By Faith Oakes
Great Hearts Texas, a high-performing classical-model charter school, is opening a new location here in Irving, Texas. It will be located just 5.2 miles from the University of Dallas at 4250 North Belt Line Road. The school plans on opening for the next academic year. Great Hearts schools are well known at the University of Dallas for employing many UD graduates as teachers.
Great Hearts believes that a classical, liberal arts education, forming the mind and the heart, should be made available for all children. This philosophy of education is very similar to the one held dear here at the University of Dallas. Brian Smith, who has been involved in education for over 20 years and holds a Master of Politics from UD, serves as Great Hearts’ Director of Academics for North Texas.
“[This] idea of a liberal arts curriculum is being made available to a broad segment of the population through the charter school model,” Smith said.
Smith ended up exploring Great Hearts as both a career opportunity and school for his own family; Smith was a founding headmaster in Arizona, and his daughter graduated from a Great Hearts school in the area two years ago. Great Hearts has been polishing its applied philosophy in Arizona for about 15 years, but is now ready to move into the Dallas area.
“It always seemed to me that Dallas would be a natural place to expand, as a place already rich with liberal arts institutions and classical schools. The charter school option now makes this formation available to a larger segment of the community,” Smith said.
The Great Hearts Texas website states that: “The primary goal of a Great Hearts academy is to graduate thoughtful leaders of character who will contribute to a more philosophical, humane, and just society”. UD’s core values follow similar lines: “The University of Dallas promotes professional and graduate education that shares a common spirit with the liberal arts: reflecting critically on the ends governing the profession, fostering principled moral judgment, and providing the knowledge and skills requisite for professional excellence.”
“I see a natural synthesis between the work of Great Hearts and the mission of the University of Dallas,” Smith said. “We have recruited many of our best teachers from UD, and we have also called on professors from the university to provide faculty lectures and in-services out in Arizona. Now we bring the charter school piece of the larger project for which UD has long been the local inspiration [that is] the project of elevating our communities through liberal studies”.
Dr. Jonathan Culp, associate professor of politics here at UD, hopes to send some of his own children to the Great Hearts School.
“Great Hearts is the kind of school that would really prepare its students to flourish at a university such as UD, because they would start the Core with a level of familiarity and appreciation that is extremely rare these days,” Culp said.
Great Hearts is already an employment destination for a number of UD students. Senior history major Aaron Hegemann is currently going through the application process to work at Great Hearts. He said he was most attracted to Great Hearts by its mission to revive a classical education that is available to everyone.
“I appreciate what they stand for, and I like that the education I’ve received here at UD can be passed on to others through their model. Because the curriculum is so parallel, it makes sense, and the transition is easy and natural,” Hegemann said.
“The arrival of Great Hearts in the DFW area is of significant benefit to the University, for it may provide a significant source of well prepared students, not only in terms of instruction, but in terms of inclination,” Upham said. “Great Hearts is likely to give their students a hunger for the type of curriculum we offer.”