The Hypocrisy of Hillsdale College’s Charter School Model

Wednesday , 28, January 2015 25 Comments

There is good news for the students and parents of Brighton Public Schools and the taxpayers of Michigan. The Brighton Public School Board voted to not charter Pasquale Battaglia’s American Classical Academy on January 26th. This is after many people voiced their objection to a charter school opening in their community that would take students and money away from the public schools and hand it to the for-profit charter school’s management company. Another issue was Battaglia’s blatant racism, religious bigotry, and tea party rhetoric plastered all over social media. The level of vitriol aimed at the President of the United States and First Lady, anyone who practiced a religion other than fundamentalist Christianity, and his vehemence toward people of color were shocking and spoke loudly of someone unfit to educate children. Another obvious problem with the Lindbom Classical Academy was the possibility it would be a religious school illegally funded with taxpayer money. It certainly appeared on twitter that was the intention of Battaglia all along. As the day drew closer for the Brighton Public Schools Board to make their final decision, the rhetoric however changed.

On January 24, 2015, Pasquale “Pat” Battaglia argued on twitter that his charter school in Brighton wouldn’t be a religious school.

Two days later, the Livingston Daily Press & Argus published an opinion column written by Battaglia’s partner, Richard Streetman, claiming that the charter school he and Battaglia wanted to open wouldn’t be a religious school because that’s against state and federal law. Richard Streetman is absolutely right, it is against the law to use public taxpayer funds to pay for a school that teaches religion. In the article he writes:

Those of us on the development team share the goal of the Charter School Initiative of Hillsdale College “to train the minds and improve the hearts of young people through a rigorous, classical education in the liberal arts and sciences, with instruction in the principles of moral character and civic virtue.”

Streetman quotes the mission statement of Hillsdale Academy. Sounds pretty good; liberal arts and sciences, moral character and civic virtue. It seems odd though that a school that preaches about not taking any federal or state money to run their institution would be helping charter schools open, because they do take federal and state revenues to operate. Is Streetman telling the truth that Lindbom Classical Academy wouldn’t have been run as a private Christian school like Hillsdale Academy?

The best way to find out is go to the source. Hillsdale College offers the Barney Charter School Initiative as an “outreach project” to open charter schools based on the Hillsdale College model. In their introduction they state:

To advance the founding of classical charter schools, Hillsdale College works with school founding groups of parents and local citizens who care deeply about education, who plan to apply for a charter, and who are interested in an association with Hillsdale. As a relationship forms with a group, Hillsdale will assist in creating and implementing the school’s academic program. Drawing upon the experience of our College’s faculty members who have led classical schools, and an education department uniquely devoted to classical liberal arts learning, these new schools will promote a liberal and civic education in America’s public schools.

So yes, these are supposed to be charter schools teaching classical education per the Hillsdale College model, and this model is used at Hillsdale Academy. Hillsdale Academy is a K-12 private school on the Hillsdale College campus. Per the college’s strict rule of not taking any federal or state revenues to operate their school, it is private, and parents pay tuition for their children to attend. Private schools offering religious education as part of their curriculum are legal. The issue here is the college is working to spread this model to charter schools. The next section gives more detail about the educational philosophy of Hillsdale College and Academy, and the charter schools Hillsdale College wants to assist with opening nationwide:

To understand the purpose and direction of our work with charter schools, we must first revisit the mission of Hillsdale College. Since 1844, our mission has been “to furnish all persons who wish, irrespective of nationality, color, or sex, a literary and scientific education” outstanding among American colleges, “and to combine with this such moral and social instruction as will best develop the minds and improve the hearts of its pupils. The College considers itself a trustee of modern man’s intellectual and spiritual inheritance from the Judeo-Christian faith and Greco-Roman culture, a heritage finding its clearest expression in the American experiment of self-government under law. By training the young in the liberal arts, Hillsdale College prepares students to become leaders worthy of that legacy.”

This mission has led us to consider how we can lead in the effort to recover our public schools from the tide of a hundred years of progressivism that has corrupted our nation’s original faithfulness to the previous 24 centuries of teaching the young the liberal arts in the West. The public school is arguably among the most important battlegrounds in our war to reclaim our country from forces that have drawn so many away from first principles. Almost 90 percent of our nation’s youth attend public schools, and there is no question that public education across America is in trouble. To abandon the majority of our children to bad education is unconscionable.

Hillsdale College’s mission is to save America from it’s terrible, progressive, secular education system that isn’t teaching children proper Judeo-Christian values. This charter school initiative is beginning to sound a lot less secular.

Hillsdale College wants to make it so easy for people to start their own Christian classical academy, they even provide reference guides that outline their K-12 school model, what sources are used for curriculum (Including the Bible), and even describe in detail how to start the school day. Once a week, the school holds a weekly prayer and sermon.

The College Chaplain attends the opening ceremony and offers a nondenominational
prayer, followed by a short reading from the Bible. Either he or the headmaster then offers a sermon or
leads a brief discussion that elicits a significant point from the shared passage. These sessions promote the spiritual development of the students within the faith traditions of our Judeo-Christian heritage.

Prayers are also given at lunch time, where both staff and students eat together. In addition, there is a section specifically describing religious instruction that is part of the Hillsdale model.

Hillsdale College’s Judeo-Christian tradition broadly guides the course of study and instruction at Hillsdale Academy. The Academy offers instruction based upon traditional, nondenominational biblical beliefs, principles and virtues that seek to develop those qualities of life characteristic of man’s understanding of his relationship to his Creator and his place in the world. A weekly service conducted by the College Chaplain and the headmaster addresses the spiritual needs of the Academy’s students through Scripture, a homily, prayer and song. Parents are encouraged to participate in these services.

Hillsdale Academy is a Christian school. Unfortunately for Pasquale Battaglia and Richard Streetman, to open a school following Hillsdale College’s model is a violation of state and federal law. They’re not the only ones trying and failing to open one of these schools in Michigan. In Traverse City, Jane Rodda Breederland wants to open a Hillsdale College charter school this year. Like her Livingston County counterparts, she’s just as clueless about education and as free about expressing her narrow-minded views online.

If Battaglia and Streetman want to open Lindbom Classical Academy as a private school and charge tuition so they can teach the same bigotry and racism to impressionable young children that Battaglia espouses on social media, let them do it. The taxpayers of Michigan should not be expected to pay for it, and Hillsdale College clearly has an agenda to undermine public education in this country. Michigan and other states needs to take a closer look at this college and whether their initiative to open for-profit charter schools puts them within the purview of violating their own policy of never touching the state’s dirty public money.

25 thoughts on “ : The Hypocrisy of Hillsdale College’s Charter School Model”
  • Coolidge Dollar says:

    I don’t think you understand Hillsdale College, judging by what you’ve written so briefly about it. Even if you did, the college only advises the curriculum of aforementioned charter schools, the start-up of which is typically handled entirely by some individual or a company. Attacking Hillsdale College itself seems a silly and ineffective way to vent your complaints about the views of scattered, individual charter school proponents and their alleged priorities.

    • Up North Progressive says:

      No, I understand Hillsdale College completely. They not only advise, they promote, send representatives to groups of people all over the country with a sales pitch and video presentation, and even provide curriculum and structure for how the school is supposed to be run. The teachers there are not certified, and work on a discipline model rather than academic. Battaglia had every intention of opening a Hillsdale College “classical” academy and using it to promote Christian, tea party ideology. He even wants teachers to be armed. Hillsdale College may not touch state money, but they’re promoting their ideology for religious schools and encouraging people to open for-profit charters receiving taxpayer money to fund them.

      • Coolidge Dollar says:

        Are you sure? I don’t think Battaglia was even employed by Hillsdale College, at least not initially, unless I missed something. Like a lot of these start-up agents, he seems to be just some random guy with a history (good or bad) who lives in the area where the school is planned.
        Secondly, Hillsdale isn’t some pup-tent college like the televangelists run. It’s 170 years old, and defined as secular, i.e. no religious affiliation. I’ve looked into its history and evidently, the college stood up for the poor and disadvantaged — namely blacks and women — at a time when no one else would. That’s enough to give me some idea of WHY they open classical charter schools: to provide what they consider a superior education to all sorts. I did some digging and found that one of their biggest and oldest charter schools is in inner-city Atlanta ( Of all places? Inner-city Atlanta?
        That leads me to my next point: As to why Hillsdale opens these schools within the public system, I would infer it’s so that anyone can have access, not just kids with rich parents. Private schools are notoriously expensive, no? Remind me again why public school students shouldn’t get to learn Latin in school. For someone who understands Hillsdale College “completely,” this didn’t seem to occur to you. I guess it’s much easier just to say they’re evil. (It’s also worth considering: If the American public school system, being over-funded compared to other countries, weren’t so overwhelmingly and often needlessly prevalent in American life, then the supposed enemies of big government/progressivism probably wouldn’t try so hard to operate from within it. Just a thought. One can’t complain about something one has created oneself.)
        That said, lastly, I’ve never heard one straight argument against classical schools alone. Time and time again, the left in particular willy-nilly declares classical schools to be nutty religious schools in disguise (even though the ancient Greeks and Romans weren’t Christians and were far from conservative, but okay). This is always claimed with as much proof, ironically, as the conservative televangelists provide for the existence of a god. (Otherwise, why not call some trusted politicians and get an investigation going? Rather than expend time on a blog that, given the title, won’t convince anyone but those already partial to your view.)
        So, considering the facts are that Hillsdale College is old and seemingly well-established (thus probably not a “tea party” shill); and isn’t a Christian college; and has demonstrably more important reasons to support charter schools (as do most Americans), I’d like to ask if we can rise above the din of politics and look at this case objectively. If I missed anything, please let me know.

        • Up North Progressive says:

          I’m sure in Leander, Texas, home of Founder’s Charter School (Part of a chain of charter schools using the Hillsdale College model, and also are well known for teaching creationism on the taxpayer’s dime. )you have first-hand knowledge of a Michigan college run by conservative Christians and their agenda to take over public education with their for-profit charter schools, which they even admit they’re doing on their Barney Initiative website. On the Founders charter school website the one “original” source classical ed supposedly uses when teaching students that is mentioned is the Bible. Hillsdale College is anything but secular. They call themselves a non-denominational school, but very clearly state their religious affiliation.

          The College considers itself a trustee of modern man’s intellectual and spiritual inheritance from the Judeo-Christian faith and Greco-Roman culture, a heritage finding its clearest expression in the American experiment of self-government under law.

          And yes, Greco-Roman does contradict with Judeo-Christian faith, as our founding fathers were nonsectarian and created the United States to be a secular nation based on law, not religious faith, as so many religious conservatives today erroneously claim. The Founding Fathers looked to those ancient pagan democracies to base the United States on for a reason.

          Battaglia as far as I know was never employed by Hillsdale College, I can however name one person, Clark Durant, who has worked for Hillsdale College in the past and doesn’t try to hide his agenda to operate Christian schools, both private and for-profit charter, based on the Hillsdale model in Metro Detroit. Battaglia rants about Islam, the mongrels destroying western civilization, and makes numerous racist and derogatory comments on social media about the president and first lady. He also writes long letters on tea party websites begging for money to help start his for-profit charter schools. The people of Brighton, Michigan, are concerned about this man and what he represents, and know the kind of school he wants to open and make the taxpayers fund is the last thing they want.

          As for learning Latin because that’s what the Founding Fathers did – you are aware that the Founding Fathers were all very wealthy, well-educated Caucasian men who most of were able to afford attending a school where Latin was taught? In their day, most people didn’t attend any school, because the only people who needed any advanced education were white rich men who were going to be lawyers, doctors, or ministers. The tuition to attend a school where Latin was taught was beyond the financial reach the majority of the population.

          I have no problem with students in school learning foreign language, and think they should. It’s a shame corporate ed reformers like charter school management companies siphon money from the public schools so they can’t really afford it anymore. Michigan did have a foreign language for graduation requirement, but the tea party state legislature in Lansing abolished it.

          Just because a college is old doesn’t mean it’s good. Hillsdale College has been riddled with scandal and their Dominion religious conservative politics are very well known in Michigan, but perhaps not so much in Leander, Texas. The fact that you took the time to comment on a blog that has a very small readership in Michigan speaks volumes, even if I am writing a blog with a title that will only draw like-minded people – and you.

          By the way, are you a Cole Porter fan?

  • Coolidge Dollar says:

    It seems to me that, like many things, both Hillsdale’s charter school initiative and the charter school movement at large are WAY too big to judge based on one or two of their flawed human components. Extrapolating from your logic, Harvard University — the biggest, most prestigious institution in American history — should have been sanctioned into oblivion the moment it was perceived that president Larry Summers “said” women are inferior at science. (What an evil college!) Likewise, perhaps the American traditional public school system should have folded tenfold by now due to the near-continual instances of official corruption, child molestation, and statutory rape in the news. As usual, such logic is only sufficient for the scores of the falsely indignant. Don’t be one of them.
    Secondly, regarding: “the Judeo-Christian faith and Greco-Roman culture, a heritage finding its clearest expression in the American experiment of self-government under law.” …
    You cannot imply that this view is untrue to the spirit of America and the Founders so shouldn’t be taught, and then claim that the Founders were over-privileged and bad and thus shouldn’t be emulated anyway. Choose one or the other; you can’t have both. The socioeconomic history of Latin-learning opportunities is irrelevant to this discussion, and you know it.
    More importantly, educational emphasis on both the “Greco-Roman” and “Judeo-Christian” influences is clearly limited to neither “conservative/religious” institutions nor due to some supposed inseparability of the two (you implied they’re not the same, and I agree), but because said influences are considered to be the pillars of the West; one need not (repeat, not) be religious in order to acknowledge Judeo-Christianity’s role in our history — exactly like no one need be Greek or Roman to acknowledge those cultures’ importance as well — and in fact, it is basic knowledge to all credible historians (most of whom are atheists, statistically speaking). This would clear up what you think is secular Hillsdale’s paradox.
    By Occam’s razor, in the face of common inference you have no reason to believe in conspiracies originating from a movement (charter schools) flawed but fundamentally intended to create choice for concerned parents and students (you should give “Waiting for Superman” a view), yet you insist on vilifying Hillsdale College and other originators because you’ve gathered a surface impression that their underlying beliefs are evil — or simply don’t resemble yours — and should probably be destroyed. Because you are willing to give the government the power to pick winners and losers, because you feel like a winner today and the possibility of that power coming back to bite you is unthinkable. I highly doubt you would discourse this way in person, so don’t do it on your blog.
    And lastly, don’t be dismayed. Personally, I like to disrupt echo chambers of any ideology, be they left-wing, right-wing, or in-between. By checking your statements with mine, I’m just seeking debate, by which you and I ideally are sharpening each other’s “logos” for the real battles of ideas.
    And yes, Porter’s the man, although I don’t insist I’m “the top.”

    • Up North Progressive says:

      You seem to be inferring things I never said.

      Hillsdale College is unlike any other school in the country. They are going to continue for a long time and they are very old. They are a private school and can espouse any philosophy they want. Hillsdale Academy, their private school is a Christian school and they can teach those students any way they want. The problem comes when this College helps charter schools open up, using the same Christian education as their academy and the taxpayers are paying for it. That is a violation of the first amendment.

      Not a conspiracy, but a real purpose to privatize public education and profit from a taxpayer funded institution. The main purpose of privatizing education is to dismantle the teacher’s unions, because they lean Democratic party. School choice talks about options that are beneficial for children, but the reality is pure politics.

      For example, here is another for-profit charter school about to close because of financial mismanagement. Nothing to do with Hillsdale College.

      Here in Michigan, we have another charter school manager caught embezzling from his school and from a bank loan. He’s been indicted for felony fraud and his trial starts February 10.

      Hillsdale College is one part of a growing problem in this country, and after twenty years now it’s coming to the surface. Charter schools are not opening to fix a public education problem. They are by design meant to create a public education problem. Hillsdale College can be as Christian as they want, but opening Christian schools that take taxpayer money should not be happening.

      • VoiceFromOutside says:

        You misunderstand the relationship between the Barney Charter School Initiative and Hillsdale Academy. The Barney Charter School Initiative has its own curriculum, which is not the same curriculum used by Hillsdale Academy. The two are related, but the College recognizes that charter schools cannot do what private schools may, and the two curricula reflect these differences. The Barney Charter School Initiative is the model curriculum for all the charter schools which the College helps, the Hillsdale Academy curriculum is the model for private schools helped by the College. One of the main differences between the two models is their relationship to Christianity. Conflating the Academy curriculum which is available online with the BCSI curriculum is a mistake. They differ.

  • Coolidge Dollar says:

    Of course Christian schools shouldn’t be taking taxpayer money. You just reiterated a key reason that charter school operators would want to keep their schools secular; it’s the law and they don’t want to get shut down. Now, no doubt some operators may try to pussyfoot around, but there is no reason to believe that a majority of this or any group in society would try to break laws — and there is no sufficient evidence that Hillsdale College, let alone the whole of the charter school movement, is breaking the law. You are unwilling to give your opponents the benefit of the doubt as you would any normal human being, only because their general politics are perceived to be different from yours (although charter operators in the inner-cities are overwhelmingly Democrats). This is why I said you don’t seem reasonably impartial on this issue. I could be wrong, but I don’t know you personally.
    You do well, however, to point out those articles about the frauds. They broke the law and paid the price. Good. As for the rest, like Hillsdale, you keep citing ideological reputations, not actions. That’s not proof; that’s conjecture.
    I’ll add lastly, it’s worth considering that many Americans wouldn’t perceive the public secularization efforts to be such a national witch-hunt if the traditional system weren’t still crashing and burning on its own. But it is. Charter schools (which must contend also with other charter schools, I remind) allow parents to “vote with their feet”; if they perceive religious indoctrination, they can remove their child and report the school, problem solved. But secular VS. religious “education” is a completely pointless battle if our country, on the whole, is churning out relative imbeciles. That is what we need to worry about.

  • Cooleridge Dollar clearly won this debate by sta

    • Up North Progressive says:

      And in North Carolina you win the debate with unfinished sentences.

      Coolidge Dollar didn’t win anything. They are from the same city in Texas where a Hillsdale College charter school operates, and is run by a man who used to work for ACE. There are examples of the classical education curriculum available on this blog to see and it’s clear a fundamentalist Christian education is being pushed onto the students of that for-profit charter school.

      Hillsdale College wants to open Christian schools and fund them on the taxpayer’s dime. A first amendment violation no matter how you try to double speak “explain” it.

  • Art Karros says:

    It amazes me that money taken from private citizens and private corporations magically becomes PUBLIC funds that only an elite, secular, group of social engineers should be able to spend in any way they see fit. If you had an open mind you would see that our constitution allows religious people to hold public office and allows religious people to run and teach in schools. What is not allowed is to pass a law that establishes a religion. We have taken this to an extreme and tend to fight anything that smells of religion (mostly Christian, that is). A Christian-philosophy based institution like Hillsdale has every right to fund, train and assist in the development of charter schools. Their K-12 guides on their website are reference materials and are actually quite different from the secular curriculum that they suggest for the charters they are affiliated with. And in a free society, with intellectual curiosity and critical thought encouraged, there is no reason that a literature or history class would be barred from reading from the bible, the Koran, the Talmud or any other book. Proselytizing and preaching Jesus or Mohamed would be unacceptable, but our society has gotten a bit out of hand taking money from all citizens and limiting its use to what only a handful of elites agree is proper.

  • […] Up North Progressive receives comments from readers with both positive and negative feedback. One article that seems to cause the most grief so far is this one, because how dare anyone call out a college […]

  • […] just as racist and bigoted as he. The school will use Hillsdale College’s politically biased curriculum. According to Hillsdale College’s Barney Charter School […]

  • Bozo…

    Did your Marxist-Leninist candidate win the Presidential election?

    I didn’t think so…

    • Up North Progressive says:

      Wait, I thought she was a wall street pseudo Republican candidate. She’s 3 million votes ahead and didn’t need Moscow to help her do it. Moscow is where Lenin lived, by the way. Considering you’re using a Florida hospital’s server for a proxy to hide, it would seem you’re the bozo.

  • Sam Gowan says:

    Your poor command of grammar alerted me to your ineptness. Your ensuing arguments confirm.

    • Up North Progressive says:

      Personal attacks alerted me you’ve already lost the debate. Your propensity to share hate speech and Obama birtherism memes on Facebook in 2016 confirms.

  • Mary says:

    Maybe the “Uptight Progressive”?

    • Up North Progressive says:

      Maybe why is someone in Georgia so interested in a Northern Michigan politics blog?

      No, really, I’ve noticed the uptick in traffic to that particular article, and I’m curious.

  • Liberty Lover says:

    Don’t be so sure Hillsdale college doesn’t take taxpayer money… they take plenty. Just like their charter school initiative, they have their “donors” instead taking MEDC money for college housing.

  • Educational Freedom Trumps Reproductive Freedom says:

    The first universities set up in this country were there to train missionaries and clergy of specific denominations. Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia as the first non-denominational university in the country; not because he abhorred their mission, but because he wanted all citizens to have an opportunity to learn at a higher level. There is no separation of church and state as interpreted by courts today; that’s a misinterprtation of the 1rst Amendment. Funding a school that teaches religion is in no way the “establishment” of a state religion; and that’s what the Founders were guarding against. Teachers are trained at colleges and universities, why should these same institututions not be involved in bettering the educational system as a whole.

    • Patrick Hudson says:

      “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” is what the Constitution says. They way it is applied, Congress, or rather the courts, have established Atheism as the official religion of the country. I’m not a fundamentalist but I object to removing all images of religion from the public forum. Atheism IS a religion. Webster defines religion as: a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices. ie, religion is your understanding and relationship to God. Atheism is he understanding that God doesn’t exist, in the same way that I, as a Catholic, understand that God exists. This is why, with Atheists as delegates to the convention, the 1st amendment was written as shown above. They didn’t want Atheists to impose their beliefs anymore than they wanted Catholics or Jews or C of E to impose theirs.

  • Patrick Hudson says:

    I keep hearing that you object to the Charter schools, that Hillsdale is trying to develop, because you disagree with them politically. You refer to “tea party rhetoric plastered all over social media” but I don’t hear any condemnation of liberal rhetoric pushed by public school districts, teachers unions, and groups that oppose any option, other than public education. The Hillsdale model acknowledges that modern, progressive public education is a failure and advocates for returning to the educational system used by the Western world for hundreds of years prior. Your political objection to conservative, traditional, reasonable political ideas makes your stated objections to this particular school moot. Having read your article and the responses to prior comments, you have clearly advocated for liberal schools in the same way as religious schools. And you are correct that government funding of religion is a problematic idea, as is government funding of schools that are limited to 1 political view.

  • Stephen Metzger says:

    Many of the respondents to this piece think that you can have education without a fundamental ideology or faith. That is impossible. Up North Progressive clearly preaches and believes in Marxist materialism, while Hillsdale is also clearly based on Judeo-Christian foundations. I for one advocate the latter.

    • Up North Progressive says:

      Funny how this nation was founded by people who were convinced you could be educated and know right from wrong without faith.

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