Lessons for School from the Ancients: Classes with Mr. Wharton

Commonwealth School is pleased to announce the first in a series of events honoring Bill Wharton’s retirement, as he concludes thirty-six remarkable years at the school, twenty-one as headmaster.

We begin with two virtual classes, inviting the Commonwealth community to become students in Mr. Wharton’s virtual classroom. Bill actually began his tenure at Commonwealth as a teacher of Latin and ancient history, and he has planned two special seminars exploring philosophy and the culture of Commonwealth School.

The first seminar, Plato and Rollerskating (Thursday, April 8, 7:00 p.m. EDT), will consider some passages from Plato’s dialogues and a letter he is believed to have written that portray philosophy as a living exercise, one that aims to awaken understanding. Though Commonwealth’s founder did not cite Plato, this kind of authentic dialogue and engagement between young people and adults, in the context of the daily life of the school, informed Commonwealth’s efforts to shape students’ minds and hearts through the school’s history. 

The second, Stoics, Emperors, and Headmasters (Saturday, April 17, 3:00 p.m. EDT), will look at the Stoics, and particularly Epictetus and the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, whose Meditations comprise a diary of spiritual reflections that helped him perform his duties reasonably, justly, and humanely. Stoicism has enjoyed something of a revival in recent decades, and many of its principles and exercises, including some from the writings of Marcus Aurelius, provide useful guidance to leading a community, especially in challenging times. 

The hope is that these sessions will show that, far from being stodgy, fossilized formulations of privileged ancients (though privileged they were), these writings laid out practices and approaches to living and working that are as relevant and necessary today as they ever have been. 

Both classes will take place via Zoom and will include both lecture and time for questions and conversation. Participants may join either or both classes. Short readings will be shared with registrants ahead of time. 

Registration is required. RSVP to reserve your spot in one or both seminars.