com, and author of The Holocaust: A New History. Mr. Rees sheds light on the historical context of Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, including the rise of the cultural and political conditions which led to the Holocaust.

D.C.’s Kevin Chavous on National School Choice Week

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This week on The Learning Curve, Cara and Gerard talk with Kevin Chavous, president of Stride K12, Inc. and a former member of the Council of the District of Columbia, on the growing movement toward school choice in education. Chavous discusses recent Supreme Court rulings and the expansion of school choice programs, education savings accounts, and vouchers.

Pulitzer Winner Prof. David Garrow on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement

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Independent Institute’s Dr. Richard Vedder on Higher Education, Skyrocketing Tuitions, & the Student Debt Crisis

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Dr. Richard Vedder, Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute and Distinguished Emeritus Professor of Economics at Ohio University. He shares analysis on the macro impact of COVID on the U.S. labor market, and the long-term economic prospects of American college students. He reviews insights from his recent book, "Restoring the Promise: Higher Education in America."

Columbia’s Prof. Roosevelt Montás on the Great Books & a Liberal Arts Education

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Professor Roosevelt Montás, Director of the Freedom and Citizenship Program at Columbia University, and author of the book, Rescuing Socrates: How the Great Books Changed My Life and Why They Matter for a New Generation. Professor Montás shares his background as an immigrant from the Dominican Republic who attended Columbia, and what inspired his appreciation for the Great Books tradition.

UK’s Prof. Michael Slater on Charles Dickens, Ebenezer Scrooge, and A Christmas Carol

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-host Gerard Robinson and guest co-host Mary Connaughton talk with Prof. Michael Slater, Emeritus Professor of Victorian Literature at Birkbeck College, University of London, and the world's foremost expert on Charles Dickens and his works. They discuss some of the main elements of Dickens’ brilliant, prolific, and complicated life, as the 19th century’s most influential, best-selling writer of memorable works, from Oliver Twist to Great Expectations.

Senegal’s Magatte Wade on Education & Economic Freedom in Africa

This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara and Gerard talk with Magatte Wade, the founder & CEO of Skin Is Skin and an advocate for African dignity and prosperity. Her forthcoming book is "The Heart of the Cheetah."

Former U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on Edu Federalism & School Choice

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This week on “The Learning Curve," guest co-hosts Denisha Allen and Kerry McDonald talk with Betsy DeVos, a former United States Secretary of Education and the author of the book, Hostages No More: The Fight for Education Freedom and the Future of the American Child. She shares how she became one of the country’s foremost proponents of school choice, educational federalism, and bold changes to K-12 education.

Award Winner Peter Cozzens on Tecumseh, the Indian Wars & the American West

This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara and Gerard talk with Peter Cozzens, the award-winning author of The Earth Is Weeping: The Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West. As National Native American Heritage Month winds down, Mr. Cozzens reviews what our schoolchildren should know about Native Peoples’ innumerable contributions and heart-wrenching experiences.

Award-Winner Nathaniel Philbrick on the Mayflower and the First Thanksgiving

This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara and Gerard talk with Nathaniel Philbrick, historian, winner of the National Book Award, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and author of Mayflower: Voyage, Community, and War. Mr. Philbrick shares what we should know about the actual historical events of the First Thanksgiving in 1621.

Georgia’s Alisha Thomas Searcy on School Choice, Teacher Unions, & Elections

This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara and Gerard talk with Alisha Thomas Searcy, the Democratic nominee for Georgia state school superintendent. She shares her experience as a former six-term state legislator and school leader; her recent bid for Georgia’s top education post; and her passion for K-12 education reform.

KaiPod Learning’s Amar Kumar on Homeschooling Pods & Blended Education

This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara and Gerard talk with Amar Kumar, founder and CEO of KaiPod Learning, a network of in-person education centers for online learners and homeschoolers, based in Massachusetts. They discuss how the pandemic dramatically changed parents’ sentiments about their traditional public schools, opening the door to wider private school choice options, including homeschooling, micro schools, and pods.

Stanford’s Pulitzer-Winning Prof. Jack Rakove on James Madison, The Federalist Papers, & U.S. Constitutionalism

This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara and Gerard talk with Dr. Jack Rakove, Coe Professor of History and American Studies and Professor of Political Science Emeritus at Stanford University, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution. Professor Rakove reviews the biography of James Madison, often called the "Father of the Constitution," and the influence of classical and Enlightenment learning on his farsighted political thought and leadership.

UK’s Miranda Seymour on Mary Shelley and Frankenstein for Halloween

This week on a Halloween edition of “The Learning Curve," guest host Mary Z. Connaughton talks with Miranda Seymour, novelist and definitive biographer of Mary Shelley, author of the classic Gothic novel, Frankenstein.

UCLA’s Dr. Maryanne Wolf on Reading, Brain Science, & the Digital Age

This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Dr. Maryanne Wolf, Director of the Center for Dyslexia and Diverse Learners at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, and the author of Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World.

Jeff Wetzler, Co-founder of Transcend, on Innovation in School Design

This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Jeff Wetzler, co-founder of Transcend, a nonprofit focused on innovation in school design that works with hundreds of school communities in over two dozen states in America.

NYT Best Seller Laurence Bergreen on 530th Anniversary of Christopher Columbus Discovering the New World

On this special Columbus Day edition of “The Learning Curve," guest host Pioneer Institute's Mary Z. Connaughton talks with Laurence Bergreen, a prize-winning biographer, historian, chronicler of exploration, and the author of Columbus: The Four Voyages, 1492-1504. Mr. Bergreen discusses what people should know about the life, career, and myths around Christopher Columbus, the courageous, ruthless, and complicated explorer and navigator, on the 530th anniversary of his history-changing and ever-controversial discovery of the New World.

NACSA’s Dr. Karega Rausch on Charter Public School Authorizing

This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Dr. Karega Rausch, President and CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. Dr. Rausch shares some of his background, his interest in K-12 education reform and charter public schools, and lessons from Indiana and other states that inform his work.

Khan Academy’s Sal Khan & ASU Prep Digital’s Amy McGrath on the Khan World School @ ASU Prep

This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Sal Khan, founder and CEO of Khan Academy, and Amy McGrath, the Chief Operating Officer of ASU Prep and Deputy Vice President of ASU Educational Outreach.

Hoover at Stanford’s Dr. Niall Ferguson on Britain, the English-Speaking World, & the Politics of Catastrophe

This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Dr. Niall Ferguson, the Milbank Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a senior faculty fellow of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard. He is the author of 16 books, including "Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe."

Independent Institute’s Dr. Bill Evers & Ze’ev Wurman on K-12 STEM Education & California’s Woke Math

This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Dr. Bill Evers and Ze'ev Wurman, of the Independent Institute, about the challenges of ensuring all students have access to quality K-12 math and science education in California and across the U.S.

Oxford’s Prof. Timothy Garton Ash on Poland’s Solidarity, Lech Walesa, & Cold War Lessons for Ukraine

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UVA’s Prof. Angel Adams Parham on Classical Education, Black Intellectuals, & Homeschooling

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Angel Adams Parham, Associate Professor of Sociology and senior fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture (IASC) at the University of Virginia, and the author of The Black Intellectual Tradition: Reading Freedom in Classical Literature. Professor Parham shares her background as an academic and former homeschooling mom, her embrace of classical education, and her philosophy about what constitutes a sound humanities curriculum.

UVA’s Two-Time Pulitzer Winner Prof. Alan Taylor on Thomas Jefferson & Education

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Alan Taylor, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor of History at the University of Virginia, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, and author of the book, Thomas Jefferson's Education. Professor Taylor shares some highlights of Jefferson’s career, his views on the importance of primary and higher public education in serving the political aspirations of his state and region, and Jefferson's role as the architect of the University of Virginia,

Doug Lemov on Teach Like a Champion & Successful Charter Public Schools

This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard Robinson and guest co-host Charles Chieppo talk with Doug Lemov, author of the international bestseller, Teach Like a Champion. Doug describes how he became interested in charter schools, dating back to the late 1990s in Massachusetts, and how the sector developed into a nationally recognized success story.

William & Mary’s Dr. Charles Hobson on Chief Justice John Marshall, SCOTUS, & Judicial Review

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Dr. Charles Hobson, a retired resident scholar at the William & Mary Law School, 26-year editor of The Papers of John Marshall, and author of The Great Chief Justice: John Marshall and the Rule of Law. Dr. Hobson shares what students should know about the longest-serving, most important chief justice in the history of the Supreme Court, and his influence on our understanding of the U.S. Constitution.

METCO’s Milly Arbaje-Thomas & Researcher Roger Hatch on MA’s Voluntary School Desegregation Program

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Milly Arbaje-Thomas, President & CEO of the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity, Inc. (METCO) and Roger Hatch, co-author of Pioneer’s report, METCO Funding: Understanding Massachusetts’ Voluntary School Desegregation Program.

NYU Law Prof. Richard Epstein on the Founders’ Constitution & Federalism

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Gerard Robinson and Cara Candal talk with Richard Epstein, the inaugural Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law at NYU School of Law, and author of The Classical Liberal Constitution: The Uncertain Quest for Limited Government. He describes the influence of 17th and 18th-century English ideas on our Founding Fathers’ views of ordered liberty and self-government.

Engaged Detroit Founder Bernita Bradley on Homeschooling, Urban Education, & Parent-Driven Reforms

This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard Robinson and guest co-host Kerry McDonald talk with Bernita Bradley, founder and president of Engaged Detroit, a parent-driven urban homeschooling advocacy coalition.

Jean Strouse on J.P. Morgan & the Rise of American Finance

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Gerard Robinson and guest co-host Kerry McDonald talk with Jean Strouse, author of the award-winning biography of J.P. Morgan, Morgan: American Financier. They discuss why the general public and students alike should know more about the life and accomplishments of the controversial, late 19th- and early 20th-century American banker.

Mt. Holyoke’s Pulitzer-Winning Prof. Joseph Ellis on John Adams & American Independence

This Fourth of July week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Gerard Robinson and Cara Candal talk with Dr. Joseph Ellis, Professor Emeritus of History at Mount Holyoke College and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation.

Lead Plaintiff David Carson & IJ Attorney Arif Panju on Landmark SCOTUS Decision Carson v. Makin

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Gerard Robinson and Cara Candal talk with Arif Panju, a managing attorney with the Institute for Justice and co-counsel in the U.S. Supreme Court school choice case, Carson v. Makin; and David Carson, the lead plaintiff. Panju shares the key legal contours of Carson v. Makin and the potential impact of the Court’s decision in favor of the plaintiffs.

AEI’s Robert Pondiscio on E.D. Hirsch, Civic Education, & Charter Public Schools

This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard Robinson and guest co-host Kerry McDonald talk with Robert Pondiscio, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He shares his background working with curriculum expert E.D. Hirsch, Jr., who has emphasized the importance of academic content knowledge in K-12 education as well as civic education to develop active participants in our democracy. Pondiscio explains some of the findings of his book, How the Other Half Learns, on New York’s Success Academy charter schools network.

Hoover at Stanford’s Dr. Macke Raymond on the Current State of K-12 Education Reform

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Dr. Margaret “Macke” Raymond, founder and director of the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University. She shares some of the major highlights from Hoover’s recent Education Summit that featured a wide variety of national and international experts.

David Ferreira & Chris Sinacola on MA’s Nation-Leading Voc-Tech Schools

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Chris Sinacola and David Ferreira, co-editors of Pioneer’s new book, Hands-On Achievement: Massachusetts’s National Model Vocational-Technical Schools. They share information from their new book on the story of the Bay State’s nation-leading voc-tech schools, and how accountability tools from the state’s 1993 education reform law propelled their success.

Smith College Prof. Paula Giddings on Ida B. Wells and Her Anti-Lynching Crusade

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This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara Candal and guest co-host Derrell Bradford talk with Prof. Paula Giddings, Elizabeth A. Woodson Professor Emerita of Africana Studies at Smith College, and author of A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching.

WV State Sen. Patricia Puertas Rucker on Universal School Choice

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Senator Patricia Puertas Rucker, a West Virginia state Senator and Chair of the Education Committee. Thanks to her leadership, West Virginia now has the widest, most universal education savings account program in America.

Columbia’s Prof. Nicholas Lemann on the Great Migration, the SAT, & Meritocracy

This week on “The Learning Curve," guest co-host Kerry McDonald talks with Nicholas Lemann, Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Professor of Journalism and Dean Emeritus of the Columbia School of Journalism, and author of the books, The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America, and The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy.

Harvard Law Prof. Cass Sunstein on “The World According to Star Wars”

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Cass Sunstein, the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard Law School, and the author of The New York Times best-selling book, The World According to Star Wars. He shares what drew him to this topic, and why, after 45 years, these movies have become a $70 billion multimedia franchise and continue to have such wide intergenerational appeal.

Hoover at Stanford’s Dr. Eric Hanushek on NAEP, PISA, International Comparisons in Education

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Dr. Eric Hanushek, the Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. Dr. Hanushek shares how he first became interested in the economics of education, his plans for the nearly $4 million in funding from the prestigious Yidan Prize, which he received in 2021, and where he sees the greatest need for additional research in education.

Harvard Mathematician Prof. Wilfried Schmid on K-12 Standards & Results

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Dr. Wilfried Schmid, Dwight Parker Robinson Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at Harvard University, who played a major role in drafting the 2000 Massachusetts Mathematics Curriculum Framework and served on the U.S. National Mathematics Advisory Panel (NMAP) in 2008.

UC-Berkeley Prof. Robert Alter on the Hebrew Bible’s Wide Literary Influence

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Dr. Robert Alter, Emeritus Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at the University of California at Berkeley, and author of the landmark three-volume book, The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary.

AFC’s Denisha Merriweather on School Choice Advocacy & Black Minds Matter

This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Denisha Merriweather, the director of public relations and content marketing at the American Federation for Children and founder of Black Minds Matter. They discuss Denisha’s inspiring personal narrative, from a struggling student to a leading national spokesperson for school choice.

UVA Law Prof. G. Edward White on Law, Race, & the U.S. Supreme Court in American History

This week on “The Learning Curve," as the nation prepares for the likely confirmation of its first Black female U.S. Supreme Court justice, Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Dr. G. Edward White, David and Mary Harrison Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law, and author of the three-volume book, Law in American History.

Yale’s Pulitzer-Winning Prof. John Lewis Gaddis on Cold War Lessons for Russia’s Hot War in Ukraine

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-host Cara Candal talks with John Lewis Gaddis, the Robert A. Lovett Professor of Military and Naval History at Yale University, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of George F. Kennan: An American Life. He shares some of the wider background knowledge, major historical themes, and key events that today's students should know about the Cold War and its impact.

NYU’s Dr. Arthur Levine on Higher Education’s Future & Improving K-12 Teacher Preparation

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This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Dr. Arthur Levine, a scholar with New York University's Steinhardt Institute for Higher Education Policy, a senior fellow and president emeritus of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, and president emeritus of Columbia University's Teachers College. He shares the main findings and recommendations of a new book he recently co-authored, The Great Upheaval: Higher Education’s Past, Present, and Uncertain Future.

UK’s Charles Moore on Lady Margaret Thatcher & Cold War Leadership

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Charles Moore, a columnist for The Daily Telegraph and The Spectator, and the authorized, three-volume biographer of Lady Margaret Thatcher. Lord Moore explains why Lady Thatcher is considered the most important female political figure of the 20th century, and reviews the challenges she faced at home and abroad.

EdChoice’s VP Leslie Hiner on Landmark SCOTUS Decisions for School Choice

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Leslie Hiner, Vice President of Legal Affairs and Director of Legal Defense & Education Center with EdChoice. They discuss the the landmark U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision in Brown v. Board of Education, among the most important in the nation’s history, and how Brown’s call for racial access and equity in K-12 education has helped inform the work and advocacy of the school choice movement.

Linda Chavez on Hispanic Immigration, Assimilation, & Civic Education in America

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-host Cara Candal talks with Linda Chavez, a senior fellow at the National Immigration Forum and the author of Out of the Barrio: Toward a New Politics of Hispanic Assimilation. 

ESPN Senior Writer Howard Bryant on Race in Boston & American Sports

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-host Gerard Robinson and guest co-host Kerry McDonald talk with Howard Bryant, a senior writer for ESPN and the author of nine books, including Full Dissidence: Notes From an Uneven Playing Field and The Heritage: Black Athletes, A Divided America, and the Politics of Patriotism.

Emory Uni. Prof. Mark Bauerlein on “The Dumbest Generation” & the Digital Age

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-host Cara Candal and guest co-host Prof. Robert Maranto talk with Dr. Mark Bauerlein, Senior Editor at First Things, Professor of English Emeritus at Emory University, and the author of The Dumbest Generation Grows Up. Dr. Bauerlein shares his views about the kinds of content American K-12 students should be reading for preparation for college and meaningful lives.

Parent Advocate Virginia Walden Ford on Civil Rights, School Choice, & the D.C. Voucher Program

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-host Gerard Robinson and guest co-host Derrell Bradford talk with Virginia Walden Ford, education advocate and author of Voices, Choices, and Second Chances, and School Choice: A Legacy to Keep. She shares her experiences growing up and desegregating high schools in Little Rock, Arkansas in the mid-1960s, and the lessons she carried forward in her school choice advocacy in Washington, D.C.

U of SC Prof. Jennifer Frey on National Catholic Schools Week & Flannery O’Connor’s Fiction

As we celebrate National Catholic Schools Week, “The Learning Curve" co-host Cara Candal talks with Dr. Jennifer Frey, an associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Carolina and fellow of the Institute for Human Ecology at the Catholic University of America. Dr. Frey shares why Catholic education is so vitally important in the lives of families, schoolchildren, and communities, with its commitment to nurturing an appreciation for “the true, the good, and the beautiful” among students from all faith backgrounds.