By Evan Mantyk Last year, the College Board released a significantly redesigned Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). The SAT is used by millions of student applicants each year to gain admission to U.S. colleges and universities. The redesign brought the SAT closer to its counterpart, the other major U.S. college-admissions test, the ACT. As an 11th and 12th grade teacher, I had the chance to get up close and personal with the new SAT. While the dropping of obscure grammar seemed a plus, I was appalled at the state to which modern education has sunk. For example, one passage in an officially released SAT practice test defends food containing genetically modified organisms, or “GMOs,” ignoring the fact that there is a dearth of long-term research that can adequately assess the effects of GMOs (which in fact are relatively new in the scope of history, having been introduced only in the mid-1990s). Do we want to promote genetically modified foods, despite scientific ignorance and when the majority of Americans believe them to be unsafe and dozens of countries ban them? Whatever your position on GMOs, it seems the SAT is more interested in advancing a political agenda than teaching students how to see the different dimensions of a controversial issue. This is a departure from the more even-keeled passages of the old SAT. Other SAT passages seem to show the Educational Testing Service, which produces the test for the College Board, straining to appear relevant or even cool. They allude to the benefits of internet use and video game playing among children—a completely unnecessary and reckless way of contributing to the worrisome drain on the next generation’s bodies, ambitions, and attention spans. If we strain to do anything, it should be to keep these inputs away from children and encourage healthy inputs that are neglected like reading classic books, reading and playing music, and cultivating perennial skills like those of carpentry, cooking, gardening, wilderness survival, and so forth. Chinese civilization, arguably the longest continuous civilization existing today, is instructive. For over 5,000 years, it was able to sustain itself and thrive through great educational traditions, which included the Six Disciplines: moral philosophy, music, archery, equestrianism, calligraphy, and mathematics. Today, kids spend about nine hours a day in front of a screen. This is a huge problem—by huge I mean fat. The result is that one in three kids is overweight and one in five kids is obese, a portion that has tripled since the 1970s. If this is what cool looks like then it is time to be uncool. Another whole class of passages on the new SAT glorifies modern painters like David Alfaro Siqueiros and Dong Kingman, whose artistic works are essentially doodles with bad proportion, bad perspective, and bad use of color. This type of bad art promotes the individual’s self expression, no matter how sloppy and bizarre it may be. Don’t we want to promote appreciation of a sense of beauty and goodness that is broadly appealing, standards of readily perceivable excellence such as those found in the art of Leonardo da Vinci or even Norman Rockwell, and discipline in fundamental techniques? The new SAT represents the last step in the dissolution of modern education. But where do we go from here? I believe that classical poetry offers the answer. On the most basic level, classical poetry offers a universally appealing sense of beauty and goodness, cultivated discipline, and adherence to fundamental techniques and standards. It should be noted here that what I am referring to is classical poetry, not formalist poetry. As the Society of Classical Poets gains more and more national and international attention—due to the years of efforts of Society poets and staff, and notably the recent poetry of poet Joseph Charles MacKenzie—it is important to make this distinction. Formalist poetry has the form of the poem as its defining characteristic, hence the name. It values those great traditions like meter and rhyme left to us by millennia of pre-modern poets. The classical poetry of the Society values these great traditions too, but it goes one step further and looks to renew those good moral values and the inner beauty found in the poetry that was written before the twin corrupting force of communism and modernism took center stage in history: specifically, the belief in good and evil and that good is rewarded and evil is punished ("what goes around comes around" or "you reap what you sow"); a sense of propriety and integrity toward your fellow man despite any disagreements; a sense of reverence toward the divine; and a respect for gender boundaries and modesty between men and women. Out of these basic morals arises the Society’s simplistic seeming themes, such as beauty, great culture, humor, and the tackling of overarching crises that the world faces. To the common man and non-poet, these themes are inspiring, appealing, and have real practical benefit. Returning to education, classical poetry's good moral values and inner beauty are precisely what school children need in an age of easily accessible pornography, drugs, and violent video games. With inner beauty and the discipline of outer beauty in mind, the foundations of education then become clear. Understanding, appreciating, and writing classical poetry are perennial skills worth aiming for (even if the writing part is never achieved, as James Sale points out in his “Can the Writing of Poetry Be Taught?”). And from classical poetry arises great literature (as explored in my list of ten great books that every student should read), which forms the basis of written communication, verbal entertainment, and law. Therefore, what we do now at the Society of Classical Poets—reading, writing, commenting, posting, and in any way breathing life into classical poetry, written by the dead poets of the past as well as that which is newly written—is providing the fertile soil from which a new era of education and literature is emerging. I exhort you to keep up the good work, but know this: We are only just beginning! (Excerpted from the introduction of the forthcoming 2017 Society of Classical Poets' Journal Introduction) Evan Mantyk teaches history and literature in the Hudson Valley Region of New York.