Darcie Cimarusti: How Hillsdale College-affiliated charter schools spread
Guest-writing at Valerie Strauss’s Answer Sheet blog, Darcie Cimarusti explores how Hillsdale has managed to spread their charter school gospel.
Hillsdale College is a small, nondenominational Christian school in Michigan with a satellite campus on Capitol Hill. Hillsdale President Larry Arnn headed former president Trump’s 1776 Commission, and last year Hillsdale College released a “1776 Curriculum” as a counter to the New York Times’ 1619 Project and its corresponding K-12 curriculum.
Hillsdale spreads the gospel of the right-wing through their K-12 curriculum and the Barney Charter School Initiative, which currently claims member schools in nine states across the country and “curriculum schools” in 19 states. The college’s mission to maintain “by precept and example the immemorial teachings and practices of the Christian faith” morphs into a call for “moral virtue” in their K-12 charter schools.
The school’s expanding K-12 footprint aligns with former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s admission that “greater Kingdom gain” is the ultimate outcome of the religious right’s school choice agenda. Hillsdale has made gains in this aim via charter schools, which are publicly funded but operated by entities outside traditional school districts.
Hillsdale does not “own, govern, manage, or profit from” the charter schools they work with, and they do not charge for their curriculum. But Florida-based Academica, the largest for-profit education management organization (EMO) in the nation, stands to make money on Hillsdale’s crusade.
Hillsdale’s classical charter school initiative was designed to turn the tide on what the college sees as “a hundred years of progressivism” in public education. Charter schools that contract with Hillsdale agree to center Western tradition in their K-12 curriculum, and to focus on the “four core disciplines of math, science, literature, and history.” Students must learn Latin and receive explicit instruction in phonics and grammar. The core disciplines are taught through the reading of primary source material [fcalv.net] and the “great books” which are also chosen to guide students’ moral development. Hillsdale’s curriculum not only narrows the course of study available to students, it rewrites American history, particularly when it comes to civil rights.