The Academy of Chivalry
My ultimate goal is to found an Academy of Chivalry. The Academy will not be dedicated to historical re-enactment, not a refuge for LARPers who want to go back to the 12th century—but instead a vital training ground for the the kind of vigorous and virtuous young men that a society will need if it is to bring itself back from the brink of destruction. As CS Lewis noted, chivalry is not just a quaint historical idea, but the hope of civilization.
I daresay I am uniquely qualified to found such a school—if only because I received such a lame, propagandistic, soul-numbing, shoulder-rounding, aspiration-killing education myself, the goal of which was to train me for my ultimate destiny as a functionary at an corporate office park Monday through Friday. Of course, no real skills were necessary for such a bugman life, but instead a broken spirit. And this was what the public schools seemed designed to do for me. Either way, the vision for the Academy of Chivalry is a vision of the education I desperately needed.
This is a time for building. Long held assumptions about how the world works have been exposed in their flimsiness. The time is right to replace them with sturdier structures. Either we build—or else the future will not look kindly upon us.
With that, here are the preliminary thoughts for the Academy of Chivalry.
Knowing that the faculty will make or break such a project as the Academy of Chivalry, we will field a small corps of excellent cavalier-instructors, men of prowess, honor, humility, faith, and real skills. Ethos convinces. Facts and logic, without ethos, have little power. Whenever facts and logic do triumph, it’s often because the man presenting them gave some reason for the listener to open his mind, and that reason is usually an unspoken personal authority. For this reason, the high ideals of the code of chivalry must be taught by compelling men. Such as these are rare today, but I know several of them and as for the rest I’ll trust to the wisdom of Field of Dreams: If you build it, they will come.
All that is needed is a well-built dormitory for the students, housing for the faculty, academic and dining halls, modest athletic facilities, a couple barns, a lodge, and a chapel. The school itself will remain somewhat small, with a hard cap on enrollment so as to maintain a personal and informal character. But these few buildings will sit on a nice expanse of land with forests and fields to allow sufficient space for riding, hiking, tactical courses, gardens, orchards, and small herds of animals. Luckily for us, the upheaval in “higher education” means that small colleges are going on sale every week in the United States, and I get the impression that old monasteries are up for grabs in the old world too.
Because chivalry makes steep demands not just on the heart and mind but also on the body, the education on offer at the Academy of Chivalry will be a highly physical one. Prowess is the most immediately necessary of the chivalric virtues; a knight who can't or won't fight is not much of a knight. So a big part of the day will consist in movement, activity, and training. Students will learn to fight, all sorts of styles: striking, grappling, weaponry. They will learn how to lift weights properly. Regular games, sports, and contests will have them in excellent shape.
The point is less about creating a regiment of young super-soldiers, and more about acknowledging the ways in which martial training and physical excellence set a tone for a young man's life, teaching him self-respect and self-restraint, discipline and composure, in addition to preparing him for the moments when he will need the strength, skills, and courage to rise to the challenges before him.
Horsemanship is crucial in the education of the cavalier. I don’t know if the cavaliers of tomorrow will be riding into action on their steeds; I do know, however, that there’s something poetic, mysterious, and powerful about the experience of riding the horse. Mankind peaked on horseback and has been in decline ever since we replaced those beautiful and noble animals with dirty machines. Our young men must log serious hours on and around such noble beasts.
Though agriculture was not something that most medieval knights spent much time thinking about, the knights of tomorrow will need to know a bit about it, especially given the obsession of our oligarchs for reordering our diets for maximal greenness and minimal vitality. (Somehow men who look like slouching asexual lizards think it fit to remake the world in their own image and likeness.) The orchards and gardens and animals will give the young men the chance to learn about the raising of food and also supply the Academy with real food.
Before cataloguing the more academic subjects, I’d first want to clarify that as much of the curriculum as possible will be taught outside, and often on the move. Students will not spend their days sitting here. Dead butt syndrome and anterior pelvic tilts will not happen. The campus will have extensive trails and turns for walking and, like Aristotle and his followers, instructors and students at the academy will be walking and talking and thinking and learning. Movement of the body activates the mind, as Nietzsche knew when he wrote about distrusting any idea that comes to you while sitting down indoors. We will also have many lessons and stories over bonfires.
Disciplines include history (the heroic kind, not the debunking kind), theology, geometry, poetry and music. Natural science has a place, the old kind that encouraged people to look at the created world in wonder. What has no place in such a curriculum are economics, modern psychology, and other small-minded, reductive pseudo-disciplines. Electives that involve carpentry and building things will also be offered.
In that that we do decorum is to be emphasized, as it is the combination of ferociousness and decorum that defines chivalry—what CS Lewis calls the “double demand.” But the good manners instilled in these young men will not be drilled home through constant schoolmarmy nagging. Rather they will be aspirational—the outward show of a thoughtful, spirited, and kind heart, and such manners will be constantly modeled by the dashing men who make up the faculty and staff.
Coming in 2030, God-Willing
The goal is to send into the world young men ready to face the troubles of our times, kill some dragons, and turn the tide of events. Now all we need are some based benefactors to make this vision a reality. If you know any, please send them my way.