Cheryl Swope provided evidence that special-needs children have the potential to succeed academically at the same level as any other child Thursday.
Swope, author of “Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child,” spoke about her passion for providing children with learning disabilities the same opportunities in education as other children, including a classical education.
Swope’s lecture, “Clear and Compelling: The (Surprisingly Strong) Case for Classical Education with Any Child,” centered on the importance of a classical education. Swope compared a classical education to a contemporary public education, emphasizing the applicability of a classical education to students of all ages and abilities.
Swope defined a classical education as “a formative education designed to incline the student from his earliest days to that which is true, good, and beautiful through the liberal arts and sciences guided by the great literature, music, art and ideas of Western Civilization.”
She said a classical education benefits every student, regardless of their disabilities.
Swope and her husband adopted two twins at infancy, Michael and Michele, both with different disabilities. Swope has a master’s degree in special education and is a certified lifetime K‑12 state teacher, able to work with children who have learning disabilities and behavior disorders. Swope said that her passion for speaking about classical education for all came from her children.
During the lecture, Swope’s voice cracked as a picture of Michael flashed on the projector screen. Now, at 22 years of age, both of her classically educated children are thriving young adults, she said.
She spoke to a room full of faculty, parents, and students. Senior Hannah Fleming attended the lecture. Having just accepted a teaching position at Good Shepherd Lutheran School in Mankato, Minnesota, that afternoon, Fleming said Swope’s talk inspired her.
“Hearing her story and seeing the faces of her children was so beautiful,” she said. “It made me excited to think about the students I’ll be teaching next year and the futures they’ll end up pursuing some day.”
Senior Joshua Lee moved from South Korea to the United States in high school. He attended a classical high school. He said this form of education inspired him to begin to think about what it means to be a human being, spurring him to ask the “bigger question.” Lee said he later realized that he wanted to teach the way he had been taught because of it grew him.
“I’ve never even thought about special needs specifically in the classical education,” Lee said. “It reminds me again of what I want to do and the purpose of my life.”
Head of Early Childhood Education and Director of the Mary Proctor Randall Preschool Sonja Bindus said Swope provided excellent insight to the historical understanding of classical education.
“Her dedication to classically educating her own special needs children is an inspiring and shining example for families, students, and teachers,” Bindus said.