According to a recent Washington Post article, the United States Department of Education believes schools should be asking, "What can we do to get better, so our students can graduate from high school, succeed in college and be competitive for good jobs?” The goal seems to be to prepare students to be competitive in college and, ultimately, the marketplace.
In contrast, many classical educators describe the goal of classical education as "to teach a student how to teach himself", to give them the skills of learning, so that they will become a "wise and virtuous person". The idea is that if you spend the elementary and secondary years develop the person with the ability to think and reason, they will be equipped to step into their role as a contributing and responsible citizen, and they will be free to pursue whatever advanced training is needed for their chosen career.
Obviously, contemporary schools can (and do) try to include character education and the like. But as the current sign on my local elementary school has been reminding me lately, "Begin with the end in mind" (Habit 2 of Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People). If the federal government's self-proclaimed goal is to encourage schools to produce high school graduates who can compete in the global marketplace, that goal is going to influence all other choices about curriculum and standards.
While the ability to serve one's community and support oneself and one's family at the same time is certainly important in life, the goals of classical education resonate much more deeply with me, and that is part of our reason for choosing a classical approach at this time. We want our children to be able to think clearly and critically about the issues they will encounter as they grow up. We want them to develop as communicators in both speech and writing, able to express their beliefs and opinions to others in ways that are both effective and considerate. And we want them to grow in Christian virtues, especially love.
Would it be possible for us to pursue these goals with our children while they attend a "regular" public or private school? Of course. Many parents do. But using a classical home school approach is allowing us to incorporate all this naturally into our day instead of figuring out how to make the time and effort to add it into an already-crowded curriculum, and that is what excites me about the choice we have made.