Academic Philosophy

Extending the liberal arts to include technical skills, the academic philosophy of The Saxifrage School is centered on productive inquiry. Our goal is to educate the full person by reuniting the making of things and the judging of ideas into one educative process that closely attends to the real problems of today’s world. We strive to reconcile theory and practice and preserve their integrity by valuing the creative utility of each. The Saxifrage School hosts a tight academic community that weaves into local organizations, creating a dynamic resource network that serves students and neighbors alike.  Graduates of the Saxifrage School leave as seasoned thinkers, skilled producers, engaged citizens, and capable agents of change.

I. Motive

We require a reason to learn. Acquiring a purpose and driving goal for our education is of foremost importance. This question of motivation will be present in our classroom and community. Let us engage our studies earnestly, cognizant of the great work yet to be done; problems to solve, conflicts to confront, and discoveries to be made. We must recognize what is at stake and that we are servants and speakers for justice in our communities. As we each find our reason to learn, we will encourage others to engage in good work alongside us.

II. Practice

Our work must move from inquiry to production; criticism to creation. It must not merely be a proposal for a great work, but rather an ambitious and creative attempt at that work. Although we are students always, we must remember that we are also citizens in our community and workers in the economy. Our college is not just a community of intellectual dialogue, but of utility and service as well.

“[We] should not play life, or study it merely, while the community supports [us] at this expensive game, but earnestly live it from beginning to end.”
- Henry David Thoreau, Walden

III. Well-Being

If we only study theory, or only work in practice, we are missing half of life. We should not be solely thinkers or makers. Rather, we will think about making, and make what we think: poets who build. If we sit all day writing and theorizing, we grow restless. If we work all day on our feet, we grow weary. Likewise our minds find work toilsome if we cannot see beauty and purpose in our labor. Yet, we grow sick of our intellectual musings if they have no bearing on reality. We must strike a balance, so we can live, work, and think more fully. This balance is important for the health of our bodies and minds, as well as the health of our natural and human communities and economies.

“[We must think of the] whole problem of health in soil, plant, animal, and man as one great subject.”
– Sir Albert Howard, The Soil and Health

IV. Integration

We will pursue an integrated study across all fields, recognizing that the natural world is not organized as rigidly as our schools have defined. The most important work is complex, overlapping, and constantly in flux. Our thematic and collaborative programs will allow us to address the broadness of real problems. Every valuable and innovative work is made better when all of its aspects are taken into account.

“Beside every effort of making, which is necessarily narrow, there must be an effort of judgment, of criticism, which must be as broad as possible.”
– Wendell Berry, Home Economics

V. Rigor

We should learn and do that which is difficult, not determining our study by what is comfortable, but by what is valuable. Those who claim to be poets should wrestle with math, and mathematicians ought to compose sonnets. In this way, the standards for our work will apply across disciplines and will not be lowered to prevent failure. The thoughtful critique of our teachers and peers will be part of all of our work, but our greatest standard and measure will be outside our community: does our work matter in the real world? Does it yet attain to a high enough level of quality that is has true economic value? Our goal is not to pass tests and complete courses with sufficient grades, but rather to become workers and thinkers who contribute meaningful work to our college and non-college communities.

VI. Locality

The college’s community should be the primary context for our study so that our classwork can address the needs of the neighborhood in creative and meaningful ways. These local needs will often dictate the focus of our curriculum so that our students are learning skills that are most necessary and in demand. While we recognize that our home place will dramatically define our perspective and culture, we will intentionally shape our studies so that we are able to view our local issues in light of global concerns.