The Paideia Proposal: Quality Education for All Children

The Paideia Proposal: An Educational Manifesto lays out the fundamentals of a Paideia education, based on the principle that all children can learn.

Paideia philosophy by Mortimer Adler

Mortimer Adler, author of Paideia Proposal
Mortimer Adler, author of the Paideia Proposal (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Mortimer Adler published The Paideia Proposal: An Educational Manifesto in 1982, on behalf of the members of the Paidea Group. The Paideia Group was an assemblage of 22 leaders in education and philosophy, affiliated with colleges and universities, public school systems, private high schools, and research institutions. These leaders united in their call, in The Paideia Proposal, to educate all American schoolchildren so that they can earn a good living, enjoy full lives, and contribute to a democratic society.

The Paideia Proposal was a signature accomplishment in Mortimer Adler’s highly distinguished career. Adler’s life spanned nearly a century, from 1902 to 2001. He was a professor at the University of Chicago, chief editor of Encyclopedia Brittanica, founder of the Great Books of the Western World program, and founder of the Institute for Philosophical Research.

You can find links to books on education by Mortimer Adler in the Paideia bookstore.

The vision of The Paideia Proposal: education for a full life

The Paideia Proposal by Mortimer AdlerIn the Paideia Proposal, Adler presented an idealistic and egalitarian vision of education. He wrote:

Here then are the three common callings to which all our children are destined: to earn a living in an intelligent and responsible fashion, to function as intelligent and responsible citizens, and to make both of these things serve the purpose of leading intelligent and responsible lives—to enjoy as fully as possible all the goods that make a human life as good as it can be.


Fundamentals of a Paideia education

This manifesto is based on the first principle of a Paideia educationthat all children can learn. The Paideia Proposal rejects the assumption that some children can be fully educated while others can only be trained for jobs. It asserts that all children can master critical thinking skills and that gaps in achievement will diminish as children rise to meet higher expectations. Adler declares, “There are no unteachable children.” Therefore, he asserts, “All children deserve the same quality of education, not just the same quantity.”

The book goes on to describe the Three Columns of a Paideia education: didactic instruction, intellectual coaching, and Socratic seminar.

These ideals and strategies remain the fundamentals of a Paideia education, transforming students’ lives in thousands of classrooms across the U.S. and worldwide. Any school can become a Paideia school! Here are three ways to start:

Paideia classroom