To build men and women of virtue, wisdom, diplomacy and courage who inspire greatness in others and move the cause of liberty.
To Build Men and Women
The mission of this college is not to expand or convey knowledge, however worthy that goal may be. It is to build men and women. But you may ask, “What kind of men and women?” The mission focuses on the centrality of virtue, wisdom, diplomacy, and courage, thus the student becomes the focus, not the topic of inquiry, the curiosity of the professor, or the prestige of the college.
This focus governs all that we do. It determines our class size and structure, our grading procedures and how we award credit. It governs our teaching methods and guides our selection of texts. It even affects the structure of our campus and the décor of our buildings. In short, the very existence of Monticello College depends upon its ability to develop men and women with attributes necessary to become statesmen. Let us explore these attributes.
Virtue comes from the Latin word virtus meaning power or strength, which in turn comes from vir meaning man. Hence in the Roman sense, virtue is possessing those attributes that make a true man, namely, bravery, courage, and strength. Another version of virtue comes to us from the Greek arête, meaning being the best you can be, or reaching your highest human potential.
The term from Homeric times onwards is not gender specific. The man or woman of arête is a person of the highest effectiveness; they use all their faculties: strength, bravery, wit, and deceptiveness, to achieve real results. This notion of excellence was ultimately bound up with the Christian notion of fulfillment of purpose or function: the act of living up to one’s full potential or fulfilling the end to which anyone or anything was created.
Combining these definitions, virtue is fulfilling the end to which mankind was created. And what is that end? In the ancient text of the New Testament, Christ declared: “Be ye perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” In this scripture the word perfect comes from the Greek telios, meaning, “to be brought to its end, finished, complete or mature; wanting nothing necessary for completeness.”
Accordingly, man’s purpose is to develop God’s attributes, as evinced by his Son. Therefore, Christ’s attributes of love, faith, moral rectitude, and righteousness have historically become the definition of virtue for Western and Christian civilization.
Virtue which is valued in all religious text can be divided into attributes that relate to oneself and to others. Hence, living a moral life in relation to private duties is private virtue, while living a life of service and sacrifice for one’s fellow beings is public virtue. Understanding and incorporating virtue in its fullest context is the first attribute necessary to statesmanship.
A primary purpose of this college is to inspire students to develop private and public virtue. Through classical mentoring these attributes are most effectively developed. Virtue in a mentor is a moral prerequisite to effective mentoring. Once a mentor is well on the path of developing his own virtue, he can then seek to inspire his students to develop theirs. Drawing from experience in his own life, as well as the lives of the great men and women from history and literature, he leads discussions that investigate and define those attributes that contribute to virtue, and inspires the student to develop them. An important part of this inspiration is helping the students find their own personal mission of self-development and service to mankind.
Every person is born with a unique mission. The calling of a mentor is to inspire and convince others to pursue their missions. A mentor has no business stepping into the classroom if he does not feel that it is part of his mission to be there. It is not enough to know about and believe in statesmanship and public virtue. Our mentors have an unquenchable drive in their work because training statesmen is their mission. A mentor can look a student in the eye and exhort him to a life of purpose because he lives such a life. This is the essence of Monticello College mentorship.
Wisdom is “the right use and exercise of knowledge.” Do we care how much our students know? Of course, but the transmission of knowledge must be subservient to its end. Our students not only know historical facts, scientific theorems, and philosophical ideas, they apply them rightly to a multitude of situations. Students learn to balance the acquisition of knowledge through the study of the liberal arts with its application by learning personal leadership and time management skills in the classroom and on the farm.
Classroom and farm instructional sessions are structured by expertly weaving academic and experiential learning through the use of simulations and hands-on farm work, discussions, and field experiences to encourage application. The acquisition of knowledge is usually more recognizable and measurable than its application. But our mentors do not fall for the temptation to sacrifice the development of wisdom for the immediate reward that comes from being perceived as producing smart students.
Diplomacy is the art or effective management of one’s relations with others. As students learn and speak the language of the classics, they gain the ability to communicate ideas and apply them in a way that is inspiring and relevant.
Statesmen have the courage to venture, endure, and withstand dangers, fears, and difficulties that stand as roadblocks to their missions. Mentors play a pivotal role in developing attribute. Imagine a young student who possesses a strong work ethic and sense of mission, yet is afraid to speak in public. The mentor discusses great ideas as well as stories of men and women who sacrificed and endured fear to fulfill their missions. He then helps the student overcome fear by giving him the opportunity to share his ideas in front of a small group of peers and then larger groups over time.
Simulations are sometimes created to provide specific help for just one student to develop courage. This kind of specific attention builds courage for that one student and benefits the balance of the student body. Oral examination, wilderness survival training, and difficulty farm work are all opportunities to overcome fear and build courage. Churchill rightly said that courage is the most important of all virtues because it guarantees the others.
Mentors inspire greatness in students, who in turn inspire greatness in others. What is greatness? This might be more easily understood by describing what it is not. It is not fame; it is not a position of leadership; it is not having your name written in history books. Greatness is fulfilling your life’s mission.
This is similar to the way the ancient Greek and Roman religions described genius. They believed that every person had an innate or inborn power. Today we call this your purpose or mission. The Romans and the Greeks believed that to aid in the development of those powers or fulfilling that personal destiny, a tutelary deity or spirit was assigned to each person. This spirit was called genius. It may be thought of as the personification of each person’s unique abilities, interests, and mission. Fulfilling your individual mission and magnifying your talents and abilities is what makes you great.
Greatness comes from within. No one can make another person great. It is an individual choice. The purpose of Monticello College is therefore not to produce great thinkers, citizens or leaders; that is their responsibility. Our purpose is to inspire choices of greatness and to provide the necessary mentoring for each individual to reach his or her potential, and live his or her mission. Every mentor is pursuing the path of greatness and understands the power of example. Greatness is not a destination; it is a journey.
Mentors inspire students to seek greatness by identifying their own missions. They understand their own unique abilities and strive to develop them so they can better assist their students. Day in and day out mentors pay the price to achieve their own personal genius. As this occurs, they are in a position to inspire others.
Classics inspire. In addition to lecturing on facts, dates and theories, the mentor leads the class in discussions of great people and ideas. Inspiring in class and in individual coaching sessions is how mentors lead. The students leave these sessions motivated and resolved to study harder and serve better. As mentors inspire students through classical works, encouragement and example, a culture of seeking greatness develops and students begin to inspire each other.
Arrogance on the part of the mentor or student destroys inspiration. Forced and rote assignments are detrimental. Mentors are flexible in adapting to the mission of each student. This does not lessen the academic rigor of any class or program. Since no one has a personal mission of mediocrity, individual adaptation increases academic rigor.
Rather than simply filling students with information, the mentor approaches the classics in a way that draws the best out of them. He acts, as Socrates described himself, as “a midwife” assisting the labor of the mind in bringing knowledge and wisdom to birth.” Finally, grading and awarding credit is done in a way that inspires greatness. The mentor avoids using grading as a tool of manipulation. For this reason, standardized testing, percentile ranking and grading on the curve are not used at Monticello College.
Move the Cause of Liberty
The college strives to increase liberty within America by developing statesmen. Liberty may be defined as the ability to act as one chooses, restrained only by respect for the personal security, liberty and property of others. It involves a balance between the rights of the individual and the duty to respect the rights of others. Moving the cause of liberty is more than memorizing a definition. For example, who or what is man? Is man an evolved organism, a created being, or both? If our definition of man changes, does society’s role of protection also change? How does our conception of human nature change the way we view social forms? And what is the interaction between principles, forms and issues?
These are some of the questions that are discussed in what Robert M Hutchins called, “the great conversation.” As students seek to move the cause of liberty they participate in the great conversation and cultivate the attributes of statesmanship. The college endows students with a love of liberty, the knowledge required to be effective citizens, and the wisdom required to move the cause of liberty worldwide.
Monticello College aspires to create a citizen-legacy of new American Founders. Its graduates, regardless of their station in life, are trained to approach all challenges and opportunities from a perspective of independent intellect and self-reliance within a framework of cooperation and conscientious service.