This blog’s purpose

My name is Dean Forman and I am thrilled that you have found me here. I’ve titled this site Leading a Revolution in Education because the right education has the power to lead change in a person, a community, and a country. 

I am passionate about our beautiful country and the liberties we enjoy. I don’t believe that those liberties are a given for future generations unless we are committed as citizens now to understand them and to protect them.

This website is dedicated to sharing the principles of an American Classical Leadership Education® with its readers so that more citizens can benefit from the truth, virtue and wisdom of the past.

This site is dedicated to learning, discovery, discussion, and ultimately acting. Together we will travel back in time to dive deep into the minds of the most important philosophers, authors, and leaders to have ever lived. I have spent years of my life studying their words. The truths I’ve learned have inspired and changed me, and I know they will change you, too.

In addition to looking back, we will examine the events of this moment in time. There are things happening in our world and country that demand our immediate attention. The wisdom and virtues of the works from the past will inform the actions that we can take together to preserve our current liberties.

Share this site with a friend or close family member. We will learn here. We will be edified together. 

And if this all sounds a little heady, don’t worry. We will have a little fun as well with contests, prizes, and plenty of connection and interaction with new friends. 

Your friend,

Dean Forman

Reflection and Choice or Avarice and Ambition?

After the creation of The Constitution the country was thrown into turmoil and alarm at the prospect of actually approving the document. The people had just thrown off the monarchy of England and the European way of aristocratical governance. Most thought the Constitutional Convention was to allow their representatives to shore up the existing Articles of Confederation under which the states were operating. Instead, state by state “The People” were being asked to approve a three-eyed cyclops! Talk about liberal and progressive! Which is to say, the traditional definition of liberal and progressive, which moves a people toward greater liberty and freedom. 

Despite the apprehensions, these sage statesmen felt this document was a different creation from anything drawn before. The outcome was to be a country of self-governing people who would elect their own representatives to govern themselves with their own laws. And what an entirely new recipe it was! A bit of democracy in the House of Representatives to represent the people. A little of aristocracy to represent monied interests in the senate. A modest amount of monarchy in the president for efficiency and dispatch. With a touch of judicial oversight in the courts to interpret the laws and defend the document from political encroachment.

What exactly was this?! It was a mixed democratic republic. Never before tried, and to date, never bettered. It has produced the most prosperous people and stable form of government the world has ever known. John Adams said it was “the greatest single effort of national deliberation that the world has ever seen.” (Bowen, Catherine Drinker. Miracle at Philadelphia: The Story of the Constitutional Convention, May to September 1787. Blackstone Audio, 2012.)

To implement, the Constitution would require nine of the thirteen states to ratify it. And soon after its creation, two opposing sides to the question of its acceptance quickly formed: The Federalists and the Anti-Federalists. The former was a group of Americans who supported the creation of The Constitution and were led by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay. They supported their position with 85 papers written to newspapers under the pseudonym “Publius.” Publius is thought to derive from the root publicus, meaning “the people” or “of the people.” 

The question as framed by Hamilton to the people of his State of New York in The Federalist Papers No. 01 was this:

“It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force… And a further reason for caution, in this respect, might be drawn from the reflection that we are not always sure that those who advocate the truth are influenced by purer principles than their antagonists. Ambition, avarice, personal animosity, party opposition, and many other motives not more laudable than these, are apt to operate as well upon those who support as those who oppose the right side of a question…For in politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution…to increase the number of their converts by the loudness of their declamations and the bitterness of their invectives.”

Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers No. 01

The Divine Science of Governance

As you can see, politics have never changed! Why? Because it deals with the Divine Science of allowing the less-than-divine man to govern his fellow man. Yet as Hamilton aptly points out, “that the vigor of government is essential to the security of liberty.” All of which demands the question, is it true that “dangerous ambition more often lurks in the mask of zeal for the rights of the people, than under the forbidding appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government”? (The Federalist Papers No. 01)

The Anti-Federalists, on the other hand, were a group of Americans who objected to the creation of a stronger U.S. federal government and opposed final ratification of the U.S. Constitution as approved by the Constitutional Convention in 1787. They preferred to stay governed under the Articles of Confederation which allowed their respective states greater liberty. Their concerns were also well-reasoned and reflective.

First among their concerns, there was no Bill of Rights to protect the unalienable rights of the people from the encroachment of government. Additionally, the office of President seemed too powerful and another version of a monarchy. During the debate over the ratification of the Constitution, Anti-Federalists charged that the President would become a king. In fact, he would be the worst kind of a king—an elected one. Cabals and intrigues would surely develop over the reelection of the incumbent. Third, the office of the Vice President was gratuitous. There was no provision for a council or cabinet to guide the president. Lastly was the threat of unelected federal judges to rule over state judges who were closer to the people. In summary, the ominous ivory tower of rulers seemed lurking in the balance. To give voice to the opposition were the Anti-Federalist papers written under the pseudonym “Cato,” who was a famous Roman statesman who tried to save the Roman Republic as it was falling prey to the monarchial despotic ways of Caesar.

Cato I, which came out on this date September 27, 1787, 235 years ago, kicked off the debate. Hamilton did not write The Federalist Papers No. 1 in response until October 27, 1787.

Here was their opening argument, most likely written by Governor Clinton of New York we are told. “The disposal of your reputation, and of your lives and property, is more momentous than a contract for a farm, or the sale of a bale of goods; in the former, if you are negligent or inattentive, the ambitious and despotic will entrap you in their toils, and bind you with the cord of power from which you, and your posterity, may never be freed; and if the possibility should exist, it carries along with it consequences that will make your community totter to its center: in the latter it is a mere loss of a little property, which more circumspection, or assiduity , may repair…..Beware of those who wish to influence your passions, and to make you dupes to their resentments and little interests—personal invectives can never persuade, but they always fix prejudices which candor might have removed—those who deal in them have not your happiness at heart. Attach yourself to measures not to men……the wisest and best of men may err, and their errors, if adopted, may be fatal to the community; therefore, in principles of politics, as well as in religious faith, every man ought to think for himself.”

Guided by Principles

So, I ask you, will it be reflection and choice by good men and women to administer the reins of government or will we be governed by the ambitious and avaricious? In principle we know the answer to these questions. A Bill of Rights was enacted by the Anti-Federalists shortly after the ratification of The Constitution by the Federalists. Checks and balances between branches of government to corral human nature were employed and have been exercised to this date; but have they been enough? Have the other branches of government become too docile to defend their respective turfs to effectively legislate, budget, and interpret the law? The Federalists and Anti-Federalists are still debating this today in the form of laws, rulings and regulations of energy, borders, money borrowing, debt forgiveness, abortion, and education just to name a few. These are the issues. But what are the principles that should guide these decisions? 

This is why we study the principles of freedom and the Divine Science of Government. Is there enough virtue, knowledge, and wisdom in us or those we elect to govern ourselves? 

It is the unalienable duty of the citizen to educate themselves individually on The Constitution and The Bill of Rights so that collectively we can stay safe, free, and pursue happiness. I invite you to read The Federalist Papers and vote for candidates that follow the outline and intent of these foundational documents of our country.    

Image attribution: Henry Hintermeister, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

At This Moment: Let Them Be Little

Part of education is allowing our youngsters to discover, wonder and find joy. When adults use education to further their dysfunctional ideologies, children lose innocence. Children lose the chance to develop a natural moral excellence and a love for beauty and goodness. They lose the fleeting magic of just being able to be little.

Click image to watch full music video on YouTube

Let Them Be Little

I can remember when you fit in the palm of my hand.
Felt so good in it, no bigger than a minute.
How it amazes me, you’re changing with every blink.
Faster than a flower blooms they grow up all too soon.

So let them be little, cause they’re only that way for a while.
Give them hope, give them praise, give them love, every day.
Let em cry, let em giggle, let them sleep in the middle.
Oh, just let them be little

I’ve never felt so much in one little tender touch.
I live for those kisses, prayers and your wishes.
Now that you’re teaching me things only a child can see.
Every night while we’re on our knees all I ask is please

Let them be little, cause they’re only that way for a while.
Give them hope, give them praise, give them love, everyday.
Let em cry, let em giggle, let them sleep in the middle.
Oh just let them be little.

So innocent, a precious soul, you turn around.
Its time to let them go.

So let them be little, cause they’re only that way for a while.
Give them hope, give them praise, give them love, every day.
Let em cry, let em giggle, let them sleep in the middle.
Oh, just let them be little.

Constitution Day

September 17, 1787 produced the longest-lasting written constitution in the world. In 1878 William Gladstone wrote this: “As the British Constitution is the most subtle organism which has proceeded from progressive history, so the American Constitution is the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man.” (“The Yale Law Journal,” Vol. 5, 1896, pp. 239-246.)

Why should we celebrate the day of the US Constitution’s origination? 

Eleven years earlier on July 4, 1776 the Continental Congress declared independence from the British Crown proclaiming an endowment of equality on all mankind given to them by their Creator—the unalienable rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness—through the Declaration of Independence. Those words were carefully chosen and properly sequenced. To have liberty, you must have life. To have happiness, you must have the liberty to choose. 

Having boldly declared their intentions, the delegates were soon to discover their next challenge. As sovereigns they needed to collectively protect those sacrosanct rights. For over three months, fifty-five delegates worked to find a solution. Though elusive, their efforts were rewarded. Read the beauty and symmetry of the Constitution’s preamble and notice its aim. 

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

We the People!

The People are the sovereign power that designed this government and granted it power. “The power under the Constitution will always be in the people. It is entrusted for certain defined purposes, and for a certain limited period, to representatives of their own choosing; and whenever it is executed contrary to their interest, or not agreeable to their wishes, their servants can, and undoubtedly will be recalled.” (The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745—1799. Edited by John C. Fitzpatrick. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1931-44, Vol. 29:311.) 

The union under the prior Confederation of States was imperfect. It did not protect those unalienable rights as desired by the founders. We were not recognized as a nation, partly, because we lacked order. In the absence of laws and in the chaos in the administration of the laws that did exist between local and state governments, justice was not being served to the people, instead leaving the keeping of the peace  and the defense and protection of life and property to each man on his own. Life was spent in protection of personal welfare, thus disturbing the “general welfare” that the preamble prescribes. Note the definition of welfare at that time as recorded in Webster’s 1828 Dictionary. 

Welfare, “Exemption from any unusual evil or calamity; the enjoyment of peace and prosperity, or the ordinary blessings of society and civil government; applied to states.” 

Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language 1828

Securing the blessings of liberty to self and posterity was central to this document. Liberty was designed to be generational and to endure the tests of time. The Constitution was ordained for these purposes. Notice this generational and ordered definition that follows. Ordain comes from the Latin ordino or order and means: “Properly, to set; to establish in a particular office or order; hence, to invest with a ministerial function or sacerdotal power…..” (Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language 1828). The Constitution was Divinely intended to give men the power to create their own laws and then govern themselves and each other. The Constitution acknowledges that human nature and power need checks and balances.  

Each of the words from the preamble build on the previous one. Union and unity require promises to self and others in the form of justice. Justice provides tranquility and the general welfare and wellbeing of all, thus securing liberty to self and posterity which was ordained by God for a higher purpose. Many may think that is a stretch, but it is clear what the word ordained meant then as laid down by Webster’s Dictionary of that era.  

The Further Dispersion of Powers

The Constitution carefully separates horizontally the three powers of government by legislative, executive, and judicial. It then disperses those powers among federal, state, and local government. Each of those levels of government then further organizes the powers again horizontally, by legislative, executive, and judicial offices. This separation, both lateral and vertical, is designed to prevent tyranny—or the rule of a few over the many. 

Recognizing the importance of generational liberty George Washington said this: “A primary object should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important? And what duty more pressing than communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?” (The Writings of George Washington: Being His Correspondence, Addresses, Messages, and Other Papers, Official and Private. George Washington, Jared Sparks, 1838, p.71.)

Was It Enough?

At this point the early Americans had their unalienable rights and a protective constitutional fence around them, and a government to protect those liberties. But was it enough? The Anti-Federalists still felt vulnerable and could foresee shadows and echoes of despotic governments of the past. They insisted on a bill of rights, one that would come two years later. The purpose of the Bill of Rights was set down in this preamble

“Congress of the United States begun and held at the City of New York, on Wednesday the Fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine. 

THE Conventions of a number of the States having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best insure the beneficent ends of its institution.”

These thoughtfully enumerated rights were designed to prevent abuse of power by government over the citizens employing restrictive clauses as the insurance. The Constitution empowers government to protect the sovereignty of the people. But the Bill of Rights then turns 180 degrees to protect the people from the government. 

In Federalist 51 James Madison summarizes it well. “If Men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and the next place, oblige it to control itself.”

The creation and coupling of the Constitution and Bill of Rights is ordained order intended to produce liberty for our time and generations to come. If there is any one person or group out there with higher rights or superior principles for defending sovereignty of its citizens, I invite you to articulate them. 

Consider the Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America recited by naturalized citizens which says: “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”

Providence Answers: A Setting or Rising Sun?

September 17, 1787 witnessed a crescendo of the Constitutional Convention that conceived the greatest nation to have ever been birthed. Is the sun on America still rising or is it now setting? What informs your conclusion? 

George Washington used a specific chair, shown in the photo above and the painting below, for the Constitutional Convention’s continuous sessions. Benjamin Franklin is credited with immortalizing the chair at the close of the convention, observing, “I have often looked at that picture behind the president without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now at length I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting sun.”

Howard Chandler Christy Oil on canvas, 20′ x 30′ 1940 House wing, east stairway U.S. Capitol
For more information on this painting in the U.S. Capitol visit: www.aoc.gov/cc/art/sign_constitution.cfm.

It took the thirteen colonies seven long years of war, from 1776 to 1783, to win independence from Great Britain. The war officially ended September 3, 1783. The united colonies had adopted Articles of Confederation in March of 1781. It was a shallow compact of thirteen states that retained their full and independent sovereignty. Absent a full union in all matters, one state could nullify or unilaterally make decisions.

This proved to be a very thin document on the world stage two years later as they tried to create unity and credibility. There was no executive to carry out orders with an enforcement power. There was no federal judiciary to mediate disputes, piracy, or crimes. There was no provision for regulating trade. There was no power to tax to pay for their soldiers except by each state voluntarily meeting their commitment. After several years of struggle with these challenges they came together in late May of 1787. What emerged was a miracle of minds meeting and coalescing around forging a stronger document on which to build a nation.

The difficult and hard work of finding agreement began on May 25, 1787. After frustrations began to mount, Benjamin Franklin described it this way:

The small progress we have made after 4 or five weeks close attendance & continual reasonings with each other — our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes as ayes, is methinks a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the Human Understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, since we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of government, and examined the different forms of those Republics which having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution now no longer exist. And we have viewed Modern States all round Europe, but find none of their Constitutions suitable to our circumstances.

In this situation of this Assembly groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine Protection. — Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance.

I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth — that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without [H]is notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without [H]is aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that “except the Lord build they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without [H]is concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall be become a reproach and a bye word down to future age. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human Wisdom, and leave it to chance, war, and conquest.

I therefore beg leave to move — that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that service.

from Albert Henry Smyth’s The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, Volume 9

As this Providential convention ended on September 17, 1787, forty-one delegates signed the document.  When Franklin came forward to sign, it was recorded that “the old man wept.” (Bowen, Catherine Drinker. Miracle at Philadelphia: The Story of the Constitutional Convention, May to September 1787. Blackstone Audio, 2012.)

Many realized a great battle had been won, but even bigger battles in Congress, and in the hearts and minds of the people, were yet to come. And from this great work what did they conceive? 

As the story was told and retold on the House floor, Franklin was walking out of Independence Hall after the Constitutional Convention in 1787 when someone shouted out, “Doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?” To which Franklin reportedly responded, with a rejoinder at once witty and ominous: “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Top image attribution: By unidentified NPS photographer – National Park Service website, Public Domain.

At This Moment: Natural Aristocracy

Yesterday we witnessed the passing of a great monarch who for 70 years brought stability, honor and integrity to her country and to the world. What a model of grace she was!

Why would we care about a monarch in the era of self-appointed rulers, parliamentary democracies and mixed constitutional republics? Up until the 8th century Anglo-Saxons practiced a system of government built on the people’s law where they crafted their own laws and regularly rotated power—a government where one from the region would temporarily be charged with leading community councils of leaders as first among equals.

By the 11th century the Normans invaded and subjugated these Anglo-Saxons with an aristocracy of rulers and kings under William the Conqueror. This type of rule became the norm with, at times, very violent results until, finally, the despot King John in the 13th century who was known for cruelty reigned.

This type of autocratic rule by one great monarch was challenged by barons and the church in England, and these groups united against the monarchy. Together they wrote the extraordinary charter of rights known as Magna Carta to protect their rights as English freemen. This document became one of the types and shadows of our own Constitution and Bill of Rights.

After several centuries the monarchy of England became a parliamentary form of government, one where the monarchy does not have any political power but possesses a sort of positional authority that is recognized as primarily ceremonial. However, it is the tradition of dignity, honor, and virtue exemplified by the monarchy to which we owe a great deal to the founding of our own government.

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was born a royal princess on April 21, 1926. She was tutored in British history, and the lives of the monarchs and their tenuous relationships with Parliament became academic lessons and a map for navigating public life.

Elizabeth saw prime ministers, such as the great Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, come and go, and she was thus able to offer a long-term view of the past, present and even insight into the future. Her posterity at times caused her to proclaim in one transparent moment of a particularly difficult year “to be an annus horribilis” (a horrible year). She took her stewardship seriously!

A beautiful thought she shared on one of her journeys in a visit to New Zealand: “We are all visitors to this time, this place. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love … and then we return home.”

We now pivot to America and its birthright as a nation of freemen (not nobles) who would return to the ancient principles of their Anglo-Saxon roots, give themselves their own laws and live by rotating power in councils with temporary citizen-leaders as a firsts among equals. Thomas Jefferson wrote about this in a letter to John Adams in 1813 when he contrasted the difference between two types of leaders.

“For I agree with you that there is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents. Formerly bodily powers gave place among the aristoi. But since the invention of gunpowder has armed the weak as well as the strong with missile death, bodily strength, like beauty, good humor, politeness and other accomplishments, has become but an auxiliary ground of distinction. There is also an artificial aristocracy founded on wealth and birth, without either virtue or talents; for with these it would belong to the first class. The natural aristocracy I consider as the most precious gift of nature for the instruction, the trusts, and government of society. And indeed it would have been inconsistent in creation to have formed man for the social state, and not to have provided virtue and wisdom enough to manage the concerns of the society. May we not even say that that form of government is the best which provides the most effectually for a pure selection of these natural aristoi into the offices of government? The artificial aristocracy is a mischievous ingredient in government, and provision should be made to prevent its ascendancy.”

Thomas Jefferson, October 28, 1813 correspondence to John Adams

An American Classical Leadership Education® is one that educates us in the principles of self-governance; and then inspires us to use our gifts to bless our nation as first among equals as called upon by our community.

We should be ever grateful to the heritage, country and tradition of many good monarchs who spawned our own ascendancy of Americans to become a natural aristocracy of moral excellence and wisdom where education and freedom would draw out our individual virtues and talents to bless our families, communities, and the human race.

Please enjoy these excerpted passages from Queen Elizabeth’s historic televised Christmas Broadcast of 1957

That it is possible for some of you to see me today is just another example of the speed at which things are changing all around us. Because of these changes I am not surprised that many people feel lost and unable to decide what to hold on to and what to discard. How to take advantage of the new life without losing the best of the old.

But it is not the new inventions which are the difficulty. The trouble is caused by unthinking people who carelessly throw away ageless ideals as if they were old and outworn machinery.

They would have religion thrown aside, morality in personal and public life made meaningless, honesty counted as foolishness and self-interest set up in place of self-restraint.

At this critical moment in our history we will certainly lose the trust and respect of the world if we just abandon those fundamental principles which guided the men and women who built the greatness of this country and Commonwealth.

Today we need a special kind of courage, not the kind needed in battle but a kind which makes us stand up for everything that we know is right, everything that is true and honest. We need the kind of courage that can withstand the subtle corruption of the cynics so that we can show the world that we are not afraid of the future.

It has always been easy to hate and destroy. To build and to cherish is much more difficult.

I believe in our qualities and in our strength, I believe that together we can set an example to the world which will encourage upright people everywhere.

I would like to read you a few lines from ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’, because I am sure we can say with Mr Valiant for Truth, these words:

“Though with great difficulty I am got hither, yet now I do not repent me of all the trouble I have been at to arrive where I am. My sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage and my courage and skill to him that can get it. My marks and scars I carry with me, to be a witness for me that I have fought his battles who now will be my rewarder.”

Image attribution: Archives New Zealand, CC BY 2.0via Wikimedia Commons

One Year: Reflections on Leading a Revolution in Education

One year ago today the first Leading a Revolution in Education newsletter went out. As we move into a new season, a new school year, and a new year for Revolution in Education, I can’t help but feel reflective.

My wife, Linda, spoke recently to a group of John Adams Academy parents. She reminded them of an educational framework taken from Oliver DeMille’s A Thomas Jefferson Education. It’s called the “Seven Keys of Great Teaching.” Linda reminded the audience, “His seventh key is ‘YOU, NOT THEM.’ I consider this to be the most important key. Everyone here, whether teacher, parent or scholar, who stays at this academy is setting the example of learning, teaching and serving.”

Learning, serving, and becoming are among the foundational principles of Leading a Revolution in Education. Just as Linda was primarily to the adults in her audience the other night, my aim is to reach the adults and caretakers of the young in my own audience. You—the parents and grandparents out there—are mentors to the next generation. But in order to be the best mentors, you cannot neglect your own education and knowledge base.

Oliver DeMille insists you must be willing to set the educational example.

“The best mentors (parents are a child’s most important mentors) are continually learning and pushing themselves. Read the classics. Study hard…pay the price in your own studies…In our modern society, whenever education is the subject, we always want to talk about the kids. We care about them, and we know their education is important, but we also find that it’s easier to talk about their education than to improve our own. In reality, you are unlikely to pass on to your children a better education than you have earned yourself, no matter how much you push them or how good the teachers… Children tend to rise to the educational level of their parents…The most effective way to ensure the quality of their education is to consistently improve your own.”

Oliver DeMille, A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-First Century

There’s a reason Leading a Revolution in Education starts with Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. It is the allegory for our lives. When Linda and I started out on our journey to open the first John Adams Academy, we found ourselves coming out of a cave. Over and over, my life’s journey has invited me to throw off the chains and darkness of ignorance and embrace greater knowledge and wisdom for greater liberty and ultimate freedom. Revolution in Education is my invitation to you to put yourself on the path out of your own cave.

In essence, you may say that this is my attempt to give you the John Adams Academy experience. And in that spirit I’d like to share the objectives and principles Linda and I laid down for the Academy 11 years ago.

  • We are here to replace industrial education for the industrial age with an American Classical Leadership Education® for a new age where leadership will matter more because employers, communities and nations want people who lead by solving problems.
  • We are serving a huge, underserved population that pays taxes but doesn’t want a conveyor belt industrial education. This group includes home school children, those at private schools, those that want a values-based refuge of learning, those in public schools that want classics, and those who prize reading, thinking, discussing and writing in lieu of textbooks and rote memorization of facts.
  • Arete is the Greek for ‘special excellence.’ This education recognizes that each child is a genius and it is designed to draw out their moral and special excellence. They will be taught the core values of moral excellence. Thus, they will be ready to contribute their gifts and their cultivated virtues to their community as servant-leaders.
  • Jefferson told us America would be different from Europe where education depended on your place of birth or your place in the economic pecking order. He envisioned a natural aristocracy where all had an equal chance at learning and education thus allowing us the freedom to discover our potential. Similarly, our academy is public and open to all.
  • Just before his passing, Thomas Jefferson penned the epitaph to his own headstone. It reads ‘Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia.’ If Jefferson were alive today, he might change the order in which these are stated. Independence has been won, religious freedom is established, but it is widespread education in the liberal arts that will maintain our liberties and independence.
  • Our scholars will read from original sources and become familiar with the organic documents of the country. By examining and having appreciation for the historical past, we learn the principles on which our country was founded, why those precepts worked, and how they apply today. Another key to a JAA education in the high school years is a solid foundation in economic principles.
  • Classically educated children are ready to enter the ‘Great Debate’ about who they are, and why they are here. Through servant leadership, they will help our country prosper.
  • We are pleased we have been able to offer employment to over 30 teachers and administrators. (We now have over 400.) However, John Adams Academy is not an employment agency, but an empowerment agency. Those that have chosen to come here have come because they are educational entrepreneurs. They are statesmen and women who have seen where education is and where it should be and have put themselves in the middle to restore it. G.K. Chesterton is credited to have said that ‘every revolution is a restoration of something that once guided and inspired people in the past.’ They understand their role of loving each child and inspiring scholars to love learning and become who they were meant to be.
  • A proper understanding and application of economics will provide the path to financial independence and liberate and inform a life of serving.
  • Now a word to you parents and grandparents. We recognize you have placed with us your most valuable asset–your children and posterity. In them is a part of you, your aspirations, hopes and dreams. We want you to know we count this as a consecrated trust, and we will do our best to help your children find their special excellence.

May our mutual commitment and the guiding hand of Providence bless us in this effort. I hope you will continue to journey with me into the next year of Leading a Revolution in Education. The outcome of this odyssey is becoming great citizens, souls, and leaders.

“Children should be educated in the principles of freedom.” —John Adams

Image attribution: Paul Buffet (1864-1941), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Family Mealtimes: The One Thing

Did you watch Fiddler on the Roof last week? What tradition or ritual did you revive or adopt? Traditions inform and nurture our purpose and reason for living.

If you could revive or adopt only one new ritual at this time, I would like to suggest the one with the greatest power to improve your marriage, your family relationships, and even your education—and, additionally, it yields immediate results. 

When was the last time your family gathered around the table for dinner and conversation together?

Educational tradition frequently begins in the home, or in our lives, as we sit around the table sharing a meal together. This is a time when you can talk about what you are reading, learning, and thinking. You know you are making progress when this ritual is rarely, if ever, neglected. Take a moment to note your recent dinnertime experiences: How were the conversations? How often were they interrupted by electronic distractions?

A Revealing Exercise

In 2018 the Swedish Furniture company IKEA invited families to reconnect with each other. During a brief three-minute ad, four families were challenged to answer questions about other family members over Christmas Dinner. If their answers were correct, they could continue eating— but if they gave a wrong answer, they were required to leave the table. Gradually each table starts to empty because of how little they really knew about the lives of their loved ones whom they may see only briefly in their homes every day. Their responses, full of regrets, were sobering. 

A Chance to Go Deeper

Ritual and ceremony are said to be necessary for the family, and they are sorely lacking in our modern world. The family has to be in sacred unity, believing in the permanence of what is taught, especially if its ritual and ceremony are to express and transmit the wonder of the moral law, which it alone is capable of transmitting— a power which makes it unique and especially useful in a world devoted to the secular. And when that power disappears, as it has, the family has, at best, a transitory togetherness. People sup together, play together, travel together, but they do not think together. Hardly any homes have any intellectual life whatsoever, let alone one that informs the vital interests of life. Educational TV marks the high tide for family intellectual life. (The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom)

New technologies have radically changed the way we relate to those around us and, while undoubtedly useful, they are inadvertently negatively affecting our capacity to relate to others. In fact, recent research by the University of Chicago shows that the mere presence of a mobile phone on a table reduces the cognitive depth of conversation. I need to change this in my own dinner-time ritual.

All Good Things Require Effort

What is the answer? Having a meal together, one where you can go beyond talking about people and things and into the realm of ideas. Sharing our aspirations, our struggles of the day, and ideas over a meal is a ritual that cannot be lightly passed over. Educator and religious leader David O. McKay said, “All good things require effort. That which is worth having will cost part of your physical being, your intellectual power and your soul power.”

A few weeks ago, I invited you on a noble and joyful voyage of learning for 15 minutes each day. Have you begun? Pick up that book you have been promising yourself to read.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “There are 850,000 volumes in the Imperial Library at Paris. If a man were to read industriously from dawn to dark for sixty years, he would die in the first alcove. Would that some charitable soul, after losing a great deal of time among the false books and alighting upon a few true ones, which made him happy and wise, would name those which have been bridges or ships to carry him safely over dark morasses and barren oceans, into the heart of sacred cities, into palaces and temples.” Emerson’s wish, which is the great need of thousands of earnest, ambitious people, has been fulfilled. The fulfillment is Dr. Charles Eliot’s Five-Foot Shelf of Books known as the Harvard Classics. (Harvard Classics Reading Guide)

Summer is almost over. It’s time for all of us to get back to school. Reserve your mealtimes for each other and help each other find greater purpose and meaning in your lives. You will only ever be as free as what you know.

Our happiness is greatly determined by sharing those discoveries with and for others.

Education and Tradition

Two weeks ago we had some of our grandchildren with us. One of them loves acting and musicals. She wanted to know what musical production she could watch. We had fun going through the list from The Sound of Music to Les Misérables. We settled on Fiddler on the Roof. I was interested to see if the classic adaptation would capture the attention of all three of the children, ages 8 to 13. I was not disappointed. They all loved the movie! 


Our guide and the hero of the play is Tevye, a hard-working milkman and father of three lovely girls in the little town of Anatevka, a Ukrainian Village. In the course of the play,  Tevye and his wife struggle with questions of the soul —questions around such things as tradition and which traditions are worth keeping and which ones are ok to let go. Throughout the story a fiddler plays tunes on a roof in the village, a poignant metaphor for the beauty found in a simple, pleasant life in a traditional town with an orthodox Jewish population based on what else? Tradition!

Tradition Rooted in Faith

The traditions held precious by Tevye and his community are found in the first five books of the Old Testament called the Torah. A mezuzah is a piece of parchment inscribed with specific Hebrew verses from the Torah. These verses consist of the Jewish prayer Shema Yisrael, beginning with the phrase: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” It is a reminder that God comes first. Other traditions include obedience to the law, the ten commandments, sabbath day observance from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday, prayers, tefillin, feasts, foods, clothing, and marriage. Arguably “traditions” are what has maintained the Jewish faith now for over 3000 years!      

Tevye appropriately opens the play singing the song entitled “Tradition.” He sings with his whole voice and body bringing the audience into his passion. It is exhilarating and joyful to watch. He tells us why tradition is so important to the family, town, and culture by saying, “Everyone in Anatevka knows who they are and what God expects them to do.” How simple and profound. Once we discover who we may be, then we can execute our future with Providential blessing. 

Order of Importance and The Lines We Contend With

Some of these traditions surround the roles of marriage, faith, employment, love, and education. This type of film/play has become a classic because it speaks to these universal problems of values, priorities and what matters most. These are issues that we all deal with in our lives. The struggles for these answers are wonderfully taught by Tevye who, in the beautiful Jewish tradition, is constantly speaking out loud to God about his dilemmas and the impact on his family. In the play, Tevye’s daughters are all approaching the age of making independent choices in their individual lives.

One day, the local matchmaker arrives to speak with Tevye’s wife with the somewhat alarming news that the lonely local butcher Lazar Wolfe, who is at least 60 years of age, would like to marry their oldest daughter Tzeitel. Economically and religiously, this is a good match. But Tzeitel loves her childhood sweetheart, a young man who wants to become the village clothier and tailor. He is poor but has great ambition and dreams to one day own his own sewing machine. The dilemma is whether or not to let their daughter marry a poor man. Tevye decides he is a poor man (as an aside, he mentions this to God and asks if it would really upset the Providence to have let him be a rich man?) and he concludes that love may be a higher value to him and his daughter than money.  

About that same time, Perchik, a radical Marxist student from Kiev, also arrives and falls in love with Tevye’s middle daughter Hodel. Perchik is a radical thinker and his viewpoints are dramatically different from the community’s. Perchik is eventually exiled to Siberia for his political views but Hodel’s love for him is great and she tells her father she is leaving. Tevye bristles at not being asked for permission to do so. The tradition of deferring to or asking permission from the “papa” was waning. Hodel promises to be married in Jewish tradition. But once again love overrules a less consequential tradition.  

Finally, Tevye’s third daughter Chava falls in love with a young man who is Christian Russian Orthodox and the two are married in that faith. This was too much for Tevye to take and Chava and her husband become dead to him.

What We Leave, What We Take

As the story is winding down the Jews of Anatevka are notified that they have three days to leave the village or be forced out by the government. Tevye, his family and friends pack up to leave their homes and the simple life of traditions they had built. What did they leave behind? What did they take?

What traditions are you building that will last the test of time and endure the generations? Faith, family, celebrations, rituals, rites, customs — Which ones are higher in order or sequence? Education is how we discover who we are and how we establish and internalize our values. Remember that those values govern our behavior, but principles are unchanging laws of nature that are external to us and operate regardless of our awareness of them, our liking them, our belief in them or our obedience to them. Principles govern value-based choices. When we are faced with the questions around what to leave and what to take, it is wisdom to base our value system of traditions and choices on principles that are unchanging and enduring.     

Image attribution: Mileta Leskovac, scenographer, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Truth and the Unexamined Life

Have you set out on your educational odyssey yet? 

If you haven’t, you may be asking yourself some questions. Why should I seek additional education? Is it worth the time and effort? What do I hope to gain or change?

The Pursuit of Truth

Written on the front of each volume of The Harvard Classics is the word veritas, which means “truth.” A primary purpose for education and living is to find and employ truth for increased happiness. 

But what is truth? It’s time to ask an expert.

Socrates in Pursuit of Truth

The Harvard Classics, Volume II introduces us to Socrates and some of his friends in their collective quest for truth, justice, and virtue in finding the meaning of life.

Socrates was the son of an Athenian sculptor born in 469 B.C. He gave up becoming a sculptor himself to devote his time to the search of truth and virtue. He was most influential in teaching the youth, and others, employing conversation infused with reflective thinking built on discovered truth and virtuous actions surrounding that truth. His teachings and mentoring efforts resulted in accusations of being a corrupting influence against the young in Athens. Socrates was ultimately put on trial and sentenced to death for his teachings. 

In His Own Defense

So what does a great thinker like Socrates say at the end of his life? What would be his final lessons? Socrates’ defense takes up twenty short pages.

Volume II of The Harvard Classics deals with Socrates’ “apology” and defenses of his teachings. An apology in this case is not an admission of guilt but “an excuse; something said or written in defense or extenuation of what appears to others wrong, or unjustifiable…

The jury at his trial was cautioned not to be swayed by Socrates’ eloquence. His response was simple “unless by the force of eloquence they mean the force of truth: for I do indeed admit that I am eloquent.” (The Harvard Classics, V. II, The Apology of Socrates, p. 5.) He invited his listeners “to think only of the justice of my cause and give heed to that: let the judge decide justly and the speaker speak truly.” He then lays out his case by saying the real danger is those who teach and take possession of the minds of children with falsehoods — and those who “warned” others of Socrates, a wise man who speculated about the heaven above and searched into the earth beneath, and who made the worse appear to be the better cause.

What were the truths Socrates taught and defended? 

Truth is “conformity to fact and reality; exact accordance with that which is, or has been, or shall be.” Socrates was accused of not worshiping the Gods of Athens and of promoting nonbelief, especially in the young. He defends against the accusation of atheism by asking, “Can a man believe in spiritual and divine agencies, and not in spirits or demigods?” He then asks those of Athens why they cared so much about “laying up the greatest amount of money and honor and reputation and so little about wisdom and truth and the greatest improvement of the soul, which you never regard or heed at all? For virtue he said was not given by money, but from virtue comes money and every other good of man, public as well as private.” 

Virtue was known as moral excellence of character in the development of youth to become good citizens and great souls. “The greatest good of man is daily to converse about virtue, and all that concerning which you hear me examining myself and others, and that the life which is unexamined is not worth living—that you are still less likely to believe.” There it stands, the famous exhortation! The unexamined life is not worth living. That is what reading great books invites us to do. Examine ourselves.

God Only Knows

Socrates goes on to say that, “The difficulty, my friends, is not in avoiding death, but in avoiding unrighteousness; for that runs faster than death.” This statement, in particular, seems to have echoes of our day. He laments that his accusers are keen and quick and have avoided the condemnation of truth by villainy and wrong. He reasons further by stating that “no evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death…. because he and his are not neglected by the gods; nor has my own approaching end happened by mere chance.”

He ends his apology with this. “When my sons are grown up, if they seem to care about riches, or anything, more than about virtue; or if they pretend to be something when they are really nothing—then reprove them, as I have reproved you, for not caring about that for which they ought to care, and thinking that they are something when they are really nothing. And if you do this, I and my sons will have received justice at your hands. The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways—I to die, and you to live. Which is better, God only knows.” 

Open the Door

In a subsequent book written by Plato entitled Phaedo the famous student notes of Socrates, “There is a doctrine uttered in secret that man is a prisoner who has no right to open the door of his prison and run away; this is a great mystery which I do not quite understand.” (The Harvard Classics, V. II, Phaedo.)

Can we open the door of our prison? How? Perhaps we are the only ones that can! Reading reminds us that we are not alone and that others have previously faced similar challenges.

Another student, Crito, writes that Socrates was happy because he had prepared and spent his whole life searching for truth and wisdom in preparation for this moment of liberation provided by death and for his reunion with God.

A bold statement for an alleged atheist.

Image credit: Jacques-Louis David, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons