Welcome parents and students, faculty and staff, friends, neighbors, and all others who are joining us today to celebrate the achievements of these thirty-two students.

Welcome also to a venue that, while new to us, is a place familiar with the grand purpose of such occasions. In 1889, when this building was opened, the students studied what might today be called a classical curriculum. Students at that time were asked, “Do you desire to become a better, more learned person?” Students at Ridgeview today are asked: “What will justify your life?” Students at this school, in the 1890s, studied English analysis and composition, arithmetic, bookkeeping, American history, drawing, rhetoric, American literature, algebra, geography, government, general history, physics, moral training, physiology, botany, geometry, Latin, English literature, chemistry, political economy, astronomy, trigonometry, and music. The boys took classes in military tactics and there was an indoor rifle range in the basement. In 1889, there were forty students, and by 1891, there were just four graduates – one boy, and three girls. Then, the class motto was Ad astra per aspira – through hardships to the stars. Today, Ridgeview’s official motto is Veritati Virtutique Dedicatum – dedicated to truth and virtue, and its unofficial motto, πάθει μάθος– we learn by suffering. Then, the school’s colors were blue and yellow. Ridgeview’s are blue and gold. Interestingly, a local man named Robert Pike wrote a history of this school in which he ended the chapter on the school’s curriculum with this thought: “A return to the past can only lower the overall quality of education.”

Ridgeview’s mission and philosophy is predicated on the idea that only with a knowledge of the past can one properly prepare for the future. Today, however, we consider the past, the present, and the future of ourselves and the young people whom we have shepherded out of adolescence. Today is about them in one way, and in twenty or so years, it will be about them in another. All the moments of their childhood that we could have more fully taken in, regardless of how thoughtful or deliberate we have been, are coalescing. It is the rare man or woman who has no regrets over a flash of their temper, a missed opportunity, or some lingering regret about a thoughtless cruelty. If we have committed ourselves to our careers to provide materially for our children, we regret that we did not take more time with them; if we have given more time, we tend to worry that we ought to have provided more materially. Paternalism is fraught with endless anxieties. Our children move on now, as much a product of our careful deliberations as of our incautious expediencies. It is a thousand childhood moments from their first laugh to their first word, from their first genuinely kind deed and the clothes they outgrew to the toys that were discarded along the way. Today marks a moment when we move from first steps, first dates, and first hurt feelings to a moment in which pride is comingled with a sinking feeling in our chests as we imagine the vacant room, the empty place at the table, and the quietness that replaces mundane conversations. It is a childhood that can never be regained, and though revisited by swiping through the photos on our phones, it is a childhood that can never be amended, corrected, or brought to a more perfect or ideal form. We move from a life in which we have been chaperones, directors, and organizers to one in which we are observers of the work we have wrought. Our actions, all past, matter. Marcus Aurelius was correct in noting that “what we do now echoes in eternity.” What we have done manifests itself in their temperament, character, attitude, and the possibility that they will live happy and fulfilled lives. Nor does it end with them, the manner of our living will inform these same qualities in the grandchildren and great-grandchildren we may not live to meet. While it is difficult to remember in the moment, every moment has mattered.

Jonathan Swift, in his most famous satire, has Gulliver encounter Lilliputians who remark upon the foreigner’s obsession with time. In removing his watch, they remark that, “We conjecture that it is either some unknown animal, or the god that he worships; but we are more inclined to the latter opinion.” The Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov gets to the crux of our issue with time. He begins his autobiography by noting that, “The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness. Although the two are identical twins, man, as a rule, views the prenatal abyss with more calm than the one he is heading for (at some forty-five hundred heartbeats an hour).” Nabokov may be right or wrong about those two abysses, but our mortal lives are winding down from the moment they begin, and we are forever trying not to miss appreciating the most poignant parts. The French ophthalmologist Louis Émile Javal intensely studied the way in which people read, and identified what he called saccades, in which the eyes did not flow fluidly over text, but moved jerkily along resting in one position and then another. We are in much the same situation concerning our sense of attention and memory. Attention is a matter of learning how to think, which implies exercising control over how and what we think. As David Foster Wallace asserted, “It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience.” We are not Sherlock Holmes – our attention, and our memory, are imperfect. The ways we wish we would have behaved, the moments we wish we could relive, and the sense that the present might be different were our past better, plague even the best of us. As Milton put it, “The mind is its own place, and in itself / Can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n.” The poet in Beowulf gets its mostly right in contending that, “Every life has more than enough sadness and more than enough joy.” None of us, if we have any capacity for reflection, can be perfectly content with our past, but we can, as one modern author suggested, treat our minds as we would a private garden and be careful and deliberate about what we introduce and allow to grow there. Our time may be finite, but what it means to us and holds for our future is for us to determine. One thing is certain, appreciation requires attention.

The past being what it is, we want to be present in this moment for our children, but it is not the same moment for us as it is for them. In what the Greeks called Kairos, we see designated “all the possibilities within a given moment.” Clearly, based upon our experiences, what is possible for us in this moment is not possible for someone without these experiences. In our pursuit of serenity, we yearn to live in the moment, but as André Maurois wrote, this state or “combination of phenomena which occupies a person’s consciousness at a given moment,” for an unchanged duration seems inconceivable. “If it is a question of another person, death may intervene; if of music, the music will cease; if of a book, its last page will eventually be read.” The philosophies, or even therapies as they might be understood, such as Stoicism and Epicureanism were “intended to provide a cure for anguish, and to bring freedom and self-mastery, and their goal was to allow people to free themselves from the past and the future, so that they could live within the present.” The great Russian littérateurs like Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Pasternak regarded these as the accursed questions – the ones that all human beings had to contend with, and only by grappling with them could they grow in wisdom. These were questions that neither schooling nor the experiences of others could wholly prepare one for, and such questions, issues, and ideas became the centerpieces of their novels. We want our children prepared to face these confrontations, for them to appreciate properly in the present and minimize guilt in the future, and to have the capacity to focus on what matters most. One of the ways that we have given them to achieve this is through slow reading and the enjoyment of things partaken in for themselves. Virginia Woolf, in “How Should One Read a Book?” wrote,

Are there not some pursuits that we practice because they are good in themselves, and some pleasures that are final? I have sometimes dreamt, at least, that when the Day of Judgment dawns and the great conquerors and lawyers and statesmen come to receive their rewards – their crowns, their laurels, their names carved indelibly upon imperishable marble – the Almighty will turn to Peter and will say, not without a certain envy when He sees us coming with our books under our arms, “Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them here. They have loved reading.”

An enjoyment of the present and a realization of the possibilities in it, has as one of its requisites that we are able to do a thing without recourse to an ulterior motive – for joy, for play, for satisfaction. Our life in the present is a matter of what we are paying attention to. As the psychologist Winifred Gallagher writes, “At any one moment, your world contains too much information, whether objects, subjects, or both, for your brain to ‘represent,’ or depict clearly for you. Your attentional system selects a certain chunk of what’s there, which gets valuable cerebral real estate and, therefore, the chance to affect your behavior. Moreover, this thin slice of life becomes part of your reality, and the rest is consigned to the shadows or oblivion.” In this moment, think of everything that your children have accomplished and all that you hope they will do and become. See them here before you, compare them in your mind to the moment when you first held them in your arms, then their swaddling blankets and now their gowns. Let this moment be appreciated with as much intensity as that with which you cherish those memories.

As they prepare to join the ranks of Ridgeview’s alumni, consider their future and your own. How shall we see our future selves? Are we apart from or a part of something? We can conceive of two very different conceptions. First, the sixteenth-century poet Sir Edward Dyer who wrote of sovereign self-sufficiency as follows:

My mind to me a kingdom is;
Such perfect joy therein I find
That it excels all other bliss
Which God or Nature hath assigned.

Do we really intend to propose that we are so complete? That we take so little inspiration and have so little impact upon our fellows? Contrarily, is our condition better described by the seventeenth-century poet John Donne?

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thy friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
for I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

If we perceive ourselves – parents, teachers, and students – as interconnected, our vision of the future appears very different than if we perceive ourselves entirely self-reliant, atomistically individual. In order to appreciate these interconnections, we must continuously cultivate the skills we have developed for reading. More attentive readers will mean more attentive people, but this sort of attention is not our default condition. As Alan Jacobs notes, “as long as we have had readers we have had readers frustrated by their inability to concentrate.” As Jacobs continues, “Reading is a way of connecting with others, but the connection is an odd combination of the intimate and the virtual: if we say that when Machiavelli entered his study there was really no one there, we speak a half-truth. In a way he sat there alone; in another way he enjoyed the best of company.” Reading’s relevance to the kind and quality of our future is its ability to show us our relation to not only those alive, but to all of those who have ever lived. In becoming attentive to this, we habituate ourselves to overcoming our mental sloth.

There is much that has the potential to distract us from this sort of attention, and none more problematic than social media. It has been described as the anesthetic of loneliness, but when its novelty fades, what is revealed is a state difficult to discern from certain addiction behaviors. It is fair to describe the various digital interferences in our lives as the chief distraction from the sorts of things that we will later most regret not having given our attention to – namely, our children. In Adam Alter’s book Irresistible, he cites a psychologist named Catherine Steiner-Adair who studies the effects of digital media on children. She wrote that, “many American children first encounter the digital world when they notice that their parents are ‘missing in action.’ ‘My mom is almost always on the iPad at dinner,’ a seven-year-old named Colin told Steiner-Adair. ‘She’s always ‘just checking’. Penny, also seven, said, “I always keep on asking her let’s play let’s play and she’s always texting on her phone.’” Instead of cultivating an online presence, we ought to be cultivating the qualities we suppose will produce individuals capable of appreciating what it is they are paying attention to.

After a decade’s worth of teaching, I was heartened to hear this year’s seniors thank the faculty for the work they have done on their behalf. I am heartened each time I hear our students thank their parents at the end-of-the-year concerts. I am heartened each time I hear our faculty thank their TAs and the parents who have volunteered. I wholeheartedly believe that there is little better than gratitude and few things worse than ingratitude. I am not alone in this. The eighteenth-century poet Samuel Garth wrote that,

That man may last, but never lives,
Who much receives, but nothing gives;
Whom none can love, whom none can thank,
Creation’s blot, creation’s blank.

And, Plautus who wrote that, “He is ungrateful who denies that he has received a kindness which has been bestowed upon him; he is ungrateful who conceals it; he is ungrateful who makes no return for it; most ungrateful of all is he who forgets it.” I, however, am grateful to work in a school wherein gratitude is a common currency. That it is, becomes a part of what signals our student’s capacity to appreciate and attend to the fact that they have others to esteem besides themselves.

If we want to complete our paternal role, we must recognize that it is not over – only changed. As I noted at the outset, we are moving from directing to observing, but we will continue to be emulated in intentional as well as unintentional facets of our behavior.

There is a story about an aging Roman soldier who was involved in a lawsuit that seemed likely to go against him. He stood to lose most of what he had, and left with little recourse, is said to have accosted his former commander, Augustus, in a public place, asking him to appear in court on his behalf. The emperor selected one of his men to appear on behalf of the man, but the soldier rolled back his sleeves to reveal his scars and shouted, “When you were in danger at Actium, I didn’t choose a substitute, but fought for you in person.”

There can be no substitutes. Our students will continue to confront real challenges and temptations. They will have whatever we have given them in their arsenal, but most of all they must have us, able defenders of those principles that are dearest. We must not assume that some other substitute – friend, teacher, or professor – may stand in our stead. In the Talmud, it states that, “The righteous promise little, and perform much; the wicked promise much, and do not perform even a little.” “Say little and do much,” it says in Sayings of the Fathers. So it is, our roles – parent’s as well as student’s –  have changed. We should live the advice we would give them, continue valuing what we have taught them is worth valuing, and take great pride in the magnitude of their accomplishment today. We must not let their capacity for attention, appreciation, and gratitude be dulled or diminished by the world’s apathy, and if it seems – ever – that this is asking too much from people so young, consider their theses. Consider that they wrote on focus, on attention, on gratitude, on balance, on beauty; that they contemplated self-reflection, service to others, adventure, self-confidence, and fulfillment; that they extolled love, self-examination, perseverance, the value of struggle, peace, freedom, moral sense, purpose, and harmony. When one considers with what they have filled their heads and what they have poured out of their hearts, it is not difficult to imagine a world made better by their involvement and participation in it. To answer the question posed to students in 1889, our students have desired to be better and more learned, and they have become so. In answer to the question we posed to them at Ridgeview, the answer is that they will justify their lives – by their attentiveness, appreciation, humility, charity, and gratitude.

Please join me in congratulating the Class of 2017.

Over the course of the summer, there is much required reading. For the juniors, the reading included Young Goodman Brown and Other Short Stories. Often summer reading is thought of as a meaningless book meant to impede the freedom vacation brings, but this book rather interested me.

Each of these stories have one source of intrigue or another, but one ensnared me, titled Artist of the Beautiful. It is the story of an artist named Owen who, not once, not twice, but three times pours his life into the creation of a mechanical butterfly to pursue his dream of creating “The Beautiful.” Each time Owen tries to build it, the project is broken by some interference or circumstance, and each time Owen stumbles into a darkness of despondency. Yet every time he stumbles, he rises from the pit, guided by the Beauty he sees around him. This resistance to naysayers and upholding of his beliefs is what makes Owen admirable.

There are many people in the village who argue against Owen’s quest and their complaints are merited. His former master believes Owen to be a negligent fool to not devote himself completely to fulfilling his duty as clock maker in the village. The blacksmith thinks Owen to be strange for not investing his time and strength into more fruitful pursuits as he does, hammering and twisting iron into tools. And finally, there is the woman Owen loves. He believes she could understand him, but, like the rest, she does not comprehend his obsession with Beauty and believes him foolish. And so, Owen is disliked and mocked by most of the village with no one to stand by him.

Owen is far from perfect, as he lets his dream control him and neglects his duties to the town, but Owen does still present a good role model in the approach he takes to achieve his dream. Each time the butterfly breaks and the naysayers gather around him, Owen’s spirit is broken. But this hurt and pain never stops Owen from pursuing his dream and what he believes is important. His belief in his principles and values while he stands alone is what differentiates him from all other characters who stand together in their scorn. Few people possess that certainty in their principles while being faced by a majority.

Each day, when we leave Ridgeview, we read this creed: “Even if everyone else, not I.” This creed tells us to stand for our beliefs and values even if everyone around us does not. This mentality imitates Owen’s model, but to avoid Owen’s faults or pursuing the wrong principles, we, as students of Ridgeview, must draw examples from texts and teachers alike. Each day, we learn about life and how to live it well. From Cicero’s teachings on morality to Emerson’s teachings on self-reliance, we are taught what is good. But from subjects like Owen and Socrates, we are taught how to stand for it.

This year, Ridgeview is pleased to welcome five new student authors to our student-run blog, Hoplite Insights. To learn more about these students, please read their introductions below.

Ethan, Class of 2019

My name is Ethan and I am in 11th grade. This year I am a member of Hoplite Helpers, Veritas, Science Bowl, StuCo, Student Ambassadors, and the Ridgeview blog of course. I enjoy activities like hiking, kayaking, swimming, and traveling.  Some of my more academic interests include science, math, and philosophy.  I hope to bring a unique set of qualities to the RCS blog, in that I value both science and philosophy, ways of thinking that have long been thought of as opposing one another.  While this is my first year as a blogger for Ridgeview, I hope to catch on quickly and post some interesting stuff for you. Let’s make it a great year!

Sarah, Class of 2019

I am Sarah, and I am a junior. I have attended Ridgeview Classical Schools since Kindergarten. I am an avid lover of theater, both watching and participating, and a lover of vocal music. I hope that my experiences in Ridgeview’s music and theater department will provide a unique perspective for the Student Blog.

 

image1Alison, Class of 2019

My name is Alison, and I am a junior. I enjoy playing soccer as well as hiking and backpacking in the mountains. This year I hope to bring content to the blog that readers will find both interesting and enlightening.

 

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Kelsey, Class of 2018

I am Kelsey, and I am a twelfth grader. I have been at Ridgeview since kindergarten and I am excited to share what Ridgeview is like.  My favorite subjects are physics and math. I love learning in general and experiencing new things. I like attending all of Ridgeview’s events, and I can’t wait to share the fun that I will experience this year.

 

Lucy, Class of 2018

My name is Lucy, and I am a twelfth grader. My interests include drawing, writing, reading, fashion, debating (okay, sometimes I just like to argue), people watching, Krav Maga, Quantum Physics, sleeping (an interest I believe I share with every Ridgeview student ever), languages, accents, cultures…can I just say almost everything? Through the blog, I hope to bring honest and thoughtful reflections on Life, the Universe, and Everything, and maybe a poem or two to provide relief from solid blocks of heavy, philosophical pondering.

 

 

 

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Over the past three weeks it has once again become clear how Ridgeview is different and what it is that makes it special. While children throughout America will spend a minimum of fifty percent of their waking hours between the ages of five and eighteen in a school, Ridgeview’s students and families unarguably get more for their investment. For any student willing to avail himself of the opportunities and test himself against the rigors of a classical, liberal arts curriculum, Ridgeview remains an undiminished beacon.

Throughout our faculty training, we were introduced to passionate, positive, and enthusiastic teachers who had come from Indiana, Massachusetts, California, and elsewhere to be at Ridgeview. Not simply to teach somewhere, but to be here; and not only to teach, but to start clubs, create new electives, go on camping trips, and share in the hundreds of adventures our students will partake in over the next twelve months.

They have seen the photographs of our students summiting fourteeners, playing paintball with their teachers, spelunking, or completing a ropes or land navigation course. They hear about a school that begins teaching Latin in kindergarten, that introduces students to the Greek alphabet in third grade, that emphasizes phonics, cursive, primary texts, Socratic discussions. They are intrigued by a school that does not beleaguer their teachers with requirements for daily lesson plans and instead allows the personality and personal genius of the teachers to work within a framework to engage students, create memories, and change lives. They are surprised that a place still exists that rejects the Common Core and the myriad of other educational fads that have made a wasteland of so much of public education, or that having taken the risk to get a serious degree does not prohibit their employment at Ridgeview. Here, their intellectuality and curiosity are advantages, and we engage them in discussions about John Adams, the American founding, the notion of patriotism, the importance of imagination, the difference between schooling and education, the enduring relevance of culture, the manner in which one teaches and the ways in which one learns, and the challenges of modernity and relativism. Throughout our faculty seminar reading, we treat teachers like adults and foster the sorts of conversations with them that we wish to see them foster in our children.

Over the course of the coming year, we will leave our classrooms open to members of our community. We invite you not only into our classrooms, but into our community whether by attending the parent reading groups that occur both weekly and monthly, the various events that see us drawn together whether they be concerts, recitals, principal’s coffees, the Turkey Shoot, or any of the other multitudinous events that showcase our incredible curriculum, our talented teachers, as well as the commitment of our community and the enthusiasm of our volunteers. There are many new faces with us this year, and I encourage everyone to make your introductions and find some way to support the remarkable project that is again underway at Ridgeview Classical.

D. Anderson

Principal

Fourth Quarter – 2017

The end of this year will represent the end of middle school for many of you. The years between elementary school and high school can be some of the most difficult. This is not merely anecdotally true, but statistically validated. Several years ago, researchers looking for a way to predict who would excel at college and university culled through data trying to determine whether there was any single indicator. The obvious choices were high school GPA and various standardized test scores. What they ultimately settled on was a student’s performance in eighth grade, and as unorthodox an indicator as this might seem, I think that it actually makes fairly good sense.

The students who excel in university are not always the smartest people. I used to tell a story to my students about people being divided into gazelles and lions. Gazelles can find food virtually anywhere; they do not have to work hard for it. The lion does. It is always competing for its survival, and it must always work hard. There are some students for whom traditional academic subjects come quite easy. They glide from one success to the next. They may work longer hours, but those hours do not feel long because they enjoy what they are doing; and frequently, they enjoy it because they are already good at it. For other students, the time passes more slowly, the work is more difficult, it is a chore. However, because one student learns to push through, when it is not clear that there is anything truly riding on it, one habituates themselves to hard work. These people learn the value of persistence, which is something that will serve them more frequently than perfect grammar or algebra. It is almost an Americanism to want to cheer on the underdog and see them challenge the meritocracy that they are told exists.

In a quotation that is popularly attributed to Calvin Coolidge, someone wrote that, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

If the work has seemed difficult at times, or the subjects not to your taste, know that as long you as you are striving, you are acquiring the habit of persistence, which will serve you well in life. Now, the opposite of persistence is simply quitting. In life, as in all hard things that you attempt, there will be those who quit. I was fortunate this week to get to visit with one of our alumni who is currently training for a very elite unit within the Marine Corps. He noted that his group started with ninety men, and is currently down to just twenty-one. Now, the twenty-one remaining men have a choice: they can knuckle-down and commit themselves to finishing the course, or they can emulate those who are leaving and quit as well. Quitting, compared to trying, tends to look easy, but one has to live with it for much longer. There will be those who leave. Be polite, be civil, have a due regard for them, but do not emulate them. Be a finisher, not a quitter.

There is also much that warrants staying. There is comradery, there are trips, there is academic excellence, there are winning teams, a legacy of successful students, students who have come before you and attended prestigious universities and collected fantastic scholarships. The work is tough, but it is not too tough, and there are people who care to know you, to help you, to see you succeed here. But, the days in which you may depend upon your parents for your initiative are coming to a close. Those who will be successful are those who want to be successful. Do not ask others to care more for you than you care for yourself.

Today we celebrate not only those who will be called to the stage, but all those who have dared continue along this path. Who have committed to doing something difficult under their own initiative, and who have chosen to emulate the finishers rather than the quitters. At the head of this group are our students of the quarter. Our final student of the quarter this year is a young lady who is well-read and always polite. She is a hard worker who understands the value of persistence and perseverance. She has taken seriously the challenge Ridgeview poses to all of its students, whether by virtue of its academic rigor or the moral challenge posed by living up to its character pillars. She takes herself seriously, and she thinks seriously about others. It is my pleasure to announce Anne Rutherford as our student of the quarter.

At the end of each year, we like to acknowledge two students for their outstanding character. We obviously do this in part to encourage good character, but also to remind ourselves that we should not prize intellectual or academic achievement above character. The latter matters more, and as a faculty, we should always bear it in mind.

Our first character award goes to a young lady who has proven herself at Ridgeview in a fairly short span of time. She has been a Student Ambassador, an athlete, and a very strong student in the classroom. She has taken her subjects seriously, and she has taken her fellows seriously. She has helped where she can, served her school through the Ambassadors, and has the sort of initiative I discussed earlier. Please congratulate Hannah Harling.

Our second character award goes to a young man who many have perceived as somewhat bashful, but also as someone who is always polite, always attentive to what he ought to be doing, and a young man in the process of becoming a very good man. He studies hard, is willing to share his experiences with his friends and peers, gives every appearance of believing that his studies are worth his time and curiosity. Next year, he will serve his school as a Student Ambassador. Please congratulate Josiah Durrell.

Fourth Quarter Honors Assembly 2017

With the end in sight, a brief retrospective is in order. While I intend to speak at greater length and hopefully with greater force at the graduation this weekend, it is difficult not to address the seniors in everything one says at this time of year. While they are undoubtedly eager to partake in the banquet, pull off their prank, attend the picnic, don their robes, and receive their degrees, it is harder for those of us who have been inspired, frustrated, and encouraged by them over the years watch as they clear out their lockers and make their final preparations to be done with Ridgeview. Describing all of this as ‘bittersweet’ is patently cliché.

When one considers all that has gone into a year and the finite number that any of us are granted, time trips by almost unmercifully. We are very near the end, and those of us who teach here are well aware that what we do does not bear immediate fruit. The realization of what you have achieved here, whether in the past year, or over the past thirteen, will likely not sink in for some time to come. Nevertheless, I hope that when it does become clear what you have accomplished, what this place and these people have attempted to do for you, you will look back upon these years wistfully and with some measure of gratitude.

As much as you long for summer, I hope that you have enjoyed the year. If you have not, unfortunately, you have only yourselves to blame since happiness is largely a matter of attitude. It is easy to disregard that, to claim that circumstances beyond our control write our destiny, but there are seniors here who we will celebrate this evening and tomorrow afternoon who have demonstrated the verity of the Heraclitus’ assertion that character is destiny, and of Churchill’s that “attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” Epictetus is right, of course, and it is our attitude towards events that we can control, not the events themselves. I am appreciative to all of the students, some of whom have endured things that it seems only a thoroughly unjust world would force them to endure. In so enduring, to those of us who are observant, patient, curious, self-examining – their perseverance and endurance show us what we might be and the possibility of surmounting all that is placed before us. They become our ablest teachers.

For all of those who have been recognized, and for all of those who struggled without being acknowledged, I appreciate you for being good mentors to one another, for carrying yourselves with dignity and self-respect; for looking after your peers, and for thinking of others more than yourselves. I am grateful to you for setting yourself to something difficult, challenging, and in many ways, something unforgiving. Ridgeview’s curriculum, its manner of study, the introspection it requires, the undiluted realism that it asks us to encounter the world with – none of these are perfectly synchronous with the mercuriality of one’s teenage years. That you do as well as you do would be commendable in itself; that you often do exceptionally well in this, speaks volumes about the quality of your character. So, to all of you, thank you for being here and for persisting in hard work at a turbulent time in your young lives.

Our final student of the quarter for the year is a young man of many abilities. Others have known him far better than I have, but they have been clear in their praises. As a singer, as an athlete, as a friend. I have tried to think of some instance in which I heard someone say something disparaging about him, or allude to some dirt they might have on him, and I can think of nothing. His senior thesis made me think about attention, focus, and flow for the past month, and I appreciate his congeniality, affability, and good cheer. Please join me in congratulating Mr. Logan Broedner.

The faculty have met and thought hard about the students we would like to acknowledge with this year’s character awards. These meetings with the faculty are always interesting in that each of us has had a slightly different relationship with any given student. None of us has all of the pieces, and even were we to have all the pieces, our judgment would hardly be infallible. Nevertheless, our student’s character is essential to our ability to sustain and propagate Ridgeview’s unique culture. Neither can our classrooms look like they do nor our conversations proceed as they do if this culture is not maintained. Consequently, it is a matter of some importance to us to take a moment and acknowledge the moral stamina of some of our students in contributing to a positive culture.

First, I would like to acknowledge a young man who has consistently been a good man. He has, of course, done well. Were this all he had done, his tenure here would be unremarkable and merit only mention in passim. Instead, I think that he has endeavored to be conspicuously moral. That is, he was aware of himself and his actions, as well as the events that took place around him, and scrutinized them for their ethical significance. While he and I have disagreed a couple of times, my opinion of him has not been diminished by these disagreements because of the way he comported himself. It is obvious that he takes himself and others seriously, that he approaches life with optimistic good cheer, and attempts to be good in all that he does, whether that is being a friend or a conscientious student. This first of this year’s character awards goes to George Smith.

Second, I would like to acknowledge a young woman whose enthusiasm has rarely waned. Like George, she seemed conscious of what she was doing and how she could be perceived in each moment. Some would see in this a falseness, but I think that we ought to have a regard for whether we are endeavoring to be our best selves, even if sometimes we have to pretend until it takes a deeper hold of us. As Kurt Vonnegut wrote in Mother Night, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” Would we preference the company of the malcontent because they were authentic over the company of the person who was trying hard to be better amidst the chaotic swirl of circumstances inclining one to the contrary? I think that others are often given the courage to see the world as it can be by those pretending that it already is. If it is pretense, I hope that it is contagious and that we are all emboldened to be better by it. This is what I have seen in this young woman, and it is for this reason that the second of this year’s character awards goes to Grace Westfall.

Ridgeview’s unabridged Latin credo is neque popularitati neque utilitati at veritati virtutique dedicatum. Translated into English, this means, “Dedicated not to popularity or utility, but to truth and virtue.” Herein, ‘dedicated’ does not have a commemorative sense. Instead, it expresses what individuals working and studying at Ridgeview are dedicating their lives to. These lives are not dedicated to what is popular, because what is popular is so rarely good. Neither is what is popular typically permanent; evanescence is almost a requisite condition of popularity, and Ridgeview is a celebration of permanent things. Moreover, an education chosen purely for practical or utilitarian ends, lacks the epistemological humility to be the one best suited to arranging human affairs, securing liberty, answering the accursed questions, or allowing individuals to develop their quiddities and explore the fullness of their potential. By contrast, we acknowledge that we are at work with those for whom this time may be the last time wherein every choice need not be determined according to strict economic calculations. This education, because it is holistic, must consider the totality of the person and not merely his role as a student. This pedagogy concerns not only how information is communicated, but in ascertaining what manner of living is best. It is an education that inculcates in people an interest in truth, and as such, acculturates them in a disposition anathema to apathy and relativism. It aims to produce people accountable to virtue who reject the solipsistic supposition that such ideas originate within them solely as a result of their own genius. Ridgeview is, as much by its rejection of popularity and utility as by its embrace of truth and virtue, committed to remaining a haven for those genuine individuals who want an education corresponding to their condition as such.

Ridgeview is an inadvertently countercultural institution. It is not idiosyncratic or eccentric for the sake of appearing different, but because we adhere to traditions and believe that education ought to convey a comprehension of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, Ridgeview appears out of step with society at large. While greater educational choice has resulted in an explosion of gimmicky curricula, Ridgeview has as the author of its curriculum the steady erosive power of time. What remains true or worthy of our contemplation after centuries, remains worth teaching. We persist in a belief that given a properly developed historical imagination, history can teach powerful lessons. We believe that there are forms of authority external to ourselves, and that it is foolish as well as dangerous to disparage religious conviction. We believe that virtues trump values, that there is a comprehensible order in the world, and that reason gets us a long way, but not all the way. We believe that we are obliged to treat one another as ends and not as means, and that our thoughtful and humane participation in the present determines our future.

This form of education is possible only by the combined and coordinated efforts of parents, teachers, and students. At base, the parent’s role in this is to behave paternally and support the style and manner of instruction they have chosen for their child. The teacher is expected to dress, speak, and conduct himself in a manner that shows that being here is a calling and not simply a vocation. The student must bring good character, curiosity, initiative, and work ethic. Each of these constituencies must have conversation as a common interest. Each must want Ridgeview to become the public square, a place of both study and deliberation, that exists for everyone’s edification. Each must be committed and contribute unabashedly to the greater public good. It is not enough for the administration or the faculty to endorse these goals – the community must live by them. We must all reject utilitarianism as an unsuitable end of education since despite our best laid plans, we cannot know what we will be. We may be a son, daughter, brother, sister, husband, wife, father, mother, but these are circumstantial roles. Whether we are the best version of ourselves in any of these roles is determined by how we commingle knowledge with experience, and the manner in which we cultivate our life with some measure of wisdom. Wisdom is about how we will live, and how we will live is a more pressing concern than the comparatively narrow concern of how we will make our money. While money is necessary, and capable of great good, we must be prepared to live a good life whether riches come to us or not. We must develop the capacity to balance overlapping areas of our lives within the finite framework time and mortality impose. The intellectual, social, physical, spiritual, and mental aspects must all be fed, and what we feed these different dimensions of our lives informs our capacity for fulfillment, contentment, and Eudaimonia.

The cultivation of this community depends upon our not recklessly pursuing an ever-larger enrollment. There is a size beyond which we cannot do what we do. Our goals require a measure of intimacy. Instead of pursuing greater numbers, we pursue greater purpose. Those whom we are most desirous of, are those who understand clearest and are most grateful of what we offer. People who can be mindful, conscientious, appreciative, deliberative, considerate, respectful. These qualities are the precursors of wisdom, and the necessities of paternalism. That we insist on these, and eschew shallowness, pettiness, self-entitlement, apathy, pretentiousness, and ingratitude focuses us on our commitment to the development of both intellect and character, but always of character before intellect.

In this endeavor, we are ever conscious of posterity. Institutionally speaking, we do not live for today. The seeds we plant in education take time to yield the desired fruit, and we know that those with whom we work are not yet who they will finally be. Such a recognition calls for compassion and leniency, as well as the humility to acknowledge that there is much about our endeavor that is unknowable. Nevertheless, Ridgeview must have as its primary constituency people interested in leading a life of the mind. Those adults who are held up as models must live lives worthy of emulation. Each of us must have a regard for his surroundings. Where we study and what we write on our walls informs the culture we immerse ourselves in. The art we look at, the music we listen to, the books we read, the people we befriend – all of this is our education, and no part of it is insignificant. It is because of this that a vigilant regard for truth and virtue is at all times and in all things pertinent, and it is for this reason, that Ridgeview chooses these to which to dedicate all of its considerable efforts.

D. Anderson
Principal
Ridgeview Classical Schools

Thank you for coming this evening. It is easy to skip these types of events as our students are safely enrolled, the Board is safely seated, and our school safely re-chartered. God willing, the school will still be here on Monday when we drop off our children. I do not wish to heighten anxieties by contradicting any of this. There are, however, considerations about our school’s present and future, as well as concerns that extend beyond Stuart and Lemay.

I begin by acknowledging our good fortune. We have much to be appreciative of. For instance, Mrs. Calvert, Mr. and Mrs. Carvalho, and the many faculty who helped plan and organize the back-to-school camping trips for all our upper-school students. While a blazing fire and a night beneath the stars can be romanticized, there is little that is romantic about the position of school nurse, who nevertheless tends to minor wounds, dries countless eyes, takes temperatures, and hands out innumerable ice packs. Neither is there much glory or acknowledgement for the janitor’s Sisyphean endeavors whereby he carefully mops a section of floor only to watch hundreds of muddy shoes march across it as he nears the end of his task. Neither do our lunch monitors or TAs get the credit they deserve, much less the remuneration; yet, our children see tremendous kindness from them on a daily basis. The music teachers, Mr. Davis, Mrs. Cowan, Mrs. Faust-Frodl, and Mrs. Nichols, work with bashful children and bring out qualities in them that might have remained hidden for a lifetime. There are the ladies at our front desk who get sneered at by unpleasant people, but who, with an upturned heart, manage to smile at the sneerer’s child. We have elementary teachers who patiently wait until the last child is picked up, and who know, by this time of year, every vehicle, parent, and nanny. There are the upper-school faculty who have waded through hundreds of pages of student writing, marking every passage and every grammatical error, in the hope that the next draft will be a little less impoverished. We are blessed with wonderful elementary teachers who create conditions in which learning is possible and make available knowledge worth knowing. We have teachers with such a high reputation that our parents fear for their retirement, and we have teachers like Mrs. Schmidberger who hold themselves to high standards with projects like Veritas. We have parents who each morning who come to read with children, and in so doing, help to bestow the gift of literacy and all the treasures that attend it. We have a wonderful staff in the Resource Room and the Business Office who have had to work some days without heating or cooling or much appreciation. They have worked early and they have worked late in order to ensure everything carried on smoothly. We have an administrative team that have stepped up on more than a handful of occasions to save an event, or to go above and beyond in order to make someone else’s life easier. And, we have parents who show up to book groups on a weekly basis to do some important, but often difficult reading. Our last book, Jonathan Swift’s A Tale of a Tub, was by far the most vexing. Nevertheless, Zak Smith, Ian Rutherford, Alexandra Hobaugh, Kristina Menon, Kelly Trosper, and Genevieve Rives dutifully showed up and made what had been a frustrating read into a productive discussion. I am profoundly indebted to all of these people, and I am indebted to our Board of Directors for having given Ridgeview a marvelously stable foundation on which the rest of us are able to do our good work.

I would like to thank all of you who show up each morning, endure our parking lot, and provide us with a good reason to do what we do. The good news is that there is much that we are doing exceptionally well. Ridgeview has sometimes been regarded as ‘just’ a humanities school, which is attributable to a fading segment of the population who understand what a liberal arts education entails. In reality, Ridgeview has been exceptionally successful in mathematics, whether in Math Counts or the Colorado Math League. It has done well – even ranking nationally – in the High-School Science Bowl, and did tremendously well with its Middle-School Science Bowl team this year. In one ranking, Ridgeview even ranked higher as a STEM school than those who label themselves such a thing. Ridgeview’s students have done well in chess, with many state victories under their belt. We were impressive this year at the State Spelling Bee, at Mock Trial, in All-State Choir, All-State Orchestra, and the PSD Middle School Honor Orchestra. Our students have put on both a play and a musical every year since 2006. This year, seventy-one students were involved in our musical, The Mikado. We excelled in Mock Trial, and have appeared at state in four of the last five years. This year, we ranked ninth overall, and won two best witness awards thanks in large part to the help of Tom Martin, Karl Ayers, and Kristen Carvalho. Depending on which ranking one prefers, Ridgeview is either the top-ranked high school in Colorado or someplace in the top ten. The Class of 2017 collected a total of over $1.6 million in merit scholarships. Our high-school students earned 137 awards in the National Latin Exam, and for the first time, thanks to the efforts of Ms. Krause and Mr. Dahl, we sent five students to the Junior Classical League competition, and they earned a total of thirty ribbons between them. We have outperformed many schools with better resources and larger student bodies, but more importantly, our students are flourishing. We are also continuing to improve in our fundraising efforts, and I would be massively remiss were I not to acknowledge Amy Cohen and the other parent volunteers who helped to organize the Hoplite Hoedown. It was an extraordinary event, and our most successful ever. Also, because of Mr. Rhead’s efforts, we received a sizable grant from Otterbox that will help our students in engineering, programming, and robotics. Finally, another sizable grant from the Johnson-Hanson Foundation has made materials available for our students in the elementary that simply would not have been within our budget, and we extend our deep gratitude to them as well.

I would like to thank the parents who have made it to either or both of the new parent reading groups. These parents have met nearly every week since September to discuss some of the ideas central to Ridgeview’s curriculum. We have talked about shared inquiry and what is meant by Socratic discussion. We have worked through the ideas of numerous authors about what precisely is meant by classical education, looking at everyone from Dorothy Sayers and E.D. Hirsch to Eric Voegelin and Richard Livingstone. We have discussed virtue, and the ways in which it is different from values and the much-lamented values clarification programs. Here we have read from Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, and Cicero’s On Duties, and considered Claes Ryn’s notions of moral reality. We read about and discussed character, what it is and how to develop it. We looked at Kilpatrick’s Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right from Wrong, Lord Moulton’s Law and Manners, and C.S. Lewis’ Abolition of Man. We are now embarked on a longer discussion about patriotism and its place in education. In the monthly meetings, we are working our way through the Penguin Great Ideas series. Parents have read and discussed Marcus Aurelius, Augustine, Seneca, Montaigne, Thomas à Kempis, Swift, Machiavelli, and we are now set to explore Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and Rousseau’s Social Contract later this month. Each of these parents has related to me privately about how the readings have altered and improved the conversations they have had not only with their children, but with their spouses and friends. It is an incredible thing to feed the mind on these texts, and each of us becomes better through discourse. If we truly believe that this manner of education is best for our children, how can it not also be the case that it does us well? Our community is strengthened by having such people in it, and I would heartily encourage you to join our circle wherein we are all students of one another’s.

Perhaps most incredible about Ridgeview’s accomplishments are that they have been achieved against a dreary backdrop, which is the state of education nationally and the state of educational choice and charter schools within Colorado. In a climate of disastrous educational schools, mills that turn out empty educational jargon, and even undergraduate programs that produce students who in many instances read at a lower level upon exiting than they did upon entering, finding teachers competent to teach in a school such as Ridgeview is a unique challenge. Too frequently, those who might have made for inspiring teachers either burn out within a few years or choose never to enter the profession to begin with. We live in a society in which nearly everybody wants for their child to have a great teacher, and in which nearly nobody wants for their child to become a teacher. If we look at Ridgeview’s challenges, among its greatest is that we need faculty who live by and model a noble creed, and we are forced to find them in a society that scoffs at creeds. We need teachers who do not simply have the work ethic to show up each day, but who feel as though they are answering their calling. We need teachers who hold high standards for themselves and their students in an age of mediocrity. We need people of hope in an age of apathy, and people for whom, self-examination is a way of living, when most the rest of the culture cannot distinguish it from self-centeredness. Against all of this, we see Ridgeview’s greatest asset, its rigorous curriculum and character development, as also its greatest liability. Ridgeview’s real nemesis is the relative ease of every other program with which it competes for students. At the most impressionable age, students are given the choice between doing what is easy and doing what is difficult, and they will for the most part make predictable choices, which makes those students who remain evermore impressive.

All of this is to say that it is hard – not that it is hopeless. Our community may be small, but it is not the case that Ridgeview stands alone upon the precipice. There is interest in the type of life we describe and teach about, and there is scattered evidence for this across the country and across the globe. It astounds me that there are thirty-four Amazon customers who thought it worth their time to write a review of Dostoevsky’s The Adolescent, or twenty-nine that wrote reviews of Hesiod’s still more obscure Theogony and Works and Days. Add to this the number of people subscribing to the Times Literary Supplement, the Claremont Review of Books, Literary Review, the New Criterion, and any number of other outstanding periodicals. How many challenging books remain in print? How many Ted Talks or podcasts can we find on an interesting topic? How many people are taking up a new language or purchasing books and videos from the Great Courses catalogue to remedy some perceived deficit in their learning? How many patrons of museums or orchestras? How many people writing a blog about trying to understand or better appreciate a work of art or music? A former student once told me, at a moment in which she was fearful she would not find a community like Ridgeview’s that, “Ridgeview had prepared her for a world that did not exist.” This community may be in diaspora, but it exists. There are curious people with inquiring and capable minds seeking out knowledge, not for its novelty, but for itself. It is for us to find them and the opportunities for conversation are manifold. Endless discussion may be had with which we can pass what leisure we have in this world with benefit and pleasure. Ridgeview’s contribution to the world is that it adds to this stock, and that many will benefit by our efforts who know not even our school’s name.

Towards these ends, Ridgeview has made numerous improvements. The addition of weekly and monthly parent reading groups, the periodic meetings with Student Council and Student Ambassadors to answer questions and put down rumors, and the fine tuning of the senior thesis project have all sought to remain answerable to our first principles in their own way. A larger percentage of our parents understand the intent and aims of a liberal arts education, our students better understand what it is that underlies the decisions we make as a faculty and an administration, and the seniors hopefully produce a more contemplative thesis. Our media presence, whether through our website or our social media platforms, has improved tremendously, and we will continue to work to bring due attention to our students’ achievements and accolades. In the coming months, we will be working to produce the second volume of the Ridgeview Reader, a curriculum sequence detailing the kaleidoscopic variety of topics studied at Ridgeview, and the publication of a prospectus for students interested in enrolling at Ridgeview. We will emphasize in these documents that though Ridgeview enrolls nearly 800 students, we are a school that strives to continue providing mentorship and instruction that feels intimate and personal. Mr. Rhead will continue to roll out an impressive array of technology courses in programming, robotics, and engineering. We will offer AP Biology, Chemistry, Physics: Mechanics, Physics: Electricity and Magnetism, Statistics, Computer Science A, Calculus AB, Environmental Science, and Computer Science: Principles. Additionally, we will continue growing the number of our faculty who are CU Succeed certified so that juniors and seniors will be able to obtain CU credit for an increasing number of interesting courses.

There is, then, this world before us, and there is this frame of mind, or inner life, that we can come to discover as a sort of metaphysical home. It is not, however, everyone’s vision of what education ought to be. There are those for whom the person is not an end, but the means of animating some vast machinery in which the individual is only dimly aware of his consciousness. His is a life not fit to live in our sense of living a fulfilled life, but rather of a mind fit to be trained in how to work, produce, and consume. He is a man naked to the ambitions of others. Frighteningly and tellingly, when we look at our judges, legislators, and educational mandarins at either the state or federal levels, the story of educational choice takes a disconcerting direction. Choice, the instrument of freedom, is perverted. We see talk about Common Core, now adopted, now rejected, and only to be replaced by something the people comprehend less than what came before. We have corporations competing for our student’s data, and a hundred McCharters opening each year hoping to cash in on parent’s fears that their children will not amount to anything. We have workforce programs that are the enemies of education as the method by which we convey knowledge. Those documents that were supposed to protect us, such as the Colorado Charter Schools Act, could not withstand the cleverness of legislators and lawyers who are so much like the learned brother in Swift’s Tale of a Tub. In this story, three brothers are gifted three coats by their father along with a will that states how they are to take proper care of them. One of the rules is that they are not to adorn them, but shoulder-knots become very fashionable, and so after a handful of years the brothers come together to examine the will to see if there is a way they might not justify so adorning their coats. As there is nothing in the will that would justify this, two of the brothers grow forlorn. “After much Thought, one of the Brothers who happened to be more Book-learned than the other two, said he had found an Expedient. ‘Tis true, said he, there is nothing here in this Will, totidem verbis [in so many words], making mention of Shoulder-knots, but I dare conjecture, we may find them inclusive, or totidem syllabis [in so many syllables].” So, of course, they do, and they ‘find’ many more ways to alter the document to accommodate what is en vogue. So it is with our rights as regards education. They shift with the political winds, and such unsteady rights are hard to distinguish from despotism, the heart of which is always arbitrariness.

In thinking about this issue of education and freedom, it has been remarkable to note the parallels between what we are seeing here and what other commentators like Václav Havel in Czechoslovakia and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn noted about totalitarian regimes. Havel, for instance, wrote that:

“Between the aims of the post-totalitarian system and the aims of life there is a yawning abyss: while life, in its essence, moves toward plurality, diversity, independent self-constitution, and self- organization, in short, toward the fulfillment of its own freedom, the post-totalitarian system demands conformity, uniformity, and discipline.”

Genuine educational choice produces plurality, diversity, self-organization; standardized systems of education produce conformity, uniformity, and discipline. They do not do so because people choose them with a full awareness of what they choose; instead, there is a coercion that is admittedly subtler than what occurs under totalitarian regimes. It is through vague, numerous, and complicated laws that the average citizen is so overburdened by trying to make sense of the whole mess that they find it easier to accept the services of the State – the bus, the lunch, the ‘free’ education, and the game on Friday night. Havel continues in describing this ‘freedom’ in the totalitarian state by writing that,

“This is why life in the system is so thoroughly permeated with hypocrisy and lies: government by bureaucracy is called popular government; the working class is enslaved in the name of the working class; the complete degradation of the individual is presented as his ultimate liberation; depriving people of information is called making it available; the use of power to manipulate is called the public control of power, and the arbitrary abuse of power is called observing the legal code; the repression of culture is called its development; the expansion of imperial influence is presented as support for the oppressed; the lack of free expression becomes the highest form of freedom; farcical elections become the highest form of democracy; banning independent thought becomes the most scientific of world views; military occupation becomes fraternal assistance.”

How similar does some of this seem in the efforts towards greater and greater political correctness that are imposed by severe and even crippling punishments for those who refuse to comply? In 1978, in a lecture at Harvard, Solzhenitsyn said of the West,

“Every citizen has been granted the desired freedom and material goods in such quantity and of such quality as to guarantee in theory the achievement of happiness – in the morally inferior sense of the word which has come into being during those same decades. In the process, however, one psychological detail has been overlooked: the constant desire to have still more things and a still better life and the struggle to attain them imprint many Western faces with worry and even depression, though it is customary to conceal such feelings. Active and tense competition fills all human thoughts without opening a way to free spiritual development.”

Our comfort in material things, which has been no minor accomplishment, has created a situation in which we overlook other aspects of our development. That schools are complicit in this perpetuation of a false happiness, is a genuine threat to the types of students we can produce and the type of the world they will inherit. In looking forward, these types of challenges – cultural and political – are for our community, and ultimately our children to surmount. Our school, while it is in good standing, survives, develops, and progresses only with the active interest and involvement of its community. I urge you all to find ways great and small to be involved with Ridgeview, and for all of you who have given so much of your time, I thank you for the opportunity to serve a place that puts first principles first.

The following entry is guest authored by Kelsey Niichel, Class of 2011.

Since graduating from Ridgeview, it has come as a surprise to me to see how many people live an “unexamined life,” as Socrates would call it. Much of my interaction with my fellow man has been superficial, at best, which has left me sometimes wondering if the Senior Thesis really does matter. In revisiting my own presentation, I have come to the conclusion that yes, it still does.

As a senior, the question posed, “what is the good life?” not only forced our young minds to wrestle with moral issues, but relationships, spirituality, and other dimensions of the human experience. My thesis was centered around a constant interplay between good and evil, the desire to do what is right versus the desire to do what is easy. I hypothesized that man really has two natures that are constantly at war, much like Jekyll and Hyde or Gollum and Smeagol (the two examples that I drew most heavily upon). The achievement of the good life, for me, was found in chasing the “right” option, choosing the moral high ground, when it presented itself, and in continuing to do so as to make it a lifelong habit. While this seems easy in theory, my own personal experiences show that it is not so. I have, since graduation, experienced dark periods in my life, both emotionally and morally. I subsequently had to make a conscious decision to stop choosing what was easy or what felt good, and to choose what was the absolute good. I specifically remember my parents referencing my thesis when I would do something particularly wrong or bad.

The strengths of my personal thesis can be found when presented with a moral challenge, but it had left me woefully unprepared to deal with adult relationships, or other aspects of modern life such as money or career building. I do believe though, that by allowing students on the brink of adulthood to answer these questions of morality, it allows them to build an identity that will carry through to other aspects of their lives. They have examples of healthy and unhealthy human interaction within the books they read, and ultimately they have the freedom to act however they choose and face the consequences of those actions. This freedom gives the Ridgeview student a depth of character that is not often found elsewhere.

This freedom also allows the student to amend their thesis, footnote it, if you will, when they are faced with certain challenges or scenarios. Herein lies the virtue of presenting the thesis to a hungry audience. One of the most difficult questions that I have had to grapple with, both during my presentation and as an individual is the measure of what is right and wrong and to whom can we look for examples. I was challenged to define a higher power that helps us determine. Some look to moral philosophy, while others look to religion and spirituality. I recently had an interaction with a philosophy student (not a Ridgeview graduate) that centered around this question, and I was pleased to find that my musings during the process of writing this thesis resurfaced. While I still hold that there are absolutes, I would venture to say that there is much more gray area in the field of morality than I previously thought. The relevance of my thesis though has come through again recently as I begin my career in medicine, and will be forced to deal with ethical dilemmas that have lasting consequences.

In conclusion, and in speaking to the students directly, the thesis still matters because it allows you two main advantages over the general population. First, it allows you to examine yourselves in a way that is often forgotten. You have this opportunity to define for yourselves what is beautiful, right and true. It allows you to become an individual. Secondly, it allows for personal growth. As a senior, you have these examples of how to act and how not to act, and yet ultimately the choice is yours. You will come across situations for which you have no answer. You will have questions posed to you to which you cannot answer. In the face of this uncertainty, don’t be afraid to be wrong. Don’t be afraid of not having the answers. Ridgeview’s senior thesis gives you a foundation for your beliefs, and it is just that – a foundation. Not the entirety of your life, not the entirety of human experience. You will learn and grow through personal experience just as much, if not more so, than you have in the halls of Ridgeview. However, the foundation is the most important part of a house, and your educational foundation serves as the most important beginning to life as a thoughtful, moral, engaged adult. This foundation is why the senior thesis still matters.

One of the greatest things about receiving a liberal arts education is our freedom to explore different disciplines. Of course, as our school focuses on a classical education, our curriculum focuses on humanities classes, deeply exploring the fields of literature and history. At the beginning of high school, I was an almost exclusively humanities-driven student; now in my senior year, I have realized that I have started to gravitate more towards the social sciences and sciences. Luckily, the core classes and electives Ridgeview offers has allowed me to indulge my varied interests throughout the past four years of high school. Here is what my schedule and a day in my life at Ridgeview looks like:

7:30am: Honors Modern Literature with Mr. Hild: this year we have discussed novels such as Crime and Punishment and Heart of Darkness, but now that we have finished with our final text, we are delving into thesis discussions on things such as beauty and morality.

8:10am: Honors Modern European History with Mr. Herndon: we began the year learning about the French Revolution, and now we have just finished learning about Otto von Bismarck.

9:00am: American Capstone with Mr. Herndon: this class, a one semester-long seminar, began where we left off in American History our junior year, and we are currently discussing the final year of World War I.

9:40am: Latin VI with Mr. T Smith: after years of reading authentic ancient literature, Mr. Smith has instituted a new program throughout the school where we balance our reading of texts with learning how to speak the language.

10:30am: At this point in the morning, I go to a study hall where I usually devote my time to working on thesis drafts; a lot of the time, if the weather allows, we go outside by R2 to work, so this is a really nice break in the day to get some fresh air and sun. (I don’t have a lunch because my schedule is so busy so I usually eat during this time).

11:10am: AP Environmental Science with Ms. Durrell: this class quickly became one of my favorites. After a general introduction to earth science, we learned about population economics and world health. Now, after several months of discussing air pollution, water quality, land use, and energy resources, we are about to being our final unit on Ecology, a topic about which I am very eager to learn.

12:00pm: Social Dance with Mr. Halseide: I took this class freshman year as well. At the beginning of the year, we refreshed our knowledge of swing dancing (a Ridgeview tradition and so much fun!), and we are now focusing on salsa dancing.

12:30pm: Independent Study German Literature with Mr. Hild: this is my third year taking German, but because the class is offered at the same time as my Latin class (if you can’t tell already, I love languages), Mr. Hild graciously opted to meet with me during my lunch period so that we can work one-on-one reading German texts and developing my speaking abilities.

1:05pm: TAing for Dr. Bevill’s seventh grade science and AP Chemistry classes: after taking AP Chemistry with Dr. Bevill last year, I wanted to keep working with her, so I decided to become her teaching assistant. I prepare labs, grade assignments, and assist during laboratory experiments.

1:50pm: AP Statistics with Dr. Freese: this year’s math class has really made me enjoy math more than I have in the past. We have learned about various statistical methods and tests, and ways in which to conduct experiments on populations and samples.

2:30pm: Now that Madrigals is over, my afternoon study halls are usually taken up by Student Council, Prom Committee, or senior class meetings.

So that’s a day in my life at Ridgeview!

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