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Head of School Spring 2020

From the Head of School - KEVIN BREEN


If Hugh Blair were alive today he would not approve of hastily composed tweets. In fact, I am confident he would despise Twitter altogether. To Blair, an 18th century Scottish preacher, scholars were to be judged by the quality and craftsmanship of their letters. In Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Letters, he asserts this argument:

“The study of composition, important in itself at all times, has acquired additional importance [in] the present age… To all the liberal arts much attention has been paid; and to none more than to the beauty of language, and the grace and elegance of every kind of writing. Every author must aspire to some merit in expression, as well as in sentiment, if he would not incur the danger of being neglected and despised.”

We live again in an age that requires “merit in expression.” Surrounded by the uncertainty of a pandemic and corresponding financial crisis, we turn to the newspapers we hold in the highest regard, and to the poets, priests, and philosophers we feel are best able to provide us with some understanding.Since the crisis began several weeks ago, we are reading more selectively and, when we come across a poignant and well-written piece, we are apt to share it with friends and loved ones.

Words matter. Words help us shape meaning. When we take the time to craft our thoughts with care, we give a gift to each other. For many of you, this lesson was learned on the Hilltop. Your teachers implored you to expand your vocabulary, experiment with syntax, master punctuation, support your arguments, learn logic, and tinker with figurative language.

In the moment, those lessons may have been met with consternation. Years later, and in times like these, are we not grateful for those lessons? It was Ms. Lindquist who taught me to edit and proofread in eighth grade. “You have such nice ideas,” she wrote on one of my essays. “It would be a shame if no one read them because of all of the careless mistakes.”

So here’s to the legendary Marshall/Cathedral instructors who taught us to “aspire to some merit in expression.” In this issue, we meet some former classmates who “learned their lessons well.”

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