Models of Excellence

But in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.

C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism

The foundation of a proper education is a firm grounding in the right books. What books these are is not difficult to discover—they are the common heritage of western civilization and have shaped the the minds of men and women for centuries. However, in recent decades they have fallen into disuse as young people have been trained to do and not to think. But in our day, the lone voices in the wilderness crying for a return to the fountain of wisdom have now been joined by the most farsighted intellectuals of our time who realize that the ability to learn and the ability to think is the most precious and the most valuable gift we can give the rising generation. This is a gift far more precious than random facts without meaning and skills better suited to the assembly line than to a world in which change happens faster than one can track.


Models of Excellence in Learning

"No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of your knowledge./ The teacher who walks in the shadow of the temple, among his followers, gives not of his wisdom but rather of his faith and lovingness./ If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.

—Khalil Gibran, The Prophet

Any person of any age will benefit greatly from studying a curriculum such as this one. He or she will become acquainted with great books and will see to some extent how the ideas in them echo through the ages to our own time, but to get the fullest benefit from them—the benefits that we have tried to describe here—much more is needed. The greatest texts do not give up their secrets easily, and what is gleaned from the surface is often just a hint of what lies below. To plumb the depths of knowledge it has always been recognized that a guide is needed, and that is the crucial piece that is often missing from education that takes place in schools or alternate situations. A guide is needed not only to direct the student to the proper texts, but to send them back to them again and again until the student both understands what the author means and is able to draw his or her own personal meaning from the text. It is in the crucible formed by the intersection of these two vital activities that a truly cultured mind is forged.

Good teachers are not rare, but great teachers who are able to instill a love of learning and a knowledge of how to learn are. It is the caliber of our teachers and their teaching philosophy that makes all the difference. They never lose sight of the aim of education. In a world that is constantly changing, an education based on the history of ideas not only furnishes the mind with a store of beauty and wisdom that can console it in difficult times, but also gives it the flexibility and courage needed to overcome any challenge and to adapt and excel in fields that may not even yet exist.

Meet the Instructors

Christopher Hurtado

Christopher Hurtado


Christopher Hurtado was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and grew up in Caracas, Venezuela. He graduated from Brigham Young University with a BA in Middle East Studies/Arabic and Philosophy and from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies with an MA in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies. His principal areas of interest are medieval Islamic philosophy, philosophical poetry, and Classical literature. He has lived in South America and the Middle East, and enjoys traveling, book collecting, and teaching.

Travis Patten

Travis Patten


Travis Patten was born in Provo, Utah, and grew up in Salem, Utah. He graduated from Utah Valley University with a BA in History. His principal areas of interest are ancient Near Eastern culture, Italian poetry, and 18th century British literature. He has lived in South America and Great Britain, and enjoys traveling, book collecting, and cheesemaking.

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Now registering for Year 1: Greece and Rome, Semester 1: Greece