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.

A remarkable holiday is now before us, and it is one that speaks to our sense of American exceptionalism in a way few holidays do. The event we have mythologized and romanticized occurred in 1621 and lasted for three days as a group of English Dissenters and Wampanoag Indians came together for a great feast. The idea of a thanksgiving was not new to them. Thanksgivings were days of prayer thanking God for blessings before they were days of feasting. Our Thanksgiving only took on its political and legal form in 1863 when Abraham Lincoln decreed it in the midst of the Civil War. He was responding to a plea from Sarah Josepha Hale, the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, who had petitioned a long string of presidents to create a single, national day of thanks. President Lincoln, unlike his predecessors, did so in quick order and his secretary of state, William H. Seward, wrote the proclamation on Lincoln’s behalf. Seward’s proclamation was as follows:

“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”

I would encourage all of us to embrace Thanksgiving and to make it real within our homes this year. It can be a day on which we unashamedly realize our most Rockwellian sentiments, and allow our nostalgia to triumph. It can be a day on which political and familial squabbles subside long enough for us to breathe freely of the crisp autumn air, to take in the scents of a home-cooked meal, to converse with neighbors and old friends and delight in our children, our health, and our good fortune.

The holiday will be celebrated in different ways of course: some will watch the parade or the game on television, or worship, or volunteer; but, it is likely that each of us has something to be thankful for and someone to thank for it. Take the time to thank them. Set aside your pride and fears of awkwardness. Demonstrate to others that you acknowledge you would be less if it were not for them. Make room in your heart, if not your home, for those who have less, and give them cause to give thanks as well.

These moments are so scarce that it gives us all the more reason to mark them well and make them the bearers of cherished memories. The type of day you have is up to you. Eat too much, drag out the board games and the cards; throw the football in the yard until you fingers are numb with cold, and the let the young ones play in the piles of leaves. Build a fire, grab an old novel, put up your feet, and rejoice in the material and immaterial abundance by which you are surrounded.

As you pinch yourself awake to claim that final piece of pie, look to the future and know that it is also a day of hope. It is a hope, easily mocked, but heartfelt nonetheless, that there will yet be more to be thankful for.

Enjoy your turkey, your family, and wine in good cheer and good company. Realize the myth and revel in gratitude, charity, and hope.

D. Anderson
Principal
Ridgeview Classical Schools

I present you with a short story to say thank you for efforts in the 1st Quarter.

Once upon a time, as all stories go, there were two boys named Jack and James. Jack was a clever young lad and smart as a whip. But he suffered from one fatal flaw: he did not know himself. He could adopt any argument with ease and defend any side, moral or not. But if asked what he believed, all he could do was sit there and point out the strengths and weaknesses of either option until the teacher forgot the original question and praised Jack for his analysis of each side. Jack did not know himself and saw no need to do so.

James, on the other hand, was not a smart boy. He could be rather thick and was so regularly disarmed in discussions that he often refused to talk. But the few times he did not remain silent, it was to champion a moral truth he did not know how to defend. In many ways, he was the opposite of Jack as he knew exactly what he believed, but could never find the words to say why or how. James simply knew right was right and wrong was wrong. And as long as he felt secure in his beliefs of right and wrong, James also never felt the need to better defend his stance.

Neither Jack nor James could find a way to learn from the other and saw no need to either. Not until a new teacher came to the school one day. He was a kind old man by the name of Mr. Dawson, chock full of information and possessing the patience of a saint. But his main characteristic was that he was difficult.

Both Jack and James found him difficult for different reasons. For Jack, Mr. Dawson always asked for his opinion on a matter and refused to be taken in by Jack’s stalling. For James, Mr. Dawson expected as much out of him as any other student, not a common occurrence when every other teacher had given up. Eventually, both boys became frustrated and went to Mr. Dawson, demanding he explain himself. When Mr. Dawson had heard both of their complaints, he simply smiled and explained:

“I admit I have pushed you both. But it is simply because I see great potential in both of you. Jack, you are a force to be reckoned with in debate, but skill means little in life if you have no beliefs to defend in it. James, you are stubborn and will stand with your beliefs and virtues to the grave. But belief also means little if you cannot defend it against naysayers. Both of you could continue to exist in this fashion with no further improvement and many do. But it is my goal to teach you how to live. You both can be great men. But now, it is my job to teach you and push you to become them.”

And so Mr. Dawson did. James and Jack began to read voraciously, studying everything they could lay their hands on and, with Mr. Dawson’s advice and guidance, both boys knew who they were, what they believed, and how to defend it proudly.

In many ways, Mr. Dawson’s goal is exactly that of Ridgeview teachers who do not teach a student what to think, but how to think and discover who he is in the process. It is an arduous process, but teachers are patient and in the end, their efforts are rewarded with students ready to face the world and its challenges. For preparing us, we thank you. For your efforts in 1st Quarter, we are grateful.

One of the first seventh grade history lectures Mr. Busek presents is the “Goodness versus Greatness” discussion. After delving into definitions of each word, it becomes evident to the newly-minted middle school students that goodness requires virtue whereas greatness entails prominence. The rest of the year and even all subsequent curriculum,  hinges on students’ understanding of this quintessential principle of the liberal arts.

The distinction, of course, is not always black and white. Gray hues exist between ends and means, beliefs and reality. Do the ends ever justify the means? Is something more evil when we know it is evil, or when we believe it is right? Is there such thing as the lesser of two evils, and to what extent does that mitigate blame, if at all? How do immoral choices affect a man’s general goodness, and to what extent? What is forgivable? How much should we separate a man’s public life from his private life?

Although without obvious answer, each of these questions re-frames every discussion students have at Ridgeview. Misalignment of students’ perspectives on these aspects of goodness informs every conversation and disagreement in every history and literature class, culminating in a senior thesis that dares to answer “What is the good life?”

The classical education dares to lift up ideals like areté, pietàs, virtus, and gravitas,  and yet also demands that we see our heroes for who they are rather than who we would have them be.

The most elementary reading of the Iliad focuses on the heroism of Achilles, while a more advanced understanding reveals a lazy, lustful demigod who serves his own pride and vengeance. His greatness becomes muddied by his immorality. But, the classical education does not rest on mere myth, which is why we are so dedicated to studying the founding fathers. Again, the introduction of heroes who accomplished so much requires glossing over certain flaws. The most basic understanding of these men must be what they have accomplished, but a more mature education must acknowledge Washington’s slaves and Franklin’s debauchery. Thus, the boundaries between goodness and greatness become not just distant matters of heroism, but fundamental challenges of humanity.

Although these distinctions seem obviousconclusions that could be drawn from a half-conscious analysis of Hollywoodwisdom comes in the ability to simultaneously respect greatness and scrutinize goodness, to have a proper reverence without misguided worship.

A successful liberal arts education produces seekers of “the good” who witness ubiquitous moral imperfection without accepting ethical ambiguity. Ridgeview is dedicated to such an education.

 

Friday October 20th was the last day of first quarter! We made it this far!

The first few weeks of school are usually filled with entertaining conversations about fun summer happenings. There are always stories of the trips students and their families enjoyed. Memories of hiking and camping run through students’ minds. Friends that were not able to see each other often catch up. A new energy radiates from the school. Most students are refreshed and ready to face another school year.

In the past, many students complained about homework or school. Those students would not attend fun events like Back to the Barracks or Homecoming. If they did, they would only point out the flaws and complain about how “lame” it was compared to other schools’ events. Those students created a negative atmosphere that clashed with the energy of the other students.  

This year is dramatically different. Even though the classes are smaller and the hallways are a bit easier to get through, the positive energy from the students is encouraging. Most of the students who carried around an air of contempt left and took their negativity with them. The students who remain are happy and excited to be here.

As you walk into a classroom or club meeting, you can tell the students want to be there. They didn’t sign up because of the title or addition to their résumé. The students participating genuinely want to learn and get as much as they can from “the Ridgeview experience.” This year, many more students are participating in activities they normally would not have. Not only are students joining clubs that new teachers created, but students are involving themselves with past clubs or committees.  

School spirit has also increased. This was evident during Spirit Week. Many students dressed up and enjoyed seeing each other’s crazy costumes. 

Attendance at events has also increased. Personally, I have heard mostly positive feedback from people about events like Back to the Barracks, Homecoming, the Senior Host Freshman night, and even the fall concerts.  

First quarter was a success. The new teachers have integrated themselves well. The students have stayed positive and have kept open minds.

At the beginning of this school year, there were a lot of unknowns. People were not sure how well the year would go. First quarter has shown that Ridgeview is better than ever and can continue to thrive!

Is this really the end of First Quarter? Agh! Here’s a poem, dedicated to all over-caffeinated, stressed-out Ridgeview students, past, present, and future:

In these final hours as grades are calculated
And I struggle to finish too many essays
And print and turn them in on time
I feel a bit like I’m going mad
From lack of sleep and far too much caffeine.
I know I should prioritize
But everything must be done and in
By three o’clock (or fifteen hundred)
And extensions aren’t an option anymore.
So I grit my teeth in a manic smile
And make another pot of coffee
Turning back to the well-worn keys
To pound out yet another paragraph,
Reminding myself that I’ve done this before
And that there will be an end.
As soon as these last few pages are written
And those last ten tests are taken
Then I will go to bed at a godly hour
And hopefully cut back on the coffee…
And let my mind recover from the strain,
And give my poor keyboard a well-deserved rest.

Happy end of First Quarter, everyone!

The week before Ridgeview’s Homecoming dance is known as Spirit Week. This year that week was October 9th-13th. For students, this meant that there was not only an opportunity to dress as we otherwise wouldn’t, but also a chance to bond with each other and get a good laugh when our classmates wore ridiculous fashion or looked like they were 80 years old.

This year, Monday’s theme was Character Day. Students were dressed as their favorite character from the Ridgeview curriculum.

Tuesday’s theme was Fashion Disaster Day. Students came to school with the worst fashion possible (this time we all had an excuse for it).

Wednesday’s theme was Decades Day and students came dressed from the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s as hippies, disco dancers, and hip hop kings and queens.

On Thursday, students raided their grandparent’s closet to look like old people for Grandparents Day.

Finally, on Friday, we celebrated our Ridgeview Spirit Day in blue and gold. We ended the day with a pep rally before our Homecoming game.

We have spent the week preparing for Homecoming and getting excited for it. However, we must not forget the more important aspect of Spirit Week. Spirit Week allows us all, as a student body, to band together and enjoy something. It allows us to show our pride for Ridgeview; it allows us to get excited, not only about Homecoming, but about our school as a whole.

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On Monday October 2, Ridgeview hosted First Responders’ Day.  This event is fun and knowledgeable for everyone. We were able to honor the people who dedicate their time and energy protecting others out of the goodness of their hearts.

During this event, the parking lot is filled with different vehicles that the first responders use. Unfortunately, this year it rained so there was no helicopter to explore. However, Homeland Security, the SWAT team, Poudre Fire Authority, Larimer County Dive Rescue Team, Colorado State Patrol, Sheriff, and others were all present.  The entire school community was able to visit each station and question the First Responders.

The first responders deserve to be honored because of the work they do. They are willing to risk themselves to save others; they sacrifice their time for others. These people do not go to work every day because it’s their job; these people genuinely love helping others and want to protect our community.

After questioning the first responders, I found that they all wanted to be at Ridgeview on this day in order to educate us in helping them. The more they share about staying safe, the more effective they will be in an emergency. The best way to prepare the next generation in safety is to bring their equipment and stories and to share them.

First responders are normal people. They have the same emotions as everyone else. They get angry and sad. They cry. They laugh. The only difference is their job. They are willing to do what most people would be afraid to do.  Most of the first responders had wanted to do these jobs since they were children. They always strove to help others. Because of their careers, they face different difficulties than the average person. They are faced with danger and fear, but persevere through it for the sake of others. First responders do not win every battle. Sometimes, lives are lost. It takes a different type of courage to continue in the face of tragedy, when the job becomes stressful and emotional. First responders do not let their fear and emotions interfere with their work, as they must serve as a leader when the average person is confused or frightened.

We honor these men and women because of the lives they lead.  They set an example for all us to follow. They demonstrate courage, integrity, perseverance, honesty, and other Ridgeview pillars. They represent what Ridgeview tries to teach its students each day.

The Spring is like a young maid
That does not know her mind,
The Summer is a tyrant
Of most ungracious kind;
The Autumn is an old friend
That pleases all he can,
And brings the bearded barley
To glad the heart of man.

This time of year makes it remarkably clear how fortunate we are to live in Colorful Colorado. It makes it much easier as a school to exhibit a life lived in harmony with the seasons. It is a life that celebrates not only our unique setting, but also the notion that the education of the parent body is no less crucial than that of the student body. While our efforts are often presented as academic, we recognize that education proper continues outside of the classroom and long after classes have concluded. We endeavor to be an institution that acculturates, ennobles, and edifies, and we are acutely conscious that our efforts to foster wisdom are tied to the experiences our students carry with them from all aspects of their lives.

Ridgeview is a community in earnest. The parent book groups, the Senior Lock-In, and Humanities Day are all expressions of this. Each demonstrates that an education can be had here by anyone humble enough to learn. For instance, the parents in the weekly book group have worked through understanding what is meant by shared inquiry, discussed Robert Hutchins’ sense of what the great conversation entails, and dissected E.D. Hirsch’s idea of cultural literacy. The monthly parent book group recently finished reading three short essays by Seneca, and it was clear from our conversation together that the most affecting of these essays was the one entitled On the Shortness of Life. Herein, Seneca discusses mankind’s continual longing for leisure, the benefits of a liberal education, and our general inability to make a short life feel as though it were long and fulfilled. Seneca writes that when we are looking forward to some type of amusement, we “want to leap over the days between. Any deferment of the longed-for event is tedious…Yet the time of the actual enjoyment is short and swift, and made much shorter through [our] own fault.” Continuing on later in the text, Seneca writes that, “They lose the day in waiting for the night, and the night in fearing the dawn.” It is a wonderful text made more wonderful by conversation among lively and intelligent people, but it also highlights why we should wish to be a school that lives its life in harmony with the seasons.

In contemplating the season just begun, many consider it only as the miserable end of summer or the dreary prelude to ski season. Too many are mingling in the past or anxiously awaiting the future at the expense of the present. “Life is long,” wrote Seneca, “if you know how to use it.” Here is our present, a season of corduroys, sweaters, flannel, down duvets, and heavy quilts. A polychromatic season of changing leaves, and not only the Aspens, but the Sugar Maple, Cottonwood, Oak, Black Tupelo, Sourwood, Sassafras, and Sweetgum. The Aster, Toad Lily, Goldenrod, Russian Sage, Sunflower, Helenium, Autumn Crocus, Monkshood, and Witch Hazel are all in bloom, and split wood, straw bales, gourds, and pumpkins lend timeless beauty to our land. It is a bountiful season of foods and smells. Caramel apples, pumpkin spice, cinnamon, cardamom, sweet potatoes, lingon berries, meaty stews, game birds, cider, baked breads, ginger cookies, freshly split pine, squashes, cranberries, plums, pears, toffees, and roasted chestnuts. It is a season of hunting, pheasant, quail, grouse, chukars, teal, ducks, geese, and wild turkey. It is a season of plentiful fishing, beautiful day hikes, corn mazes, and haunted houses. It is a season for making leaf prints, carving jack-o’-lanterns, and making a big mess with papier-mâché. It is a season for reading Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Stoker’s Dracula, Shelley’s Frankenstein, or even Turgenev’s A Sportsman’s Notebook. It is a season that has inspired wonderful music like Vivaldi’s L’autumno, Haydn’s Autumn, Tchaikovksy’s September, October, or November movements, Joseph Joachim Roff’s Symphony No. 10, George Whitefield Chadwick’s String Quartet No. 4, and Gustav Holst’s St. Paul’s Suite. It is a season for putting on a pot or brewing a cup of coffee and settling down with a good view of the wind blowing the leaves around to read Brontë’s Tennant of Wildfell Hall, Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Doyle’s The Hounds of the Baskervilles, Grahame’s Wind in the Willows, Wilde’s Dorian Gray, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, or du Maurier’s Rebecca. It is a season for poetry that appeals to the young and old. Consider Robert Frost, John Keats, Christina Rossetti, or even Shakespeare’s Song of the Witches from Macbeth.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,

In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

What child, giddy with the promise of Halloween, would not delight in this being their introduction to the greatest bard of the English language?

This is a season for being with our families, listening together, reading together, talking together, and simply being together. Life is short, but it is for us to learn how to use it, and as parents and teachers, to impart a way of using it that it makes it fulfilling. Appreciation of the world around us and all that it contains is but a beginning, but it is one that we are honored to have a part in this autumn. We invite you all to join us, whether in our reading groups or the many events we host throughout this delightful season.

Note: This piece was originally published on October 3, 2016.

Anyone in the Ridgeview community well knows about the ominous Senior Thesis that every Ridgeview graduate writes. In this thesis, the soon-to-be graduates are tasked with answering the question of “What is the Good Life?”– what it means and how to live it. Fortunately for us, the Ridgeview faculty does not simply pose this question and then leave the seniors helpless and struggling to form an answer; rather, the seniors choose a faculty member to help guide them along their own unique path, at the end of which will hopefully lie some form of answer.

What is more, Ridgeview students become exposed to the central question of every Senior Thesis in their freshman year, and go through the rest of their high-school career pondering the Good Life in light of the various topics presented to them in their time at Ridgeview. Seneca would describe Ridgeview students as “bees, who flit about and cull the flowers that are suitable for producing honey, and then arrange and assort in their cells all that they have brought in.” Likewise, we, as students of Ridgeview, are tasked with taking the concepts we have been exposed to in classes such as literature, moral philosophy, and western civilization and crafting them into our unique concept of the Good Life.

All those who wish to live and to live well must contemplate the Good Life, seek to define virtue and happiness, reflect on morality, explain why it is necessary, and then apply these concepts in their own lives.  Why? Henry David Thoreau provides an answer in his Walden, in a chapter entitled “What I Lived For.”

I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear […] I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.

We should all desire to live the Good Life, not only in order to be virtuous, but to pursue a higher form of living. How great a disappointment it is for someone to live out their whole life in “quiet desperation,” as Thoreau recognized, and to come to the end of it realizing that they had not truly lived, and thus they discover that they are no longer content with their life of contentment, but regret not living the life of happiness and virtue.

In order to avoid such misfortune, we must become exposed to such concepts as virtue and vice, good and evil, and especially the Good Life, while still in our youth. The one who contemplates these concepts in his early years will lead the life of self-examination, an essential part of living well, according to Socrates, and keep the life of desperation at a distance. So, we have arrived at the purpose of education.

It cannot be stressed how important education is in the lives of youth.  The ways in which children are instructed in their early years inevitably shapes how they will live their lives. If they are taught in such a way that they cannot think for themselves, they will grow up “orbiting” around the “systems” of others, as Ralph Waldo Emerson describes. However, if they are taught to think for themselves and form their own opinions, then they will realize that “the act of thought” truly is “the sacredness which attaches to the act of creation,” a concept Emerson also touches on in his essay on the “American Scholar.”

Thus, this sort of higher education is requisite in living the Good Life, for one can only arrive at such a conception through Education. The morality of the young relies heavily on the type of education that they receive. Unfortunately, our modern society has fallen short in its instruction of the young. Society has drifted from higher education to lower education, in which children are taught the essentials so that they may prosper in life (though here prosper is meant in a more earthly sense and seems to be more equivalent to “survive”). Our society educates the young, not so that they may live well, but so that they may eventually contribute back to society.

Ridgeview is unique on this front. Here, students are not only enabled to survive in the real world, but to self-examine and to live well according to their conception of the Good Life. While Ridgeview may be, in this sense, an oasis of higher education, the surrounding desert has not been eradicated. We must each do our own part to protect the integrity and morality of our youth, and so protect them from living lives of quiet desperation.

 

 

Make the most of what you’ve got:
The time you have today.
For the present named becomes the past
And no time can be reclaimed.
This time is a gift, the present you have
Use it well and make no regrets
For tomorrow is promised to no one to live
And yesterday cannot be changed.
Make of now what you are able
Don’t wait for greater things to come
For heroes lived and live in their now
Seizing the day that they receive.

A Poem by Lucy R.

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