Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Becoming Georgic

By Oliver DeMille

JUNE 2008

“When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of human civilization.”
(Daniel Webster, Remarks on Agriculture)

We all depend upon food virtually every day for our health, security and relationships. But perhaps many of us have not arrived at the obvious conclusion: Food is Classic! The more we study it, the more we learn. In spite of our almost hourly reliance on food, few people study Georgics enough. In times of recession, a family garden can save a household thousands of dollars per year.

There is an even bigger secret: The Conveyor-Belt grocery system doesn’t offer many of the best foods! They are only available to those who raise them or to those who go directly to such an “Original Source”. It is ironic that many people prefer more highly-refined foods (the nutritional equivalent of video games) while they consider whole foods, fruits and vegetables to be less appealing. The irony is that modern agri-business systematically puts less flavorful produce in the stores in the name of efficiency and prolonged shelf-life. The modern system of food production and delivery is truly a conveyor belt, and the products are the textbook variety.

Since 1950, the number of family farms in the United States has decreased weekly. This impacts not only our food supply but our nation’s store of Georgic knowledge. The great test of our generation’s freedom is not the right to bear arms, but the ability to provide for ourselves. We educate our youth for technology, but not for self-reliance and basic georgic sustainability. Our reliance on healthcare to treat preventable lifestyle diseases is rivaled only by our reliance on the food supply that delivers that lifestyle.

If this were not a great enough concern, consider the following: multiple factors are threatening this conveyor-belt food supply. From the widely-reported disappearance of the honeybee to the cost of fuel for transport, astronomical increases in the price of grains, weak performance of the dollar abroad buying less at higher price from foreign importers, and the uncertain prospects for the agriculture labor force due to immigration reform, families are seeing their food budget buy less and less every month.

In food production as in education, it is difficult to envision or practice what we have not experienced. Too often those who do keep a garden model their choices after what is commonly available at the grocery store and their techniques after those used by the conveyor belt agri-business. A mentor with a different experience can totally revolutionize our vision and leverage our success. I invite you to learn how to provide for your family healthy food choices they love at a fraction of what you’re now spending on food, and how to create an income doing it in as little as fifteen minutes a day!

Oliver DeMille was President of George Wythe College.

And There Was Light

Review by Erin Reynolds

“And There Was Light” is the incredible account of Jacques Lusseyran, a blind youth who plays an important role in the French Resistance. From a fairy-tale beginning roaming in the fields near his grandparents home, to a climax in the concentration camps of Buchenwald, Lusseyran’s story leads the reader through his personal highs and lows while compelling the reader to consider his own.

This is more than a tale about a young man facing immense odds. Lusseyran probes the depths of friendship, love, truth and light and asks questions universal to man – why do we suffer? How do we endure? And what can we see when all around is darkness?

Lusseyran combines the depth of Solzhenitsyn, the poetry of Lewis, the profundity of Macdonald and the adventure of Twain in an unforgettable lesson about what can happen when the light outside of a human being is extinguished. In describing his own journey of finding inner light, he invites the sincere inquirer along the same pathway. In answer to his own question of “how can I be of any use to my country?”, he comes to surprising answers about the importance of personal influence, the power of desire and the light that comes to those who are not afraid of darkness.

Lusseyran has timeless lessons for every child, youth and adult; “And There Was Light” is a quick, engaging read that will change your perspective of what we call blindness and invite you to reconsider how to face your personal midnights with grace, influence and purpose.

Ms. Reynolds holds an M.A. in Education from George Wythe College and served as the Director of Distance Studies from 2006 to 2008.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Leadership Education Uganda

In the Fall of 2007 George Wythe College sent a representative to Uganda at the request of Christopher Mugimu, the Department Head of Curriculum Studies at Makerere Univeristy in Kampala, to evaluate the possibility of incorporating Leadership Education in Ugandan schools. Since that time Leadership Education Uganda (LEU) has been founded to mentor a generation of teachers who will build statesmen through leadership education. The following is a report submitted by Kira Johnson (BA ’06), an intern for LEU, chronicling some of her and her husband, Brian's (BA '07) experiences sharing Leadership Education in Uganda.

We had been planning our trip to Mukono, Uganda for almost a year now. We were going as volunteers from Help International and George Wythe College to introduce leadership education in local schools. But on the last leg of our flight, a knot formed in my stomach. My excitement and a tiny voice of inadequacy and fear battled it out for a minute. Do I know enough? Who will listen to us, we’re so young? Don’t you feel a little presumptuous to go and instruct teachers on how to do a better job? But with a few reassuring words from my husband Brian, and my excitement building back up, our plane landed. We experienced culture shock. Cold showers, cockroaches, banana trees, dirt roads, and smiling half-clothed children who called out mzungu! Mzungu! (white person) and ran to touch my hands and arms as we walked.

Within a few days we met teachers from nearby schools, and our teacher training courses and many friendships began. We attended some of their classes, sitting on small benches next to the students in classes of anywhere from fifteen to one-hundred-and-forty students. It didn’t take long to see some of the challenges these teachers and others like them face in Uganda. Large class sizes, lack of materials, poor discipline, and an education system which revolves around three national exams.

The most common classroom environment was lecture and dictation, whether the students were eight or fifteen. As the teacher dictates word for word from the class’s one textbook, the students write it down and are expected to memorize the information for upcoming tests. The goal is getting through the material before the term is over and questions are often seen as interruptions. Getting the answer right on the test is seen as more important than understanding the concept. As one girl said, “We cram and cram and sometimes we don’t even know what we’re cramming.”

We taught concepts from A Thomas Jefferson Education by DeMille and 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Covey in our classes. We introduced and practiced discussion with our teachers, the importance of asking questions, and encouraging their students to ask questions. We discussed why education is important, that it should continue beyond school, how students learn in different ways and how we can help them.

In Uganda, becoming a teacher isn’t something men and women happily choose. They don’t see teaching as a noble occupation allowing them the opportunity to touch and change young lives. They see it as a low-end job, something they accepted by default because their test scores weren’t quite good enough to get them the government scholarship to be a doctor, a lawyer, or the nurse they had hoped to be. Most students and their families can’t afford the tuition themselves, so they accept the government scholarship to be a teacher.

One of the most exciting and touching parts of our classes was when individual teachers opened their eyes to see that they have an important responsibility; what they do matters. Deborah realized that the child she inspires at school is going to have a better life because of her guidance and instruction. Sembuze understood that education is something more than getting high grades on a test, and should continue through your life. Education is not something to hate and suffer through because memorizing well is the only chance you have to get a better life. It’s not necessarily getting the same answer as everyone else, but finding a better way to do things.

Ronald told us "Before this class I only read to teach the students. The minimum. I didn't like to read. Now, you can always see me with a book, even if it's only for a few minutes in-between classes. And the funny thing is, my students have begun noticing. It spreads. Other teachers take notice now also. They see the difference in us and our classrooms."

By the end of the term we sat in the same classrooms and watched these teachers lead their students in discussion. Instead of shutting down questions, they encouraged them. Instead of saying “wrong answer” they helped their students discover the answer. We watched one class role play historical stories with the entire class laughing and involved. We saw teachers who had found a reason to teach, and a determination to continue their own education.

At first I saw the problems in Uganda, and we wanted to help. We went to teach. To share what we knew and hopefully make a difference. I don’t think we realized how much we would learn and grow from the teachers and other people we worked and spent time with. Brian and I are better teachers, and will be better parents because of our time there. We were impressed with the parents we saw who work so hard and make many sacrifices so they can pay the school fees for their children, and with the teachers who want to be better, and were willing to try new things in their classes, and in turn taught us.

The cold showers and cockroaches I never learned to love, but we quickly came to enjoy and learn from our other experiences, and to love our new friends and adopted family. It was worth it.

Kira Johnson was valedictorian of the 2007 graduating class of George Wythe College. Her commencement address is available for free download at

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A George Wythe Preparation for George Washington

By J. Austin Russell (Graduate of GWU)

At the age of twelve, I decided to pursue a career in law. With little more than a vague idea of what was in store, I began several months of exhausting research. I read and re-read various legal publications, perused historical briefs and rulings, and interviewed several local attorneys all with the express intent of discovering how I might best prepare myself. While they surely made their best effort not to discourage an inquirer as young as I, what I found both surprised and concerned me. Despite the very specific and intense nature of an education in law, there appeared to be no consensus concerning how one might best prepare. Unlike their fellows in other graduate programs, law students come from a diverse spectrum of undergraduate studies--there is no universally accepted or required program in pre law. Consequently, the prospective law student is left with little more than the somewhat discouraging suggestion that, "Attorneys are smart people. If you're going to pursue an education in law, you need to be smart." Yet, after further investigation, I found that, contrary to popular belief, there exists a method of education, and a university dedicated to it, that will prepare the mind to succeed in law and, ultimately, any imaginable field of study.

From the moment I set foot on the George Wythe University campus, I was met by a faculty and student body wholly committed to learning all that life has to offer. With its academic core rooted deep in the foundations of classical thought and liberal arts, George Wythe University stands apart as it seeks to build statesmen--"men and women of virtue, wisdom, diplomacy, and courage who inspire greatness in others and move the cause of liberty." Shawn Ercanbrack, one of the original founders, explained the key to the University's academic success:

"In the University's demanding environment, the student's character is developed and refined ... the education is rigorous; students learn to ask hard questions, challenge prevailing assumptions, build consensus or stand on principle alone. Above all, the George Wythe [University] student does not ask what the world has to offer, but rather, assesses needs, takes responsibility and sets out to build, innovate and accomplish."

The education I received at George Wythe University trained me to analyze the world around me, and challenge the status quo in a manner that will promote human progress through principles of liberty. Upon graduation, I began studying for the Law School Admission Test. While I was initially frustrated by the difficulty I encountered, the skills I had learned at George Wythe University allowed me to advance in such a way so that, when the time came, I was ready.

This fall, I will enter George Washington University School of Law. I can say that the greatest asset in my preparation has been the education I received at George Wythe University. I am confident that throughout my studies and as I begin my career, the lessons I learned as a George Wythe student will undoubtedly prove the foundation of my success.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Epiphanies Love Company

By Kami Fletcher (Sophomore at GWU)

Have you ever walked with giants of character? When was the last time you rubbed shoulders with great thinkers? Can you sit down with people who care, and discuss forms that matter? Do you know what an on-campus George Wythe education is like?

On campus is the Magna Charta diagrammed in dry erase marker on the front of the dishwasher. On campus is a two-hour movie with roommates and the typical four-hour colloquium afterwards about the symbolism of the characters and plot. On campus is students sleeping on the couch in the school lobby with a book in their hands. On campus is an immersion into a wonderland of people united under a common vision to “move the cause of liberty.”

The first time I strode through the doors at George Wythe University and met the product, I was sold. The primary reason to study on campus in Cedar City is the other students. The curriculum is challenging, the instructors are inspiring, and the town is rich in culture and adventure; but it’s the students that make George Wythe what it is. To watch boys and girls read, write, and discuss the classics and transform into men and women who know how to think, who have a higher purpose to their lives, and who will make each place they journey better because they have been there. To hear untried youth ineptly speak and debate and then transform into orators and storytellers of power, logic, and heart. To smell the sweat behind an “honors” oral exam prepared for with hundreds of hours of annotations, diagrams, and staying-up-late-and-getting-up-early studying. To feel the chills looking around a classroom table at the bright and eager faces of the future of this world.

I’ve yet to visit another campus of higher education that begins each class in the proper order; acknowledging Divine Providence, of the republic for which our flag stands, a recitation of the mission of the school, and then a submergence into personally and universally applicable true principles. I’ve yet to visit another campus where a mentor meeting is about who I am becoming; physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, as well as study specifics. I’ve yet to visit another campus where bookshelves in bedrooms are a student necessity to hold an 1828 dictionary, the Great Books set, and as many well-thumbed classics as will fit stacked on top, leaning beside, and piled in front. I’ve yet to visit another campus where I can walk up to anyone and ask them, “what is your mission in life?” and regardless of their answer, I know they’ve thought about it before that moment, and probably more than twice.

I have walked with giants of character; shuffling home from the library together, hiking through the majestic natural beauty surrounding Cedar City, skipping to the park to play hard after a full day of studying, and rushing to the front of the classroom to diagram the Tytler Cycle. I rubbed shoulders with great thinkers when I woke my roommate up to tell her how I am like a young Natasha Rostova (because epiphanies love company), when I won the race to the back of the big classroom to point out where the Cuban Missile Crisis happened on the map, when I sat at the feet of older, wiser students to listen to their discussion on the moral implications of Communism, and when I read aloud my entire copy of Anthem because my friend didn’t have one. I have confidence sitting down with a middle-aged mom to discuss if families are like monarchies, gathering on the kitchen floor to talk about Georgics with my peers, asking a blind date about his philanthropic entrepreneurial ideas and sharing mine, and defining statesmen as Gandhi’s “be the change you wish to see in the world”, Churchill’s “never, never, never, never give up”, and Henry’s “give me liberty or give me death!”

Do you know what a George Wythe education is like?

A Message From George Wythe's President

Dr. Andrew Groft

In 1994, I skeptically attended an evening class taught by Cleon Skousen and Oliver DeMille. I was doubtful because I wondered whether a school with no football team or large buildings could really offer a quality educational experience. Still, I was intrigued by a friend’s report that:
…in this school freedom matters, original sources and classics are read and discussed, and professors (we call them mentors) really want the students to discuss, debate and learn not just what will be on the test, but how to think, communicate, persuade and really understand.
So there I was on day one, in this new, odd environment, listening to these two “mentors” engage us. Twenty minutes into the presentation, sitting in the back of the room with my face hidden from view by my hand and a downward glance, I found myself fighting back tears.
The reaction was not characteristic of me. One might say that I was just tired or emotionally primed that day, but I believe that it was much more. What was being taught and the manner in which they were teaching it rang true to me and struck me with a force I hadn’t anticipated. There are some serious problems in the world, they said, and serious flaws in the way educational and political institutions seek to address them. We are taught, for example, that the most important thing in life is to get a job and then work toward retirement, but what about getting an education in the great conversation of the ages, becoming a better human being, and finding and fulfilling your life’s mission? The world needs statesmen, they said. It needs men and women who possess characteristics of public and private virtue, wisdom, diplomacy, courage, and an understanding of humanity through history, government, literature, philosophy, science and religion. It needs men and women who will inspire each other to greatness, and move the precious cause of human freedom as part of their life’s mission. Ample jobs and business opportunities would naturally come to those dedicated to this pursuit. The training that dominates nearly every school in America may lead to wealth, but who is spending time truly educating mankind to engage in the great conversation? Who is educating for freedom? And without freedom, will the wealth and comfort experienced over the last 150 years last?
The tears and emotion came because I felt I was being taught to seek for truth, not just for good grades. I believed what these two men said: that I was meant to live a life of purpose and mission in serving a cause greater than myself. To do this, I was convinced that I must pay the heavy price of intense and focused study in the classics; and I must do it in an environment of learning where others were immersed in the same quest. This school was very small. No large buildings or football team. So I was surprised as I sat there and realized that this was the school for me.

Roughly 15 years have passed since that evening with Cleon and Oliver. I believed them then about the need for statesmen, but never have I felt the urgency so acutely as I feel it right now in 2009. So much good and so many good people exist in the world, yet nearly everyone I speak with shares similar concerns that things are unraveling. America was built on principles of freedom, responsibility, hard work, ingenuity, industry, invention, strong local governments, limited national government, active citizenship and public service. Yet many of these principles and virtues are disappearing. They are being replaced by dependence, finger-pointing, laziness, apathy, bureaucracy, the aristocratic tendencies in a few licensed and credentialed elite, and the plebeian tendencies in a mass of highly trained but poorly educated employees. Although I believe America's best years are still ahead, we currently find ourselves in a rut of ever-centralizing, ever-expanding federal government that promises to take care of us in ways reminiscent of the France of Louis XV, or the Rome of Diocletian. And remember, these were places and times where citizens weren’t necessarily tyrannized by their government, but where leaders convinced people through policies and promises to remain dependent children, and to trade their liberties for an illusive security.

The last several months have been difficult for most businesses and families. But with challenges come blessings and opportunities. Innovations have taken place at GWU that might never have happened if it weren’t for these economic challenges. First I want to share an update on the institution, and then some ways that you can help GWU and this most worthy of all causes, that of liberty.

1. In my last message at the beginning of the summer I provided an update on our accreditation efforts. Since then we have also initiated discussions with two accredited universities who are interested in creating articulation agreements—explicit agreements for the transfer of credit between two schools. Dr. Schulthies is currently working with these schools to start what we hope will be several collaborative efforts of this kind.

2. In the past, our efforts to provide quality customer service outside the classroom were hampered by unconnected software programs. One system managed finances, another handled academic records, another customer relationship, yet another assignments for off-campus students–and none of these systems were able to talk to each other.
We are now in the process of implementing an integrated information systems solution that centralizes these processes. Already, students can apply online, submit assignments and receive grades and feedback. Shortly, students will be able to register online, view their transcript and financial account information, monitor their progress toward graduation and much more. All of this will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from the comfort of home.
These are only a few of the tools provided by this new system which will increase speed, accuracy and transparency. The new changes also reduce the manpower required to manage this information and are part of the reason we have been able to lower tuition. You can visit our Online Services website (OLS) and create your own account at

3. We began teaching online courses on May 18th and they have gone even better than expected. We carefully selected the most advanced online classroom platform in an effort to create an environment most similar to an actual on-campus class. Our classes are not just places for interesting lectures that convey information, they are environments of learning, discussing, presenting, and analyzing. For this reason we could not use an interface that simply allowed people to observe a lecture and chat. Happily, we found that once a short learning curve is traversed, students are able to easily engage in lectures with discussion, colloquia, breakout groups, presentations, application sharing, PowerPoint, video conferencing, whiteboard activities, and more. Demand was so high for our first online course that we had to train five mentors for our first launch during the summer semester, and every one of them has expressed to me their surprise at how powerful these tools are. Dr. Schulthies, an early skeptic of online classes, told me that he has been amazed at how easy it is to create an interactive classroom experience similar to those on campus. Nels Jensen, a popular mentor at GW, said that although he was doubtful at first, he feels that there are some advantages and valuable tools available in our online classes that, as he put it, “simply cannot be duplicated in the classroom.” Clearly, this program will grow faster than we expected. You can learn more about these online programs at

4. We have tightened our curriculum in ways that may not have happened without the prodding of economic challenges and helpful accreditors. Courses remain as relevant and challenging as ever, but now they are also more consistent between on- and off-campus programs, are offered in smaller, more manageable chunks, and are easier to track through the degree process. Almost all courses alternate between two- and three-credit offerings. Assignments all share a common and straightforward theme of reading, writing and discussing the classics, yet flexibility is maintained as mentors still create custom assignments for classes and individuals based on need, interest and insights.

If you haven’t done so, I invite you to check out these improvements at Peruse the curriculum, the titles of books and the objectives of the courses and, if you’re like me, you’ll want to stop much of what you are doing to dig into these great works with a renewed enthusiasm toward leadership and statesmanship.
5. Our courses and degree programs are now more accessible and affordable than ever before. As always, students can attend on-campus and be a part of the energy of learning and discovery that buzzes here in Cedar City or in our extension classes. Likewise, the online classroom is fascinating and offers an incredible environment for Statesmanship Education. People who are particularly busy can study on a class-by-class basis as their schedule allows. Seminars and trainings are also available and are being planned. Extension courses are filling up and we invite students in any area where sufficient interest exists to help us set up more. Indeed, the day has finally come when physical boundaries are much less a hindrance.

These are only a few of the positive changes being made at GWU. Many more are on their way.
On a personal note, I want to say thank you and best wishes to my predecessor in this position, Dr. Shanon Brooks. Shanon recently resigned from the George Wythe Foundation Board of Trustees after nearly two decades of tireless work and unbelievable personal sacrifice by him, his wife Julia and his family. GWU matured significantly under his leadership and a complete list of his accomplishments would take too long to catalog. Shanon will now be able to devote his attention to growing another institution that has promoted leadership education for so many years. Face to Face with Greatness, which Shanon founded while at GWU, has presented literally hundreds of seminars throughout North America, spreading the message of education and liberty to thousands ( The faculty, staff and board of GWU look forward to many more years of association with Shanon in statesmanship education and in moving the cause of liberty.

Finally, I urge you to take a close look at the state of the nation and of the world. Consider how rapidly things are changing. Then consider how important it is that each of us goes through the process of laying a foundation and finding and fulfilling our life’s mission with that little time allotted us. Nietzsche and Marx were convinced that man was without actual purpose and nothing more than an advanced animal. But it is the nobility and vast potential of our minds, spirits and hearts that separate us from the animal kingdom and give us purpose. In order to be truly human and make the most of our humanity, we must continually study and improve those attributes. As we seek greater understanding of human nature, relationships, family and state governance, history and future trends, we will become better human beings, better friends and spouses, better citizens and co-workers, and more able statesmen who are equipped to inspire greatness in others and move the cause of liberty.
Not long after that first evening class, Dr. DeMille said something interesting to me. He said, “It seems like we have a window of opportunity where any effort to build statesmen will pay off. But history suggests that that window will not remain open for long.” Fifteen years later I am confident that the window is still open. There is still time.

Please help George Wythe University to fulfill its mission by donating and enrolling. Become a contributor and student of George Wythe today. We simply cannot wait until life gets less hectic. It won’t. Start doing the things you know you need to do now. Each of us must stop putting off our preparation to further the noble cause of liberty. We cannot "become" the American Founders, but we can learn what they knew; we can understand like they understood; we can become men and women who deserve a free republic. Now is the time.

Dr. Andrew Groft was named president of George Wythe University at a meeting of the George Wythe Foundation board of trustees in early 2009. At the time of his appointment he was serving as President of the Cedar City campus of George Wythe University. In the past he has also served as Provost and mentor at GWU. A popular speaker with youth and adults, he has taught, consulted and presented for businesses, schools and academic and governmental forums throughout the United States, Europe, Africa, and Asia.