The Christian College Trying To Transform American Education

Hillsdale has successfully created a buzz around its involvement in K-12 education. But it hopes that is only the start.

Written by Jack Elbaum

What’s happening: Hillsdale College, a small Christian and conservative liberal arts college in Michigan, is trying to fundamentally change America’s education system — one school at a time.

Zoom in: It developed a “1776” history curriculum over 2000 pages long in 2021. It has already been adopted by schools across the country and acts as an alternative to the “1619 Project.” Hillsdale has also opened a network of classical charter schools that now spans 14 states.

What does it want to change? Hillsdale’s classical schools aim to ensure students “receive instruction in the principles of moral character and civic virtue.” The college embraces American exceptionalism in its curriculum but argues that it “does not ignore ‘warts’” in American history.

Growing momentum: As education becomes an increasingly important issue for Republican voters and politicians, they are turning to Hillsdale for a path forward.

  • Zoom in: Last year, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem used a retired Hillsdale professor to create new state standards for social studies. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has made an outspoken effort to bring Hillsdale charter schools to his state.

  • Who else? Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed a top Hillsdale executive as a trustee for the New College of Florida, which DeSantis hopes to make into the “Hillsdale of the South,” according to his administration. Florida also may become the first state to accept a Hillsdale-inspired “classical” alternative to the SAT and ACT in university admissions.

Why it matters: Conservatives have long struggled to provide alternatives to the current K-12 education establishment, especially since the federal government began to play a larger role nationwide. But Hillsdale has managed to make real inroads. With a battle over the direction of K-12 education raging across the country right now, its efforts are as relevant as ever.

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