By chance and uncharacteristically I clicked on a link sent in a promotional email by ISI (Intercollegiate Studies Institute), offering an interview with an alumna of one of their honors programs who has since won a Rhodes Scholarship. The interviewer asks, “What has been the highlight of your undergraduate experience thus far?”, to which this articulate Rhodes Scholar replies:
I had the great pleasure of taking a tutorial with a professor and one other student on Aristotle’s Ethics. We read one chapter each week and then discussed it for hours over tea. The Ethics has been one of the most formative books in my academic career: reading through it helped me better understand the meaning of the good life and formulate my own thoughts about it. I highly recommend everyone read this book carefully. I also suggest that students seek out the opportunity to study in seminars and tutorials with professors.
I found the student’s reply interesting, first of all because it shows that, even in a great and big institution, what we typically value and love most is found in a very small community within — the company of a few friends; working under a single mentor; or, as in this case, a tutorial-like class consisting of a professor, two students, a profoundly great text, and discussions over tea.
But then I also had the thought that what this admirable student loved and appreciated most, is an experience which the best students at my own university also enjoy. So, simply with respect to what was found to be best at Harvard, it seems we can conclude that Harvard and Ave Maria are equivalent (or better, if London Pride at the Queen Mary Pub is better than tea).
It would be absurd to claim that Ave Maria has everything that Harvard has. For instance, we do not have the noise, pollution, and crime which are found in a city. We do not have any dirty piles and pools of slush to trudge through in March. But with respect to what is best — then, if we follow what Aristotle advises in his Ethics, and take the judgment of an excellent person, such as the Rhodes Scholar, to serve as a standard and guide, we can perhaps claim to have some of the better or indeed best things.
More: Why not be a teacher? You’d be a fine teacher, perhaps a great one. Richard Rich: If I was, who would know it? More: You, your pupils, your friends, God. Not a bad public, that.