Should we teach grammar?

Around 1990 I was at a public library and saw the headline in the title of this article blaring from Education Week, the newspaper of the NEA. At the time it struck me as a bizarre and extreme idea. Apparently the American educator has decided to adopt it.

What has led us to hate the human spirit so much?

Justice and the Sharing of…, well, you know

If you’ve read the Republic, you’ve almost certainly been offended by his suggestion that, among the “Guardians,” wives and children should be held in common.

Apparently, this was not an entirely unique idea to Plato or his Socrates; the Spartans may have practiced something not altogether different.

Now I’m willing to acknowledge that I have a filial affection for Plato and consider Socrates one of those who took the trouble to teach me how to think, for which I will always be grateful and faithful. So my argument might be a spirited family loyalty.

Even so, I don’t personally think Plato was serious with this suggestion. It’s based entirely on the suggestion that by looking at the city you can see the soul, because the city is the soul writ large.

This analogy breaks down in the Republic and in real life too often for me to believe that Plato is serious about caring it all the way to its complete application. I also believe that Socrates meant it when he said, “Great is the power of contradiction,” and that his whole goal is to get people to think, which means putting them in situations where you have to resolve contradictions.

So I think he wasn’t serious because he is trying to get us to look very closely at the soul, even when a projection from soul to city looks warped – at least we can still the see the soul more clearly than when it is hidden.

Then what’s the point?

It’s analogous. The wives are images of the appetites, and the children are their offspring.

The thing that messes up the soul is faction or disunity. When any one appetite decides to run off by itself and have a little secret chamber where it can fulfill its own desires and secret its own possessions, isolated from the other appetites, that’s the source of vice in the soul. What Plato wants is for all our desires, appetites, passions, etc. to be satisfied in a manner that respects all the other desires, appetites, passions, etc.

Only reason, whose appetite is for union, can bring about that end. Reason’s role is to unify the soul, to direct the passions, to call on the aid of the spirited part of the soul to courageously order and even put down the unruly appetites. Short of that, no man can attain justice or integrity.

Only when the philsopher (the lover of wisdom) rules the soul and only when the spirited part guards its dignity can a man or woman become the just/righteous man that was the goal of all ancient philosophy worth the name. Only the one who sees goodness and knows what is good for what he governs is truly fit to govern.

Education is Simple

Education is simple…we are the ones who complicate it.


It’s as simple as a leader and one being lead.  It doesn’t start with an “educational theory” or a “program”.  I am under the impression that we may not need a certain philosophy of education to begin with, but rather answer some authentic questions concerning who are the leaders and the led and what is our destination? 

Then we can occupy a position from which we can make wiser decisions concerning the path, or “curriculum” that we want to use.


The difference?  These questions humanize education instead of turning it into a disembodied program or technique.  A curriculum that asks “what are we cultivating in our children by teaching _______ (fill in the blank with math, spelling, etc.) this way” is far and away better than one that uses an “educational outcome” as a standard.  One considers the human being… the other takes the fastest, most efficient road to accomplishing the individual task. 

Our children are paying for that efficiency.

The Small and Insignificant

I work home alone a lot these days so it is easy to feel that I’m insignificant. I sometimes ask myself, “Does my work matter on a bigger scale?” It is easy for many of us doing work at home or even in small schools to devalue our toil by seeing it as small and insignificant.

Let me share a quote that I love to use at my summer conferences from Eugene Peterson:
The metaphors Jesus used for the life of ministry are frequently images of the single, the small, and the quiet, which have effects far in excess of their appearance: salt, leaven, seed. Our culture publicizes the opposite emphasis: the big, multitudinous, the noisy.

We live in a world where an acorn can produce a thousand forests. Based on the dynamics of the Kingdom, God has and will continue to use the efforts of “the small” in a global way in this endeavor we are calling “classical and Christian education”.

May he continue to bless the efforts of “the small”.

the metaphysical crisis of modern science

We need to recognize that modern science has two faces: one, the public face of total self-assurance, two, the private face of absolute self-doubt.

That may explain the vitriol of this generation of popularizers of Darwin (Dawkins, Hitchins, etc.) They lack the restraint of the old-timers because they lack the assurance of the old-timers. They are more insecure in their claims.

Scientists who take a more humble approach and don’t attempt to apply scientific methods to every matter of life are much more polite and, in scientific terms, useful.

But all of science is permeated by the growing realization that the natural sciences are not self-authenticating, that their methods are not sufficient to do metaphysics, literature, history, psychology, etc. and that this insufficiency matters in a world that will only believe in public what is authenticated by Descartes and Bacon.

In short, science is in a metaphysical crisis.