Paul C. Ransom, founder of the Adirondack-Florida School, expressed the philosophy of the Adirondack-Florida School in a letter he would send to prospective students. The following represents a contract between the student and the school, as well as a personal pledge to Paul Ransom, himself. It was also intended as a living document to which the student would refer from time to time, to “refresh the memory” of what was promised.
PAUL RANSOM'S LETTER TO INCOMING BOYS
“Your parents have asked me to accept you as a student at my school, and I have consented to do so provided I find that you are in accord with me as to the purposes for which you would come here and are willing to agree to certain things which I consider necessary if those purposes are to be attained.
The people in this world may be divided roughly into three great classes, according to the attitude they hold to life. The people in the first class believe, or seem to believe, that they were put into the world to see how much they can get out of it. Provided they are comfortable themselves, it does not distress them that others are in misery. Their object in life being to get all they can and to keep all they get, it sometimes seems a matter of little consequence to them if they get some things that rightly belong to other people. The people of this class are often rich, sometimes they are talented; but if the world is better off for their living in it, it is not because of any conscious effort of theirs. They never find the contentment and happiness they seek so eagerly.
The second class is made up of those who do not give life any thought at all – who do not like to think very deeply of anything. They are contented to drift along and take what comes, but are too lazy to take the trouble of deciding difficult problems. They are often well-meaning, amiable people; but if all the people in the world belonged to this class no progress would be possible and things would soon come to a standstill.
The people of the third class believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it.
They are unwilling to give up their lives to the selfish pursuit of pleasure. They believe in work and are willing and anxious to do their share of it. They do not shirk the great problems of life, but meet and solve them.
It is to these that the world is indebted for all the progress that has been made in the past, and to them it must look for all hope of progress in the future. The people who belong to this class are very busy – too busy to think very much of themselves – but they are really the happiest people in the world.
Now, if you want to belong to one of the first two classes, this school is not the place for you. We have no time to waste in training boys to be selfish or lazy. You would not be in the spirit of the school if you came here, and you probably would not remain in it long. If all you care to think of is the fun you are going to have – the hunting, fishing, and cruising – and if you have no thought to give to the serious matters of life, to your work,to honor, and truth, and purity, and helpfulness – you would only be a hindrance to us here, and you would yourself be disappointed, for while we believe in fun, and in all the pleasures of the outdoor life we try to give our boys, we believe more in the higher things, and we intend to give them the first place. But if you find that it is your wish to belong to the third class – to live not for yourself alone, but to serve your God, your country, and your fellow man, with all your heart and mind and strength – why then, my boy, this will be a good place for you and we will welcome you here with all our hearts. And if this is the life you wish to train yourself for, you will not find it difficult to commit yourself to the promises that I ask you to make to yourself and to me, for they are part of the training. If you wish to become an efficient, helpful, trustworthy man you must begin by being efficient, helpful, trustworthy boy, and to do this you must accustom yourself to obey, to work, and to resist self-indulgence.
As this decision is of such supreme importance, I shall ask you to think over this letter at least one day before deciding. If you then decide that you want to come to us, you will date and sign one of the enclosed letters and return it to me in the addressed envelope that I enclose for that purpose.
Of the other two copies, one is for you to keep, if you will, with this letter in your Bible, so that you may refer to it whenever you feel inclined to do so, and thus refresh your memory of what you have promised. The second copy is for your parents, who should, of course, be taken into your confidence in a matter of so much importance as this. If you feel that more is asked of you than you are willing or able to give, you will write me so frankly, enclosing your letter in the addressed envelope, and we will let some other boy come in your place.
I do not want you to think because this letter is printed that it is something that is a mere matter of form. Though it is sent to every boy who expects to come here to school, I want you to regard it as written expressly to you personally. It comes directly from my heart to yours, and I want your response, whichever way it may be, to come as truly from your heart to mine. If you sign the answering letter I want you to feel that as long as you are a pupil in this school you are in honor bound to the course of conduct that will fit you for the best kind of life a man can live.”