Anchored by the Classic Learning Test

Clark Durant on Bringing Classical Education to Inner-City Detroit - Part 1

July 18, 2023 Classic Learning Test
Anchored by the Classic Learning Test
Clark Durant on Bringing Classical Education to Inner-City Detroit - Part 1
Show Notes Transcript

On this episode of Anchored, Soren is joined by Clark Durant, cofounder and former CEO of the Cornerstone Schools in Detroit. The two discuss how Durant’s work as a lawyer led to his founding of the Cornerstone Schools, and the transition of those schools to a classical educational model. Durant expands on the school’s mission to build a broad and beloved community of friends to deliver an excellent charter school education that is rooted in the gospel. Durant also explains the meaning behind the names of the schools and discusses the inspirational power of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s urging to “save Western civilization in her darkest hour.” 



Soren Schwab (CLT):

Welcome back to the Anchored Podcast, the official podcast of the Classic Learning Test. My name is Soren Schwab, VP of Partnerships here at CLT, and today we are joined by Clark Durant. Clark is the co-founder and former chair and CEO of the Cornerstone Schools in Detroit. He currently serves as CEO of the Cornerstone Education Group, a charter management company, and he's chair of the board. Cornerstone serves over 3,200 children across five campuses. As president of the State Board of Education in 1994, Durand led the adoption of a vision, philosophy, and mission statement, which sought to define an excellent education, strengthen standards, accountability, character, and encourage the development of charter schools. He served on the Coalition for All Detroit School Children, where he was a co-chair of academics. He's a former vice president at Hillsdale College and a co-founder of the Imprimis the Washington Hillsdale Intern Program, and the Center for Constructive Alternatives. President Reagan nominated, and the US Senate confirmed Clark to the Board of the Legal Services Corporation, where he served four years as its chairman. Durand has earned degrees from Tulane University and the University of Notre Dame Law School, was a member of the Law Review, and taught a great books program in the undergraduate school. He actively practiced law for 25 years in Detroit. spending seven of those years consistently representing people who could not afford a lawyer. He and his wife Susan have been married for 50 years and they have four children and six grandchildren. Clark, it is such an honor to have you on today. Welcome.


clark durant:

Well, thank you, Sorin. It's my pleasure. I've heard great things about your work. So it's an honor for me to have this conversation with you.


Soren Schwab (CLT):

Well, the honor is truly all mine. This is actually part one of a two-part series about the Cornerstone schools, your work, the history and mission, and your decision to bring classical education to the inner city. And also two, and that's gonna be part, the second part of this interview will be with Dr. Anika Prather and her work with Cornerstone. and that work of Johns Hopkins University. And so we are thrilled to have you. And I got to be honest, the bio was about twice the length. And this morning, I have to cut it short a little bit, not to minimize all your accomplishments, but it's truly remarkable, the life you have lived and the impact you have made. And so let's get right in. And we always start the Anchor podcast by talking about our guests. own educational journey. So talk to us a little bit about your own educational background. What kind of schools did you attend and how did you become involved in education?


clark durant:

Well, my mother and father, who were married for 63 years, were my first teachers. There were four of us, three boys and a girl. My dad had a library that when he died, had close to 9,000 books in it. So we were a family of readers and... surrounded by good conversation. The linear version of where I went to school, I started at a little public school named Richard School. It was named after a Catholic priest, Gabriel Richard. I did that from kindergarten through the sixth grade. In seventh grade, our mother and father made a sacrifice. to send my brother Peter and me, Peter was a year older than me, to go to the private school in Grosse Pointe, which was called then Grosse Pointe University School. So I attended there from seventh grade through 12th grade. I had a wonderful Latin teacher at, we called it Guppus, G-P-U-S. His name was Francis McCann from Massachusetts. and also a woman named Betsy Ferguson. And from them, I grew to a love of Latin starting in the seventh grade through really the first or second year of college. And I've always appreciated that because of the help that it is in thinking and writing and other things. And I was not a great student. I was involved in a number of activities, but I've always been grateful that for my seventh grade, my graduating class in the 12th grade was 48 kids. So I was always used to learning in a small context, which is oftentimes really the best way of learning and ultimately self-learning. From I have a sort of an interesting, I only applied to one college. I played golf. be on the Duke University golf team and go to Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. So I only applied to Duke and on April 1st of my senior year, the headmaster, a man named Gilder Jackson came in, I was sitting in the library and he said, Clark, I've got bad news for you. Duke hasn't even put you on the waiting list.


Soren Schwab (CLT):

UGH


clark durant:

And I did, I did golf balls, the coach's name. I still remember it after all these years, his name was Dumpy Hegler. Very nice man, but clearly I was not of the caliber that he would want to recruit me. I mean, I love the game and I've played it all my life. And for that, I'm very grateful because it's led to a lot of relationships that have helped me in my work, but it wasn't good enough for Duke. And so, uh, Dr. Jackson said, I know the admissions director at Tulane University. I know you want to go south. I'd read a book entitled, um, the mind of the south. I want to say by William Cash. It may have been Wilbur Cash. Uh, really a fascinating book. Anyway. So he said, I know the admissions director at Tulane University. I can get you an appointment. I can't get you in. Um, and hopefully that will work. So my wonderful father, um, uh, You know, two days later we drove down and our little rambler, um, stopped in Jackson, Mississippi, get a few hours sleep in a shower and drove into New Orleans, uh, had the interview. I was accepted on the spot, uh, for which I, God had his hand in all of this because when I look at the work that I was ultimately to do in my life, being in New Orleans, being at Tulane. was a much better thing than being at Duke and in Durham, North Carolina. So I was always grateful. So I had four years at Tulane, and I was an economics major and had some wonderful experiences, one of which was to be the first undergraduate asked to put together something called the Direction Program that had been started in the law school. It was four days of a symposium, a lot of, you know, conversation where you'd have a lot of, you know, people respecting each other from different points of view. Uh, and so I was able to do that as a senior and I was invited to a dinner at the president's home. Uh, his name was Herbert Longenecker lived in a big old antebellum home on St. Charles and the man that I was seated next to for dinner, um, was then the president. of the University of Notre Dame. It was Father Theodore Hesburgh, who I think was the longest serving president of Notre Dame. And he was a young, you know, very masculine priest, very thoughtful man. I still have my mother had this black and white picture. And when she died, it was kind of in her little collection of things and whatever. And but I was kind of a dorky looking kid, still am. And, but it's, there I was with father Ted Hesburgh and then the chairman of the, um, board of the Tulane trustees. But anyway, at dinner over dessert, and I was a good Presbyterian kid. Um,


Soren Schwab (CLT):

Hehehe


clark durant:

you know, father Hesburgh said to me, you ought to come, cause I was going to go to law school. He said, you ought to come to Notre Dame for law school. Now that wasn't even on my radar screen. You know, I was thinking maybe I could go to, would go to Michigan or Chicago or some other. Midwest school, Notre Dame wasn't even, not because of any anti-Catholic bias, it just wasn't in my experience, if you will. But I was very touched that this president of this very distinguished university would be asking me to come there for law school. Now I had to go in the army. I was asked by the first president of Hillsdale, a man named George Roche, if I would come and work at Hillsdale to do some things that I was doing in New Orleans. But when I finished that work, both the brief time in the army as an officer and then at Hillsdale, I called Father Hesburgh's office up and he remembered the call and the meeting. And I went to Notre Dame for law school. And I'm very grateful for that. That was, as I say, as a good Presbyterian boy, but I You know, I taught the great books in the, in the undergraduate school, but I was also teaching myself. I was attending classes in political theory with a wonderful man named Gerhard Niemeyer, Dr. Niemeyer, um, who wrote for Bill Buckley and national review, but he was a very distinguished professor in his own right. Um, Joe Evans was a Jacques Maritain scholar and, uh, started the Maritain center, he, I sat in on some of his classes. So while I was teaching undergraduates, I was learning myself, uh, which is really the best way of learning because you have to own it to share it. You cannot give what you do not have. So, um, but my formal schooling, so to speak, uh, you know, was from little Gabriel Richard to gross point university school to lane, then the interlude at Hillsdale working for Hillsdale and developing some educational programs. and then law school at Notre Dame.


Soren Schwab (CLT):

Fascinating, Clark. And of course, as a Hillsdale graduate, I have so many follow up questions that we do not have time to answer in your involvement in so many things that I benefited from many years later. But I want to ask you, since it's obviously an education podcast, you practiced law for over two decades. How did you get involved in education? In particular, I'm interested in how you got involved with charter schools.


clark durant:

Um, well, it's a very interesting, you know, God never draws with in straight lines.


Soren Schwab (CLT):

Hehehe


clark durant:

Um, one quick thing about Hillsdale. Um, you're very fortunate to be a graduate of Hillsdale


Soren Schwab (CLT):

Thank


clark durant:

and


Soren Schwab (CLT):

you.


clark durant:

Larry Arn, Dr. Larry Arn has done some extraordinary work to strengthen the college and its place in our American culture, but how did I get to education and particularly charter schools from practicing law? When I came back from, um, to Detroit. from Notre Dame. I practiced law with my father. I wasn't initially planning to do that. My mother, in fact, was the person who called. Susan and I had just gotten married. A little girl was going to be born in June of 1976, the year I was graduating from law school. And my mother said, you know, your dad would love it if you came back and practiced law with him. Now you have to understand something about my father. He never graduated from high school. He never went to college. Uh, and when he was 52 years old, he started law school and the only law school that would take an uncredentialed, even the well read man, uh, was the university of Detroit, a Jesuit college. And, um, so dad started law school two years before I started at Notre Dame. And I was on law review at Notre Dame and my father did better, better than I did. And I always loved that. So when my mother said, your father won't call you or tell you this, but I know he'd love it if you would come back. So I came back to Detroit. Dad had these little offices on the 23rd floor of the Penobscot building. The elevator only went to the 22nd floor, but it's cheaper to be in the 23rd floor. So there were no clients. And I said to my father, I said, dad, I've just got a little mortgage, a little baby girl and a young marriage. I got to pay my bills. How are we going to do this? And he pulled out a card and he said, you go over to the recorder's court, which was the basically the criminal court in Detroit, and you tell the judges you will represent anybody who can't afford a lawyer. And I said to my father, dad, how am I, how's this going to work? And, but my father was a good and honorable man, a captain in world war II. So I went over to the judges, told them I'd represent. you know, anybody who couldn't afford a lawyer. And I thought that was just going to be a one year, two years sort of dipping into the, into the practice of law. It lasted for almost seven years. Um, and what I would encounter were young men and women, but mostly men, um, who had made bad choices, had great skills, but made bad choices. And they weren't finding. And I just was sort of, this was a seed being planted in my life. It's not like I jumped up and said, Oh, I'm going to go do schools. But I encountered these immensely talented young people, but they had not been properly formed to appreciate fully who they could be. Um, but it was a very rich experience. Um, and as a result of, I went into public life, you know, president Reagan is Deputy Attorney General called and asked if I'd come down. That's how I ended up being confirmed by the Senate and heading up this agency to represent poor people across the country. And that led to a whole series of things. And ultimately when I came back to Detroit, although I was commuting, so to speak, but when I really finished all of that, a new Archbishop had come to Detroit in 1990. And his name was Adam Mitum, a very humble man. He's still alive. He's 91 or 92, very humble man. And he had been asked by the mayor and other civic leaders to give a talk. To the city as he was new to the city. It would be kind of like his inaugural address. And he spoke in front of the economic club of Detroit. Coleman Young was the mayor who was there and he did something very unusual. for a business audience, he quoted from scripture and he quoted from the book of Revelation, 21st chapter about a new Jerusalem, God coming down from heaven dwelling with his people, and a new Jerusalem and all things would be made new again. I can't say the quote fully here, but anybody who knows Revelation 21 knows exactly what I'm talking about. And so he cast this vision for the city. And with great humility at the end of his talk, he mentions that there needs to be a new kind of a school. Now remember this is the man who heads up his own school system and he has the humility to say, can we set up something new? So when I, I was not there when he spoke, but I was, went and got the talk because of a conversation I had with the editor, editorial editor of the Detroit news. And when I read that, my heart leapt. I knew that somehow or other I was to go and help him. Whatever these schools were to be, I was to help him set it up. They've got to put this on my heart. So I went, we had a meeting, long story short, he ultimately asked me seven or eight months later if I would be the founding chairman. They were to be set up as private schools. This is the road to the charters. They were to be set up as private schools and to be Christ-centered schools. And that was it. So we opened the door, took 167 kids in 1991, and really never looked back. But John Engler was running for governor in 1994. And John had asked me if I would be on his ticket to run for the state board of education because he admired the work that Cornerstone, we'd just gotten started, but we'd done some pretty good things in the very beginning. And John asked me to be on this ticket to run for the State Board of Education and that was successful. As a result of that, I went on the State Board of Education. John asked if I would serve as president of the board because one of the things that he wanted to do was to start charter schools. So he had a wonderful team of people, a guy named Richard McClellan and others who began to put the legislation together. We changed a few things at the state board level, but ultimately created the platform to do the work. So John says to me, well, Cornerstone needs to be one of those first charter schools. And I said, John, I can't do that. I said, I'm trying to do a Christ-centered model that's rooted in building community with a broad and beloved community of friends to provide this excellent education to the children and their families. And I just don't want to get into the politics of what might be these charter schools, but I'll obviously support them, help you get them off the ground. And I would say that John Engler's greatest legacy as governor will be the fact that he opened the door to allow these charter options for parents. And we did not go into the charter space until 2008. And the reason we went into that space, because we had You know, we had about 2,400 private school kids. We had four different locations. But then the economic tsunami came,


Soren Schwab (CLT):

Mm-hmm.


clark durant:

and we were running out of money. I mean, that's just the bottom line. I've never, I don't think ever publicly said this, but we were literally gonna run out in March and miss payrolls. But God brought some wonderful people together, and we were able to generate the cash to allow us to finish the year. No one ever knew how. close we really came. But in that process, we set up a strategic planning committee headed by a man named Bill Pulte, the home builder. And we decided that the best thing forward was to try to bring the values that were the core of our private school and bring them into the richness of what could be a public school, but also to serve children that were in a very different place, compared to the poor children that we were serving in the private school. All black, all poor, but in the private school you could charge for it, you could have parents sign covenants of responsibility. There are a lot of things you could do that you can't do in the public space. But it's important to be in the public space because that's where 90% of the kids go and we need to have a new way of shaping and forming and helping young people to have. uh, flourishing in their lives and you can't do that in the private space. You got to be willing to get into the public. So we transitioned ultimately and we opened our, we didn't do it all at once, but we opened our first charter in the school year of 2000.


Soren Schwab (CLT):

Wow, that is a fascinating story. Thanks for sharing that, Clark. And I'm sure a lot of our listeners have heard about some of the critiques of charter schools. And a lot of it, of course, is very misinformed. And maybe even some of the perception that, oh, yeah, charter schools, you're serving kind of the suburban white families. We could put white picket fence. And that is not what you're doing at the cornerstone schools. So I would love to pick your brain a little bit on. kind of the mission of the cornerstone schools and if that has changed as you transition from private into charter or have you been able to stay true to your mission while of course not being able to as openly be Christ centered?


clark durant:

Well, it's been a very interesting journey. We started out, as I say, in the private school space and our mission was to build a broad and beloved community of friends who would deliver an excellent education to our children and their families rooted in the gospel of Christ. Very simple. Now, obviously, in the way in which I just said that to you, you can't do that in the public space. But we knew that because we'd been very successful as a private school, that if there were, and there's no question, the culture and the formation of character was the core of it, was the core of it, and to form it in relationship to the gospel and gospel values and the person of Christ, obviously. So as we thought about how do we enter this space and try ultimately to create a new kind of a model. Now we stayed initially with the model of providing this excellent education. within this broad and beloved community, and to do this in the public space. And what we found from roughly 2009, really for the first 10 years or so, was this is a whole new world. And it's, when I was president of the State Board of Education and I went around, I made it a point to go to Muskegon, to Flint, to Saginaw. to Muskegon, Pontiac, Benton Harbor, Detroit, all the areas that are of the urban character. And I found two things, and it's the same thing I found when I was doing the work representing people who couldn't afford a lawyer. I found enormous potential, and I found potential that had not been developed. the way it deserved to be and had as a human being. And so it was a missed opportunity. Good people, always good people. You go into this space, I don't care what your politics are, you go into this space to try to teach others and serve others. That's a badge of honor. But it's operating within a government structure. And I used to say, Uh, to people who had children, I said, think of the basic responsibilities that you have, you have to feed, clothe, shelter, transport, and educate many other things, but if you just took those five things, feed, close shelter, transport, and educate, and then ask yourself, what is, what does our society do to deliver the quality in those five things, feeding? Well, we don't run government farms. If we did, it'd be like the Soviet Union, and we'd starve and we wouldn't have the things that we needed. Feeding clothing, we don't have government clothing stores. We in fact have this rich diversity of things that creates surpluses. Transportation, we have something called the automobile. We have all sorts of different ways of transporting, but the main thing, these are not delivered by the government. uh, shelter, you know, we don't live in public housing. We lit, we, wherever you are, you know, 95% or more of the population lives in housing stock that is created through the, uh, spontaneous and voluntary, uh, order of a free society. But schooling, we're delivering it by the government. We're delivering it through entities that are immediately and exclusively controlled by the state. Again, good people, but if you're, um, I used to be involved with an investment firm and you'd listen to different people coming by, you know, seeking capital for their ideas, um, everybody has a creativity and a uniqueness. And we're trying to do this, uh, in structures that for other basic things, we would never choose. We wouldn't choose it for feeding, clothing, sheltering, and transporting. So why is something as important as education? Nice. Why do I say that? because for the 10 years, you know, we were just saying, we can't fully achieve how hard it is to achieve. And we have a great authorizer, great university, Grand Valley State University, but it's just within a framework that makes it hard to find the talent, the flexibility, and a different way of accountability for outcomes. And so that really led to having to rethink.


Soren Schwab (CLT):

Mm-hmm.


clark durant:

Is there a different way to do this?


Soren Schwab (CLT):

Yeah, no, you're absolutely right. And I think the conversation about school choice and writing alternative options for families, even taxpayer dollars for education to be able to use for whether it's private school or charter school, I think we've come a long way even just the last five to 10 years there.


clark durant:

But children are still not treated equally. If you're


Soren Schwab (CLT):

They're


clark durant:

in the


Soren Schwab (CLT):

not.


clark durant:

main system,


Soren Schwab (CLT):

You're right.


clark durant:

you get certain funding. And if you're in the charter system or other choices that parents want to make, children should be seen equally. And it should not depend on the political arrangement of the way something is done.


Soren Schwab (CLT):

And of course you are in Michigan, right? Where other states are a little bit ahead when it comes to the money following the child and not the system itself. Hopefully we can work on that in Michigan there as well. So you have five schools now that are part of the Cornerstone schools. And I'm gonna read the names. Adams Young, Jefferson Douglas, Madison Carver, Washington Parks and Lincoln King. I'm sensing a pattern there, but I want you to kind of speak about the rationale behind the naming of your schools.


clark durant:

Well, we do it because we're trying to tell a story. And we started this, the moment we transitioned to charters, we wanted to have this naming convention. And you notice, for example, it's not George Washington, Rosa Parks, or Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King. We take Washington Parks, Lincoln King, Jefferson Douglas, Madison Carver, Adams and Young, because we want to tell this connected and unfolding story. When we had, you know, after George Floyd was killed and we had, you know, I've got some respectful letters about changing the names because three of the individuals, Washington, Jefferson, and Madison all owned slaves, but we had a rich conversation within our community, uh, over three lengthy periods of time. Ultimately, we never needed to change the names because people began to realize we had created something very unique. And my dear friend, Ambassador Andrew Young, when I was talking to him about wanting to have him as one of the namesakes, he, he loved the idea of this unfolding story, although he leaned forward, we were having lunch and he leaned forward in Atlanta and he said, but who are you going to pair me with Clark? And, uh, and I said, John Adams and his, and his face lit up. I mean, and he ticked off three or four different reasons, you know, why that was such an honor to him, but. It was an honor to be in this whole mix of people. And, but that's why we do it. And it's been very rich. We need to, as individuals, whether we're adults or students, we're always students, we need to have a better understanding of this unfolding story, rather than trying to divide people about different parts of the story. And they're good parts and they're bad parts. The last time I checked, that's kind of like a human life.


Soren Schwab (CLT):

Right. It sounds like a human life. Yeah, I forgot who shared that with me. But someone said, you know, if you look at your grandparents and you think that all they did was just perfect, right? You're very naive, right? If you look at your grandparents and think about everything they did was evil and bad, you know, that's not the right approach either. Right. The answer is probably somewhere in between. But if you love them, you're going to engage. You're going to look at. And, you know, as an immigrant to this country, you know, I'm not naive. to think that everything is perfect here, but also understanding that in order to have a more perfect union, we have to also look at the good and build on that. And I think the story that you're telling is one other step in getting there. And so, yeah, kudos to you and what you're building. Let's talk a little bit about curriculum, pedagogy. You know, there seems to be a lot of charter schools that... are very, very progressive in their models, sometimes indistinguishable from the public schools. And we also have this groundswell of classical charter schools that look maybe curriculum-wise a bit more like private schools. Where does cornerstone fall and has that evolved over time?


clark durant:

Well, we made the decision slowly, but that we needed to go in this classical direction. And I thought about this from a number of different perspectives. I'll give you a little anecdote. A couple of years ago, maybe three years ago, my wife and my daughter went to a garage sale in downtown and they found... face down this book. And Susan, my dear wife of 50 years, was flipping through it and her daughter Maggie, and they're saying, dad would love this book. So they brought it home, they paid $5 for this. And it's immeasurable value, immeasurable, because the book is a pictorial. capturing of the first time that the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King spoke on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and Nobody knows when it is you ask any of your friends any of your listeners before I give you the answer Nobody knows nobody remembers which is a sad part because if we cannot remember we cannot be fully human So anyway, but the first time was in May of 1957. It was the prayer pilgrimage for freedom The image that I'm showing you is a picture of Mahalia Jackson. You can see the great Corinthian pillars of the Lincoln Memorial and Lincoln Monument and the American flag. And in the lower right corner is the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King. And when you go through the book, I'll tell you a funny story. When I took this down to Atlanta to show my friend Andrew Young, he was like a, you know, he was like a young kid flipping through the book and looking at the pictures. And I mean, they are exquisite pictures. And the photographer was a young 19 year old named Lee Friedlander. And Lee had gone down to Washington to heard about this thing, took all these fabulous pictures. It is extraordinary to look at them. But, and Andy was looking at him and I said, Andy, why does this capture you? He said, Clark, I drove all night. from my little church in Thomasville, Georgia, to be there to hear Dr. King and to be a part of this prayer pilgrimage. He'd only met King in February of 1957, and they became dear friends for the rest of Reverend Dr. King's life. But at this moment, King gave a talk that's I think one of his best, probably his second best, and I don't think I Have a Dream is the best, although I love it to pieces, because he's a great writer. But in this talk, King challenges his own people, but he's also challenging our country to inject a new vein of love into civilization and to save Western civilization in her darkest hour. Now, and it's a beautiful thing. And he says when that happens, and I'm gonna read to this last page because it's so beautiful. He says, when that happens, Um, and referring to the people who stood up with dignity and honor and saved Western civilization in her darkest hour, when that happens, the morning stars will sing together and the sons of God will shout for joy.


Soren Schwab (CLT):

beautiful.


clark durant:

It's beautiful. So I'm saying to myself, self, this is what our young people and families at cornerstone need to fully appreciate. If the great Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King. can stand on the steps before he's fully a public, he became a national public man after this. But when he comes as having done the work he did at Dexter Avenue and the Montgomery bus boycott and some other things, but he became a very different man when he gave this talk. And it's a beautiful thing. So for Cornerstone, it was this idea that we need to begin to think about how do we save as Dr. King had called us to Western civilization at our darkest hour. And that began this journey. I had a number of conversations with, uh, ambassador young, uh, it's how we came to frankly set up, uh, the Andrew J. Young center for the, uh, the Andrew J. Young cornerstone center for the complete life. Um, and it, it provided a way of rethinking and we came to a mission. And maybe let me just. almost close it with saying this to you. Our mission is we seek for ourselves, for our students, faculty, family, and staff to live the complete life in the unfolding of the American promise. And as the Reverend Dr. King taught us, such a life is to live for a purpose born. to be a person for others and to know God. And on this journey, we will carry with us humility, patience, curiosity, courage, prudence, forgiveness, and joy. And we will find the things that are good and that are true and that are beautiful. Now, that's what we wanna be about.


Soren Schwab (CLT):

Wow, Clark, I'm sure our listeners are...I don't know, I have good goosebumps, I hope they do too. But what a beautiful mission it is and I know that


clark durant:

in


Soren Schwab (CLT):

in


clark durant:

public and in a public school.


Soren Schwab (CLT):

a public school, that's what public schools could look like, right? Cornerstone is a great model for that. In the second episode that we'll be recording and releasing on Thursday, we'll talk more about... this transition to a more classical model. We're gonna talk about the Andrew J. Young Cornerstone Center for a Complete Life. And of course, we're bringing in our dear friend, Dr. Anika Prather from Johns Hopkins and her work alongside you partnering with you to bring this beautiful, rich education to your schools and hopefully as a model for so many more schools around the country. Before I let you go though, I do have to ask you one question, which is sometimes the most difficult to answer. But you have lived such a rich life and you're so well read. I see in the background, you know, hundreds, there are probably thousands of books. Could you point at one book or one text apart from scripture? Because I know that's obviously the most probably the most impactful, but one text that has been most influential or impactful in your life. Is that even possible?


clark durant:

I would say if you'd allow me, I'd say it's two things. After I graduated from Tulane and I was working north of New York City, I was supposed to prepare teachers about how to teach economics, Austrian economics in particular, and sitting on a library, excuse me, on a closet shelf were four paperback books, and they were by Clive Staples Lewis, they were by C.S. Lewis. The one I picked off was The Great Divorce. And I read that, it was late at night, it was probably midnight, I couldn't put it down. And I love the story of these seven people who take this imaginary bus trip to the outskirts of heaven, and each one is confronted essentially with the choice of my will or thy will. And only one, only one. is able to embrace, it's not about my will, it's about the Lord's will, and then go as Louis lovely phrase, farther up and further in. So I would say that book began to really cause me to think about was I preparing myself to be able to make such a choice. But the other book I would say that has been influential in my thinking early on. was GK Chesterton's The Everlasting Man. And my brother was the one who introduced me to Chesterton. He sent me three essays and all this sort of stuff. But I would say Chesterton's Everlasting Man because Chesterton shows, first of all, I love the opening where he talks about man in the cave drawing on the walls. Chesterton says, man is an artist and an artist creates. And if he's in the image and likeness of God, he is create, he is a sub creator, if you will, in that work and Chesterton just tells this beautiful story in his, you know, it's a, it's a style that you have to become accustomed to. You just don't drop into it, but, but it's


Soren Schwab (CLT):

Thank you.


clark durant:

a beautiful thing. The way he talks about, um, uh, man. And then he talks about the man who was God. And it's just, it was an answer to H.G. Wells, outline of history, but it's a beautiful, beautiful piece. And I would say those two, I mean, there've been many in my life and it's really been not just books, it's been people and experiences. But there's no question that Lewis's, the great divorce, in fact, I was in England about a month ago and I made a point. going by Lewis's parish and his grave. And I said a little prayer and a little prayer of gratitude to him for not just myself, but for all of those that he affected. And he would be the first person to tell you that Chesterton influenced him when he was


Soren Schwab (CLT):

Right.


clark durant:

an atheist. But I'd say those are the two that probably.


Soren Schwab (CLT):

Those are two great choices. And I like to say, you know, Chesterton and Lewis, we're right about almost everything.


clark durant:

Yep.


Soren Schwab (CLT):

And so they're certainly


clark durant:

I just wish, I just


Soren Schwab (CLT):

good


clark durant:

wish


Soren Schwab (CLT):

teachers.


clark durant:

they had played


Soren Schwab (CLT):

All right.


clark durant:

golf.


Soren Schwab (CLT):

Well, Clark, this has been delightful. Again, we're here with Clark Durant, who serves as CEO of the Cornerstone Education Group. Please tune back in on Thursday, where Clark is coming back alongside Dr. Nika Prather to talk more about Cornerstone schools. And their educational model and all the amazing work that they're doing Clark. Thank you so much for joining today


clark durant:

Well, Soren, thank you for inviting me and I'm looking forward to doing this with my friend Anika. It'll be great fun and thank you for all your good work at CLT, it's a very important work and I'm glad to be a part of it.


Soren Schwab (CLT):

Thank you, sir.