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Core curriculum is no empty shell

“I am not exaggerating when I say that IWP taught me to think.”
Andrea Kiser, Class of 2013

Library Books 444x718When education becomes too much like an assembly line for information, everyone loses: professors, employers, even society as a whole. But no one loses more than the student. After all, for an educational program to be of lasting significance in the life of an individual, it should transcend impermanent, transitory details and help the student attain a perspective for considering fundamental ideas and problems. 

The Wall Street Journal recently noted a trend at business schools to recognize the need for thinking about the bigger picture, leading to some MBA students exploring business, capitalism, and other concepts in broader context by reading the works of Plato and Kant.

Since its founding, IWP has provided a similar classical and philosophical background for students pursuing an understanding of national security.

Why IWP students read the great works

IWP students delve into the writings of Aristotle, Cicero, and Thucydides.  They read the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and George Washington’s Farewell Address.  Core classes that examine classic works like these create a solid foundation of knowledge about human nature, natural law, the nature of peace, political philosophy, ethics, and reasons why countries and civilizations are worth defending.  

“This school has taught me the importance of having a core of beliefs, and of ruling oneself with reason and prudential judgment,” commented David Pate, Class of 2012. “Dr. Lenczowski emphasizes in class that he wants to instill in us a lifelong commitment for a cultivation of virtue. If we’re going to be leaders in government, this is the type of leader we need to be. We have to be ready to do what is just and right, and be ruled by those timeless virtues…. This school has grown me up a lot, and helped me develop an inner sense of self.”

When it comes to making a tough decision on the job, technical skills in counterintelligence or military tactics, for instance, may not be sufficient to resolve the issue.  When such decisions need to be made, a deep understanding of the realities of the world — gained by studying great works of politics and philosophy — guide IWP graduates.  

“More and more government agencies, think tanks, companies, and non-governmental organizations are looking for talented candidates who not only have the right analytical and technical skills but who also understand philosophy, history, culture, strategy, morals, diplomacy and the importance of strategic communication,” noted IWP Director of Career Services Derrick Dortch.  

He comments further: “Not understanding the philosophy or culture of a country can be costly to those trying to effect change economically, militarily or diplomatically. A lack of morals can cause devastating decisions that have severe negative consequences. An inability to see the long term strategy and impact of decisions can be the difference between war and peace or profit and loss.”

All the arts of statecraft

IWP students gain technical expertise by concentrating on areas ranging from intelligence to political warfare and conflict prevention.  But this knowledge is also informed by an understanding of how their area of expertise is affected and influenced by other, more fundamental aspects of international relations — like economics, geography, and diplomacy.  

IWP’s founder, John Lenczowski, calls the use of these different factors “practicing the arts of statecraft,” and compares their use to the musical instruments of an orchestra.  If the instruments of statecraft are used in concert with each other towards the same end, he notes, foreign policy is “in harmony” and is therefore more effective.  If those employing the art of intelligence, for instance, do not take into account the work of those practicing the art of diplomacy, or vice versa, disharmony will inevitably exist in a nation’s foreign policy.  

“At IWP, students gain analytical and technical skills, philosophical understanding that can be applied to decisions, moral leadership to do what is right, and the ability to develop and implement strategies that result in success,” said Mr. Dortch.  “That is what employers are looking for in a candidate.”

As students and alumni quickly discover, a few years of educational preparation will lose relevance all too quickly if those years don’t include studying foundational ideas and values. IWP’s core curriculum might provide the greatest significance for its students’ careers — and lives — of any part of its educational program.