OPINION – I’m torn. On the one hand, I’m about to share a secret that I’d rather keep between a few close friends and myself. On the other hand, I wish everyone could experience what my son Forrest and I experienced this past week.
The two of us, along with 20 other families, spent the past week camping, working, and playing in the foothills of the Blue Mountains near Monticello, Utah. We were attending the third annual Monticello College Family Retreat.
We came to teach and to be taught. We volunteered our labor to help build the mountain campus. We dined on healthy gourmet meals. We hiked and enjoyed the company of people from as far away as Upstate New York.
The sun was intensely hot at 7,200 feet elevation, but each day we were rewarded with late afternoon and nightly thunderstorms that cooled us down. The nightly storms were our favorites as we rode them out in our tents.
The first night was the heaviest deluge of the week and a few of us found water running through and beneath our tents. But experience is a quick teacher and by the second night, everyone was properly set up to stay dry.
From our vantage point at the foot of the mountains, we could observe the nightly light show for 30 miles in almost every direction. More often than not, we’d be joined by dozens of deer quietly grazing and wandering through our mountain campus.
But rather than simply creating an idyllic vacation getaway, the purpose behind Monticello College is one of creating new American founders.
The school is based upon a model described by Josiah Bunting III in his book “An Education for Our Time.” It combines a deep classical liberal arts education with the acquisition of real leadership skills and the development of personal mission for its students. It seeks to create disinterested leaders.
The term “disinterested” refers to a quality of character in which a person leads honorably and without being distracted by things like fame, fortune, or awards. It is reminiscent of the public virtue practiced by America’s founding generation when they pledged their “lives, fortunes, and sacred honor” to secure our country’s independence.
You don’t have to look too closely at the current state of leadership in this country to see the critical need for men and women of virtue, wisdom, diplomacy and courage. There is also great need for individuals who can inspire greatness in others and, by their leadership, move the cause of liberty.
This kind of leadership requires personal depth and real understanding of human nature. These qualities are developed through intense study of the Great Books of Western Civilization and lifelong self-education rather than simple schooling. It also requires faith, meaningful service to others, and willingness to self-govern.
The school also incorporates the concept of Georgics as described by the poet Homer and extolled by Thomas Jefferson. Georgics involve a self-reliant lifestyle that includes the ability to produce one’s own food.
To this end, our days were filled with lectures and discussions on Shakespeare, C.S. Lewis, Euclid, Cicero, Solzhenitsyn and Ayn Rand. We had hands-on demonstrations of how to cast a broken bone, home production of fermented foods, and making medicine at home. The youth learned trek survival training and took part in team-building obstacle courses. Even the very young were able to help feed and care for the livestock.
We painted the school’s barn and put a steel roof on it. We dug post holes, cleared brush and rocks and prepared the campus for the next phases of construction.
The great secret is that all of this took place in one of the few truly peaceful settings that still remain in the world.
Why would someone bother to build such a school so far removed from the conveniences and accoutrements of modern life? It’s because the location is key to the school’s mission. The vantage point of the campus, in addition to having a spectacular view of Southeastern Utah, provides a place where a student can experience real introspection.
Away from the bright lights and the electronic distractions of everyday life, our personal antennae become more finely tuned to the good, the noble, and the uplifting.
Isn’t it time to become the kind of leaders who value such things? The future looks much brighter when we recognize that political leadership is not the only leadership needed. There is hope when we take an active role instead of waiting for others to do so.
I’d rather take the chance of too many people learning of this concept, than keep it a secret to preserve my little slice of heaven.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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