What would a school built for a thousand years look like? It is easy, on one hand, to focus on the physical–deep foundations, imposing stone walls, and the like. On the other, such a school might focus on its philosophical underpinnings–its ideas, built for universal application. Neither approach is enough, and Dominion imagines a school established–philosophically and physically–to last for generations.
In an earlier blog post, titled “Taking the Future’s Challenge,” we related the story of New College’s beams and the oaks intended to replace them. While the story is apocryphal, it demonstrates an overall approach to school-building that we find very attractive. It is forward-thinking. Rather than focusing on a future we cannot anticipate, it focuses on ensuring that the school exists to fulfill its mission. It values sustainability. The school’s explicit approach is to plan for its own future, not depending on the work of others. It is connected to a place. Those oaks were growing on the campus, and were intended to build a place for education for years to come. They were aimed at making a home for students.
Our own thinking about this has been shaped by a number of thinkers and writers:
- Wendell Berry’s Port William stories and novels, as well as his nonfiction, deal explicitly with the idea of place and membership in a community;
- the architectural and building work of Clay Chapman of Hope for Architecture imagines a subversive “act of permanence” in the face of our culture’s fascination with disposability;
- James Davison Hunter’s To Change the World suggests that real change–especially on the community level–is only possible when Christians take seriously the need for “faithful presence,” that “obligates us to do what we are able, under the sovereignty of God, to shape the patterns of life and work and relationship—that is, the institutions of which our lives are constituted—toward a shalom that seeks the welfare not only of those of the household of God but of all.” Faithful presence does more than seek the good of a single institution, on its own, but looks ahead and beyond,
The “1000-year school” has not yet taken physical shape, but we continue to articulate its values and seek ways to see it come to fruition. You can keep up with our journey at 1000yearschool.com.