Rockbridge Academy Blog
The Rockbridge Reporter—A Student-Run Newspaper
Thomas Jefferson readily preferred a newspaper without the government than the government without a newspaper. Alexander Graham Bell declared the greatest inventors were those who write the newspaper. Presidents and many other notable figures such as George Orwell completely disregarded the newspaper, assuming it was not to be trusted.
With all these ideas on newspapers circulating throughout the country, one may misunderstand the true value of a newspaper. People now don’t know whether to listen to everything the news feeds them, take it with a grain of salt, or throw it in the recycling bin without a glance. People could take the wrong side on important issues simply because one writer presented a fallacious yet persuasive argument or because they refuse to read any article which might actually provide concrete data.
I decided to begin a newspaper the student body can trust; a newspaper that does not satirize our school, yet informs the readers; a place to discuss, learn, and maturely disagree. Although we can’t tackle all the world-wide issues in our small school newspaper, we can still foster meaningful discussions, critical thinking, and responsible reporting.
Will we use this newspaper to manipulate the student body into conforming to our standards? Or keep our “government” in check? No. I hope to find a balance between publishing anything we want and filtering the content in such a way that we avoid real-world problems which we ought to learn to discuss.
In order to maintain this balance, the students run and fund the newspaper. Along with my editor’s board, we write (or enlist other students to write) articles which foster a student’s understanding on different topics or ideas. Through this newspaper, students will use the skills they learn in class and apply them. They will experience real-life discussions outside of a classroom environment. Additionally, because it is student-run, the students will learn to exercise good judgment and prudence as they decide what to publish.
Unlike many school newspapers today, we do not publish our newspapers on the website or online. Instead, we send our newspaper to a printer in order to have hard copies. I think paper copies give the newspaper a certain kind of value and increase the likelihood of someone reading it. Today, we can access a news story with a few clicks on our phone. A paper newspaper brings the student body outside of the world on their phones and teaches them to interact with important issues that don’t necessarily originate from our electronics. The newspaper adds a communal aspect to a student’s day as they gather around the newspaper, especially since students are not allowed to have their phones out during the school day. Additionally, as many people agreed, a paper newspaper is real and lasting. A paper newspaper distinguishes our school from other schools and the culture around us as everything is going digital. However, because we only provide paper copies, the only way to obtain a newspaper is from our school building. You can find our newspapers dispersed throughout the common hangout areas in our school. In later years we hope to create a subscription plan so that alumni and donors can order a copy.
After getting the newspaper up and running, I interviewed a collection of students who I then appointed to an editorial board. The editorial board plans to expand our content and discuss issues concerning race, pronouns, and abortion. Of course, we will have a balance of both heavy discussions and funny stories or reviews.
In the end, my goal with the newspaper is to give students a responsibility, an opportunity to share and build their worldviews, and a place to learn to maturely disagree. One day, the teenagers attending Rockbridge high school will graduate. I hope this newspaper will teach them to formulate and stand up for their worldviews, yet also respectfully and maturely disagree with those who differ from their beliefs.
Hannah Leeman is a current tenth grader. Through the school newspaper she gets to use her passion for reading and writing. She also loves biking and hiking, especially with friends.
Skills that Matter—How My Education Paved My Way
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.