Nourishing Civilization at
By Catherine Austin Fitts
the only thing the mind never exhausts, never fears, and
~Leonardo da Vinci
Monday was one of the most inspiring days of my time “down under.” I had the opportunity to visit the Ficino School in Auckland. Ficino was founded in 1997 by leadership from the School of Philosophy.
Ficino is named for Marsilio Ficino, an Italian scholar and priest who was one of the most influential humanist philosophers of the Italian Renaissance. A student and translator of Plato, Ficino emphasized the divinity and immortality of Man’s soul and the personal relationship between Man and God.
The morning started with the assembly of all 98 students from grades 1-8 lead by principal Peter Crompton. The students recited the school values:
- Speak the truth
- Obey lawful direction
- Respect all
- Learn to be responsible and be responsible to learn
- Practice what is good with resilience and courage
They also sang the school song. I was so impressed, I asked for the verses to share with you.
The assembly was followed by a recital which included several excerpts from Shakespeare’s plays, a flute piece, Beethoven’s 5th and several beautiful choral pieces.
Peter then took me on a tour of the school. The physical facilities include a series of modern buildings organized around a large mansion. There are great windows with lots of sun pouring through overlooking a fountain in front, trees and gardens. The gardens produce some of the fruits and vegetables in the students’ vegetarian lunches.
There are no computers or digital equipment in any of the classrooms. Instead, students learn Sanskrit and engage in philosophical dialogues. I attended one class where approximately 15 boys and girls debated the meaning of enthusiasm by passing a ball around a circle. The person with the ball had the floor to speak. I thought one precocious young woman got it entirely right. She said that enthusiasm was like cars – some were automatic and some were manual. Sometimes enthusiasm comes naturally – like driving an automatic car. Sometimes, however, it does not come naturally and so we have to simply throw it into gear ourselves.
I spoke with a coed class of older students. When I asked them about their career interests, approximately a third said they did not yet have a focus. The rest mentioned a wide range of professions, including architect, interior designer, sports and athletics, biotech engineer, engineer, and doctor. Not one was interested in banking and investments.
Perhaps the bailouts have had a more far reaching and positive impact than we realize!
All students share a sit down, mid-day lunch. The food is excellent – all fresh and prepared entirely in the school’s kitchen. Over lunch I had more briefings from Peter about the curriculum. Peter came to lead Ficino eight years ago from his post at the St. James School in London.
I was wowed by his description of the Renaissance Trip offered to all year 7 and 8 students. Accompanied by teachers and parents, they spend three weeks connecting with some of the greatest aspects of western civilization including visits to Rome, Florence and Sienna in Italy and London, Oxford, Salisbury and Bath in England. One of the highlights is seeing a performance of Shakespeare in the Globe Theatre.
At our workshop in Menlo Park last year, Dr. Joseph Farrell made a compelling plea for the importance of preserving our culture in the face of global debasement. The question which has been nagging at me since then is how to do so.
What I observed at Ficino was inspiring. Someone is doing it – and it looks to me like they’ve got it right.
To give you a sense of the Ficino students in action, here is a video of their 2014 graduation speeches.