At Great Hearts, we ask our students to keep the focus on their academics by refraining from conversations or references to popular culture while they are at school. We do this to allow students a learning environment in which all are able to pursue knowledge and virtue on common ground and because, at school, our students should be immersed in the most noble, worthy, and permanent things. We seek to create a walled garden where all are engaged in the corporate and whole-hearted pursuit of the true, the good, and the beautiful.

From the Family Handbooks

Great Hearts is very intentional about creating a common and civil community among its students and in preserving an educational environment free from distractions. This includes manners of speech, habits of respect during discussions with others, attention to the content of the curriculum to the exclusion of references either to current pop-culture personalities, music, movies, and even politics and current events. To further this educational environment, Great Hearts also requires students to use backpacks, lunch bags, and other accessories that are free from such images or references.

The intention and educational purpose is to pull students out of the parochial thought-worlds of their time and that of their peers, and introduce them into the broader and more permanent concerns of the human community. In this environment of learning, students will take authors and artists of historical times and different cultures seriously and better envision and entertain ideas such as goodness, virtue, and heroism from many prior historical and cultural contexts within which they have arisen.

Great Hearts also seeks to avoid cultivating a “chronological snobbery” in our students, and in furtherance of this, we avoid contemporary comparisons during classes and school activities. Overall, Great Hearts asks and challenges students to step out of themselves—to step out of their times, their familiar idioms, even their preferred styles in art and music, in order to appreciate the goods and virtues of other times and places. This is the essence of a classical education.

Great Hearts seeks to develop the unique character and quality of each student; however, this uniqueness and true self is not encouraged through participation in consumerism and mass marketing. Great Hearts desires to free the educational environment from consumerism and external marketing influences through this policy of “no pop culture” in school. Its purpose includes:

  1. To give young people an educational space free from popular examples that may be merely superficial and time-bound, while we try to introduce them to more permanent and universal aspects of human nature and human community;
  2. To give them educational space from the peer pressure to be media and celebrity “literate;”
  3. To elevate their imaginations and their thoughts above the low, the base, and the mediocre;
  4. To create points of reference and a common ground for conversation that transcends the student’s age, experience, and the biases of his peer group; and
  5. To give them the broadest range of images and ideas from which they will eventually address the concerns of their own time and place.

This policy creates and preserves the desired educational environment and improves the educational process for the benefit of all students, and acts as a shield against what is shallow and temporary in popular culture on behalf of what is serious and permanent. Students will learn to think for themselves and develop deep critical thinking skills and analytical ability. It is in that ability that we hope to see meaningful distinctions in our students and not in clothing or accessories. It is also the intention of this policy to improve student learning, to reduce disciplinary referrals, to improve morale, and to instill self-worth and self-confidence in students as lasting traits.

The most up-to-date version of our Family Handbooks can always be found at

A Note on Holidays

At Great Hearts Irving Lower School, popular holidays like Halloween, Christmas, Hanukkah, Valentine’s Day, or St. Patrick’s Day fall under the heading of pop culture and are not celebrated at school. Rather than celebrate holidays that highlight differences between different members of our school community, we choose to celebrate what unites us—our shared love of our rich and rigorous, liberal arts curriculum. For more on grade level curriculum celebrations and their important role in the life and culture of our school, visit