Save the date!: The Great Connections Weekend Seminar

Now you can return to college… 
and experience the ideas, books, thinkers, 
and intellectual stimulation you missed out on 
the first time around.

Join us in Chicago this Fall for…

“The Great Connections” Weekend Seminar for Adults

Thursday evening, October 1 to Sunday morning, October 4, 2015

I don’t know about you, but when I went to college, I was looking for a deeply exciting and enlightening experience of learning. Do you ever look back and wish you could return to college? To recapture the joy and excitement of learning – or capture now the kind of learning you may have missed?

Well here’s a second chance! 

Join us for an intellectually challenging and rewarding three days devoted to exploring the greatest works of all time – entirely for your own satisfaction and pleasure. No tests, no assignments, no other pressures.

We’re offering this in response to many working and retired adults who have wanted to join us at The Great Connections Summer Seminars! One said: “I wish I’d gone to a school like yours. May I attend even though I’m out of school?”

This interests proves to me that, regardless of age, people desperately crave lifelong education – the kind that’s intellectually stimulating, enriching, and rewarding.

This weekend seminar will be similar to those we held in 2010 in Chicago, and 2013 in Buenos Aires and San Jose, which were resounding successes.

To get a flavor as to what the fall seminar will be like, you can watch a video about our 2010 weekend seminar for adults here. 

The Great Connections Seminar for Working & Retired Adults Chicago 2010

A Great Connections discussion at the 2010 weekend seminar.









More details as to location and schedule will be forthcoming, but I wanted to give you the chance to save this date on your calendar. If you’re interested, please contact me.

One caution: Because of the high level of personal and individual attention that the faculty will devote to each student, registration is strictly limited to 20. 

At The Great Connections, you’ll benefit from the same distinctive learning method, absorbing curriculum, and top-notch faculty that has won rave reviews from the students who have participated in our “undergraduate” events every summer the past six years.

Ceres, Goddess of Grain in front of the Chicago Board of Trade

Ceres, Goddess of Grain in front of the Chicago Board of Trade















We’re offering a mix of challenging readings, provocative discussions, and entertaining and informative excursions to Chicago’s cultural attractions.

We’ll reside at an attractive downtown location, surrounded by great restaurants and stunning sights.

Experience an atmosphere of enjoyable collaboration resulting from our specially crafted, evidence-based discussion methodology, in which reason is the only authority. You’ll come away enlightened, with your powers of reasoning and first-hand judgment strengthened. And you’ll have forged “great connections with the other fascinating people who will attend.

Watch for more complete details in the coming weeks. Please contact me if you have any questions: or 773-677-6418.


Marsha Familaro Enright


Education in the United States

What is the purpose of education?

Is “school choice” the same as a free market in education?

Could education be provided entirely by the free market, with no public schools?

Do we have a stratified education system?

These are some of the issues address in Kirsten Lombard’s interview of RIFI president, Marsha Familaro Enright, each in 5-6 minute segments on the Resounding Books blog.

Enright contributed the last chapter in Resounding Books’ first publication, Common Ground on Common Core, “Liberating Education.” In it, she examines the history of education in the United States, issues with public education, and what education would be like in a free society in which it was entirely private.

Common Ground On Common Core is available in paperback only at the Resounding Books website. It is available on Kindle in four parts; Enright’s essay is in Part II.

Would all children be educated in a free market?

Here’s another 5-minute clip from Kirsten Lombard, editor of Resounding Books, in which she and I talk about whether all children could be educated if there were no public schools, and how that might happen.

Note: In my last email, I made a mistake in the title of Resounding Book’s volume. It’s Common Ground On Common Core. Sorry about that – to Kirsten especially!

It’s a book of 17 essays from across the political spectrum, analyzing this latest government-promoted program for the public schools and calling for a rebellion against it. My chapter, “Liberating Education,” examines what education would be like in a fully free society, and I go into detail about the history of education here in the U.S. from the time of the Pilgrims.

The paperback is only available through Resounding Books’ website (link above). But it is available on Kindle, where my essay is in Volume II.

This book is a must-read for anyone concerned about this latest push to control our children and, through them, the country.


Marsha Familaro Enright


A New, Value-Added Approach to College Rankings

Brookings Institute researchers Jonathan Rowell and Siddhartha Kulkarni have just published “Beyond College Rankings: A Value-Added Approach to Assessing Two- and Four-Year Schools.” Their approach to college rankings is different and especially useful to students and parents.

“this report analyzes college ‘value-added,’ the difference between actual alumni outcomes (like salaries) and the outcomes one would expect given a student’s characteristics and the type of institution. Value-added captures the benefits that accrue from aspects of college quality we can measure, such as graduation rates and the market value of the skills a college teaches, as well as aspects we can’t.”

Excellent graphics and lots of valuable information.

Scholarships Are Almost Gone

Students discussing a great text in the park.



Don’t miss your opportunity to spend a week enjoying the experience of a culture of liberty available nowhere else, while learning about great ideas with peers from around the world, at The Great Connections Seminar.

You still have time to apply for this life-changing experience.

Here’s a detailed description of the week.

Apply now! If you can’t come, can you forward this information to someone else? Thank you.

A few scholarships are still available – but space is tight. Enroll today.


Lead Instructor

Follow us now on Instagram! Lots of great pictures from past seminars.

Our MissionTo foster active minds:

Empowering each individual with the knowledge, reasoning skills, and independence to understand the world and build a life of adventure and creative achievement.



Come Join UsHelp worthy students: 

Contribute to The Great Connections Scholarship Fund.


The Reason, Individualism, Freedom Institute is a 501(c)(3) corporationAll contributions are tax-deductible as allowed by law.

The Importance of the Ethic of Trade

On Friday, March 13, RIF Institute president Marsha Familaro Enright spoke to business people and students about the unrecognized Ethic of Trade and the good that this ethic brings to the world.

Ms. Enright spoke about the deep good that business people create through their ethic of trade and yet, how little moral credit they get for it. She outlined key economic and ethical misconceptions that drive resentment towards business, wealth, and capitalism.

This talk was part of a new initiative of the Fundacion Para Responsibilidad Intellectual (FRI). The initiative has two parts: 1. To educate business people in Latin America about the ideas that shape culture and governments, and 2. To help those in business work to move their cultures and governments in the direction of reason, individualism, and freedom. Here are some of the highlights of the talk:

“Do the following values and virtues support human life?

  • Creativity
  • Hard work
  • Self reliance
  • Predicting the future and taking rational risks
  • Treating others with respect, as equals
  • Offering value to others
  • Interacting with others through persuasion, not force

These are essential virtues and characteristics needed by the business person to succeed. This is the Ethic of Trade. Through these virtues, business creates and produces wealth which elevates human life around the world.

Yet, for the most part, this ethic is not recognized as a morality, as an ideal, because when people live by it, each pursues his or her own self-interest. And according to the philosophy and ethics of many people, pursuing self-interest is, at most, necessary to stay alive, but not a pursuit of the good. Instead, the ethic of self-denial, of living only to serve others, is predominantly considered the highest morality.

However, in reality, the enlightened pursuit of self-interest is the cause of the most improvements in the world. Businesses and capitalism have created the conditions which have elevated the standard of living of most of the world.

All we need do is look at which places in the world flourish and which stagnate. South Korea versus North Korea; East and West Germany;  Hong Kong versus Communist China. All are stark demonstrations of the destruction wrought by the collectivist pursuit of self-denial versus the flourishing created by the individualist pursuit of self-interest.

This error about self-interest needs to be recognized and corrected in our cultures. Ethical business people deserve honor and respect for what they create and honestly earn, rather than resentment and envy.

Resentment against capitalism is strong in Latin America. And there is at least one valid cause of that resentment: special favors from the government extended to some, usually wealthy, established businesses. These favors make it difficult for new businesses to start, creating a growing gap between the haves and have-nots.

To the extent business people rely on special favors to acquire money, they are not living by the Ethic of Trade; they are not using persuasion alone to sell their goods, they are relying on the force of the government to keep out the competition.

To fully achieve the honor they deserve, business people should advocate free trade and a repeal of special favors, so that everyone has an equal opportunity to create and produce.

Then, instead of resentment towards wealth, more people would admire successful business people and develop the ambition to be like them.

Argentina was a thriving nation at one time; its economy was the tenth largest in the world in 1913. And, despite almost a century of fascism and populist governments, there is obvious wealth in the country today. A visitor can see the evidence in its architecture, infrastructure, vast numbers of polo clubs, large array of leather, jewelry, and furs for sale, and energetic people. Buenos Aires has huge and varied bookstores and an ongoing intellectual culture. Argentina has produced some of the great classical musicians and opera stars, including Daniel Barenboim and Marta Argerich. Its Teatre Colon is ranked the third best opera house in the world by National Geographic.

Yet, it has suffered tremendously as a result of destructive collectivist ideas and governmental policies. Recognizing the value and worthiness of its capitalistic enterprises is one step to restoring its former glory.”

Buenos Aires by night

Buenos Aires by night


This talk was hosted by Fiat Argentina CEO Cristiano Rattazzi in the top floor conference room of Fiat’s building in Buenos Aires. You can see the view from this room in the picture at the top of this page. The complete presentation will be published in the near future.

Please Stop Trashing the Liberal Arts

Too often, the liberal arts are scorned as a college major because graduates can’t get a job.

But, this article controverts that claim: “unemployment rates for recent humanities and liberal-arts majors are higher than for, say, biology and life-science students. But the difference is not great: In 2011-12 the rates were 8.4% and 7.4%, respectively. The unemployment rate for recent computer-science, statistics and mathematics graduates was 8.3%.”

However, equally important, the liberal arts can guard against the danger of deteriorating self-government voiced by Thomas Jefferson, “even under the best forms, those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny,” by teaching crucial history, knowledge and reasoning skills.

That is, IF students are taught those crucial elements and taught to connect them with current events. This is where conservatives and others have their point because the postmodernist, deconstructionist ideas embedded in many, many college programs entirely undermine that process.





The Great Connections Seminar is Filling Up Fast


Saturday, July 25-August 1, 2015


Michelangelo's Priogione detto AtlanteFree yourself:

Unleash your mind 

Strengthen your autonomy

Expand your knowledge

Experience your power to affect others


Mastering the Tools that Transform Higher Education

into Lifetime Success

A Seminar for Young Adults 16 and older

“The seminar gave me confidence that I could achieve great things. It was like something was lit inside. I acquired the intellectual tools to help me come to my own conclusions. And I realized how lacking my formal education was. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.”

Our theme this year is “Reason and Power.”

To students…

Are you looking for more than memorizing information and reciting it on tests? Do you want to be challenged to think for yourself?

Do you want to gain powerful knowledge and skills that will equip you for college, for success, for life?

Can you connect the abstract ideas propounded in your classrooms with life decisions and world events?

Can you confidently argue for – and act on – your point of view?

Do you want to connect with passionate and principled students from the U.S. and abroad to discuss life’s most challenging questions…while enjoying music, dancing, architecture, and art to the fullest?


Students practicing improv techniques.

Students practicing improv techniques.

If your answer is “yes,” then join us this     coming July for a unique “total immersion” learning experience in one exciting and challenging week of intensive classes, interactive sessions, off-campus expeditions, and rewarding camaraderie. It just might change your life, as it has for previous students.





If you’re not a student…

Could your favorite student benefit from this program? Please forward this information.

No matter where someone goes to school, this unusual experience will serve them well. The knowledge and skills acquired here could prove to be their most valuable asset in college, graduate school – and life. For details, please read on…

Janessa Colomer

Janessa Colomer, freshman, University of California, San Diego


“I love this program! I learned how to approach [philosophical] topics, learn mathematics and found people who are motivated, determined, and proactive to further their education.” 

Chicago by the river

Chicago by the river

 Preview what you’ll experience…

Through this seminar, you will:

  • Discover why philosophy is crucial to your survival and flourishing, and find the important meaning and implications for yourself in seemingly simple issues.
  • Increase your ability to ask questions that will change what you get from – and how you perform in – your classes.
  • Become an “ideological detective” by training your mind to find the assumptions behind any set of ideas and judge their objective truth.
  • Develop the ability to present facts, ideas, and arguments to others with clarity and confidence while learning important ideas about philosophy, politics, economics, history, science and more.
  • Confront riveting questions about such issues as the source of authentic happiness, how to withstand social pressure, and what is the relation of reason and emotion.
  • Learn the principles and practices of introspection and use them to increase your self-understanding and autonomy.
    •  Examine art’s power to change the culture. Explore the application of the concept of objectivity to architecture, sculpture, and painting, and decide whether something can be judged a work of art – or not.
  • objectivity to architecture, sculpture, and painting, and decide whether something can be judged a work of art – or not.

    Liz Parker and Rachel Milner, Great Connections 2009

    Liz Parker (on the left), Graduate, George Mason University, Arlington, V

“It’s easy to rely on others as authorities. This seminar was a great reminder of my power as an individual when I have reason on my side – and a great source of confidence.” 

Connect timeless principles to today’s hottest issues…At the seminar next summer, we’ll show you how to understand and enjoy challenging works that have changed the world. Discussions of Plato, The Port Royal Logic, Nicolo Machiavelli, Montesquieu, James Madison, Ayn Rand, and other great thinkers, will help you discover the often-hidden connections between classic principles and contemporary controversies.

Sable Levy talking with other students.

Sable Levy, Drew University, Madison, NJ (second from right)

“It’s four months later and, basically, I haven’t stopped thinking about the seminar. At the risk of sounding trite or hyperbolic, I know it has changed my life forever.”   

On architecture tour of Chicago.

Architecture and history tour of Chicago


For example:

  • Discover how the question of “what is knowledge” examined by Socrates in Plato’s Meno dialogue affects everything you think.
  • Consider the issues of terrorism and national security through Montesquieu’s examination of the separation of powers.
  • Learn how to increase your own personal power and self-control through introspection skills.
Brendan Moore makes a point.

Brendan Moore, Coe College, Cedar Rapids, IA (at  left)


“What I found incredibly valuable was that we were not only able to obtain theoretical knowledge but also practical knowledge.”  

Benefit from individual attention…

Great Connections 2013 students studying together at breakfast.

Students have chosen to  organize themselves in a study group.

Instructors won’t force-feed you prefabricated notions. Rather, our talented  faculty will teach you one ofthe most important  lessons of all: how to grasp the meaning of events and  ideas for yourself.

Each discussion group in the seminar has a maximum of 15 students.

Eric Rhodes, The Great Connections 2009

Eric Rhodes

Why? One of our priorities is constant interaction between instructors and students. Participants will work individually and “hands-on” with superb teachers and mentors who will coach them one-on-one in achieving their goals.  Instructors won’t simply deliver a lecture and depart but will be available for face-to-face discussions both in and out of class.

“Eric spent several hours telling us about his experience in Chicago and how much it meant to him. His father and I are delighted!” Lucy Hair, mother of Eric Rhodes, University of California Riverside 

Free Yourself

You will experience a culture in our seminar like no other; one which encourages and respects your individuality, ideas, and independence, and which will energize you while you free yourself to take charge of your own education and your life.

Ian Mihura and Sable Levy

Ian Mihura, senior, Clarin High School,  Buenos Aires

We made our own society, where my ideas, my presence and effectiveness counted. Now I know I can make a difference.” 

For one transformative week, experience a superior way of learning … and discover the culture of a rational and free society.

Meet your instructors…

Marsha Familaro Enright

Marsha Familaro Enright

Marsha Familaro Enright, Seminar Leader
B.A. Biology, M.A., Psychology, President, The Reason, Individualism, Freedom Institute, the Foundation for the College of the United States

Ms. Enright brings a remarkable range of knowledge and analytical ability in both the sciences and the humanities to her role as the seminar’s lead instructor. She will guide students in class discussions throughout the week, as well as lead informative tours. Ms. Enright has extensive teaching experience with adults and adolescents in schools, conferences, and summer camps. She also writes on topics ranging from economics to esthetics, human development to neuropsychology.

In 1990, Ms. Enright founded Council Oak Montessori School for children ages 3-15. Chicago Magazinenamed it one of the top private schools in the city in 2006 and 2011.

Andrew Humphries, Co-Instructor, The Great Connections

Andrew Humphries

Andrew Humphries, Co-Instructor
B.A. Liberal Arts, M.Ed. Montessori Integrative Learning,

A graduate of the rigorous Great Books classics program at St. John’s College, Sante Fe, Mr. Humphries is a master leader of Socratic Seminars. A Koch Fellow, Grover Herman Fellow, and Young Communicators Fellow of the Institute for Humane Studies, he also worked at the Institute of Economic Affairs, the high school program at The School of the Woods Montessori School, Houston, the Centre for Civil Society, New Delhi, and Michael Polanyi College at Universidad Francisco Marroquin, Guatemala City.

Enjoy special presentations and meet exciting professionals…

Karen Brienzo, Jack Denst Designs

Karen Brienzo

Meet accomplished professionals in a variety of careers of potential interest to you. You’ll learn first-hand how they do their jobs and get personal answers to your questions. You will meet people such as:

Karen Brienzo, CEO and President Jack Denst Designs and Mail Managers, Chicago, IL
Ms. Brienzo started her career as an entrepreneur at the age of seven, selling decorated hangers. She founded the direct-mail handling business, Mail Managers, over 25 years ago. Today, she’s reviving the brand of mid-century modern designer Jack Denst, who is featured in the Smithsonian.

Ms. Brienzo is a founding board member of Council Oak Montessori School.

Dan Curran

Dan Curran

Dan Curran, CPA, JD, Real Return Group, Chicago Stock Exchange, Chicago, IL

Starting his career with Goldman Sachs in 1959 and with a life plan to at least the age of 90, Mr. Curran has a long and  colorful career as a market maker at the Chicago Board Options Exchange and the Chicago Stock Exchange among many other roles.

He was a board member of the Free Market Society of Chicago, and is a founding board member of The Reason, Individualism, Freedom Institute.

James Kandrac

Jim Kandrac


James Kandrac, President, United Computer Group, Independence, OH

In June 1987, at 26 years old and married with a six-month old, Jim Kandrac founded United Computer Group, Inc. (UCG). UCG is an IBM Advanced Business Partner

specializing in mid-market and enterprise clients. UCG has been rated in the top 1% of IBM Business Partners nationwide. UCG’s VAULT400 BaaS is a premier managed risk mitigation and business continuity planning service for secure online backup and disaster recovery.

 Mr. Kandrac has mentored Brecksville, OH high school students through the School of Entrepreurial Engagement of Northeast Ohio program for many years.

Think hard, work hard, play hard…

Students Jake Ilson and Eric Rhodes swimming in Lake Michigan

Swimming at Olive Park Beach, Chicago


Our program includes informative seminars and mind- expanding presentations, plus adventurous off-campus expeditions that connect classroom theory to the real world. We will draw upon Chicago’s rich intellectual, architectural,

Chicago lakefront

Chicago Lakefront

cultural, and commercial resources, capitalize upon classic films,  music, and works of art.


We’ll journey to famous museums, research facilities, business clubs, restaurants, retail stores and beyond, such as:

  • Grant Park, Chicago,
  • Lake Michigan Oak Street Beach,
  • Chicago Stock Exchange

Experience the excitement of one of the most beautiful and vibrant cities in North America, Chicago. You’ll attend classes in the fully equipped conference center and apartments, Thomas Beckham Hall, one of the residences of the University of Illinois at Chicago. You’ll be just steps their great recreational complex, and a short bus ride to Millennium Park, the Art Institute, the Chicago Board of Trade, and the beautiful beaches of Lake Michigan.

Marina Coll and Carolina Ciblis, Great Connections 2011

Marina Coll and Carolina Ciblis

Due to the individual attention each student will receive, enrollment is limited to  15 per seminar discussion group. Don’t risk being left out –  enroll today and benefit from the steep Early Bird Discount!  See complete seminar details below.


“It was good when people said ‘I don’t understand.’” Marina Coll, English and philosophy teacher, Our Lady of the Shelter School, Buenos Aires, Argentina (on the left in the picture)

Seminar DetailsThe basics: The “Great Connections” seminar will begin at 3:00 PM on Saturday, July 25th and end at midnight on Saturday August 1st. You will check out of your dorm on Sunday morning, August 2nd and have the rest of the day to enjoy the city.Location: Thomas Beckham Hall, The University of Illinois at Chicago1250 S. Halsted, Chicago, ILCapsule schedule: Participants will attend seminars in the mornings, go on excursions in the afternoons, and engage in extended discussions in the evenings. Saturday afternoon/evening: An orientation and initial Socratic Seminar. Sunday to Saturday: Socratic Seminars, special presentations, excursions, meetings with professionals, extended breaks to eat and explore on your own; Saturday evening: A closing dinner and party; Sunday morning: The day is free to explore the city or return home, at your option. The full schedule will be published in the near future.

Readings: In the spring/summer, we will email links for most of the texts so that you can read them in preparation for the seminar. On the opening Saturday afternoon, you will receive a specially printed book with all the readings to use during the seminar. We will also provide advance copies of the reading via email, and highly recommend you read all selections before you arrive.

Accommodations and Meals: You will reside in the contemporary, air-conditioned apartments of our conference building, Thomas Beckham Hall, 1250 S. Halsted. You will have one bedroom in a 2-bedroom apartment with a fully equipped kitchen. You can sign up to use the University of Illinois at Chicago recreational facility. We will provide the opening and closing dinners. A Whole Foods and a Jewel Supermarket are 5 minutes walking from the Hall and there are many food stores, eateries and cafes nearby offering everything from hamburgers and hot dogs to Thai food and sushi for your other meals. There’s also have a cafeteria within walking distance. Students often eat together and are encouraged to make meals together in their apartments.

Transportation: Downtown Chicago is easily reached from O’Hare and Midway airports via CTA train or airport shuttle, as well as by bus, train, and car. Links to maps, information about what to bring, and details about Chicago will be sent to you after you register.

Fee: Full tuition to the program is $1,200, which includes the opening and closing dinners, and books. Room in an equipped apartment, with use of conference and entertainment facilities, is an additional $800.

Fee Schedule:

Until March 31st, tuition is $300; Room and Board $400,

April 1st, tuition is $500; Room and Board $400,

May 1st,  tuition is $700; Room and Board $600,

June 1st, tuition is $800 and Room and Board $900,

After June 1st, tuition is $1,200 and Room and Board $800.

Scholarships are available; see details on the Application Form here and contact Marsha Familaro Enright at or 773-677-6418 with any questions.

For more details about the program, go here.

Here’s how to register for the seminar:

1. To apply online click here to go to the Application Form. After your interview and acceptance, you will be directed to a totally secure web page, where you may use your credit card to pay for the program.

2. To apply by postal mail, click here to print out an application form. Complete and mail to 9400 S. Damen Avenue, Chicago, IL 60643.  After your interview and acceptance, you can mail your check to the same address or pay online at our website.

See the full schedule here.

The Great Connections program fosters active minds:Empowering each individual with the knowledge, reasoning skills, and independence to understand the world and build a life of adventure and creative achievement.The Reason, Individualism, Freedom Institute9400 S. Damen AvenueChicago, IL 60643


Why our children don’t think there are moral facts

In this article on the New York Times Opinionator Blog, philosopher Justin McBrayer rightly laments the amorality rampant in the culture under the guise of cultural relativism.

“the overwhelming majority of college freshman in their classrooms view moral claims as mere opinions that are not true or are true only relative to a culture. ”

McBrayer lays the blame for this scourge on the public schools, and focuses in on the epistemological relativism pushed by Common Core. And he does a great job of unpacking the dire moral and political consequences.

But he eschews the idea that philosophy is responsible for this disaster. Yet students in many private schools are subjected to the same ideological program. Where does he think these teachers get their ideas? Does he think they come up with them on their own?

No – they learned them in college, where the drumbeat out of philosophy into anthropology, history, politics, economics, science – all the humanities – has been relativism for almost a century. The weighty cultural anthropologists starting with Franz Boas, and including Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead, used their research as evidence for this philosophical point of view.

But Boas studied philosophy in Germany where you can find Marx arguing for deterministic relativism based on one’s economic class, and Nietzsche’s biological relativism allowing the Uber Mensch powers denied to other mortals. And before them, Herder and Hume pushed relativistic arguments. More deeply, however, Kant and others attacked reason’s power and objectivity. Without that as McBrayer mentions, how does one argue for moral objectivity?

Unfortunately, the Malificent of this story lurks squarely in the philosopher’s cave. This is why an education in philosophy and in reason’s power to know reality is crucial – from grade school to graduate school.

Hattip Andrew Humphries. #ResoundingBooks #CommonCore #moralrelativism #RIF_Institute