A traditional classroom makes the teacher the focal point.

Traditional education isn't a specific type of education, and the meaning of traditional education varies by location and time. Traditional education is an established form of teaching that focuses on the values a culture deems most important at that time. It stands in contrast to alternative education, which may use unusual methods, teach nontraditional skills or use novel measures of progress, such as accumulating a portfolio of accomplishments. In the United States, a traditional education focuses on basic skills and preparing children for the workplace without any so-called fluff.

Understanding a Traditional School

A traditional school in the U.S. focuses on helping students master key skills such as reading, writing, math and science. Examples include private charter schools that emphasize discipline, core subjects and character development. Supporters of traditional education feel the public school curriculum has been watered down by the inclusion of less important subjects. Growing concern about the lack of focus and rigor sparked debate and educational reforms. The Common Core Standards are an example of a government effort to codify specific benchmarks for students at every level of education. For example, Common Core mandates that first-graders master basic number operations such as addition and that they understand how to compare the measurements of three objects.

Teaching Traditional School Cultural Values

Traditional schools focus on teaching cultural values such as independence and respect for authority. Traditional values date back to the days of the one room schoolhouse when rural children came from very similar backgrounds. Today, students are more diverse, and they hold differing values and worldviews on what is important in life and how they should act. In a traditional school, students are measured according to their individual achievement and are encouraged to master skills such as working independently, sitting quietly while listening to a teacher and taking turns talking. Students also learn shared traditional American values such as patriotism, a belief in the value of the U.S. Constitution and respect for historical figures such as the founding fathers.

Preparing for Adulthood and Vocations

Career and adulthood preparation are key components of a traditional education. Students learn skills such as showing up on time each day, and may be penalized for tardiness or missing classes. There is a strong value placed on hard work, and most schools assign homework beginning in the early grades, gradually increasing the amount of homework students receive each year. Common Core language arts standards focus on preparing students for college and careers by improving reading comprehension and critical thinking skills.

Achieving Benchmarks of Traditional Study

A traditional education focuses on student achievement, and typically provides some standardized measure of achievement. Report cards, grades and promotion from one grade to the next are hallmarks of a traditional education. In recent years, the public school system has increasingly relied on standardized tests as another way to measure student achievement. Advocates of nontraditional education, such as Alfie Kohn, have argued that these tests don't measure important skills and can destroy a child's interest in learning for learning's sake.