JS Mill on education

A general state education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another: and as the mould in which it casts them is that which pleses the preominant ower in teh government, whether this be a monarch, a priesthood, an aristocracy, or the majority of the existing generation; in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by natural tendency to one over the body.

John Stuart Mill, quoted in E.G. West, Education and the State: A Study in Political Economy, Liberty Fund Books

Today is the big day

If you register for the conference by midnight, you will save $15/person while guaranteeing a seat. Quite a few registations have come in over the past couple weeks. No, you are not about to be shut out, but there’s no telling how long it will take to fill. Go to www.circeinstitute.org to secure your future! Or at least your seat.

Hazlitt on controversial subjects

“When a thing ceases to be a subject of controversy, it ceases to be a subject of interest.”

– William Hazlitt, English writer and literary critic (1778-1830)

“The end of all learning” – Erasmus

“All studies, philosophy, rhetoric are followed for this one object, that we may know Christ and honor him.  This is the end of all learning and eloquence.”

– Desiderius Erasmus

Don’t forget

The early conference registration ends tomorrow. Here’s a taste of some of what you dont’ want to miss:

  • Vigen Guroian: The office of childhood
  • VG: The Liturgy of Creation: The Melody of Faith
  • Martin Cothran: The Nature of Nature
  • MC: Education: Agrarian or industrial
  • Karen Kern: The Nature of the Moral Imagination and how to cultivate it
  • James Daniels: The Nature of the Liberal Arts and how to teach them
  • JD: The Implications of the Incarnation on Teaching
  • Andrew Pudewa: Teaching Boys and Other Kids who would rather be making forts (what the neurosciences are revealing about the nature of boys and girls and how to teach them)
  • AP: Nature Deficit Disorder
  • John Hodges: The Effect of Naturalism on the arts (whatever happened to beauty?)
  • Leah Lutz: The Nature of Thought: How to simplify and unify your teaching with the mimetic mode
  • LL: The Canons of Rhetoric; the backbone of the Language arts

In addition, I’ll be opening with a talk that sets the table for the other speakers, but the thought that has been invigorating me and causing me to realize how important this theme of nature is arises from the person of Christ the Logos, the glory of learning. Our Lord really can be the unifying principle of all things because He brings together in one person two natures: the Divine and the Human.

And that means we need to think hard about what human nature is.

Can we transcend it? If we can, then we can transcend God, because God, in Christ, is a man. Not gonna happen!

Is it evil? How can it be if Christ has taken it on. The crucial distinction lies in the difference between a state of nature and the essential nature. We are in a sinful state, but our human nature is essentially good. Long after sin has been completely washed away, “when we’ve been there 10,000 years/bright shining as the sun,” we’ll be nothing but humans who “participate in the Divine Nature.”

This mind-numbing doctrine is brought to you straight from the pages of the New Testament, or I’d never dare say a word of it.

I sincerely hope you can attend this conference. Every day I’m more convinced of its importance.

And don’t forget Marcus and Laura Berquist – winner’s of the Paideia Prize for Lifetime Contribution to Classical Education!!

Register by 4/30 and you’ll save something like $15/person while ensuring a seat (they are filling up pretty quickly now that the school year is winding down, though I’m pretty sure you don’t have to panic yet).

Kern on Gamble on Clement on Anaxarchus on Sovereignty

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Anaxarchus the Eudaemonist wrote well in his book On Sovereignty: Wide learning is both of great advantage and great disadvantage to its possessor. It benefits the person of skill, it damages the person who lightly says anything in any company. You must know the limits of the appropriate moment. That is the definition of wisdom. Those who make speeches at the wrong moment, even if they are full of sense, are not counted wise and have a reputation for folly.”

Quoted by Clement of Alexandria in the Stromateis, selected by Richard Gamble in The Great Tradition.

The Great Tradition

The Great Tradition

Meet Attractive Christian Singles Near You

I really did see that on an ad. I wonder if the advertisers were Christians.

At least pop-Christianity provides amusement when you can avoid thinking about it too seriously.

Dismal Thoughts?

The world we are building is not a world for humans. but that’s all right, because there are very few people who want to be human and there are fell less that want to treat others as though they are human. The world to come is the world of Northwest Airlines, of government bureaucracies, of soul-numbing systems.

It is not worth living in. Memorize some great literature and a lot of Bible verses and run.

A Complete Privilege

David Foster Wallace, a great essayist and critic himself, once visited Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to try to get at why they were so effective. He pointed out that during the meetings people passed around bromides and platitudes to encourage each other and build each other up. But, he said with evident surprise, it worked.

Or, as he expressed it in his commencement address to the Kenyon 2005 graduating class,

The fact is that in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance.

I’ve thought about this a lot lately, for many reasons. For one, I have three children in college now, so each of them is in the company of people who advance in their fields only by discovering something new, or stating something in a new way, and in outsmarting those around them. There is no room in a college paper for the “banal platitude.” As so many college students do, and as Caliban did in Shakespeare’s Tempest, they are probably “learning to curse,” or at least being taught to do so. More surely, they are being taught how to treat others with contempt, especially others who haven’t been to college.

I value the works of the intellect. I love to read Shakespeare as much as I love to do almost anything else. Let me climb one step in Dante’s Purgatorio, not to speak of flying one orbit in the Paradiso, and my mind can feed on the joy for a week.

But I hate when I find myself thinking I have attained something by reading Dante or Shakespeare. The only good of great literature that is sufficient in itself is when it increases the capacity of our souls to love. It has many other goods, but when we place any other of them above the that one only good, the others are corrupted and corrupting. Literary criticism and literature itself – indeed, all the arts, disintegrate when they are severed from love.

And that, my dear reader, is a banal platitude.

May God deliver me from ever doing anything original. May He simply give me eyes to weep when I see what should be wept over.

Like this, which I know you have already seen, but to which I can add nothing:

Well, I guess I can add this:

Education & Moral Development

Oscar Wilde once said, “I can resist anything but temptation.” Many, if not all, temptations could be described as the desire for an appropriate thing in an inappropriate way.

Think of it, even the “worst sins” – murder, sexual deviation, etc. – are perversions of things that are good and right in and of themselves. Murder is usually a perversion of justice, adultery and illicit sex is a perversion of love and sexual desire. So, when we are tempted, we are being drawn to counterfeits and, when we succumb, it is generally because we preferred to counterfeit to the real, the knock-off to the original.

In other words, it would be accurate to say that giving in to temptation is rejecting goodness and beauty in favor of what only appears to be good and beautiful. Resisting temptation, then, is largely learning to know goodness and beauty.

But, is it this knowledge enough? Socrates, in his Apology, indicated that if he was guilty of the charges laid against him, he simply needed to know what to do. If he had the right knowledge, he would do rightly. Knowing the good/right would produce good/right action.

Certainly, knowledge of what is good and right, on some level, is necessary but is it enough? Could it rightly be reduced to this, one could make the argument that man’s real problem is that he is poorly educated.

If man is, by nature, sinful, then poor education is not his ultimate problem. And, if evil is more than bad information, then it cannot be cured simply by inserting right information. Both are the case – man is sinful and evil is more than an information problem. Education, as vital as it is, is no messiah.

What Socrates suggested, that knowing the good and right would make man good and right, is insufficient. Granted, this is a wildly simplistic summation of Socrates, but the observation still holds true. The Socratic approach to education, what we would call classical education, taken on its own, does not take into account the nature of man or evil, and is therefore insufficient.

Now, we would certainly agree that the pursuit of goodness, truth, and beauty are marvelous goals. But, we believe it is a marvelous pursuit because we know, ironically, that those things are good, true, and beautiful. However, the pursuit of those things in a purely classical sense can only proceed so far.

If man is to begin to comprehend what is good, true, and beautiful, he must have an absolute standard guiding his way. He cannot be the standard, yet this seems to be the paradoxical position of non-Christian classical education. No matter how loudly one insists that there are objective standards of goodness, truth, and beauty, man becomes the standard if he is left alone to determine what they are.

Classical education, while stressing the importance of loving goodness, truth, and beauty, falls short because it does not provide definite definition to them. In the Euthryphro dialogue, Socrates shows the difficulty of even defining good and right.

Christian classical education, however, does have definition for these things and the definitions are based on an absolute standard, not one that leaves man to define goodness, truth, and beauty autonomously. While, education is no messiah, it greatly aids moral development if students are pursuing something beyond themselves and their fallen nature.

Left to define or “discover” goodness, truth, and beauty by their own standards, they will always reach it and yet always fall short of the true standards found in the Triune God.  Christian classical education can help students develop a love for what is lovely and avoid the temptation to pursue it by false means.