The life of contemplation can be difficult for leadership to embrace. The task list simply is not shortening, and the drum-major instinct to rally and march are second nature. Growing numbers of both students and teachers make for worthy demands, but demands nevertheless; and grabbing a spare minute to consider well our calling happens sometime between the nightstand and the heavy eyelids.
For this reason, our Education Team places a checkmate on our collective instincts for action, and carves out the first thirty minutes of each of our meetings for sparring over the written thoughts of others as it relates to our mission. We call it otium liberale—a leisurely, cultural retreat that fosters a learning community made up of our Principals.
Among our first texts to examine were a few select pages from David Hicks’ Norms and Nobility, a book not only arguing for a return to classical education, but arguing for a wholesale return. It is Hicks’ conviction that this should be the education of a democracy. Our Principals unofficially adopted the following list from Hicks as a thoughtful and insightful expansion of our school’s own mission:
We seek to impress upon the students entrusted to our care:
- a lively sense of the responsibilities attendant to the privileges of being educated
- a responsibility to the past
- an obligation of self-governance and discipline
- a desire to contribute in every way they can to the preservation and development of society’s purpose and sense of values
- a duty to love the law
- a sense of responsibility to carry oneself before your compatriots in an exemplary manner
- a striving to use one’s leisure for the realization of marvelous human potential
And, we might add, for the benefit of man and the glory of Jesus Christ. Conspicuously absent is the life application. We are concerned with a state of being—a way of life and thinking—such that whatever the calling, vocation, and final job assignment of the student, each is armed with the comportment of spiritual wisdom and discernment.
As I referenced in my WISE Parent Conference talk on moral education, “Society does not suffer from a lack of shrewd businessmen or from a lack of literate and educated. It suffers from a lack of virtuous men.” This is the fullest purchase that we can offer the very needed shrewd businessmen of the world—virtue rooted in the person of Christ. As Ambrose wrote,
A wondrous mystery indeed (Mysterium mirabile!)!
That flesh should cleanse the world’s foul sin,
Should take away the sins of all,
Cleansing them of the faults of flesh.