The students in Pat Gordon's 7th-grade English class at Logos Academy in Dallas look like 7th-graders anywhere: the boys absurdly young, with their ears sticking out; the girls seeming infinitely more sophisticated and self-possessed. But not many 7th-graders are assigned Aristotle's Poetics, a copy of which lies on every desk in Gordon's class.

No, this is not a classful of prodigies. Gordon begins by going over the results of a test on the Genesis account of the Fall and the myth of Pandora's Box. She is not pleased with her students' performance.

"Why did Eve eat the apple? It was not because the apple was pretty, as one of you wrote."

Gordon cajoles the students, teases them, and occasionally commends them, calling on them frequently by name (always prefaced by "Mr." or "Miss"). Clearly they love her.

The class proceeds to Aristotle. They are working on his famous account of the nature of tragedy, and this session is devoted to reviewing the key terms, with a good deal of reading aloud and reciting definitions.

At this level, Gordon explains after class, the goal is to teach the students the basic vocabulary and analytic tools they will need to understand tragic drama. By the time they are seniors in high school, they will be able to employ these tools with great ease.

For the 7th-graders, she keeps the lesson simple, concrete, and fast-moving. The fall of a "man of noble birth"? Yes, President Clinton, guilty of hubris (and never mind that his birth was rather humble; he attained a high estate): "He thought he was above the moral law." But then another example: "When he arranged the Watergate break-in, President Nixon thought he was above the law, too. That's hubris."

Established in 1995, Logos is one of thousands of schools, ...

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