Thank you for choosing to be with us at Ridgeview this year. Your children will be sharing classrooms and hallways with some of the most talented teachers in the nation, and they are uniquely interested not only in seeing your children succeed academically, but in developing their character and seeing them flourish as individuals.
Nearly a decade and a half ago, the founders of Ridgeview set out on an experiment as much for the benefit of their own children as for the preservation and betterment of their country. It was an experiment not in the sense that they were willing to sacrifice a generation of students, but in the sense that they sought to deviate from the progressivism that was not working in favor of the traditionalism that had. It is in this sense that Ridgeview continues as an obstinate and vocal critic of contemporary educational fads, and jealously guards its autonomy insisting that Ridgeview remain a small school offering an unadulterated, classical, liberal arts education for those hardy enough to attempt it.
We contend that this type of education is important for at least two reasons. First, we believe that Ridgeview can best create classically educated individuals by teaching students content rather than tests. We will not denounce the tests of the Common Core or any other regime while simultaneously training your children to excel at them in order to improve our standing in the rankings. Second, we do not suppose ourselves competent in deciding what your child ought to become, except that we believe every American should be educated to preserve his own liberty and act as a steward of the common welfare for future generations. Beyond the guarantee that none will be denied who wish to try, and that we shall remain open to all wishing to test themselves against an uncompromising rigor, there are few promises as to outcomes. Ridgeview remains a place in which all honors are earned.
The founders of Ridgeview knew that other schools had and would continue to capitalize on gimmicks and fads, on rankings without meaningful methodologies, and on the fear mongering worked upon worried and harried parents hoping for their children to gain admissions to prestigious universities. Trends, however, come and go. What is more lasting is the sort of classical education that Ridgeview consistently delivers day in and day out, year after year. We are proud that you have chosen for your children to be our students, and we hope that they are proud to be here.
As much work as we know stands before us, we have labored this past summer to create opportunities for our students to get to know us and to know one another. They have spent time in the mountains, hiked trails, witnessed amazing sunrises and sunsets, talked around campfires and made s’mores, and shared in conversations with their teachers. This reveals at least one aspect that sets Ridgeview apart from other schools: it has no interest in becoming bigger for the sake of being bigger. It has a philosophy and a mission that it believes in with conviction and sincerity, and it strives in everything it does to ensure that it does not deviate. In order to develop people of the highest moral and intellectual caliber, we believe students must share a close relationship with their teachers and with one another. In ways great and small, this is permitted to occur at Ridgeview because we do not become distracted by chasing down trends. Our objective is not to create a standardized student by making them successful at standardized tests, but to develop human beings fully capable of realizing their uniqueness and thus their potential. In order for people of any age to do this well, they must learn how to read a text closely, to open themselves to beauty, to listen carefully, to be attentive. Not all of these skills are learned in a classroom, and not all are learned writing papers; and, as critical as reading and writing are, the application of knowledge, and the pursuit of wisdom through dialogue and conversation remain more important. These are skills that can only be developed through contact with other intelligent human beings.
From an intellectual community to the preparation for one’s place in the larger society, we understand the role of education to be integral to the endurance of a free people. We do not believe that a free people can be prepared for freedom by being trained to be obedient, to espouse the ‘correct’ views, to utter the requisite phrases, and ape those holding political power. This perspective, which holds liberty to be of primary importance, is well described by H.L. Mencken in the passage that follows: “I believe that liberty is the only genuinely valuable thing that men have invented, at least in the field of government, in a thousand years. I believe that it is better to be free than not to be free, even when the former is dangerous and the latter safe. I believe that the finest qualities of men can flourish only in free air – that progress made under the shadow of the policeman’s club is false progress, and of no permanent value. I believe that any man who takes the liberty of another into his keeping is bound to become a tyrant, and that any man who yields up his liberty, in however slight the measure, is bound to become a slave.” To believe that a school’s contribution to society is to prepare the individual for a job is disastrously shortsighted. If we wish for genuine liberty to endure, a school must develop not only the intellect of its charges, but their character as well.
The young, who are doubtlessly materially comfortable, should not be permitted to become complacent about their liberty or that of generations to come, and yet in our democratic age, this is precisely what is occurring. Contemporary education has persuaded students that because they exist within a democratic society, they necessarily exist in one impervious to tyranny or despotism. As Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexis de Tocqueville, and numerous others who our students read during the course of their studies noted, an illiberal democracy, or a tyranny of the majority, is hardly farfetched. Echoing these sentiments in 1991, the philosopher Isaiah Berlin, in corresponding with another professor, noted as follows: “Let me point out that democracies can be exceedingly oppressive, and diminish civil and political liberties very greatly indeed. Do you really think that the Athenian democracy, in actual functioning…was compatible with the basic liberties…of Socrates, Anaxagoras, Diagoras and other thinkers punished by exile or death (Aristotle only just escaped such a fate)?” These are the questions we expect our students to struggle with in the abstract while at Ridgeview in order that they might be better prepared to struggle with them in practice once they reach the age of majority. We are preparing our students not simply for college, but for life, and one that is distinctly American.
Given our day and age, these objectives are heavy burdens for any institution to bear, but we bear them with gladness, hopefulness, and eagerness. It has long been said that a school without students is only a building, and the emptiness one appreciates in June is ready to be relieved by September. As I have noted, we have begun welcoming back your children for a new year, and we hope that they stand ready to meet the challenges it will bring. We look forward to beginning the new year and to seeing each of your children develop and flourish while receiving a first-rate education.