The mission of the Arete Project is education towards its highest ends: the cultivation of wisdom, the living of a good life in thought and action, and selfless devotion to world and humanity.
Arete builds this education around three central pillars: rigorous engagement with the liberal arts, physical labor undertaken in service of the land and community, and student self-governance over each other and the organization as a whole.
Arete conducts its programs in a human context and on a human scale: in small, close-knit communities and rural and wilderness settings; through meaningful relationships between students, faculty, and staff; and through demanding intellectual and physical work on which the community depends.
Arete regards its students as beneficiaries, rather than consumers, of their educations: tuition and administrative expenses are kept to a minimum, and no student is turned away for inability to pay.
What is arete?
The term arete (AH-reh-tay) designates a thing’s highest potential, excellence, or virtue. The concept of arete emerges from ancient Greek philosophy and literature, and is found throughout the writings of Homer, Plato, Aristotle, and their intellectual descendants. In relation to human virtuosity, the term has been associated with bravery, cooperation, justice, loyalty, intelligence, compassion, diligence – while ultimately transcending them all. The Arete Project takes an expansive view of human excellence, balancing together the uniqueness of each student’s potential and the flourishing of the community in which they live.
The Arete Project provides an educational opportunity for young people that emphasizes intellectual intensity, democratic participation and leadership, connection to the natural world, and personal and communal responsibility. It combines a top-tier liberal arts academic programming with a practical education in stewardship and citizenship, supported by the three pillars of academics, labor, and self-governance. All participants will be held to the ground rules: (a) isolation on campus, encouraging introspective and intensive engagement with the community and (b) a strict policy forbidding the use of drugs, tobacco, and alcohol. Apart from these foundational regulations – along with required engagement with the three pillars – the task of self-governance will see all participants active together in creating and maintaining their own polity.
What We Offer
- Liberal education in its highest form. Through the three pillars of academics, labor, and self-governance, students spend all day, every day learning with body and mind. Academic coursework fosters intellectual engagement with the questions students encounter in their daily lives: questions of nature and its forces, questions of human relations and action, questions of meaning and purpose. Labor draws students into responsibility for one another and their community; whether by hoeing potatoes, chopping firewood, or repairing roofs, students are stewards of their own lives and educations. Self-governance completes the triad of living and learning, requiring student to form a political community, to govern themselves, to make decisions collectively and democratically across boundaries of difference. In all pillars, intellectual and physical rigor are expected and encouraged.
- Commitment to service (without lip service). Our mission is to prepare young people for lives of service to humanity and the world. But we leave open what that service may look like. Deep inquiry and debate into the nature of service is expected of all students. Each student will participate in daily service to campus and community. This service may take on different forms, should frequently be led by students, and is built upon real relationships that obviate any possibility of “voluntourism.”
- Connection to place. Many young people today live lives of extraordinary mobility and transience. Even those who don’t rarely get to know their own homelands with intimacy. We provide the opportunity for students to live deeply in a place: to work the land, eat from its bounty, learn its flora and fauna, investigate its natural forces, harness its energy, grapple with its history, manage its resources, traverse it on foot and by kayak, read under its trees, meditate upon its beaches, find inspiration in its heights and depths, and share its goodness within the community. Here, humans are a palpable part of an ecosystem that sustains and embraces them. We offer an immersive educational encounter with this uniquely wild terrain.
- A close-knit community of inquiry. True education flourishes best in small cohorts where trust and intimacy can grow naturally. With student groups capped at eighteen and a high faculty-to-student ratio, our educational programming rests upon the human bonds that develop naturally between members of a community. Those bonds of fellowship create a safe space for dangerous conversations: the heartfelt sharing and frank debate necessary to get students thinking beyond their own horizons.
- Freedom from distraction. Our rural campus provides a haven from the social and technological distractions that permeate modern life. Here there are no bars or movie theaters, no shopping malls, no arcades. Though limited internet and phone service are available, their scarcity permits students to make intentional decisions about technology use that otherwise would be second nature. Absence of such distractions create an increasingly rare space for deep concentration and contemplation, and for the formation of similarly deep relationships.