Welcome to Great Hearts Irving
Dear Families and Friends,
“There is hardly a pioneer’s hut that does not contain a few odd volumes of Shakeaspeare.” –Alexis de Tocqueville
These words, penned by an early observer of the American liberty won from the British, testify to the indissoluble union of learning and freedom that guaranteed our nation’s sure foundation.
As I reflect upon our mission as a Liberal Arts institution, I am humbled to think that we have allies in the likes of Thomas Jefferson and the Founding Fathers; for our mission is theirs—no less than to make men and women free.
The liberal in Liberal Arts comes from the same Latin verb that gives us words like liberty and delivery, and implies that some certain freedom is enjoyed by the student of these arts. In this context, it is a word devoid of any political affiliation or creed—monarchists, republicans, democrats, and oligarchs may all be liberal in this sense. But what precisely is the freedom of the liberally educated soul? What is such a person freed from or freed for?
In the first place, there is the freedom of the studies themselves. We are not a vocational institution, nor do we limit the curriculum to a specialized discipline—we are not exclusively a “STEM school” or a “fine arts school”. Rather, we welcome the abundance of human literary, scientific, aesthetic, and moral culture and permit this treasury of thought to enrich our community. In this manner, our students are given a liberal exposure to the great wealth of human experience throughout the ages.
In a second sense, a liberal education promises a kind of freedom that, in the words of James Russell Lowell, “emancipates the mind from every narrow provincialism … and is the apprenticeship that every one must serve before becoming a free brother of the guild which passes the torch of life from age to age.”
In this sense, liberally educated men and women are cured of the myopia with which the modern eye tends to view contemporary culture and events. They are free to interpret and understand today’s particular experiences and conditions in light of the universal and enduring truths gleaned from the ages. They are free to examine the world with a view from above, so to speak.
In the first battle of the Texas Revolution, a small band of Texians fashioned a flag painted with the phrase “come and take it” beneath the image of a cannon.
But our rag-tag group of Texians, themselves having had some introduction to the liberal arts, found a deeper meaning in these words than may strike our ears today—a meaning that hearkened back to an ancient well of valor. Indeed, the phrase “come and take it” was used two millennia before, when the Spartans defied the invading army of Persians who threatened, and failed, to conquer the world. Thus the Texians drew from the courage of the Spartans to fend off their foe.
Because those Texians had access to the tradition of the West, they pulled themselves out of the particular circumstances that faced them at Gonzales in 1835, and could envision their small actions as belonging to the monumental narrative of Liberty that stretches down the ages.
It is this ability—to see ourselves as participants within a human narrative greater than each of us alone—that we hope to revive in our culture and instill in our children by supporting the community at Great Hearts Irving. I am honored to have you all as partners in this great effort, and I look forward to working with you this year and in the years ahead to make our school a custodian of “the guild which passes the torch of life from age to age.”
Philip G. Althage