Anchored by the Classic Learning Test

Serving the Needs of the Homeschool Community | Keith Ramsdell and Rich Policz

May 16, 2024 Classic Learning Test
Serving the Needs of the Homeschool Community | Keith Ramsdell and Rich Policz
Anchored by the Classic Learning Test
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Anchored by the Classic Learning Test
Serving the Needs of the Homeschool Community | Keith Ramsdell and Rich Policz
May 16, 2024
Classic Learning Test

On this episode of Anchored, Jeremy is joined by two Ashland University faculty members—Keith Ramsdell, the vice president for enrollment and Rich Policz, the associate director of student programs at the Ashbrook Center. They discuss the new Ashbrook Center program for homeschooled students, serving their needs with free tutoring, workshops, and dual enrollment support. They also talk about the homeschooled students from a professor’s point of view as a more conversational, more patriotic kind of student. They conclude by exploring the university’s new classical learning minor and the future of the Ashbrook Center. 

Show Notes Transcript

On this episode of Anchored, Jeremy is joined by two Ashland University faculty members—Keith Ramsdell, the vice president for enrollment and Rich Policz, the associate director of student programs at the Ashbrook Center. They discuss the new Ashbrook Center program for homeschooled students, serving their needs with free tutoring, workshops, and dual enrollment support. They also talk about the homeschooled students from a professor’s point of view as a more conversational, more patriotic kind of student. They conclude by exploring the university’s new classical learning minor and the future of the Ashbrook Center. 

Jeremy Tate (00:01.789)
Folks, welcome back to the Anchor podcast. We are joined today by some of our dear friends at Ashland University. We have with us here Keith Ramsdell. He's the vice president for enrollment and Rich Policz, the director of student programs at the Ashbrook Center. And this podcast is kind of a celebration, opening a new center for homeschool and classical learning. This is an exciting time.

Keith Rich, welcome. Thanks for being on Anchored.

Keith Ramsdell (00:32.086)
Thanks for having us. Thanks, Jeremy.

Jeremy Tate (00:34.393)
So first question, we probably got folks listening right now. They've never even, maybe they've never heard the name, Ashland University, they've never heard about the Ashbrook Center, any of this. How would you describe this college, this university to folks who have never heard anything about it?

Keith Ramsdell (00:50.986)
Well, yeah, I would describe Ashton University. I mean, we've been around for about 150 years. It's attached or it's tied to the Brethren Church. And we are still, you know, we're in this unique kind of setting because we're not a traditional CC&U. But we are very much, you know, like our president and members of the executive team have to be believers.

We're very tied to the Northeast Ohio culture of homeschool and classical learning specifically through the Ashbrook Center Which I know rich will talk about and he's excited to share some of that

and we're a mid-sized liberal arts institution. I mean the interesting thing is though is that where you see a lot of growth right now in private education especially in suburbia if you will, that is not where we are located at all. We are almost exactly between Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio about an hour, hour and 15 minutes from each. Right along

the interstate, which is fortunate for us. But we're in a unique situation because we think that a lot of our growth, even at the undergraduate level especially, that our growth is the result of

students who are looking for a different kind of approach to education. For example, one of our taglines right now is teaching students how to think, not what to think. And that has really resonated with a lot of families since COVID in the last two or three years. And I think that this is just another example connecting to the homeschool population and the classically trained population. I think that's resonated with that group as well.

Keith Ramsdell (02:45.9)
So we're in a unique situation. We're trying to find our niche in this area, Jeremy, and I think we're doing a pretty good job of it so far.

Jeremy Tate (02:56.693)
Awesome, Keith, thank you. And Keith, we ran into each other for the first time a few years ago at a conference. I don't think at the time I had heard about the Ashbrook Center, but I thought in terms of speaking the language of a lot of CLT families, the reason that we exist as a company, as an alternative to the SAT and ACT, I think sharing a vision for education, for sure, but also seeing what the current need is like.

I'm wondering, and maybe Rich, this is a better question for you, tell us about Ashbrook, the history of this unique program. It's become, I've just discovered, become very popular among CLT test takers, but also just homeschoolers in general and a lot of students kind of coming out of this movement.

Keith Ramsdell (03:44.194)
So the Ashbrook Center takes its name from a congressman from this area, John Ashbrook, who at the time of kind of a bit of a tragic and sudden death, he was running for Senate in Ohio. And his supporters wanted to do something to honor his legacy. And they thought that having a center in Ohio,

that was focused on sort of the founding principles of the country would be something worthy. And in 1983, on the campus of Ashland University, Ronald Reagan was the inaugural person to kind of open up Ashbrook. From there, we've expanded into programs. I mean, a lot of what we'll talk about today, and I think a lot of what we'll connect.

Jeremy Tate (04:30.69)
It's kind of amazing how did y'all get a sitting president to come and to introduce a brand new program like that? That's wild

Keith Ramsdell (04:36.962)
Yeah, I mean, John Ashbrook was a remarkable man and I think a lot of people haven't heard of him, but in the kind of in those in the 80s, he was very important.

very important political figure. He actually ran, this is probably another little known fact, he ran against Richard Nixon in Nixon's re-election campaign with the slogan, no left turns. So, because he thought Nixon was leading in the wrong direction. So, of course that was unsuccessful, but also successful in kind of keeping the principles of the American founding alive in the people, certainly the people of rural Ohio.

Jeremy Tate (05:14.202)

Keith Ramsdell (05:17.831)
But yeah.

Jeremy Tate (05:18.317)
So I love to talk about this for a moment. I mean, it's interesting to analyze the founders, certainly not all Christian. Some seem to have kind of weird beliefs, but very much immersed in the classical tradition. Can you speak into that? And what did their education, their academic formation have to do with the country they envisioned? What's the connection there?

Keith Ramsdell (05:43.99)
Well, so I think it's an arena of ideas. I mean, sometimes when we think of the founders now, we think of sort of there was just this kind of homogenous sort of this was the view of what a nation should be, but they had very different beliefs, as you mentioned, religious beliefs, certainly, but different beliefs on how an economy should work, how strong or weak a government should be, how, but the most important thing was that they could get in a room together and they could actually have conversations about these things. And I think that,

as a result of the kind of learning that they had, that they were engaging with texts, they're engaging with other people in those ideas and having conversations. That's what we actually seek to do at the Ashbrook Center even today. All of our, we don't have textbooks in our classrooms, we use all primary documents, and then we have conversations. And by the way, even, I do like to tell people it's the...

You know, it's not the, it's the John M. Ashbrook Center, it's not the Lyndon Baines Johnson Center. But that doesn't mean that students coming in can't have a plurality or a panoply of ideas. The arena of ideas is important. And being able to have conversations, especially in this day and age, has become, I think, increasingly important. And we think that that's.

Jeremy Tate (06:51.236)

Keith Ramsdell (07:01.274)
What we do, certainly within Ashbrook classrooms, and then even in conjunction with Ashland University, we think it's a good place to kind of have that, those discussions and conversations.

Jeremy Tate (07:12.133)
Well, the reason we wanted to have you on the pod, there's been a bit of a buzz. I know a ton of excitement on campus and in the surrounding areas about this new center for homeschool and classical learning. I don't know if I've heard something quite like this of its kind launching. So tell us about what is this new center on campus?

Keith Ramsdell (07:35.698)
Yeah, so we are. You're exactly right, Jeremy. We're super excited about this. We actually had our official grand opening on Friday of last week, and so the timing for us to be here with you today is really perfect. You know, especially since COVID, and we had certainly seen an increase across the country and even in Northeast Ohio of interest in homeschooling and classical training

Keith Ramsdell (08:05.592)
general colleges and universities tend to be like we're not sure what to do with those populations and I think we decided about a year ago our president Carlos Campos said to me he's like Keith let's see if we can build a bridge let's see if we can build a pipeline to this community

And I said, well, let me put together an advisory group and we'll start listening to this population and seeing what we can do to meet their needs. And I think one of the things that we found pretty quickly is that there's automatically kind of a hesitancy.

on that population's behalf to say, well, why are you trying to build this bridge? And we said, look, we're what our first and foremost, our goal is to meet your needs in what you're trying to bring to your students.

And so as we, you know, as we've started putting together ideas on what this could look like, and we just put together a brief list of some of the things we're already starting to do, we're going to offer free tutoring to families in the region who look for, you know, they're looking for help with English or mathematics or science, music.

Jeremy Tate (09:10.969)

Keith Ramsdell (09:21.402)
some of those types of things. We're gonna provide workshops. In fact, Ashbrook is providing workshops in some of those core documents that we're super excited about. I've got that book on my shelf. You know, we're gonna open up the rec center on campus once a week to just, hey, you know, bring your homeschool kids the basketball, you know, the tent will be open

Jeremy Tate (09:47.449)

Keith Ramsdell (09:51.356)
or whatever the case might be, ways to connect those students. Offering support for students who are interested in dual enrollment options here in Ohio. A lot of times, you know, students will go to their school counselors and they'll get the help and support that they need to just register for those college courses.

Homeschool families don't have that resource. We will have those resources to help those families within the center. A curriculum resource, you know, you're trying to figure out what best way to approach homeschooling with your students. We will have curricula available for parents to come in and look at those resources and figure out, you know, what's the best option for our family? Not one option, what's the best option for our family?

Jeremy Tate (10:12.392)

Keith Ramsdell (10:42.208)
So that's just an example, or several examples, but even connecting with our academic units on campus. This has been a very close collaboration with Ashbrook since day one, because right now, if you look for a population of students on our campus or a place on our campus where homeschool students are gravitating already, it's Ashbrook.

And so, you know, we're very much partnering with them. In fact, one of the things we had the thought, you know, if we're going to find students to be peer tutors, where are we likely to find them? And it's no surprise, it was through the Ashbrook Center. So we're already looking to hire, you know, our student tutors through the Ashbrook. And the most excited students who will be tutors here are students that were homeschool students.

So when they found out that this was happening, they were like, how can we help? How can we be a part of this?

Jeremy Tate (11:33.523)

So, 20 years ago, colleges didn't really know what to make of this new population. There weren't many of them, homeschoolers. They seemed weird. There weren't many kids coming out of classical schools. They had hardly heard of this before. Now we've seen this explosive growth. In the past 50 years, we've gone from about 13,000 homeschoolers to over 5 million. There's now more than a thousand classical schools in the country. Many more are gonna be launching very soon. My question is,

What are you seeing, and especially Dr. Police, what are you seeing as a professor? Students coming out of a great home school or out of a classical school, are they uniquely prepared? Because Asperger's program, as I understand it, is an academically rigorous program. Are these students more prepared?

Keith Ramsdell (12:26.162)
I mean, I would tend to say, of course, you know, speaking anecdotally, I think that they're more prepared to have conversations. They're more prepared to, I think there's like a flexibility of mind that homeschool students have that students that go to traditional schools don't necessarily tend to come readily equipped with. And so homeschool students tend to jump into our programs.

Jeremy Tate (12:35.781)

Keith Ramsdell (12:53.406)
a little quicker and they tend to be some of the first ones to speak. We actually do, through the summers, we actually do summer academies and we draw a fair number of homeschool students that come to those and we find that that's also true. Even the way we construct those academies, we sort of are telling them like, so you don't have to raise your hand now. We're just going to have conversations.

Jeremy Tate (13:13.611)

Keith Ramsdell (13:17.742)
And homeschool students are, they're much more flexible and ready to do those sorts of things. But we are also finding that students that come from traditional schools sort of love that approach once they sort of get used to it and know that they have an equal voice to everyone else and that we're all gonna read a text together and we're gonna have a conversation about it. And we don't even necessarily have to agree about what's in that text. And I think that's.

Jeremy Tate (13:44.089)

Keith Ramsdell (13:44.448)
But I think homeschool allows that flexibility.

Jeremy Tate (13:48.009)
Yeah. Yeah, Dr. Pli, something I've noticed, just anecdotally as well, is that homeschool students, classically educated students, they tend to be, I think, more appreciative of America's founding story. I think that there really is kind of an anti-American sentiment that is spreading in at least some public schools. I've said before, I don't think it's likely a student takes AP US

and at the end says, America is so great. I'm so glad to live in America, right? It's not, I mean, America is kind of the big bad. Is that something you, because wanting to go to a program like the Ash, you have to have a love, or I would imagine you probably would, for this country, exploring its founding ideas and principles.

Keith Ramsdell (14:40.086)
Yeah, I mean, so certainly we come from a place of looking at American history and saying, are Americans perfect? No, with every, but also at the same time, we can love a country, even that's working through its imperfections and trying to be a better place that really try, you know, one of the sequences, which I mentioned those academies, one of the academies we do is

Jeremy Tate (14:57.349)

Keith Ramsdell (15:09.98)
through the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, and Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech. Like you see that there is a labor and a sweat and a blood to get to what does it mean that all men are created equal. And that we think is worthy of our love and worthy of looking at in the imperfections.

we find that the striving is important for students to know about and to learn about.

Jeremy Tate (15:41.262)
Take us through, if you could, in maybe a couple minutes, the course of study. Students going through the Ashbrook program, or can they also major in something outside? What is that like, and what makes this course of study unique?

Keith Ramsdell (15:55.082)
So the Ashbrook Scholar Program at Ashland University is designed for students who have an interest in political science, history, political economy, international politics. And it's so, we do have many Ashbrook Scholars on campus who might major in something else like biology or math or psychology or philosophy, but they might pick up a minor or another major in one of those core areas.

Jeremy Tate (16:16.869)

Keith Ramsdell (16:24.871)
There isn't an additional academic requirement beyond what their major or minor is. Save that in their senior year, they actually, all Ashford scholars do a senior thesis. It can be on a topic of their choice, but we want them to ask a big question that they're passionate about and to really dive deep and spend a couple of semesters working with advisors to sort of answer that question.

Jeremy Tate (16:52.105)
What are a couple of your favorite? Are the most memorable?

Keith Ramsdell (16:56.4)
Well, one of the most memorable and most fascinating to me is we had a student, she explored the difference between ballet in the Soviet Union and the United States and why some of the different, what could be some of the philosophical differences.

Jeremy Tate (17:12.687)

Keith Ramsdell (17:14.49)
educational reasons. Why did so you know the Soviets look for a certain thing in their ballerinas in America? It's if there's it's much more free, but so I'm not like a dance person and really per se but like that was fascinating To hear that

Jeremy Tate (17:26.681)
Ha ha

Keith Ramsdell (17:29.75)
But we've had things range from great discussions of like Lewis and Tolkien to where the American founders disagreed to Lincoln. And so there's been a great number of awesome senior theses through the years. So.

Jeremy Tate (17:29.977)

Jeremy Tate (17:40.441)

Jeremy Tate (17:50.853)
You know, what's interesting to me about this, you know, the, at the exact time, you know, Ashbrook's growing like crazy, you're launching this, this new center for homeschool and classical education. At the same time nationwide, the history major is, is kind of in free fall. A lot of the, the humanities in general, right. Not doing well. Everybody wants the pragmatic kind of STEM degree. Do you see the tide turning big picture nationwide or folks going to.

wake up and I heard a number the other day that something like 80% of young people right now out of college are doing something not directly tied to their major anyway. That seems to me that a student would be maybe more inclined then to get a degree to go through a program like Ashbrook.

Keith Ramsdell (18:37.598)
Yeah, certainly we I sit across from parent when parents bring their students in we have conversations and inevitably one of those questions will be a parent will be like so what can my what can my son or daughter do with Ashbrook education and I always answer that question. Yes, and I just might pause for a few minutes because At the end of the day what we what we think we're doing is we're teaching students how to read write speak think listen

and have conversations with each other. And before I actually came back to work for Ashbrook, I was working in the corporate world. Any employer is going to, if you can have those skills, you can be able to have prudence and judgment, and you'll be able to have conversations with your fellow employees.

Jeremy Tate (19:19.757)

Keith Ramsdell (19:27.382)
those are going to be skills that will translate to almost anything. And so certainly we have graduates that go into a public policy, but we, at the same time, we have a lot of graduates that go into the corporate world. Maybe they didn't set out their heart to be a retail manager or something, but. But I think that's a good point.

We find though that they can end up being excellent at it and have a great living and be great neighbors and great parents because of the kind of education they have. But we also have a fair number of people that go through and be lawyers or go on to teach. In fact, kind of talking about the boom in classical education, there are several classical schools out West, high schools that send recruiters to Ashland to meet specifically Ashbrook graduates.

Jeremy Tate (19:59.076)

Keith Ramsdell (20:14.858)
to try to tempt them to Arizona or Texas to come and teach the classics for a few years.

Jeremy Tate (20:23.405)
Love that. I think one of CLT's kind of secret sauce, I think one of the reasons we've been able to be successful going against SAT and ACT is we specifically hire young people that have had an education very similar to what you're providing at Ashbrook. And I talked to other CEOs and I think there's this myth out there that people are looking for people with certain skills. No, you're looking for particular kinds of people.

people who listen well, write well, think well, communicate well. And if a four-year program can help to a student grow and grow tremendously in this, I think that's what most employers actually really need right now.

Keith Ramsdell (21:07.135)
Yeah, I'd agree.

Jeremy Tate (21:10.273)
What is the future for Ashland University and for the future for this program in particular?

Keith Ramsdell (21:22.008)
That's a great question.

Keith Ramsdell (21:27.378)
Rewind that a little bit Jeremy and ask the question are there are you talking about Ashbrook? You're talking about the center you talking about both

Jeremy Tate (21:35.041)
Yeah, I'm thinking we're in this moment of just crazy change in higher ed and a lot of disruption happening. When you think about the future, the three to five year, the five to 10 year vision for the university as a whole and this program in particular, what do you get excited about?

Keith Ramsdell (21:53.254)
I'm excited to, we just passed through a new minor in classical learning. And we're really, I had mentioned that there are high schools that are already coming here to recruit. And the experience of some of our graduates going out to those schools, a lot of times a recruiter will come and talk to them and they hadn't for four years really even thought about teaching.

Jeremy Tate (22:08.142)

Jeremy Tate (22:19.299)
Wow, okay.

Keith Ramsdell (22:19.338)
And so they'll get into a classroom and they'll sort of learn some of those skills on the fly. And of course, they've had good experiences and good mentors. But what we've heard back is it would be great if we kind of knew a little bit about what classical education is, what some of those sorts of things. So we're actually adding a new minor that a student could be an Ashbrook scholar with called classical learning.

in which there will be a history of classical education. So we'll talk about the Trivium and how those things work. But also a history of education in America. So we can talk about the influences of the John Deweys and what education was and what education has become. Then there are several electives, Latin for students interested in teaching math. We're actually going to be introducing a Euclid course.

Jeremy Tate (22:50.593)

Jeremy Tate (23:13.261)

Keith Ramsdell (23:13.594)
So they can study Euclidean math before they go off and teach math at a classical school somewhere. So we're very excited about what we think that means. And we think that's a pretty unique offering. Much like the Classical Learning Center, we think that's a pretty unique offering. Yeah. And if I could just tag on to that, Jeremy, because I think part of this is

Jeremy Tate (23:28.701)
Yeah, yeah, I I'll

Keith Ramsdell (23:35.002)
us starting to think more holistically about these types of things. So as opposed to, and I think that I go back years, you know, from this point, that our campus, our university, like a lot of other schools, very siloed, right?

You had your college of business, you had your college of education, you had your college of arts and sciences. And I think what we're doing that's different right now is saying, how can we bring these pieces and parts together? How can we start this center for homeschool and classical learning, partnering with the Ashbrook Center, partnering with our business college, partnering with the other academic units on campus saying, look,

higher education in this country has already started to experience these headwinds, these challenges.

Jeremy Tate (24:24.633)

Keith Ramsdell (24:26.626)
And the only way that we can continue to move forward and thrive is to say, look, we've got to do it together. We've got to come together. We've got to do it as a team. And that's not just the team on campus. I think what we're learning is that's building bridges to the corporate world. It's building bridges to the educational world. It's building bridges to the homeschool world. How can we meet the needs collectively and collaboratively to move the institution forward in a way that is different,

unique and that really meets the needs of both the people around us and our community and the marketplace and so forth. That's the only way that we're going to survive.

Jeremy Tate (25:06.637)
Yeah. Love that. Love that. Yeah. I think anyone who's toured five or 10 classical schools, you know, sees that the main challenge, you know, for most of these schools is finding great teachers, uh, to come and teach. And, you know, it's been interesting hearing some of the, even the top, top classical schools in the country, you know, have hesitations with someone who spent four years in an ed school, you know, but if you're coming out of a great school, you're coming out of the Ashbrook,

Scholars program or I'm just learning about this new minor in classical learning, which is fantastic

Jeremy Tate (25:45.005)
Good. We are here again today with our friends from Ashland University. Dr. Rich Policz, the director of student programs at Ashbrook, and then Keith Ramsdell, VP for enrollment. Keith, Rich, thank you both for being with us. Thank you for launching this new center for homeschool and classical learning and the first of its kind, maybe in the nation. I have a feeling there's going to be copycats. There's a lot of buzz about this. So thank you for what you're doing.

Keith Ramsdell (26:15.65)
Thanks for having us.