This “essentialist” curriculum created in 1982 by Mortimer Adler and The Paideia Group proposes a single, required, 12-year course in general, humanistic learning as a foundation for the future learning of all students.

Basic Elements

The Paideia plan is built on the understanding that education serves to prepare individuals for (1) earning a living, (2) citizenship, and (3) self-development. With that in mind, here is the plan’s proposed framework:

GOALS Acquisition of organized knowledge Development of intellectual skills (learning skills) Enlarged understanding of ideas and values
MEANS Didactic instruction Coaching, exercises, supervised practice Socratic questioning and active participation
AREAS Language, literature, fine arts, math, natural science, history, geography, social studies Speaking, listening, calculating, problem solving, critical judgment Discussion of books (not texts) and art performances

Theodore Sizer of the Paideia Group insists that Paideia is not a detailed curriculum for deliberate reasons. The Paideia Group believes that only the teachers and principals who can change education should design a specific curriculum blueprint. Instead, the Paideia plan provides a framework and process for “crafting the critical details of the program in ways appropriate to their own communities.”


Educational Leadership (March 1984): Dennis Gray, “Whatever Became of Paideia? (And How Do You Pronounce It?), p. 56-57. Daniel Tanner, “The American High School at the Crossroads,” p. 4-13.

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