At the cutting edge of 21st century education, our inquiry-driven, seminar-style classes inspire students to analyze, question, debate, reimagine and synthesize – all in the context of a rigorous, comprehensive college preparatory program. Guided by a passionate faculty, our students deepen their intellectual identities, upend existing paradigms, and forge inspirational solutions.
Areté Preparatory Academy
What is Smart?
Learning: The Areté Way
The singular goal of the Areté learning experience is aporia, a Greek concept referring to state of intellectual openness. For Socrates and his followers, aporia represented an epiphany of not-knowing, a realization that one’s superficial learning is not the same as genuine understanding. Aporia is a joyous moment of revelation, the first step toward true wisdom. Through our inquiry-based teaching and Socratic questioning (both instructor-to-student and peer-to-peer) Areté students learn to let go of their prior, fact-focused concept of mastery and hold themselves to a higher level of insight and understanding.
Our students learn to do philosophy – questioning widely-held beliefs, exposing hidden assumptions, and synthesizing disparate claims and propositions. Having escaped the chains of everyday thinking, a philosophically-trained thinker is equipped to innovate, disrupt, and inspire – a leader’s skill set. A capacity for deep, probing inquiry– the heart of our innovative methodology – creates graduates eager to embrace the difficult, often nuanced challenges of the 21st century.
Philosophical questions and methods underlie all academic disciplines, from mathematics to the humanities. Areté’s Great Ideas Program, our curiosity-driven, four-year philosophy requirement, pushes students to grapple with problems and ideas at the forefront of human inquiry. Do we have free will? What form of government is most aligned with human nature? Is morality relative? How can we know right from wrong? Is scientific knowledge “privileged” over other ways of knowing? What drives religious belief and fervor? Is true artificial intelligence possible? In collaboration with the Great Ideas faculty, teachers in all disciplines craft courses built around philosophical questions and methodology.
The Areté Seminar
At Areté, our Seminars are exceptionally small, allowing for truly individualized learning and assessment.
But an Areté Seminar is much more than just a small class.
Built on a foundation of open communication and mutual respect, the Seminar represents a shared goal: to create a place where profound reflection and innovative risk-taking are encouraged and celebrated. Instead of competing for attention and points, students engage in thoughtful, provocative questioning and work together to deepen and expand discourse. At the same time, the Areté Seminar is “pensively playful” – a rare place where a student can focus on the satisfaction and fun of learning while also developing a powerful academic identity and voice.
Why it Works
Both a celebration and a challenge, Symposium is the quarterly embodiment of the Areté spirit and pedagogy – a meaningful, transformative alternative to final exams. Consistent with our commitment to “choice and voice,” students select their own topics based on a unifying, school-wide philosophical question or theme. They become researchers and teachers, learning to produce substantive, idea-focused academic papers and presentations – the real currency of academic achievement in college and beyond. Students learn to read academic sources, extracting arguments and facts in support of their own philosophical theses and claims. With close faculty guidance, they are taught to make persuasive, cogent arguments backed by well-chosen, correctly cited sources.
After an exhilarating and rewarding week of exploration and writing, students transform their papers into interactive presentations that bring their ideas to life for an authentic audience of Areté students, teachers and the community at large. Having developed the skill set to succeed in Symposium, our graduates report being exceptionally well prepared for the demands of writing-intensive university courses.
At Areté, we don’t teach to a test or quiz; we teach toward lasting understanding. Assessments are designed to showcase and encourage students’ critical thinking skills, as well as their creative talents. Authentic assessments provide a comprehensive view of a student’s understanding of the material. Students synthesize knowledge, information and skills learned while exhibiting deeper insights. Our approach allows students to express and continue to develop a range of intelligences—critical for success in college and in the 21st century workplace.
For example, in Advanced Literary Analysis, an Areté English course, questions about free will and fate were central to our study of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. We asked students to combine philosophical analysis with deep literary understanding, conveyed through blogs “written by” major and minor characters. Through an engaging blend of creativity and critical thinking, Areté assignments challenge students to connect with material in meaningful and lasting ways.
Our teachers model genuine intellectual passion and humility coupled with a sincere respect for every learner. Our teachers are chosen not only for their outstanding academic accomplishments but also for their enthusiasm for teaching and learning, and their willingness to put students’ ideas at center stage. In seminars, teachers don’t lecture, they create learning opportunities, help students ask better questions, and guide them toward an exploration of layered answers.