Dr. Russ explains,“Our vision for JHCA faculty and students this year is two-fold. We want to help cultivate an intellectual community of faculty and staff who understand, and intentionally practice, the vitality of the spirit and mind that encourages and enables each to seek truth, goodness, and beauty as a way of life. This is our vision for the faculty. For the students, our vision is to work with the faculty to refine a curriculum that they and their students inhabit together based on a classical Christian tradition. Such a curriculum, led by teachers who embody the truths they teach, inspire them and their students, in Donald Cowan’s words, ‘to enable a person to achieve the true form of his life.’"
Dr. MacMillan introduced the important ideas and ideals of the Cowan vision of liberal education, liberal in the sense of education liberating a person to make choices and self-govern, during a week of professional development in August. The most distinctive feature of the Cowan's educational philosophy issues from their conviction that education should help one become a better person, a person better able to be in the community of humankind with all kinds of people.
“Let me begin by saying that the end of the Cowans’ educational vision is community. They believed all children in America deserve and need a liberal education to take part meaningfully in our democratic society, as well as to achieve the true form of their human lives. The Cowans taught the unpopular reality that the deepest understanding almost always comes from the greatest struggle. Wisdom comes from suffering, as the Greek poets would have it. They taught the equally unpopular notion that learning always begins in submission.They understood the power and primacy of the well-educated imagination, over the educated intellect alone, and believed in mystery and beauty, meaning and truth," shared Dr. MacMillan, who was commissioned by Dr. Louise Cowan to further their educational work. That charge is becoming a reality through The MacMillan Institute, a non-profit organization whose sole purpose is to spread the Cowan's unique vision.
From Unbinding Prometheus by Dr. Donald Cowan, The Spirit of Liberal Learning:
“We should make no mistake. The spirit of liberal learning is marked by joy. When that joy is absent, it is a sign that we have ourselves blocked the passages to insight and wisdom. We need therefore, rather than making the opulence of the great tradition serve us, to grow to the full statue demanded by its genius and power. For the liberal arts are not merely a received tradition from the world’s past, but fully as much an ongoing creation towards its end, toward the fulfillment of things. All of us are engaged in that creation. We ourselves are the living manifestation of the truth that “makes us free,” the truth that is constantly granted to us in the process of learning.”
Our goal this year is to engage in that creation by building a mission-driven community. We hope teachers, students, and parents will become more united in the understanding that liberal education prepares us to navigate the world of work and culture and prepares our hearts and minds to live examined lives while loving our neighbors profoundly. Building community isn’t a matter of ambience, nor does it happen by accident. Planning and work is required.
Please mark your calendars for our only mandatory event of our 169 school-day year: Parent Orientation on Thursday, October 21 from 5:30-7:00 p.m. Childcare will be provided (please register below), so come at 5:00 p.m. to settle your children before we promptly begin our presentation at 5:30 p.m. on how to establish a strong and active parent partnership.
Mrs. Polly J. Friess