Too Blessed to Be Stupid

The following are notes from Mr. Higgins’ graduation address last Sunday evening.


Hailey and Autumn, euge, bravo and well done! We praise the Lord for you, and we praise the Lord with you that He has blessed you with strength and endurance to finish this phase of your education. My graduation message to you tonight is simple. I believe it will be helpful and hopefully memorable. The message is this: you are too blessed to be stupid.

There is a categorical cornucopia of those who are dumb, fat, and happy, but I want to argue that your blessedness, your beatus, your happiness, won’t allow you to be stupid.

Stupid is a word your mom probably doesn’t want you to use. Stupid isn’t usually polite, and it’s regularly used to describe someone else’s actions/decisions that we just don’t like. But I have something more specific in mind.

I recently read a 46 year-old book titled, The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity by an Italian economist named Carlo Cipolla. It’s short, a little over 80 printed pages, and ought to be on everyone’s summer reading list, including those who have just finished high school. I am going to share the best of the book, but I knew the gist before I read it and lost none of the value.

Cipolla points out that humans are relational creatures. To my knowledge he didn’t claim to be a Christian, but as Christians we know that we are made in the image of one God who has revealed Himself in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This means that we were created with the capacity for work and connection, even for cooperation. For some this interaction is a painful necessity, other individuals will put up with other persons they don’t really like so they don’t have to be alone.

Think in economic terms what each person brings, what each person aims for. “From each action or inaction we derive a gain or a loss and at the same time we cause a gain or a loss to someone else.” (Cipolla, Location 202) Those benefits and losses can be plotted on a matrix.

He observes that there are always four types of persons in their interactions: 1) the Helpless, 2) Bandits, 3) the Intelligent, and 4) the Stupid.

The helpless person may contribute a minimal amount to society but is often taken advantage of. It’s not that the helpless person is ignorant per se, it’s that in his interactions he is more impoverished than enriched. The helpless are drained even when they aren’t the worst drain on others.

The bandit likewise is not a dunce, but exerts more energy in causing another’s loss in order to gain for himself. Thieves can be quite creative but they concentrate on what they can get. It’s a win-lose relationship, a bigger piece of the pie for bandit means he’s taking it from someone else’s piece.

The intelligent uses his brains for win-win. He benefits, not just parallel to, but together with, the benefit of others. The pie gets bigger for everyone. Intelligence in Cipolla’s definition is not just mental horsepower or IQ, not just quantitative reasoning on the CLT. It’s applied logic in love, a relational intelligence. Having read Proverbs we’d label it wisdom.

The fourth character in the last quadrant is the stupid, and he is the worst. Cipolla defines it in the third and “golden” basic law of stupidity: “A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.” (Location 245)

“Our daily life is mostly made up of cases in which we lose money and/or time and/or energy and/or appetite, cheerfulness, and good health because of the improbable action of some preposterous creature who has nothing to gain and indeed gains nothing from causing us embarrassment, difficulties or harm.” (Location 255)

And it’s not just an individual concern.

“This [stupid] group is much more powerful than the Mafia, or the military industrial complex, or international communism—it is an unorganized, unchartered group which has no chief, no president, no by-laws and yet manages to operate in perfect unison, as if guided by an invisible hand, in such a way that the activity of each member powerfully contributes to strengthen and amplify the effectiveness of the activity of all other members.” (Location 101)

It might seem that bandits would be worse: purposefully benefitting themselves at the losses of others. But bandit types can be reasoned with to some degree, or at least we can use reason to understand their decisions. The helpless are also not helpful for a community, but their biggest problem is that they can’t stand up against the stupid.

The stupid person is committed to doing things that benefit no one. They take the perfectly good pie and throw the whole thing in the trash, probably while congratulating themselves since sugar is a drug that causes diabetes. No one wins, and there’s no logic that can move them. They will work hard to make it so that they don’t have to work hard, and that hinders others from working hard. The stupid are “the most powerful dark forces that hinder the growth of human welfare and happiness.” (Location 107)

Cipolla’s categories get close to Solomon’s characters. The helpless is as the naive or the simple. The bandits compare to the scoffers, the sinners whose feet run to evil (Proverbs 1:16). The intelligent are the wise. And the stupid is the fool. It’s more than failing grades and a low Lexile reading level, it’s resistance to knowledge that does good.

  • “a fool flaunts his folly” (Proverbs 13:16)
  • “a babbling fool will come to ruin” (Proverbs 10:8)
  • “the mouth of a fool brings ruin near” (Proverbs 10:14)
  • “doing wrong is like a joke to a fool” (Proverbs 10:23)

“Let a man meet a she-bear robbed of her cubs rather than a fool in his folly” (Proverbs 17:12).

Bertrand Russell once said (ironically): “The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.” Solomon said it a long time ago.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
but a wise man listens to advice.
(Proverbs 12:15, ESV)

Cipolla asserts that the percentage of stupid = σ is a constant, and “Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.” (Location 121). No matter what group or demographic, there are always those who make decisions detrimental to themselves and others. If Cipolla is right, you can see that now, not just when you “go out into the world.”

Examples in a school context: Students who defend not doing their work and make it hard for others to do theirs, whether mouthing off with each other or blowing off their assignments. Teachers who habitually over-assign work that then we also have to grade. Or broadening the view: Politicians who mandate untested or unnecessary restrictions to the harm of everyone.

Raggant-about-to-be-alumni, you are too blessed to be stupid. The blessings God has given you are abundant and extraordinary. Your parents have blessed you, your teachers have sacrificed to do the same. You’ve read books and had conversations about things that maybe most students, most human beings, never will. These are not blessings that just happen anywhere.

Blessings include but are not limited to: learning how to partner for projects (with others who don’t care as much as you), learning how to keep reading good things when your eyes hurt, learning how to learn when the subject is difficult, learning how to sing in harmony, learning how to laugh when it’s hard, learning how to make and defend your case, learning how to change your mind.

You both have finished this part of your course and are more equipped than the majority of your peers who are hurting themselves and others by not taking advantage of the assignments in front of them. You have been blessed, and I charge you to bring blessings to others, for their joy and your own.

Hailey and Autumn, we are glad to celebrate with you as you cross the ECS finish line. Fear the Lord, be wise, get wisdom, remember that you are too blessed to be stupid.

Keep Founding

The following notes were from Mr. Higgins’ talk at last Friday’s Fundraising Feast.


I am one of the founders of ECS. Being a founder is interesting, because founders aren’t the past tense of finders. A founder doesn’t find something that was there, a founder lays down a foundation for something that could become. The only thing that existed about ECS eleven years ago was an idea. But look around. The wine and steak and laughter and songs and relationships are real.

Photo by Mrs. Bowers

This is our ninth fundraising feast, and this is the ninth time that I’ve spoken. Someday there will be another speaker (and the people rejoiced). Debatable statistics say that most people would rather drown than speak in public, but even if the task doesn’t seem fun to you, you can certainly imagine that it is a privilege. Year by year I ask Jonathan if he would like me to speak, and he keeps including me because I’m connected as a founder, a board member, a parent of raggants, a teacher, and now a grandpa to a future raggant!

But as I said, it won’t be me up here forever, and not just when I’m dead. If we fulfill our mission, it definitely won’t be. My comments so far are a personal angle on our institutional vision. I have the perspective of a founder with a purpose to make more of them, and from my perspective it’s working.

Consider how different things are than two years ago, when we didn’t even host a fundraising feast because we were all ordered to stay home. But more than that, think about how different your life, your family, your weekly schedule, your budget, your relationships, your expectations, are now compared to before you got connected to ECS. The influence isn’t only one way, and it’s not always immediately positive I suppose. But all of us are changed (and/or challenged) by one another. Every new teacher and student and family adds to the foundation.

I am one of the first founders, but we are all ongoing founders. This is our school’s mission. We aren’t interested in making graduates as much as we are interested in graduating founders. By that I don’t mean that every young man or woman has to start a brand new school or business, though some will. I mean that every young man or woman will carry and advance the foundation.

That foundation is our confession that Jesus is Lord. He cares about everything He created, and if we are to please Him and grow in likeness to Him, we must grow in our care for everything He created. The works of the Lord are the foundation, and we commend them to another generation (Psalm 145:4). So we are always abounding in the work of the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58), reading books and translating Latin and laughing at tyrants and stacking chairs again in and for Jesus’ name.

We are doing this so that we’ll be more than a “read-only” culture. If the government keeps down its current path, we’re going to see the increase of a “can’t-read” generation, which I suppose will at least keep them from being as irritated someday when they have to buy gas. Read-only is better than unread-only. But we’re aiming for more than literacy. We’re aiming higher than knowing history. Let’s make history.

A “read-only” people have “the ability to repeat what an ancestor has handed down – but not recreate it from first principles” (Balaji). In the model of classical education that we follow at ECS, the first stage is the Grammar stage, and it necessarily includes learning about and learning to appreciate all that we’ve been given. We repeat vocabulary words and multiplication tables and parts in songs because repetition is a tool in education. But it’s not the telos of education.

Repeating isn’t enough, and neither is knowing more so that we can have more informed complaints. We live in a day, or at least in a streaming news-cycle, where resentment is triumphing over vision. Algorithms are written to engage our attention with anger. We don’t know for sure what’s happening, but we know for sure someone needs to be damned. The cultural foundations around us aren’t just deteriorating on their own, they are being actively destroyed. Did we expect anything different from a system starting with deconstruction?

We have to learn what is better, and then commit to trying to build something better. That is the part we put on repeat, not just parroting what a founder said, but what a founder did. Keep founding.

Tonight will end, but it is not the end, right? When the dishes are done and the donations counted, we have a lot more to do. We will have school on Monday, four more weeks of this school year, graduation for our seniors, and a final assembly, then we start again in the fall. It’s just a little over 16 weeks away from the first day of school. Ha!

You also have only so many weeks have left. I read a book titled Four Thousand Weeks, which is rounded for how many weeks there are in 77 years of life. What are you doing with those? What foundation are you building up (or tearing down) for your family? For your city?

“The world is bursting with wonder, and yet it’s the rare productivity guru who seems to have considered the possibility that the ultimate point of all our frenetic doing might be to experience more of that wonder.” (—Oliver Burkeman, Loc. 55)

The point of tonight is not to raise the most money we’ve ever raised. That’s not the end of the game. The point is to give thanks and raise money for the purpose of continuing the wonder, and the work of helping others see the wonder.

I’m not so starry-eyed as to think everyone gets the wonder in the works of the Lord at the same level. Not all of our current students see what they’re being given. Do any of us? But, wow, how kind the Lord has been to us these last ten years. What fruit has come from so many late nights and caffeinated mornings. It’s totally costly, and yet what a foundation of laughter and feasting do we dance on. Even when God has said “No” to particular prayers, He has worked in ways we can easily commend to one another.

No person has worked harder than our Headmaster to find us a place to root our work. At the direction of the Board he asked a local church if we could rent their space, and we sent him back at least two more times after they said no. As it turns out, had that church, or the other alternatives we pursued said yes, we probably would not have been able to open our doors in the fall of 2020. Not only that, we wouldn’t be in the position that we are now to pursue purchasing the Reclamation Church campus.

For the first time in our history we are about to have our own property on which to build more foundation. We also have the opportunity to honor our city and protect our investment from burning down by installing a sprinkler system. This is not a distraction, this is the spoils of founding something that God has made so fruitful. A number of people have observed that the building isn’t as bright as they’d like. That’s okay, neither are we, and fixing the former is easier than the latter. The same is true for Marysville. Paint is cheap compared to the cost of bringing light to the darkness, and yet it’s exactly the foundation we’ve been working on.

We have joy in a work that we are only starting. We laugh because we can’t finish it. The work is that big, that glorious. We are doing this because an idea turned into 370 people having a feast. Imagine what it could be just ten more years from now?

Keep rejoicing in the works of the Lord and keep founding.

Yep, a Basement

Here is the next edition in our series of letters celebrating our tenth year at ECS, this one by Mrs. Jennifer VanderBeken, overseer of ECS’ original basement home, mother of three Raggants, and one of our first teachers


It is hard to believe that a decade has already gone by and here we are together celebrating Evangel Classical School’s 10th anniversary. What an amazing experience it has been and what a tremendous impact those experiences have had on our family and so many others. 


Really, the groundwork for ECS was set long before 2012 when God in His absolute sovereignty brought together like-minded families at a small church in Marysville and eventually, through a series of challenges and events, the idea of creating a classical Christian school took form. 


The first day of school was a gorgeous September day with an abundance of excitement and anticipation. Rays of sunshine highlighted the freshly ironed uniforms and carefully organized school supplies and streamed through the windows of the…basement. Yep, a basement. A basement located in a home, on a farm, on Goebel Hill Road…with the family who owned the basement, in the home, on a farm, on Goebel Hill Road living in Brisbane, Australia. 


While the Bour family enjoyed their extended stint in the Southern Hemisphere, our family had enthusiastically taken on the opportunity to act as caretakers of their property. Then when the fledgling ECS needed a space to meet, it made perfect sense to utilize the property for this endeavor. After all, what could be a more idyllic setting for a classical school than a beautiful property with sheep, goats, cows, and chickens meandering through the surrounding fields, eagles soaring above the large garden; all with a breathtaking view of Mt. Pilchuck?


During that first year, Mr. Sarr’s desk was in a storage area right beside the hot water heater and under the pipes to the upstairs hall bathroom. While kindergarten through 5th grade met in the open area of the basement (about 300 sq. ft.), the three secondary students met upstairs in the living room. Recess included school-wide soccer games on the gravel driveway and, for a time, swinging on the rope swing in the barn (until it became too risky). 


Toward the end of September, the property’s well ran dry, so we brought in a portable outhouse and large bottles of water to get by until a new well was drilled. Ironically, later in the school year the basement flooded with an ample amount of water, and we were required to face the challenge of moving the entire school upstairs for a time. Our already cozy and crazy school setting was even more so and yet absolutely wonderful. 


The lessons of God’s sovereignty in both abundance and want continued to come into focus throughout the year. The garden produced wonderful vegetables, including carrots to nibble fresh out of the ground during recess and periodically, a newly laid egg could be found in the hen house. A school wide contest to name a newborn calf resulted with the winning name being “Stewy.” When the two ewes, Sophia and Lily gave birth to their lambs we were delighted to watch two sets of twins frolicking together, not to mention very entertained.  However, it was heartbreaking to have one lamb, Benny, rejected by his mother. The little black lamb was brought into the house to be cared for and bottle fed. Eventually Benny died due to a heart defect and many tears flowed. On the other hand, when a naughty and downright mean goat was sent to the butcher tears were not shed and the students thoroughly enjoyed snacking on tasty goat pepperoni sticks. 


Now here we are in 2022, far from the farm on Goebel Hill Road and instead nestled in essentially the middle of Marysville. The four 5th grade girls were joined by three additional classmates and together made up the largest graduating class so far when their graduation was held clandestinely at the Pakinas’ Farm in May 2020. The three original kindergarteners whose feet dangled precariously above the floor at their shared table during their phonogram tests are now a part of the 9th grade class. Recess on the gravel driveway is now, for the most part, in a large parking lot, and while the footprint of the school has expanded beyond a residential basement there are still, shall we say, space limitations.

However, God’s faithful provision is perfect, and taking the time to reminisce is encouraging. With grateful hearts we look forward to the next ten years and wonder what our perspective will be at ECS’s 20th anniversary. Whether your family has joined us this year or several years ago or anything in between, we all have the immense privilege and important responsibility to lock arms, work together, and anticipate God working tremendously through the ECS Raggants and their families. 

—Mrs. Jennifer VanderBeken

Letter From The Intern (aka Miss Kara Rothenberger)

It has been amazing to get to watch God’s outpouring of blessings on ECS the past 10 years. When the school first opened its doors, I was 12 and officially the first guinea pig to make it through all of Secondary. From my perspective as a Raggant during those first insane years, I definitely never noticed how odd we must have looked from anyone else’s perspective – all I knew were faithful and joyful teachers, and a plethora of hard jobs to attack to the best of our abilities. Through the faithfulness of those first teachers, I was brought to Christ; over the years, their perseverance made me want IN to the party in all the ways they could give me. I remember thinking in early high school that there were no other people I’d rather lock arms with and jump into the trenches with gusto. Over these 10 years, between wearing hats of student and teacher, I can vouch for the fact that all these teachers continue to pursue God more and more every day, that their joy has been given greater roots than they thought possible, and God has given them more grace than they realized they would need.

A couple random memories that come to mind:

  • Year 1: Our entire school fit in the window of an aquarium where, 8 years later, my entire class had to squeeze to fit.
  • Year 4: Our first class of Seniors graduated. Today, 6 years later, our Omnibus classes are currently working through the same books those Seniors ended on.
  • Year 10: My first class of 2nd Graders (including the current youngest Rothenberger) is now in 5th Grade – this happens to be the same grade Mrs. Taylor Rothenberger started in 10 years ago. And now, in this tenth year, we will welcome ECS’s first alumni-baby!

God has been good to this little school, and I am daily blessed by the students, families, teachers, and Board. Laughter is, indeed, war within these walls! May it ring ever louder!

—Miss Kara Rothenberger

Letter From the CheerMan

As we round the corner on the second half of ECS’ tenth year, this section of the Standard will be devoted to sharing reflections from some of those who have been here since the beginning: teachers, spouses, board members, and students – many of whom have filled a variety of these roles over the years!

We begin with Chuck Weinberg, the ‘older’ Charles Weinberg and father to the teacher Mr. Weinberg. He has been the ECS Board’s Chairman (fondly called the “CheerMan”) from before we opened that basement door in September of 2012.


10 years – Crazy how quickly time has gone. 

When we decided to start the school the common model was to start in Kindergarten and add a new grade each year as that class went up in age. We had students in grades spreading from K-10, so we decided that we would ignore all the experts and accommodate all the ages. It was risky, it was hard, and it could have failed AND it didn’t fail. God blessed our small beginning and we are starting to feel the blessing more as we continue to bust out of our space. 

I also remember talking through the budget during planning sessions and the UH was/is always thrifty and trying to get his numbers exactly correct. Have fun trying to do that when you have no really solid idea of how many students you will have. It was somewhat laughable since each of the first few years we were increasing the size of the school by so many students that it was ‘musical-chairs’ with new families coming in, how many grades were together in one classroom and such, all while trying to be fiscally responsible. And just like “it didn’t fail” God also took care of those small beginnings and blessed the financial piece as well. 

One of the things I really enjoy is stopping by the school, on the way home, and seeing my four Raggant grandkids as well as the “other Mr. Weinberg.” Never did I imagine that Grant would be a teacher at the school and LOVING it. When our kids are young we try to imagine what they will be when they grow up; I’m still working on that myself, and being a Math and Science teacher wasn’t anywhere on the radar for Grant in my head. Next year, Lord willing, I will have five Raggant grandkids. Small beginnings and who’s to say that some of those Raggants won’t also be doing something on staff or teaching at the school some day? 

– Mr. Chuck Weinberg
ECS Board CheerMan

On the Weapon of Submission

There’s no denying that we are in a spiritual war. Our enemy is invisible and our weapons are unconventional. The Apostle’s arsenal included “the belt of truth…the breastplate of righteousness” and more. At ECS we’ve added to the list things like “weaponized laughter” and feasting. And really, any good gift from God becomes a weapon of our warfare when received with gratefulness.

If you want proof, consider the enemy’s perversion of God’s gifts to us. Food? Wine? Sex? Freedom of speech? Satan hates that stuff. He would have us fear food or (at least!) be gluttonous. He would have us abstain from alcohol because of its dangers when abused. He would have us commit sexual sins because doing so harms the image of God in us and because sex is meant to be fruitful, which he also hates. He would have us abuse our freedoms (including speech) to the injury of our neighbors. While we could go on, I want to focus for a moment on a weapon we rarely wield well: the weapon of submission.

Submission offers a formula for human peace, happiness, and flourishing. It is therefore well-positioned for abuse. Husbands abuse their wives; parents abuse their children; political leaders exploit those they’re supposed to serve and protect.

The abuse cuts the other direction, as well. Wives seek to manipulate and control faithful husbands; children seek to manipulate and control faithful parents; citizens subvert and undermine faithful leaders.

But what do we encounter when submission is the delightful norm for the faithful Christian? Well, I’ve already said it: peace, happiness, and flourishing.

A friend of mine once remarked that submission was a genius strategy to establish authority and responsibility among equals. Take marriage, for instance. Scripture nowhere argues that husbands are superior to wives, intellectually or otherwise. They generally have a different makeup and constitution, but it’s just that: different, not superior. Husbands and wives are equal in value, so how is a couple ever to make a decision? By identifying a responsible party who will give account for the outcome regardless of whose personality or voice is the strongest. And that party is the husband.

So even if a wife wants her husband to submit to her, he still bears responsibility for her before God. (I’ll let you read that again.) When a wife realizes this, she is then freed up to submit to her husband in the Lord. When the couple faces a tricky decision, she can say with appropriate respect, “[Husband’s name], you’ve gotten my input on this situation, and now I trust that you will do the right thing as God works through you to act in our best interests.” She can then support him even when disagreeing (provided, of course, that he’s not acting sinfully).

This extends to our children as well. I’ve had countless students unhappy in my office because they disobeyed. Quite literally, if they would have submitted to the direction of their teachers, they would have been happier than they were while paying me a visit. Such a child can say, “I don’t understand why you want me to [insert parental directive here], but I know that it pleases the Lord and everyone’s happier when I obey…especially me.” That’s idyllic, I know, and rather sophisticated for a child to use such language. But parents can help shepherd them that direction through cheerful and patient shepherding. This sort of weaponized submission can change the world.

To be sure, some objects of submission abdicate their authority, disqualify themselves, or otherwise don’t deserve our submission. But that too is an abuse. Christians must submit as far as we can, which is probably a lot further than we are submitting at present.

Benjamin Franklin is reported to have said, “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” That’s true. Tyrants pervert submission and they should be thwarted. But there are times when the way to thwart a tyrant is by…submission. A king who tyrannizes his subjects deserves what he gets. But part of the way a king comes to ruin may just be through his subjects’ faithful submission to God. It happened to Nebuchadnezzar, and it certainly can happen to parents and presidents. This sort of submission is active, deliberate, proactive.

That’s one way to weaponize submission. Another is through the conscious exhibition of cheerful submission as we refute worldly wisdom. A child who cheerfully submits to his parents may prompt the curiosity of the world. A wife who cheerfully submits to her husband may find a husband who is working to take responsibility…unto the flourishing of her whole family. A citizen who submits whenever possible to the king (i.e., as far as faithfulness to Christ will allow) may soon find influence with the king. When we wield the weapon of submission, we hack at the root of humanistic ambition; we put feet to the faith we proclaim…that death brings life, loss is gain, and happiness comes through self-denial. We model our Savior, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2).

Though this is not a typical Raggant Standard “Letter from the U.H.”, I believe that we all need to be reminded that our kids (and students!) are learning from us. We are teaching them how to submit, and our actions are more effective teachers than our words. This is a principle we discuss frequently as a teaching staff, and we ought to do so as parents, as well. And just as we imitate Christ, may our children learn to wield this powerful weapon. And may grace cover the gap between our actions and our words…while we fight to close it.

—Mr. Sarr
The U.H.

Thoughts On the Orienting Feature of Feasting

Believe it or not, it’s November. Here we are, still recovering from Reformation Day, winding up the quarter, and staring down the barrel of Thanksgiving and the holiday season. This is a great time to offer some reminders about Thanksgiving and the value of feasting.

I was tempted to cut and paste from any of the multiple times we’ve discussed this topic in the past, including this invitation to the 2017 Fundraising Feast, this article from a 2017 Raggant Standard, or even this post from the Sarrs’ blog the fall that we opened ECS. I never get tired of talking about this, and I’m always looking for ways to make the message more helpful. This article is still another such attempt.

Why did the Lord wish for the Hebrews to remember Passover? Because that dark day was full of blessing and provision from God. Why do Christians call the day of Christ’s death “Good Friday?” Because that was the day that He dealt Death a fatal blow and paid our death penalty. These things are worth remembering, so Christians feast to remember the good that God has done for us…especially when we may be momentarily focused on bad things (like the death of a firstborn or the murder of the Son).

At ECS, we have problems. This is not the time or the place to catalogue them, but there’s plenty we need to work on and plenty that we need the Lord to fix. Much of my days are spent thinking about and trying to address them…or even helping to Lord to fix them (as though He needs it). But in the midst of our problems are countless blessings. Here’s a sample:

  • We still get to come to school.
  • We still get to retreat to God’s Holy Word, which affirms that all men have value as image bearers…and that God made male and female (Gen. 5:2).
  • We get to finish The Iliad and read all of The Psalms in the same class in the same week (this week, in fact).
  • We get to serve about 180 students.
  • We get to put our children under the tutelage of godly teachers…many of whom are men, and male teachers are quite rare these days.
  • We have a second basketball hoop on the playground (er…parking lot).

Whether it’s a basketball hoop, a sip of water, a candy cane, a decadent dinner roll, or a turkey’s hind quarter, receive it as gift, given by a smiling Father who loves to watch His children enjoy His blessings. Receive it, deliberately remembering that it represents a teensy fraction of the good He’s doing for you right now. Know that He delights in You because of the work of Christ and Christ’s righteousness in you.

If I’m being honest, I write these things first for myself. I need my philosophical tools to be sharp and oiled if I’m going to answer for why we want a culture of feasting…or if I wish to share that mindset with others. Articulating these thoughts proves a sharpening, orienting reminder. I also need to be reminded of the goodness of God and how He’s showered me with blessings. Your families comprise 95 separate blessings to me.

Along the way, I also want to encourage you. This practice of thanksgiving is a guard against presumptuous sins. Our blessings – both pleasant and unpleasant – are from Him…and they’re on purpose. And they’re good. And we will praise Him.

Risus est bellum.

-U.H.

Mind the Good

Something I’ve been preaching to my own heart in recent weeks has been a simple little mantra, namely this:

Mind the good.

In any given moment of our lives, whether in class or around the dinner table, there are a thousand blessings, if we would but see them. This takes eyes of faith, because we believe that being responsible means dealing with the problems before us. But thankfulness cleans off of our smudgy glasses to be able to see those problems more clearly. It lends perspective, and we all need that.

Imagine a mom and dad and their four kids are at the dinner table, and the kids are bickering. True, it’s bad that they’re bickering. Maybe even really bad. But…

  • It’s good that the kids are all there, and none are sick or in the hospital.
  • It’s good that the family has managed to prioritize mealtimes together for sake of connection.
  • It’s good that the table has food on it.
  • It’s good that they have a place to eat that food.
  • It’s good that moments like these are (probably) outnumbered by sweeter moments of harmony that cultivate family loyalty and create happy memories.
  • In sneaky ways, these times are stabilizing and anchoring for the family.

What, of these good things, do they deserve? (Hint: it rhymes with “sun.”)

Being mindful of the good things in this vignette does not make the bickering automatically disappear. And yet it does lend a degree of helpful clarity when it comes time to address that bickering.

If you’re at ECS, you have a family. Families are good, and families have family problems. Your kids are in a classroom full of other sinners and also full of good blessings.

May God grant us eyes of faith to see the good in the midst of the bad.

—The U.H.

Laughing in Wartime

The following are notes from the Convocation address by Mr. Higgins


The word perspective derives from two Latin words, the preposition per meaning “through” and the verb speciō meaning “I look.” We might think of a person with perspective like a bird, high enough to see a broader landscape, or as one using a telescope, far enough away to see how things relate. But at its root, someone with perspective is someone who is able to look through. Someone who can look through is someone who can see clearly as if having found a window in the wall.

From a calendar perspective, we are only on the first day of an entire school year, and so we have a long way to go. From an institutional perspective, we are on the first day of year ten, and so we have come a long way. From even another perspective, not just looking at time, we can see through the fog and know that what we have here is something special.

Follow me here. Perspective enables us to see that what we have is special, and I’d say that what’s really special is that we have perspective. My evidence for that is all the laughter. Bona fide laughter requires perspective.

The painting ‘De Lachende Rembrandt’ (‘The Laughing Rembrandt’) is displayed in the Rembrandt House museum in Amsterdam, on June 6 2008. It is a self portrait by the Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn, presumably from 1628. (Photo credit OLAF KRAAK/AFP/Getty Images)

Both our mission statement and our motto talk about laughter. Here’s our mission:

We commend the works of the Lord to another generation with the tools of classical education, weaponized laughter, and sacrificial labors so that they will carry and advance Christ-honoring culture.

Our motto is: Risus est bellum, or Laughter is war.

We talk about laughter, and in the nine finished years of ECS, there has been nothing more difficult, and nothing more important, than laughter. This kind of laughing is not mostly due to a specific personality type, though it’s certainly true that laughing comes easier to some than the melancholy. I feel as if I have a good view of what this laughter looks like, like a drowning man looks up at the water’s surface with desperate attention and desire to reach it. Laughter is that important.

Of course not all laughter is the same. Solomon had some unflattering things to say about chuckling fatheads.

For as the crackling of thorns under a pot,
so is the laughter of the fools;
(Ecclesiastes 7:6)

Thorns in fire heat up fast, but don’t last. They burn out before providing any real benefit. The laughter of fools is as useless as it is noisy.

If a wise man has an argument with a fool,
the fool only rages and laughs,
and there is no quiet.
(Proverbs 29:9)

Fools laugh because they can’t see the bigger picture and because they don’t want to look at the immediate problems. A fool’s cackle is mere defense mechanism, making a racket against the reasonable.

Weaponized laughter, the kind we’re after at ECS, is laughter from faith for faith. It is able to see through the current troubles to what God is accomplishing in them. We have some historical examples surrounding us in a great cloud of witnesses.

“When sometimes I sit alone, and have a settled assurance of the state of my soul, and know that God is my God, I can laugh at all troubles, and nothing can daunt me.”

—Hugh Latimer

Latimer was the same English Reformer burned at the stake in 1555 with Nicholas Ridley, when Latimer is reported to have said:

“Play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.”

That is the kind of thing you can only say with perspective. A man with the perspective of faith in God can “laugh at all troubles” even to the point of greatest sacrifice.

John Bunyan, who lived less than a hundred years after Latimer, also in England, was the sort of man who had perspective enough to laugh, and his counsel for those being persecuted:

“Has thou escaped? Laugh. Art thou taken? Laugh. I mean, be pleased which soever things shall go, for that the scales are still in God’s hands.”

Godly laughter is God-trusting laughter.

It’s why David wrote, “The righteous shall see and fear, and laugh” (Psalm 52:5). Not only did David have perspective, while on the run from King Saul and from Doeg the Edomite, he was laughing at the man who didn’t have perspective. Doeg seemed to have the upper hand, and he had the King favor, but he wouldn’t make God his refuge. The righteous see right through that.

We will be tempted not to laugh for a number of reasons, especially because of our work. This is true of students, new and old, true of parents, and true for teachers, a thing I know by personal testimony. Temptations come because:

  • The work is unknown, and we don’t know what we’re doing. There’s a certain level of discomfort, and fearfulness is an easier default than trying while laughing.
  • The work is unenjoyable, and we don’t like what we’ve been assigned. It’s easier to do the job with more whining than laughing.
  • The work doesn’t have enough time (from our perspective) to get finished. It’s easier to be flustered than to be laughing.
  • The work (we got finished) isn’t perfect. It’s easier to to be proudly irritated than to humbly laugh.
  • The work is tiring. It’s easier to belly ache rather than belly laugh.
  • The work is unappreciated, at least not praised as immediately as we’d like. It’s easier to fuss than to laugh.

Are you doing your work from faith and for faith? Are you doing your work “heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23)? Then trust the Creator of time with the use and fruit of the time He gives you. The woman who fears the Lord has such an approach.

Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
(Proverbs 31:25)

There is a potent sort of laughing, and it’s the sign of a virtuous man.

You’ve got to be able to not get sucked in by the complainers, to keep your cool when everyone is freaking out about the assignment, to be patient even when the deadline is looming. Laugh in faith because your life is bigger than your grade, and then laugh in thanks when you got a better grade than you probably deserved.

Little did I know how much I would come to appreciate an address given by C. S. Lewis (just a couple months in to WWII in 1939) which is called, “Learning in Wartime.” (Listen to the whole thing here.) I don’t know how many times I’ve shared this quote, though I know I quoted it the first day of ECS.

“If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavourable. Favourable conditions never come.”

Choose this day which character you will be, Distracted, Fearful, Grumpy, or Dopey. How about instead we aim to be those who are laughing in wartime?

I also said the following on the first day of ECS, 3290 days ago:

“We don’t want our kids to want someone else to do it. We don’t want them to wait for all things safe and predictable and comfortable, for the “perfect” conditions. We don’t want them to work in reliance on their giftedness but rather because they believe God. We want them to walk by faith, ready to deal with the challenges of the battle even if they don’t have all the resources. We want them to be starters and singers. We want them to be just like us, only better. We want them to have first days like this, only bigger.”

As we present ourselves as living sacrifices to Him, and as He blesses the fruit of our hands and homework, we will sing with the psalmist:

Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us;
we are glad.
(Psalm 126:2-3)

May the Lord give us His perspective on 2021-22 and fill our mouths with laughter.

Summer Break for Seeds

I read the following story for our school’s end of year assembly. Good stories are supposed to stand on their own, but it might be helpful to read this 2021 Summer Challenge from Mrs. Bowers first.


The seeds walked out of the co-op after their last day of class. It had been a good school year, unprecedented even. But as good as school can be, the arrival of summer break, even for seeds, is always worth celebrating.

Oakly, Elmer, Bruce, Lerry, Tom, Iris, Rosie, Lily, Heather, and Willow were standing around in the parking lot after the barbecue and got to talking about a comment that their teacher had made in their final Almanac Class. He said that whoever wanted to have a fruitful summer should try to get buried as soon as possible.

Mr. Croft had said it matter of factly, like it was obvious, like it was what they were made to do. It’s not that they hadn’t ever heard a message like this before, but for whatever reason, hearing it this time caused more curiosity, and concern.

Most of the friends weren’t interested in getting so down to earth, nor did they believe that they were being told the truth. Milling around on the surface is way less scary than the dark and soggy soil. School was the time for work and summer was the season for play.

Oakly was the only seed with the faith to see that being buried might produce better things. So while everyone else made plans to binge on sun-fun, he committed to some things he didn’t really want to do.

Oakly woke up a little early every morning and did some seed yoga. You may be wondering what “seed yoga” is, and I understand. Probably the most frequent and foundational movement for seeds is called the downward-facing-dolphin. Like a dolphin flaps her flippers to push water backward, a seed must learn to angle his nose down and push the dirt upward.

After seed yoga he did cardio workouts on a furrowing machine. Some seeds grow just fine scattered in no particular pattern, others do better entrenched together. The furrowing machine let seeds get stronger at getting their groove on.

Oakly also picked up some extra chores at a neighbor’s field. His first project was to push the pebbles from the main part of the field to the perimeter. It was hard work, because rocks are hard, and because some of the rocks were larger than him and all of them were heavier. When he was done clearing a section of all the small stones he could find, he would practice digging hole-slots. Some seeds just aren’t strong enough to drill down into the dirt on their own, so other seeds can scoop out a little cozy niche where weaker seeds can jump in and get their start.

All these workouts and work still didn’t take up all his time so he thought he’d try his hand at growing some fruit. He had heard about a mysterious fruit called a seedless watermelon. As you might imagine, this was a difficult challenge because it still takes a seed to grow a seedless watermelon, but you have to know somebody. Oakly didn’t, he was just a little seed himself.

Maybe the most surprising choice Oakly made was checking out a few books at the local Farmer’s Library. The first books that Oakly chose were not the kind he would usually read. One of the books was about GTP, Getting Things Planted. Another book was about how to find the right field, and had an appendix on whether more sunlight or more shade would give certain seeds a better ROB, Return on Burial.

Then he found some really novel tales. He initially thought that a book called The Lord of the Rings would be about tree-rings, and was a little disappointed until he met Treebeard and the Ents whom Oakly realized were the real heroes of the battle. And he found all sorts of stories about Dryads, stories as old as the Odyssey, as new as Percy Jackson, and cried little seed-tears when he read about what Tirian and Jewel found happening to these living trees in The Last Battle.

In a far corner of the library he found a book about a holiday entirely devoted to tree drip. Not drip like tree sap, but drip like tree swag. And also, the holiday isn’t really about trees, but it includes trees, and how every December pines get decorated with bling, wrapped with necklaces of lights and garland.

Most interesting to Oakly was an ancient book that included a large family tree. He learned that distant cousins many generations ago had provided wood for a family for a boat that spared them and animals of all kinds during a great flood. He read about other relatives who were chosen by the wisest of Eastern kings to become beams and planks in a great temple. And then he came to the chapter where his great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather once became a crossbar that held the Master Gardener for a few hours one Friday.

This Master Gardener was also the Maker of seeds, and had once predicted not that He would climb a tree He had created, but that He would bear it and then be born by it. What was fascinating to Oakly is that this Gardener likened His work to that of a seed. He became like a seed, was crucified, died, and was buried.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

He said this would be His glory, and that just as a seed which is buried brings forth much fruit, so would His death bring much life.

Most seeds want to bear fruit but they don’t want to be buried first. Even for seeds, it takes a kind of faith to see what happens. But the first seed under the ground doesn’t get bloody, he gets blessing.

On a hot June afternoon, years and years later, some human students were eating their hot dogs sitting under Oakly’s branches, enjoying his shade, giving thanks for how Oakly spent himself many summers ago.