What Makes CLT "Classic"?

By Kate Colón-Crespo

The SAT or "Scholastic Assessment Test" is blandly but straightforwardly named. Why did we choose the name we chose?

Our Author Bank is foundational to CLT. The classic works of literature featured on our tests have been hand-selected as the most influential and thought-provoking texts of the Western Canon of literature. These texts present our students with the best of what has been thought and said throughout our history. Douglas Henry, Dean of Baylor University’s Honors College and member of our Board of Academic Advisors, commented that the Author Bank’s texts “invite self-reflective participation in the age-old exploration of what it means to be rational and mortal animals.” By choosing to use these classic readings, CLT invites students to become engaged with the texts that have formed our history and culture.

CLT is not named the “Classical” Learning Test, but rather the “Classic” Learning Test because our name refers to this classic quality of the texts of our Author Bank. We are not exclusively focused on the classical model of education, which is founded on the Trivium, Quadrivium, and Graeco-Roman civilization. Rather, CLT bases itself on the “Classic” texts that have informed and shaped society. Because of this, any student can take the CLT and succeed, not just those students who come from a classical school. 

But why, you may ask, should we be concerned with the classic works of literature at all? What is the advantage of focusing a standardized test upon old, sometimes ancient literature and ideas, rather than newer, more recent topics? The answer, as always, lies in the interest of the students. The classic works of our Author Bank serve our students in an important way: they lead the students to contemplation and help them to discover more about Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

A liberal education is that which aims to develop faculty without ulterior views of ... gaining a livelihood. It considers man an end in himself and not an instrument whereby something is to be wrought.

The writers of the texts in our Author Bank are set upon this same quest, pondering what it means to be human and considering the great questions of our culture. Accordingly, they can lend the students thousands of years of experience and perspective on these subjects. Though these authors lived at different times, their knowledge and insight pushes students to discover more about the essential questions that shape humanity as a whole. Through reading the texts of the Author Bank, students will be driven to learn more about their thoughts, beliefs, and ideas, ultimately helping them to participate in the Great Conversation.

Our emphasis on classic learning has another advantage: helping students to know themselves and what they want for their lives. As Peter Dodington, a teacher of Latin and mythology for forty-four years, says in his article “Knowing Ourselves: How the Classics Strengthen Schools and Society,” “Knowing oneself is the first step in achieving success in areas one truly cares about. If we want our children to achieve not just success, but a success they truly want, we must help them first understand themselves.” Students who take the CLT are at critical points in their life, at junctures where they are faced with many decisions. What could be better for them than to use the classics to understand themselves and their goals?

Reading the classic texts of the Author Bank also helps implement a measure of equality in the standardized testing experience. CLT appeals to an innate similarity between all students: humanity. We are all human, and we are all familiar with the common joys and sorrows of the human experience. Thus, all students can find common ground in the literary canon, whose focus is on what it means to be human. All students have the same capability to draw out value from these classic texts. Every student wishes to contemplate the essential questions of humanity, and so every student is drawn to these important texts. CLT is a humanity-focused test, and so it is a student-focused test.

The Classic Learning Test is named not for some target demographic of classical schools, but rather for its focus on those classic texts that shape our history and culture. These texts are beneficial for any student, not only because they help the student answer important questions about themselves and the world around them, but because they provide a common ground on which to measure students abilities. As Dr. Terrence O. Moore, principal of the Ascent Classical Academy of Douglas County, states: “The Classic Learning Test is more than a college entrance exam. It is a beacon—a reminder of what schooling once was (and in some places is becoming again) and a vision of what collegiate learning ought to be.”


Kate Colón-Crespo (née Foley) is interning with CLT and studying English and History at Central Michigan University in Grand Rapids, MI. She recently married, and plans to pursue a career in education.

If you enjoyed this post, check out some of our other material here at the Journal, like these profiles of Thomas Hobbes and Ida B. Wells, or these introductions to the ideas of judgment and science.

Published on 24th August, 2022.

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