Libertas Scholars Attend FreedomFest in Las Vegas

Returning from Freedom Fest '22

Six Providence Libertas Scholars braved the extreme Las Vegas heat in July to experience the 15th annual FreedomFest, and it was an eye-opening experience for each of them. Newly-minted graduate Davis Peterson (Class of 2022), senior Avala Elwood, and juniors Teleios Zermeno, Madison Schock, Abby Fiedkou, and Eliana Bordin, along with chaperones Bruce and Elaine Rottman, enjoyed the cool AC of the Mirage convention center—and a host of cool speakers.  

Arriving at Freedom Fest '22
Libertas Scholars with chaperone Elaine Rottman (left) arrive at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas for FreedomFest 2022

Here, Eliana Bordin provides her perspective on this gathering of more than 4,000 freedom lovers:

During my time at FreedomFest in Las Vegas I not only learned about various topics and issues by watching documentaries and listening to speakers, but I also got to spend time to discuss with Mr. and Mrs. Rottman and the other students who attended. We listened to thought-provoking speeches on medical breakthroughs, educational choice, economics (Abby and Madison were inspired to buy books on inflation), religion, cancel culture in comedy, and more. We also were inspired by impactful documentaries on Frederick Douglass, Roe v. Wade, the homelessness problem, and the Berlin Wall. We heard scientists and senators (Rand Paul and Mike Lee), congressmen and comics (John Cleese and Seth Dillon of the Christian satire site The Babylon Bee), businessmen, writers (Eric Metaxas), and film producers.

John Cleese at FreedomFest 2022
John Cleese speaks about freedom and creativity at FreedomFest 2022. His talk was a highlight for many of the Providence Libertas Scholars attending the event in Las Vegas.

Out of the documentaries we watched at the Anthem Film Festival which stood out most to our group was The Hong Konger. Before watching this documentary, I was not aware of the Chinese government’s oppression in Hong Kong, businessman Jimmy Lai’s inspirational and faith-inspired leadership influence there, and his brave activism in support of economic, political, and religious freedoms. The documentary was beautifully made and showed the transition from a vibrant and free Hong Kong to the decline that it is now facing under communist China, with the erosion of its developing democracy and its rule of law.  

One of the many sessions that intrigued me the most was by from Senegalese businesswoman Magatte Wade, who spoke on the causes of the poor economic state of Africa, and how it is on its way to becoming one of the most economically free places on Earth. 

When we were not in conference sessions, we continued to have insightful conversations on what we had learned that day, what we found most interesting, our opinions on various topics we had heard, and added our own previous knowledge of these topics to create great bases for different discussions like this.

Davis Peterson wins chess contest at FreedomFest '22
Mark Skousen (wearing a hat), FreedomFest founder and director, congratulates Davis Peterson, Class of 2022, for solving the daily chess challenge in the FreedomFest exhibit hall.

Libertas Scholars read books and articles outside the humanities curriculum throughout the year and hear speakers and attend summer seminars such as FreedomFest (which will be held in Memphis in 2023). This year’s FreedomFest highlighted the disturbing losses of freedom our world is facing. But it also inspired students to learn more about many different political and economic issues, and become both more informed and more courageous to advance freedom in America.

Bruce Rottman
Bruce Rottman

Bruce Rottman is the founding director of the Providence School Libertas Honors Scholars Program.

Libertas Scholars and Human Flourishing

Providence’s Libertas Scholars Program introduces students to writers and ideas that have shaped our world. As the world drifts towards ever-expanding government solutions to problems (which are, more often than not, created by the very same government), students become ready to apply their humanities backgrounds and economic skills to critique ill-advised approaches to modern challenges and suggest constructive ideas of their own.

Travel to conferences

Last summer, the Libertas group traveled to Rapid City, South Dakota, for their first experience with FreedomFest, a national conference organized by economist Mark Skousen. It was a wonderful experience, rich with speakers and lively debates.

As another summer approaches, so does a return to FreedomFest, this year in Las Vegas July 13-16. With a lineup including comedian and actor John Cleese, former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, Forbes editor Steve Forbes, former presidential  economics advisors Art Laffer and Stephen Moore, actor Ben Stein, writer Eric Metaxas, “Words and Numbers” podcaster James Harrigan, and Senator Rand Paul, this year’s FreedomFest offers a select group of Providence Libertas Scholars plenty of intellectual food for thought. Students will have many options at a buffet of over 200 speakers, movie shorts, debates, and discussions.

Eliana, Jackie, Avala, and Teleios at Mt. Rushmore
Liza’s selfie with Senator Mike Lee and his wife, Sharon at Freedom Fest

Participating in community events

As everything opened up this April, a group of Libertas Scholars attended the Reagan Ranch Center’s Ronald Reagan birthday bash with Dennis Quaid; a few weeks later, ten students took in a fact-filled defense of school choice by Corey DeAngelis at a YAF luncheon.

Honors scholarship

All Libertas Scholars have been engaged in reading, discussing, and writing about a series of books during the year, including (but not limited to!) Silence, by Shusaku Endo, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Jay Richards’ Money, Greed, and God, and Henry Hazlitt’s classic Economics in One Lesson. These four books taught students about the persecution of Christians in medieval Japan, life in a Soviet gulag, a Christian defense of free markets, and Hazlitt’s one simple lesson of economics, applied to a plethora of examples, written 70 years ago but just as relevant today.

Looking ahead

As Mr. Jamie DeVries transitions to head this program during the 2022-23 school year, we anticipate a host of opportunities for students to learn how a deep understanding of the ideas of our Founders, combined with robust entrepreneurship, will help Providence students continue to vigorously promote human flourishing.

Bruce Rottman
Bruce Rottman

Bruce Rottman teaches humanities, economics, and government in the Upper School and is the founding director of the Libertas Honors Scholars Program.

Libertas Goes to South Dakota

Libertas Scholars Blog | Bruce Rottman, Libertas Scholars Program Director

In the past several years, our country appears to be at an inflection point, with statist solutions to problems becoming more popular and more common. This July, ten Libertas Scholars from Providence spent four full days exploring these issues at FreedomFest in South Dakota. Graduates Christine Venzor and Olivia Bates, seniors Liza Coffin and Davis Peterson, juniors Avala Elwood, Emma Johnson, Ruby Kilpper, Jacklyn Pryko, and sophomores Teleios Zermeno and Eliana Bordin were chaperoned by Mr. and Mrs. Rottman for an intense and entertaining conference on the Western plains.

Students connect with Dr. Mark Skousen, FreedomFest Founder 

Libertas Scholars are required to attend a summer program, but COVID-19 made that impossible in 2020. This summer was a different story, allowing students to travel to Rapid City, where 2,700 “free minds” met “to celebrate great books, great ideas, and great thinkers.” There they were challenged by hundreds of options (presented in debates, talks, and films) and a variety of opinions. 

Students took full advantage of the many opportunities. 

— We heard Governor Noem of South Dakota and Senator Mike Lee of Utah

Governor Kirsti Noem introduces herself to the attendees
Senator Mike Lee (Utah) and his wife, Sharon, get a selfie with Liza

— Students were fascinated to learn how New Testament geography adds insights into what Jesus really said about justice and economics in a talk by Jerry Bowyer

— California gubernatorial candidate (and talk show host) Larry Elder inspired the attendees

Larry Elder rallies the crowd

— We saw several amazing documentaries at the simultaneous Anthem Film Festival

— Senior Davis Peterson served as one of 12 jurors on a Mock Trial on whether the pandemic lockdown was justified

— We heard insightful comments from economists Stephen Moore, Diedre McCloskey, and many others

— And we heard author Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s defense of America’s war on Islamic terrorism, countered by an equally cogent and  convincing counterpoint from scholar Scott Horton

— Some of us saw a hilariously raucous debate, “Boomer vs. Zoomer: Which Generation Is More Dangerous to Freedom?” (Conclusion: they both are equally dangerous)

—We bought books, visited booths in the large exhibit hall, and laughed with comedians

Olivia and talk show host Dave Rubin

— We explored historic downtown Rapid City, played mini-golf, and experienced a moving lighting ceremony at Mount Rushmore

Students experienced first hand the problem of tradeoffs (should we see an inspiring movie or hear a senator speak?), were tantalized by vendors’ treats, and competed in daily photo contests, trying to capture the best and oddest images from the Festival.

Checking out one of many statues in Rapid City upon our arrival at the airport

In addition to ten hours of learning each day and experiencing a civil exchange of ideas, students from different classes also enjoyed getting to know one another, which they missed out on during the past year of enforced cohorts, while exploring a different part of the country. 

But most of all, students gained an deeper appreciation for and understanding of the principles of freedom that have made our country a light on a hill. 

As Ruby wrote, “I was compelled by the consistent message of hope for America and progress towards a more free society.” Eliana added that she learned “new perspectives of the ideas we’ve learned about,” while Olivia noted how it was “healthy to talk across political divides.” Given how social media tends to move us into echo chambers, FreedomFest brought about “conversations with those who have different beliefs” and helped students “build up our own convictions as we participate in society today.” Liza noted that the broad range of ideas and speakers highlighted the “common values of freedom and individual rights that brought them all together;” like Olivia, she noted the “civil political discourse done with grace and respect” for other people’s values.

We trust that students will take these lessons into the upcoming school year, their college experiences, and their lives, and we are grateful for the generosity of Providence supporters, Robert and Margie Niehaus, who made it possible for our students to experience this enlightening and educational program.

Bruce Rottman
Bruce Rottman

Humanities, economics, and government teacher at Providence School; Libertas Scholars program director

America’s Civics Education in Trouble


By Chloe Olsen, Class of 2021

Dinner is served, and the powers of the government are hungry. As politicians eagerly lift the lid from the silver platter, there lie your rights. All the worse, you, the server, did not look under the lid before you inadvertently surrendered your freedom to the mouths of tyrants. 

Many Americans are ignorant of what the Constitution means, or even what it says, for that matter. Over half of U.S. citizens have admitted to never laying eyes on the Constitution, the document that secures our rights and limits governmental powers. Americans either do not realize that the Constitution is the electric fence between tyranny and liberty, or they misinterpret usurpations of rights as harmless acts. 

When the government attempts to abuse its power, it is not always obvious. Rather, abuse of power and violation of rights are often under the nose, masked as a necessity for the “common good.” For this reason, many citizens fall prey to subtle attacks of freedom, unable to recognize tyranny for what it truly is. Here emerges the urgency of a proper civics education. Our country’s lack of civics education has raised generations of Americans who do not know the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment or even what the three branches of government are. If we come to understand the Constitution and the way our government functions, however, we will be armed to defend our rights.

Providence seniors take Mr. Rottman’s U.S. Government course, which includes an in-depth study of the Constitution. Considering the seniors have not yet taken economics or even completed their U.S. Government class, the contrast between the knowledge of these high school students and average Americans is jarring. Providence seniors were asked a series of questions regarding the Constitution, and the results were compared to those of American polls. 

When Americans were asked, “Which five rights are guaranteed by the First Amendment?” a mere 3% could list all five, while nearly 71% of Providence seniors answered correctly. In answering another question, 79% of seniors knew that the Senate confirms Supreme Court nominees while only 30% of Americans answered correctly. The percentage of seniors’ accuracy in answering these constitutional-knowledge questions was markedly higher than the average American for each of six factual questions. 

When asked more subjective questions, the stark contrast of results continued; 36% of Providence seniors believe that the minimum wage should be reduced or eliminated, while only 5% of Americans agree (and this is before those seniors have experienced their AP microeconomics course). When looking at the topic of minimum wage, Americans tend to view it as an equality or general welfare issue rather than a freedom issue. That said, a comprehensive knowledge of Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution would clarify whether or not federal minimum wage laws are constitutional and squash misunderstandings. 

As seen by the comparison of constitutional quiz results, proper civics education is imperative to the basic and necessary knowledge of rights. The Declaration of Independence states that the function of government is to secure our rights. Public comprehension of the Constitution is remarkably poor, and civics engagement is at an all-time low. Providence combats these dangers to our republic by preparing students to be both informed and engaged citizens. By the time they graduate high school, Providence students likely have a greater understanding of the constitution than 99% of Americans. 

Bereft of civic knowledge, Americans will be ill-equipped to defend our unique system.  Attacking the erosion of Americans’ rights at its roots requires sufficient education on the Constitution for Americans of all ages. The more we are unable to identify the powers governments have and the rights you have, the more we hand the ability to violate those rights to the government on a silver platter. Once our rights are seized by the unrelenting jaws of politicians, it is difficult to restore them or prevent more from being devoured. 

Let not the discovery of our rights occur as we read their names in an obituary. Providence equips students to understand their freedoms, so that they can guard these rights against disguised threats—before it’s too late. 

COVID, Learning, and Liberty

COVID, Learning, and Liberty

Bend the curve. Social distancing. A few months ago, these might have referenced grading trends or high school dances, but now, they seem destined to enter 2020’s lexicon as something we’d like to forget.

What’s it like to do distance learning at Providence? Two personal first impressions:

1) Providence teachers and students pivoted to online learning over a weekend, and though it wasn’t seamless, it was amazing. We are still doing excellent work! Just speaking for myself (other teachers are far more creative and competent than me), I’ve given lectures, had one-on-one tutorial sessions, class discussions, conducted a mock trial, and zoomed quizzes and tests. And, of course, students get grades. 

2)  But. There’s always a “but,” right? Online learning teaches you why a traditional face-to-face education is so valuable and “lockdown learning” (that’s my term) is so confining and incomplete. I miss lunchtime and study hall and before school and after school conversations with students. I miss the ease of traditional education. I typically had nearly 2000 minutes of face to face interactions with students each week, which is why I never longed to talk to anyone right after school—I was too tuckered out. Now, I’m lucky to get a few hundred virtual face to face minutes with students per week and I’m talking to myself too much at home.

The good news is, this will pass. No longer will I hear a freshman say, “Raise your virtual hand!” I won’t miss the occasional garbled audio feeds, the “just got out of bed” appearances from some students, the barking dogs and binging computers, and my own steep learning curves with distance learning.

Life will get much better. I have always reminded students how good we all have it. We are 35 times, give or take a few “times,” wealthier than our ancestors. Our problems are often (though certainly not always) trivial. The Black Death killed a third of Europe’s population in the 14th century. Chinese peasants mugged each other over the results of their retrieval of  buckets of “night soil” from the common latrines. Life is strained now, but our ancestors faced worse issues. We will defeat this virus, and when we do, inexorably, life will not only return to normal, it will be so much more sweet! The pent up demand will find goods, businesses will rehire workers, we’ll be able to sit down at restaurants, and the koinonia will return in full measure to our church gatherings.

Some things may change. In the past, crises tended to birth a statist leviathan; I hope that doesn’t happen. The handshake had a good, 1000 year run; that may be over. Some ways of doing business will evolve. We might want to stomp, virtually of course, on our Zoom software. And some good will perhaps emerge–a re-emergence of federalism would be refreshing, as states do their own experiments in reacting to the virus.

But let’s also embrace the “not change” portions of our lives when the corona virus is dethroned. Let’s enjoy lively give and take, good communal meals, hugs and shoulder rubs. Let’s continue caring for the vulnerable, and look forward to the day when students and teachers can both return to our classrooms, white boards, shared dining tables, sports, plays, games, lounging on the artificial turf—the things that make life sweet.

See you all, hopefully soon—in the classrooms, not at all virtually, but in flesh and blood, and sooner than we expect or fear. 

Words and Numbers Hosts Visit Providence

By Chloe Olsen, Class of 2021

Coercion’s grasp is capable of stripping American society of liberties, and our deliverance relies on cooperation.

On Tuesday, February 21, Drs. James Harrigan and Antony Davies presented a talk to Providence students targeting these concepts. Dr. Harrigan is the managing director of the Center for Philosophy of Freedom and the University of Arizona, and Dr. Davies is a professor of economics at Duquesne University, in Pittsburgh. In their popular podcast, “Words and Numbers,” the two delve into philosophy and economics. They are currently traveling the country and have now visited Providence three times in the past four years to impart their wisdom to high school students entering into a world where an awareness of subjects like these is crucial. Providence is a school that places an immense gravity on students’ knowledge of ideas, including economic and political ideas. They talked about the governmental hold on citizens’ lives, the extent to which coercion should be accepted and considered beneficial, and the fruits of cooperation. As authors of Cooperation and Coercion, a book that unpacks the tendency in human relations to either comply or constrain, they posed the pros and cons of both trends during their talk.

Harrigan began the discussion on the topic of coercion. Explaining the problematic nature of societal constrictions, he addressed the myriad of limitations on day-to-day activities such as those on our use of water and where we can cross the street. Another form of coercion from the government appears in the price of harmful products. He gave the example of the dramatic increase in the cost of cigarettes. During the 1980s, a pack of cigarettes could be purchased for roughly one dollar, while today a pack costs nearly seven dollars. In an attempt to prevent unhealthy habits, our government has nudged citizens into living a life they believe is best for us.

Students were encouraged to question these regulations. Should such constraints exist to prevent self-inflicted harm, or should regulations be in place solely to prevent one person from harming another? Nations exercising too much coercion become consumed by a sea of regulations on everyday life which compromise the liberty that keeps our country afloat. With examples such as China’s social credit system and its former limits on the amount of children per family, Harrigan warned of the damaging effects of a coercive government.

Post-presentation, students in the Libertas Scholars program meet Dr. Harrigan and Dr. Davies.

Rather than forceful leadership, perhaps our prosperity depends on cooperation. Davies led students in an interactive experiment that emulated real-world commerce. Students divided into groups of four who traded within the group, aiming to multiply their products and create the largest amount of goods possible. One side had a comparative advantage and was significantly more efficient at production than its competition. However, despite one group’s lack of skill and one’s clear industrial domination, both gained from the cooperation; in fact, those who were the poorest improved more. Through this experimental economics, Davies demonstrated that trade works to not only make us all better off, but also to decrease economic inequality. With an engaging, palpable take on production and consumption, his example helped students understand the often unrecognized fairness of cooperative exchange. Similar to this exercise, there exists a reciprocity in cooperation that debunks the popular notion that all sellers are thieves. Trade produces profit for the disadvantaged in the deal and lessens economic inequality.

In groups of four, Providence students and teachers participate in an interactive economics experiment led by Dr. Davies.
Students work together to solve production and efficiency problems through trading.
Drs. Harrigan and Davies conclude the discussion with a Q and A, where students had the opportunity to ask questions about the talk and about economics and politics in general.

The matter of whether force or compliance is best for our nation is certainly relevant. Amidst the current political climate and upcoming election, an understanding of economics is especially vital. With a unique optimism, Harrigan shared that he expects our generation to have an awareness of the importance of liberty and value of trade that many millenials do not always recognize.

Our school promotes the economic and political education of students, as this insight is necessary for navigating the world of politics and life as an American citizen. Providence High School students   attained a worthwhile understanding of coercion and cooperation from Tuesday’s discussion and greatly appreciated the two talks. Students were particularly drawn to the comprehensibility of the presentation. Senior Chloe Norton shared, “They make economics a more tangible subject. I think that a lot of the times I am intimidated by the concepts, but both Antony Davies and James Harrigan make it simple without losing its vast complexity.” Others were motivated to further their understanding in this area. Junior Nolan Lundgaard said, “I thought it was so great to hear from these economists today, and everything they had to say about the benefits of working together and the drawbacks (and the good) that result from coercion. It just underlines the importance of cooperation in society and that things will be better off once humans begin working with others. The whole presentation was super inspiring.” Junior Josh Frankenfield added, “Personally, I really enjoyed the presentations… It was quite intriguing to see the contrasting ways on solving problems (coercion vs. cooperation) and which option yields better results. Discussions and topics like those that were presented are the reason why I am fascinated by economics.”

James Harrigan and Antony Davies spurred on a venture for learning political and economic truth and a cultivation of knowledge through considering that coercion may be poisoning liberties, but cooperation is fruitful to all.

Socialism, Christians, and Ayn Rand’s Anthem

By Chloe Olson

    An apple is not an orange.  Even if I desire that apple to be an orange and call my desire true, it is not.  You might disagree and tell me that apple can be whatever I wish it to be.  These questions concern philosophy: when one dwells on existence,  and forms ideas and beliefs around it.  The unique thing about humankind is that we are capable of thinking for ourselves.  Our minds have the capacity to understand, then apply, to question, and to make and choose beliefs.  Humans love wisdom and strive to know.  We create our own philosophies because of our quest for knowledge, for philosophy does mean the love of wisdom.  The human brain is so complex that it allows us to dig deeper than understanding how.  We can seek to understand why.  Discovering one’s philosophy is integral part of being.  One cannot navigate through life purposefully or make a meaningful impact on the world without knowing their mind, what goodness is, and what is true.  Knowing our philosophy aids in discerning between truth and falsehood in all we see, and causes us to debate with ideas we hear.  For example, on the branch of philosophy that is metaphysics, one can decide that an apple is an apple and not an orange.  Anthem, by Ayn Rand, holds a clear message of her philosophy that is objectivism, and reading this pushes one to debate and compare their philosophy with Rand’s.  Anthem illustrates a world where no one says “I”.  Rand describes a place in which there is no freedom to choose one’s path in life, where to live, how to live, or who to be.  Everyone has a name that refers to group identity; individualism is outlawed.  Equality 7-2521 was another piece of this society’s plain white puzzle, but unlike all others, he did what was forbidden.  He learned by himself.  He discovered, he grew, and began to doubt the collectivist ideology that was ingrained in the minds of everyone around him.  He escaped this world and taught himself to have a new mindset about self.  Most importantly, he learned what was stolen from every human.  Equality discovered ego and traded equality for ego.  This story line not only screams Rand’s beliefs about truth, morals, and politics, but it causes one to question her philosophy of what is true, what is moral, and what the role of the government should be.  Anthem is filled with messages from Ayn Rand that I agree and disagree with: truth exists independent of man’s consciousness, truth is known through sensory experience and reason, self-interest is morally right and altruism is morally wrong, and socialism must be rejected. 
Ayn Rand’s thoughts on reality are that truth exists independent of man’s consciousness.  Her idea of reality is that reality is what is real and nothing else.  Imagine two men looking at a dog.  One man sees the dog as what it truly is: a dog.  The other man says that the dog is a cow.  Rand’s philosophy would suggest that both men cannot be correct, but only the man who claims the creature is a dog would be correct.  Rand’s idea is that truth is truth: A is A, and A cannot be B.  Man’s consciousness may cause one to believe that A is B, but Rand suggests that man’s consciousness cannot decide what truth is.  Men may see the truth but cannot manipulate it or choose it.  In Anthem,  Equality and all other people are not taught reality.  As Equality 7-2521 described the way of life in his society, he spoke about education and said,

         â€œWe think that there are mysteries in the sky and under the water and in the plants which grow.  But the Council of Scholars has said that there are no mysteries, and the Council of Scholars knows all things.  And we learned that the earth is flat and that the sun revolves around it, which causes day and night” (5).
What Equality is describing is the teaching of falsehood; we know the earth is round and revolves around the sun.  Rand includes this to convey her message: not everything said is true, and even if the world said A was B, A is still A.  The Council of Scholars tells others that they know everything, and they do not.  They explain the earth to function in a way that it does not.  They have freedom to speak and believe this, but that does not make it qualify as truth.  Ayn Rand said, “Reality, the external world, exists independent of man’s consciousness, independent of any observer’s knowledge, beliefs, feelings, desires, or fears.  This means that A is A, that facts are facts, that things are what they are—and that the task of man’s consciousness is to perceive reality, not to create or invent it.”  Though his society may make falsehood part of his curriculum, it is Equality’s job to understand the true facts through a discerning mind.  Equality described the Unmentionable Times which were before his society was reformed.  He described how the world used to function and how it was considered evil.  He said, “But those times were evil.  And those times passed away, when men saw the Great Truth which is this: that all men are one and that there is no will save the will of all men together” (3).

Humans in this time are taught that the past and individuality are evil.  This is wrong in Rand’s eyes as the desire of B does not make A false.  Just because people hate the idea of an individual does not mean the concept of an individual is bad.  The Council claims this is the Great Truth, but it is not truth.  It is not grasped through experience and logic, but it is thought about through teaching and stories.  A thought of man cannot always be considered fact because truth is truth, and if man’s thoughts contradict what is true they are not facts.  Will does exist regardless of whether or not people want it to exist.  There is no editing the truth.  I agree with Rand on all but her thought of truth only in the physical.  My philosophy is that there is an absolute and uncompromising truth, pertaining to the physical and spiritual, which is authenticated by sensory experience, logic, and revelation.  Like Rand, I believe that there is one truth and one reality in the world around us.  Contrary to her ideas, I believe there is absolute spiritual truth.  I agree with Rand’s philosophy that A is A, and the world in Anthem is saying that A is B physically and spiritually.  What, however, deems truth to be the truth and the teachings of the Council to be false?  The answer lies in our ability to distinguish between A and B.
Once one knows that truth is unwavering and definite, they must learn to distinguish between what exists and what does not.  Epistemology is a question of how.  If the truth is objective as Rand states, what is the difference between real and fake?  Her philosophy states that we know reality to be reality through reason.  She also rejects mysticism and faith, and does not believe they contribute to our knowledge.  Ayn Rand stated, “Man’s reason is fully competent to know the facts of reality.  Reason, the conceptual faculty, is the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses.  Reason is man’s only means of acquiring knowledge.”  When Equality discovered his friendship he said,

        “International 4-8818 and we are friends.  This is an evil thing to say, for it is a             transgression, the great Transgression of Preference, to love any among men better than the others, since we must love all men and all men are our friends.  So International 4-8818 and we have never spoken of it. But we know.  We know when we look into each other’s eyes.  And when we look thus without words, we both know other things also, strange things for which there are no words, and these things frighted us” (9).

Equality and International never established their fondness of each other.  They never conversed about their friendship.  They simply did their jobs in the presence of one another.  They knew they were friends without saying that fact but simply by looking each other in the eyes.  This is similar to our knowing truth because we use logic through senses.  We may not be able to see wind, but we know it exists because of the effect it leaves on earth.  We can reason to discover truth using what we see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. 

Once Equality flees, he reflects on his new understanding: “The forest rose among cliffs, and whenever we walked out upon a barren stretch of rock we saw great peaks before us in the west, and to the north of us, and to the south, as far as our eyes could see.  The peaks were red and brown, with the green streaks of forests as veins upon them, with blue mists as veils over their heads.  We had never heard of these mountains, nor seen them marked on any map.  The Uncharted Forest has protected them from the Cities and from the men of the Cities… And there before us, on a broad summit, with the mountains rising behind it, stood  a house such as we had never seen….We turned to the Golden One and we asked: ‘Are you afraid?’ But they shook their head” (48).

What was once nonexistent to Equality and the Golden One became reality when they learned to discern truth.  They then used their physical senses to see the real world as it truly was: with mountains and cliffs they never thought existed.  Not only did they never know that this truth was the truth, but they were taught that the forest and what was beyond was dangerous.  Equality’s first thought when they saw a house was to ask the Golden One if she was scared, as they were told to be scared of knowledge.  This is a lie that the two distinguished from the truth as they were not scared.  They had no fear because they discovered it was not dangerous through seeing the house as it was.  They used their sensory experience and reason to know there is nothing to fear about a house and some trees just as we use this to decipher between what is real and what is not.  I agree with Rand in that I think that the senses and reasons are key parts of knowing what exists, but I believe there are more factors.  My philosophy on distinguishing reality from the false is this:  the truth is not subjective, but our “truth” is.  Our “truth” is not the truth, but it is a lack of sensory experience, logic, revelation, and submission to God.  Rand is clearly not a believer in any faith, so she would debate me on revelation as a means of knowing.  Ayn Rand brings up a truth that people called fake when describing those who broke laws and did what was dangerous and evil in the Council’s eyes.  Equality said,

        “We do not wish to look upon the Uncharted Forest.  We do not wish to think of it.  But ever do our eyes return to that black patch upon the sky… It is whispered once or twice in a hundred years, one among the men of the city escape alone and run to the Uncharted Forest, without call or reason.  These men do not return.  They perish from hunger and from the claws of the wild beasts which          roam the forest.  But our Councils say that this is only a legend” (20-21).

Again, a desire of the Council to place opinion over fact and create truth is displayed.  Rand is using this passage to  show once more that what one may say is truth is not always truth.  When referring to the men who ran away, she may be saying that their urge to run came from knowing the physical truth about the world that was hidden for them, but how did they know it was truth without reason?  Without sensory experience and reason, truth can only be known through revelation.  Perhaps unintentionally, Rand may have included an argument that is contradictory to her beliefs.  Regardless of this, there was a discovery of the truth through discerning lies.  We can distinguish between real and fake as truth is objective, and this means we can also distinguish between right and wrong.

Good is Good, but what is Good?  There must be an absolute morally right and morally wrong.  Rand thinks this morally right is self-interest, and the morally wrong is altruism.  She thinks sacrificing oneself for the sake of other is evil and rejects putting others first.  Rand says that reason can be the only judge of values, and what a man needs for survival is reason, purpose, and self-esteem.  She believes that selflessness is evil and that “man is an end in himself.”  Rand conveys this mindset when Equality discovered the Unspeakable word, and he said,

        “And my happiness needs no greater aim to vindicate it.  My happiness is not the means to any end.  It is the end.  It is its own goal.  It is its own purpose. Neither am I the means to end others may wish to accomplish.  I am not a tool for their use.  I am not a servant if their needs.  I am not a bandage for their wounds.  I am not a sacrifice on their altars” (52).

Rand is arguing that one cannot let others use them as a stepping stone on the path to reaching their goal.  It is completely wrong to dedicate any part of oneself in helping another man reach his need in her mind, because if man doesn’t think for himself, he will remain in ignorance.  Rand believes that happiness should not be offered either and no one should give up their happiness to serve another as that would be immoral.  She then described the importance of solitude.  As Equality was walking with the Golden One in the Uncharted Forest after his escape, he said,

        “‘There is no danger in solitude.  We have no need of our brothers.  Let us forget their good and our evil, let us forget all things save that we are together and that there is joy as a bond between us.  Give us your hand.  Look ahead.  It is our own world, Golden One, a strange, unknown world, but our own.’… If that which  we have found is the corruption of solitude, then what can men wish for save     corruption?  If this is the great evil of being alone, then what is good and what is evil?” (44-45).

Equality is saying that life is much better now that he is alone.  He doubts that isolation is truly evil, and he begins to rewrite what good is and what evil is.  Rand is using this to express the importance of individuality.  To stress this, when Equality finds a house from the Unmentionable times and learns to say “I”, Rand writes,

        “For the word “We” must never be spoken, save by one’s choice and as a second thought.  This word must never be placed first within man’s soul, else it becomes a monster, the root of all the evils on earth, the root of man’s torture by men, and of an unspeakable lie.  The word “We” is as lime poured over men, which sets and hardens to stone, and crushes all beneath it, and that which is             white and black are lost equally in the grey of it.  It is the word by which the depraved steal the virtue of the good, by which the week steal the might of the strong, by which the fools steal the wisdom of the sages” (52-53).

Not only does Rand think self-interest is a virtue, but she thinks that group identity can be the greatest evil.  In her mind, anything collaborative results in stolen wisdom, strength, and goodness.  The only right in life is in oneself.  Rand further demonstrates her love of self when Equality changes after learning the Unspeakable Word and says,

        “And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this god whom men have sought since men came into being, this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride.  This god, this one word: ‘I’”  (53).

Equality now calls himself “god” instead of calling the group “god.” Now the brothers are not most important to him, and the council is not most important to him.  The only being that should rule his life is him.  He has learned the basic human instinct of selfishness and a rejection of all altruism.  As Rand believes in living for only one’s self, to me, morally right can only be dying to self.  My philosophy is that what is morally good can only be one thing: God.  God invented good and is all that is good on earth.  What is a better way to judge one’s morals than compare oneself to the person God wishes them to be?  Rand is clearly not a follower of God and would debate this theory, but I believe that we do not live for ourselves.  I agree with her that self-interest is constructive and healthful.  However, an interest in only one’s self in very destructive.  Ayn Rand’s rejection of altruism is not only morally wrong, but acts of pure selfishness lead to no reward but one’s demise.  Rand believes that an idea not formed by oneself will not lead to progression or growth.  It is true that a society without individualism will not produce new ideas or succeed, but the importance of individualism should not mean the absence of community or learning from others.  Building as a part of community is essential to growth individually, and if it is argued that altruism is evil, we must properly define the word.  Altruism is not giving up everything about oneself.  It does not mean hating yourself, doing nothing to promote your well being, or giving no care to your own knowledge.  It simply means not placing your own comfort and happiness over serving others and serving your purpose.  I also disagree with Rand on the importance of happiness.  She stresses the value of being happy and how it should be sacrificed for no one.  Acting for another in a way to ensure happiness can be evil to Rand; it is immoral if you yield your happiness.  Where Rand seems to place a high value in happiness, I place value in how I carry out my purpose. Life certainly cannot always be joyful.  Should we call every difficult and sad time evil or immoral?  That would lead to a quite depressing life.  Instead morality should be judged by how well we serve our purpose doing what God made us to do, and how close we become to the people God intended us to be.  Happiness is different from joy, and joy is what is truly important.  Happiness is temporary and can be lost when serving others, but joy is a result of serving others.  Joy in Christ doesn’t leave us, but it is in us.  It empowers us to do God’s work and allows us not to feel drained from it.  I disagree with Rand that serving others is immoral because I believe that Individuality and altruism can both exist in the same heart.  Individuality plays an important role in morals, but it also is a factor in politics.

    A government that allows one to be an individual is important and something both Rand and I agree on.  Ayn Rand is clearly a firm believer in self-interest.  She despises collective thought or identity as she believes it cannot benefit or grow one person in becoming an individual.  She supports capitalism and is very much against socialism.  Socialism is a theory in which there is shared responsibility, collectivism, and no private property.  This type of system leaves little freedom for its people.  Ayn Rand is opposed to the lack of freedom in this ideology, and she is a strong advocate for freedom.  She says, as Equality is discovering his individuality in the Uncharted Forest and house,

        “But what is freedom?  Freedom from what?  There is nothing to take a man’s freedom away from him, save other men.  To be free, a man must be free of his brothers.  That is freedom.  That and nothing else” (57).

Rand is a strong believer in a capitalism with almost complete freedom.  She believes that freedom is being an individual, thinking alone, and choosing alone.  She also believes that socialism is the ultimate cause of loss of freedom due to sharing all you have.  She elaborates when she depicts Equality dwelling on his newfound freedom and the problems of the past government.  He said,

         â€œWhat is my joy if all hands, even the unclean, can reach into it?  What is my wisdom, if even the fools can dictate to me?  What is my freedom, if all creatures, even the botched and the impotent, are my masters?  What is my life,  if I am but to bow, to agree and to obey?  But I am done with this creed if corruption.  I am done with the monster of “We,” the word of serfdom, of plunder, of misery, falsehood and shame” (53).

Equality learned that his time in this collectivist society caused him harm.  There is no goodness if the produce of the garden he cultivated is stolen.  His wisdom is not his own if others can claim or control it, and neither is his life, his freedom, and his joy.  Rand is saying that collective identity and thought leads only to corruption.  There are flaws of socialism additional to the lack of freedom.  When the Council was outraged by his discovery of electricity, they said,

        “How dared you think that your mind held greater wisdom than the minds of your brothers?  And if the Councils had decreed that you should be a Street Sweeper, how dared you think that you could be of greater use to men than in sweeping the streets?’ ‘How dared you, gutter cleaner,’ spoke Fraternity 9-3452, ‘to hold yourself as one alone and with the thoughts of the one and not the               many?’ ‘You shall be burned at the stake,’ said Democracy 4-6998” (37).

Socialism markets itself as a system of equality and fairness.  It displays itself as a way for no man to be higher in class than another, yet it is deceptive. The Council reprimands Equality for thinking on his own, and they decide they want to discard him.  Ironically, Democracy states that they want to take away Equality’s freedom. They value the good of the many but care not about the individual.  This is similar to socialism as the government says they want you to be equal to those around you and might give you a false sense of care.  In actuality, they care not about the well being of one person.  They only care about the country as a whole.  As Rand is  explaining the flaws of socialism, she listed losses that this type of system causes, and she explains flaws like how socialism causes depression in economics and loss of success in society.  When Equality discovered a new world, one free from the oppression of group identity, he spoke of the harm of collectivism and said,

        “The worship of the word “We.”  When men accepted that worship, the structure of centuries collapsed about them, the structure whose every beam had come from the thought of some one man, each in his day down the ages, from the depth of some one spirit, such spirit as existed but for its own sake.  Those men who survived those eager to obey, eager to live for one another, since they had          nothing else to vindicate them—those men could neither carry on, nor preserve what they had received.  Thus did all thought, all science, all wisdom perish  on earth.  Thus did men—men with nothing to offer save their great number— lost the steel towers, the flying ships, the power wires, all the things they had not created and could never keep” (58).

Equality is saying that those who think in groups, and not as individuals, fail to succeed.  In fact, this tears apart society.  It caused all advancement due to individual thought, which is most advancement, to cease.  It destroyed the structure on which the world was made: with the freedom to think for yourself.  This reflects socialism in our world as socialist countries fail to advance.  Socialism doesn’t work because there is no self.  There is no private property or ownership.  All is shared, including thought.  When thought is shared there is no challenge or growth.  I agree with Rand’s political stance on the importance of liberty.  Freedom is integral to a progressing society.  A country cannot flourish without it.  I agree with her that freedom is letting man be man on his own.  My stance is this: man should have freedom to be an individual with the exception of harming others, and one may not have the freedom to take another person’s freedom.  I agree that socialism always fails and produces no fruit.

Rand has a thought-provoking philosophy and one that I both agree and disagree with.   As she is not a Christian, it is interesting to challenge her ideas against God’s word and to see how her philosophy contradicts it.   Rand believes that no God exists or is truth, but John 14:6 says “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  God says that there is a spiritual truth: Him.  Rand would disagree as her philosophy on metaphysics is contrary to this.  When it comes to distinguishing between truth and falsehood, Rand says that only reason and sensory experience contribute to this.  God says that revelation is a key part in knowing the truth.  Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”   When it comes to morality, Ayn Rand believes that self-interest is moral, but God says love is not self-seeking.  1 Corinthians 10:4 says, “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” God commands us to put other people above ourselves: an idea which Rand despises.  Finally, Rand’s view of freedom is that it is necessary.  God says that freedom is a right of ours. Galatians 5:13-14 says, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh ; rather, serve one another humbly in love.  For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” God explains that freedom is good when used according to His word and will and as long we we do not harm others or dishonor Him.  We know how God would view Rand’s philosophy, and we have seen how her philosophy is displayed in Anthem.   There is an absolute truth, it is discovered through senses, logic, and revelation, that self-interest and individuality are important; but altruism is morally good, and that freedom is essential to thriving society.

How Foursquare Reveals the Beauty of Spontaneous Order

By Jake Yonally
At my high school, four square has always been our lunchtime recreational game of choice. Every day, dozens of students gather on the blacktop to participate in a game with no clear winner, no referees, no official teams, and no written rules or regulations whatsoever. It is—or at least it would appear to be—a recipe for absolute chaos.
Notwithstanding these chaotic circumstances, the games tend to flow smoothly; people treat each other with respect, teams are formed, spoken as well as unspoken rules evolve, and everyone involved has a good time. Many observant bystanders are left perplexed by the fact that fun is able to be had in an orderly manner by a bunch of teenagers even in the absence of paternal institutions and coercive authorities. It’s a perfect example of the spontaneous order that emerges under conditions of peaceful, voluntary exchange and rational self-interest.

Any thinking person should be able to predict what Hobbes would call the “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” outcome of this romantic (in the literary sense) lunchtime endeavor. Competing high school personalities and self-interests should be the death of unsupervised lunchtime games. And yet, they are not.

Voluntary Rule-Following 

Pick-up four square is a perfect example of the spontaneous order that emerges under conditions of peaceful, voluntary exchange and rational self-interest. The four square court is a simple yet eloquent image of the equality of opportunity we should strive for in a free society. Everybody operates under the unspoken idea that the best way to have fun is to abide by the current rules. If someone happens to not agree with the rules, they are free to either leave the game and spend their lunch doing something else or start a new game of four square with different rules. If this new rule does not lead to a net increase in the overall level of fun, nobody will play, and the new rule will fail to be adopted by the majority.
For example, there used to be a huge problem with balls being hit too high and landing on the roof, thus delaying the game and wasting people’s lunch. Slowly, a rule evolved where if someone hit the ball on the roof, the hitter would be out and would have to get back in line regardless of where in the square the ball was hit. It would also be the hitter’s duty to go retrieve the ball. This evolutionary process is obviously not unique to pick-up four square. It happens every single day in every single field, often without verbal discussion. Trey Goff correctly observes that
The emergence and universal respect for this rule set is reminiscent of the bottom-up development of private law through common law systems that has occurred for millennia in the Anglophone world.
Each participant has a very strong incentive to cooperate with the agreed upon set of rules. This is because a refusal to comply will always result in a loss of respect and having one’s reputation permanently marred. If someone is well-known for refusing to abide by these unspoken rules or is generally a bad sport who does not play fairly, people will team up against them to get them out as quickly as possible. For example, the barely touched low ball hit is usually accepted as legal, however, respect is always lost, and the perpetrator is always targeted for the rest of the day. Thus, the offender will never set foot on the court as a direct result of his poor sportsmanship.
In this manner, the informal institutions of pick-up four square encourage fair play in ways that no formal institution can. People whose actions subtract from the overall level of fun are excluded and punished without the use of coercive force or physical violence. While there lays a gun beneath all government regulation, private, peaceful, and voluntary cooperation eliminates any need for physical violence in the emergent regime of pick-up four square.
Four square rules are complex yet completely self-enforcing—another demonstration of spontaneous order without a central planner.
Close calls are usually decided through the honor system; however, sometimes there are disagreements. After the call is made, it is either accepted by both players involved—in which case the game simply continues on—or it is fought against by one of the players. If there is serious controversy as to whether a ball was in or out, other players waiting in line will begin to weigh in on the discussion and share their generally unbiased opinions. This process of adjudication eventually settles the dispute between both players involved in the close call almost 100 percent of the time. The rules of four square are complex yet completely self-enforcing and without forceful compulsion—another humble demonstration of spontaneous order in the absence of a central planner.

Systems and Spontaneity 

The emergent coordination of interests that is seen in the game of four square is only a glimpse of what markets are truly capable of achieving. Four square is a game for around four to 12 players, however, Adam Smithsays this type of near perfect coordination and spontaneous division of labor is “only limited by the extent of the market.”
In his 1988 masterpiece, The Fatal Conceit, F.A. Hayek famously reminds us that
The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they know about what they imagine they can design.
The most shocking part about the wonders of spontaneous order is that certain presumptuous individuals still continue to believe that they alone possess the knowledge necessary to coordinate people’s interests and values in a more successful manner—through central planning—than the age-old price system does through the invisible hand. Adam Smith often spoke of
the man of system [who] seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board.
These presumptuous individuals are “men of system.” They treat human preference and decision-making as a science that can be calculated, mastered, predicted, and controlled. This is the “fatal conceit” about which Hayek is warning us. When allowed to work, the invisible hand does a far better job than any government, central planner, or social engineer could at delivering goods and services to the people and places that need them most. Political freedom makes economic freedom possible, while economic freedom makes political freedom meaningful.
The wonders of spontaneous order are constantly transpiring all around us, present in every single human interaction. Oftentimes all it takes to recognize this beautiful anarchy is a short trip back to high school.

Celebrate Providence Event a Spectacular Success

Celebrate Providence! A Seaside Soiree took place March 15 at the Rosewood Miramar Beach. It was a special evening that brought together the Providence School community to celebrate Christian education, honor God and his faithfulness to the school, and raise necessary support for the students and mission. 

From start to finish, the evening was spectacular. Memorable moments included the beautiful reception on the Great Lawn where guests perused silent auction items and enjoyed delicious food and drink while listening to Goodtime Tim and the Faculty Band.

The exquisite Chandelier Ballroom welcomed guests as Dr. Matthew Roy, performing arts director, and the Providence singers opened the evening with a rousing Swahili version of The Doxology. Dr. Brett Wilson, board member, guided the dinner program as our emcee and guests were inspired by Cameron Bleecker, Class of 2020, and his testimony. A new Providence film made its debut and Rob Crawford, current parent, helped us further the mission with his expert auctioneering. 

We are proud to share that more than $200,000 was raised for the students and mission of Providence!

Celebrate Providence! would not have been possible without the support of our our sponsors and the hard work and dedication of many volunteers, led by event co-chairs Colette Nottage Crafton and Melissa Kuykendall.  See the Celebrate Providence web page for a list of volunteers and sponsors.

There are still some opportunities to participate in the success of the event through Providence Socials. Beginning Monday, April 1, there will be a binder in the front office on each campus with sign-up opportunities for the remaining Social spaces. Please consider signing up and supporting the school through your participation in one or more of these fun events.

What Do Americans Know about the American System?

What Do Americans Know about the American System?

By Emma Gobbell, Class of 2020

    A survey conducted by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation this year discovered that a mere 36% of Americans were able to pass the U.S. citizenship test, based on questions given to immigrants who apply for American citizenship. This test consists of ten questions about the basic history and government structure of the United States, and a passing score is answering six or more correctly. This same survey revealed that 37% of Americans believed that Benjamin Franklin invented the light bulb. For people under the age of 45, only 19% of them passed the test. The best-scoring group on this test were adults age 75 and older, which seems strange, because one would assume that our education system has far surpassed the teachings from 50 or so years ago. Apparently it hasn’t, nor have 75 year olds forgotten their civics lessons. The test asks “civics” type questions about the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, but also asks some questions about American history and geography.

  In a separate survey, it was discovered that 37% of Americans could not name even one right guaranteed by the First Amendment and only 26% could name all three branches of government.
    So how would Providence seniors do on the same test?
   Mr. Rottman gave his seniors in American Government class a 20-question version of the citizenship test, which is twice as long as the version given to immigrants. All 18 of the Providence seniors passed the test. One hundred percent! (Although some struggled with “What is the second longest river in the U.S.?”)

    In fact, at least one of the questions that one student answered incorrectly had a faulty answer. Libertas Scholar Jenna Peterson noted that the answer “printing money” is not technically a correct answer to a question asking for an example of a power granted to Congress in the Constitution, because Congress is only given the power to “coin money.” Whether coining money implies the ability to print money, or implies the constitutionality of the Federal Reserve, which might then imply the legality of its quantitative easing…well, the test doesn’t go that deep.

    As the Providence American Government class transitions to learning about economics, Providence seniors are going to delve a bit deeper into subjects like these for the remainder of the year, so that they will understand not only the American political system, but our economic system as well. I, for one, am looking forward to that dive.