The Fables of Aesop is out now!

Four Reasons Not to Join the Midwest Apprenticeship

The following speech was given by Jill Courser at the 2021 CiRCE Apprenticeship graduation ceremony. 

As you probably already know, Anthony Esolen will be receiving the Paideia Prize at tomorrow evening’s banquet. So, in the spirit of Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, we would like to present “Four Reasons NOT to Join the Midwest Apprenticeship.” 

First, you should definitely not join the midwest Apprenticeship if you have an aversion to corn fields. Every midwesterner knows the old saying, “knee high by the fourth of July.”  Well, by the time the retreats come around in August in Ohio, that corn is towering well overhead. The driveway leading to our little retreat center is lined with corn on both sides, creating a long and ominous tunnel leading to a farmhouse surrounded on all sides by . . . you guessed it. CORN. Some might say this creates something like a secret garden, a prime location ripe for rich discussions and imaginative creativity, but if corn fields on all sides remind you more of a horror film than a child’s wonderland, you probably should steer clear of the midwest Apprenticeship! 

Secondly, you should not join the midwest Apprenticeship if you already know everything about being a good teacher and a good human being. You might find yourself in a three hour conversation comparing the Christian and classical concepts of the nous, which grew out of a comparison of characters in The Tempest with the Prodigal Son. Or you might be thrown into a discussion of how the Lost Tools of Writing curriculum nurtures us to see the image of God in each of our students, or a contemplation of David Hicks’ quote, “the teacher, not the student, needs to be the focus of reform.” Of course, if you already know all of that and are already the ideal teacher for every student in every situation, then conversations such as these would be exceedingly tedious. Stay far away from the midwest Apprenticeship! 

Next, if you have no need for a wise, gentle mentor, the midwest Apprenticeship is not for you. Molly is an expert teacher, as well as being kind and comforting, bringing a sense of peace and unity among a diverse group of women who had never met before. You might also have to interact with Camille, or even Andrea, who both bring their own valuable knowledge and insights at retreats and zoom meetings. And worst of all, you might even find yourself under the influence of Andrew Kern, who leads the whole shindig with humility, love, and Christlike service. But if you do not feel you are in need of a mentor, then being surrounded by all this wisdom and humility would be rather exasperating. You might even begin to feel like those towering corn stalks were spirits of educational giants bent on teaching you your need for growth. 

This leads to our final reason not to join the midwest Apprenticeship. If you have no desire to grow or be changed, do not join the midwest Apprenticeship. All the graduates agree that this experience was profoundly formative; all of us experienced intense change and growth. One of us even legally changed her name midway through the three years, largely because of how the apprenticeship was changing her internally. Clearly, joining the Apprenticeship can lead to being humbled, being led by a wise mentor, and learning to honor and submit to the people around you by learning in community. Ultimately these things are extremely dangerous and will likely make you feel vulnerable at times, forcing you to see your own weaknesses and accept the guidance of others. For the self-made, independent, “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” typical American, this is simply not safe.

You probably shouldn’t do it. 


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