Rockbridge Academy Blog
When I graduated from Rockbridge Academy in 2012, I had no idea how much my education would help me advance in the professional world. Now, 10 years on, I serve as chief of policy for the best governor in the country, Kristi Noem in South Dakota, and it is clear to me how much my education uniquely prepared me for this job.
For starters, since graduation I have spent my time working in and around the political world, and that means public speaking. In school, I struggled immensely with public speaking and got very nervous every time I had to speak. But in almost every class, my teachers found opportunities for all of us to practice, and slowly but surely—over the course of many years—I started to become comfortable speaking to groups and even developed tips and tricks to make my speeches effective.
I struggled immensely with public speaking and got very nervous every time I had to speak. But in almost every class, my teachers found opportunities for all of us to practice, and slowly but surely—over the course of many years—I started to become comfortable speaking to groups and even developed tips and tricks to make my speeches effective.
Today, I frequently testify in front of legislative committees, provide policy updates at state cabinet meetings, and speak on behalf of the Governor to legislators, lobbyists, and local leaders. I entered my career with a level of public speaking ability that I could never have imagined when I started high school, and I am thankful on a regular basis for this unique component of classical education.
Secondly, my education honed my writing abilities, teaching me to write concisely and make my points clear and easy to understand. My teachers insisted that we create an outline before we started writing to make sure our arguments were well-structured and supported. To this day, I still outline my thoughts before putting pen to paper. Now, I write memos about complicated subjects in a way that is easy to understand. I draft testimony, letters to elected officials in Washington, and even emails that make my ask or argument clear.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, my classical education made it possible for me to both develop—and advance—a clear and consistent worldview. Through our philosophy, logic, and rhetoric classes, we learned the different ways of looking at the world and the assumptions that are built into any perspective. During our senior year, we took a class on current events that allowed us to start applying these ideas to what was actually happening in the world. This gave me a huge head start in understanding not just what was going on, but why it was happening—and the philosophical foundation behind different proposed solutions.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, my classical education made it possible for me to both develop—and advance—a clear and consistent worldview. Through our philosophy, logic, and rhetoric classes, we learned the different ways of looking at the world and the assumptions that are built into any perspective.
In South Dakota, state government consists of 20 different agencies that cover areas like agriculture, education, finance, healthcare, and public safety. Part of my job is to ensure that everyone is rowing in the same direction. There’s no way I can be an expert in all of these different fields … but my classical education has helped me develop and articulate clear, consistent principles that I can apply in a range of situations. This helps me ask the right questions and provide the right guidance to make sure we’re leading a government that respects the rights of the people and gets out of the way as much as possible.
I am thankful every day for the opportunity to wake up and do the job I’m doing. And I know without a doubt that I would not have had this opportunity without the skills my education taught me.
Rachel Wallen Oglesby serves as Chief of Policy in the South Dakota Governor’s Office and is a member of the Governor’s executive team. She oversees the implementation of the governor’s agenda across all policy areas and state government agencies. She grew up in Maryland, graduated from Rockbridge Academy and Wake Forest University, and holds a master’s in public policy from George Mason University. This article was published in the winter 2023 issue of The Classical Difference magazine.
We at Rockbridge intend to continue to use our economics course as one means to foment hope, right relationship with God, and to create a spark in our students that will drive them into conversations, courses, and careers that support not only Godly market relationships, but that also champion truth, beauty, and goodness in any environment.
The Rockbridge Academy economics course policies document states our overarching goal for learning for the year: “The market economy is a gift from God for orderly procedure in a fallen world. Your understanding of this truth and ability to contrast Biblical truth with economic fallacies will be essential to successful navigation of the course.” This statement is distilled from what we at Rockbridge Academy state as our purpose in teaching economics: “The twelfth grade study of economics affords the student the opportunity to sharpen rhetorical skills by integrating a broad range of course formation from mathematics, Great Ideas, and history. The course cadence flows with the first trimester and a half devoted to in-depth study of economic theory and policy as well as training in discerning economic fallacy, both from historical context and relative to current events. The remainder of the course is devoted to history of economic thought, tracing the effects of cultural presuppositions on all aspects of economic behavior, starting with evidencing biblical economics and ending with the modern era of econometrics. The students’ rhetorical skills are honed through instilling the economic way of thinking by reading primary sources, textbooks, and periodicals.
At Rockbridge Academy, we have learned that economics, taught rightly and well in a Godly framework, can be life changing for our students. We make a concerted effort to undo the damage wrought by enculturating the subject of economics as the dismal science. This term was coined by Scottish essayist, historian, and anti-abolitionist Thomas Carlyle in the nineteenth century. Carlyle was influenced by TR Malthus' gloomy prediction that population would always grow faster than food, dooming mankind to unending poverty and hardship.
Clearly, neither Malthus nor Carlyle seems to have been rightly inspired by the Dominion Mandate as stated in Genesis 1:28: “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’” Blessed with these commands, placed here in the earthly kingdom, how could we fail to call economics anything but the hopeful science? Here in Genesis 1:28 we see applied economics–how we should live.
Fast forward a couple of tumultuous millenia. We find ourselves faced with real upheaval. Upheaval aptly summarized in a July 2022 essay for World, penned by author Brad Littlejohn. The essay states, “No sooner had the long shadow of COVID-19 begun to recede into the rearview mirror than a new set of clouds gathered on our national horizon. Not since the Great Recession of 2008–2009 have Americans had so much cause to worry about the economy. Inflation has soared to levels not seen in more than four decades and shows no signs of slowing, with the conflict in Ukraine acting as an accelerant to a price spiral that was already threatening to get out of control…” That’s some dismal stuff there. Maybe the idea of economics as a dismal science is not far off the mark.
The author doesn’t stop here with this dismal tirade. He goes on to say, “Most depressingly of all, there now seems no way for policymakers to rein in inflation without making it harder for struggling Americans to borrow and for investors to protect their current savings, much less make a profit. For the time being, at least, most of us can expect to see our savings keep shrinking and our cost of living keep rising—and the worst part is that no one knows how long this season will last.” Yet the author sees something behind these storm clouds, and he invites us to use a hopeful lens to take another look: “…these clouds do have a silver lining. In the midst of an increasingly hostile culture, it can seem harder and harder to make our faith seem plausible and relevant, but the current economic gloom actually presents a powerful opportunity for Christian witness—if we can have the courage to capitalize on it.”
The author chose a key economic term–capitalize–to call Christians to action to be arbiters of hope in a world clouded with gloom. To capitalize means ‘to take the chance to gain advantage from.’ The essay implies that we have a chance to profit from these seemingly disastrous times. Not the type of profit that can be deposited in the bank, but the profit resulting from evangelizing the truth that sets us free to live in right relationship with our creator God. We at Rockbridge intend to continue to use our economics course as one means to foment hope, right relationship with God, and to create a spark in our students that will drive them into conversations, courses, and careers that support not only Godly market relationships, but that also champion truth, beauty, and goodness in any environment.
Littlejohn Brad, Money and Christian witness https://wng.org/opinions/money-and-christian-witness-1657278541
Amy Boswell has been working at Rockbridge Academy for nearly two decades, and she currently teaches Economics. She has four children who all attended Rockbridge Academy.