The Aim and End of Character Education
Students will not remember every detail of every class they take at Ridgeview Classical Schools. Rather, good character is the permanent mark of a successful Ridgeview education.
Ridgeview freshman spend a large amount of time contemplating arete, the Greek ideal of excellence, and pietas, the Roman ideal of piety. The former means striving for greatness while the latter means clinging to and defending the things that are worth protecting: family, God, and country. Although what is "True" probably lies somewhere between the two, they both present a personal perfection towards which to strive and a social contract that holds men by the heart rather than the law. Both require that men strive to be better rather than justifying their day-to-day life with excuses.
One great author explains the difference between those who strive and those who do not: “For there is no doubt that the most radical division that it is possible to make of humanity is that which splits it into two classes of creatures: those who make great demands on themselves, piling up difficulties and duties; and those who demand nothing special of themselves, but for whom to live is to be every moment what they already are, without imposing on themselves any effort towards perfection; mere buoys that float on the waves” (Jose Ortega, Revolt of the Masses)*.
In college, I encountered several people who asked little of themselves. During my junior year, I was sitting in a physics class of 40 juniors and seniors. My group and I began chatting about our college entrance essays. A last-semester senior remarked, "I don't even know what my essay was about because I wasn't going to go to college so a friend wrote my essays and applied for me."
Shocked by her casual admittance of this fact, I remarked, "That's academic dishonesty." She and my other two lab mates shrugged and continued working. On that occasion, and several similar instances, it struck me that the other students were not attuned to such breaches of academic contract.
The goal of Ridgeview's character education is to affect the conscience as much as the mind, to create a center rooted in integrity as well as book knowledge. The danger for alumni and students, therefore, is to ignore or lose this compass.
Ortega also explains: “The mass is all which sets no value on itself──good or ill──based on specific grounds, but which feels itself "just like everything" ... The mass crushes beneath it everything which is different, everything that is excellent, individual, qualified, and select. Anybody who is not like everybody, who does not think like everybody, runs the risk of being eliminated.”**
Not everyone beyond Ridgeview advocates for integrity. In fact, the student that got into college based on someone else's entrance essay is, as far as advantages go, no worse off than I. However, the true Ridgeview student, or even community member, understands that good character is worth maintaining regardless of other advantages.
The concept of good and evil in Lord of the Rings, perhaps, exemplifies it best. Evil influences everyone in different ways, always requiring internal strength to overcome it. The Ridgeview student's character reflects this: "There is some good in this world... and it's worth fighting for" (Samwise Gangee in the movie rendition of J.R.R. Tolken's The Two Towers).***
To alumni, I ask we maintain this; to the parents, encourage this; and to the students: fight for this.
*José Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses (New York: W.W. Norton, 1993), 15.
**José Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses (New York: W.W. Norton, 1993), 14-15.
***The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Directed by Peter Jackson. 2002. USA: New Line Cinema. Film.