The Paideia Proposal is a system of liberal education intended for all children. It was a response to what Adler characterized as the United States' antidemocratic or undemocratic educational system, a holdover from the 19th century, when the understanding of basic human rights fell short of 20th century expectations.
The Paidea Proposal was based upon the following assumptions: 1) All children are educable; 2) Education is never completed in school or higher institutions of learning, but is a lifelong process of maturity for all citizens; 3) The primary cause of learning is the activity of the child's mind, which is not created by, but only assisted by the teacher; 4) Multiple types learning and teaching must be utilized in education, not just teacher lecturing, or telling; and 5) A student's preparation for earning a living is not the primary objective of schooling.
Adler stressed that the proposal is much more than just a return to the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic. It is not simply a return to the values of classical civilization, but a return to what is of enduring value. It is a democratic proposal intended for the education of all, and not an elitist program as some have alleged.
Dr. Mortimer J. Adler was Chairman of the Board of the Encyclopedia Britannica, Director of the Institute for Philosophical Research, Honorary Trustee of the Aspen Institute, and authored more than fifty books. He died in 2001.