The Magic of Good Teaching

Every really good teacher I have ever known has had the ability to convey to students a certain energy required for “seeing” things. That energy becomes a part of the learning experience. It consists of a loyalty–I might almost say a “love”–of something that is of such transcending value and importance that it is capable of making demands upon life, of changing life. Moreover, this relationship between teacher and object of his thought, so charged with emotion, turns the classroom experience into an adventure, a seeking after something not yet seen, but knowing that once it is found our minds and hearts will no longer be the same.

AJ Conyers
The Listening Heart

Spence Publishing


10 Thanks I’m thingful For

10. That last drink

9. Books that empower my faculties of perception to see the truth

8. Friends like the apprentices and the graduates of the apprenticeship, the CiRCE board, and organizations and schools that work with CiRCE, which is where my purpose in Christ is realized.

7. People who have supported the CiRCE Institute through prayer, purchases, prayer, donations, prayer, and encouragement. We’ve received $7500 in donations and another $2000 in pledges already for our year-end fund-raising drive. Another 15,000 and we’ll be able to have our 2010 conference.

6. The work done by my son David, his wife Bethany, my daughter Larissa, and my son Andrew to help bring us through this difficult time during which we’ve moved our office home and laid off staff – sacrifices for the present that enable a bright future.

5. A national tradition of pausing for a day to give thanks to the creator who by His Providence established and built this country and loves it with all its virtues and vices.

4. My children

8. My new daughter in law

2. My wife, who for 25 years has endured without complaint a mission driven husband who can’t keep track of which side of his shoes the laces attach to and has a melancholy disposition, endless financial stress, houses too small for five children, moving across state and national borders, and an endless cache of petty and large offenses and failures by that aforementioned, no-good, low-down husband of hers.

1. Participation in Christ, into whose patience may the Lord direct my heart.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!!

By the way, #10 was just a light-hearted jest. Thanks for understanding.

Sarah Palin as Hobbit?

I’m not sure about Sarah Palin yet, though, like the rest of the talking head world, she’s been on my mind a lot lately.

I don’t want to be a knee-jerk reactionary like the Progressive Media, but this article is powerful stuff.

It will offend Progressives (who go by the deceptive term “liberals” now), and it maybe should be shorter, but this Berkeley girl says things that need to be thought about.

The Wilding of Sarah Palin

In the wilding of Sarah Palin, the Left shows its true colors. Rather than sheild the vulnerable, leftists will mow down any man, woman, or child who gets in their way. Instead of a movement of hope and change, it is a cauldron of hate.

I don’t think most common leftists are particularly hateful, just puritanical, but their approach to politics does bring out a reactionary, self-righteous tendency to project and to denounce their opposition.

I still have a great affection for the Hobbits of this world who want to tend their gardens, enjoy dinner, and be left alone to love their way of life and their neighbors.

But if you rouse them, if you try to impose your vision of the world on them, they’ll fight you. And when they do, they’ll find out (and so will you) that they are not alone.

Maybe Sarah Palin speaks for us Hobbits.

A warning: the article linked to above uses some pretty aggressive and explicit language.


Untenable Options

It would beggar rational thought to deny that mega-industry has done damage to the earth’s climate.

It would also beggar rational thought to deny that mega-government has done damage to the earth’s people.

Nobody has proved that “global warming” is occurring, and many are suspicious of the agencies claiming that it is, as the current scandal about record keeping in England demonstrates.

That may explain why the term global warming seems to be fading away and climate change is gradually replacing it.

Yet the claims of global warming and climate change are dream claims for those who want an abstract morality. I refer, of course, to Hollywood stars, media pontificators, and government officials.

And the people who rely on them.

What I mean is simple. For most people, morality is a question of how to live day to day with their families, neighbors, and work associates.

When you are a star, reporter, or politicians, you have great name recognition and you have influence. The need to validate that influence cannot be escaped as it is woven into the soul.

But stars and politicians in particular are not known for their private morality. To the common herd (folks like me), the idea of being led and governed by people who don’t keep their promises, don’t feel a need to deny themselves, or otherwise disregard the honor of those they deal with, raises concerns.

The same sort of problem arises in gigantic corporations. The people leading them have a certain star quality about them. They are the masters of the universe, transcending the bourgeois morality of the rest of us who are hung up on things like keeping promises and being reliable.

So they experience a tension. They want desperately to be honorable people. But so many of them (and the many exceptions are to be lauded for their integrity in terribly seductive settings) cannot keep their pants on and their hands in their own pockets and they can’t resist the need to be thought highly of by the great abstractions: the audience (make it large and devoted please), the voter, the customer.

In other words, their concrete day to day neighborly morality (apart from being charismatic and nice) leaves so much to be desired (even by their own souls) that they need to turn to something else to show they are “good.”

To that end they need, first of all, a relativistic moral culture. Then, within that relativistic culture, they can easily establish a parallel morality for their public lives –  an abstract morality.

What I mean by abstract morality is that it has to do with symbols and numbers and not their neighbors or the earth under their feet.

They love concepts like “global citizenship” because they borrow value and meaning from other concepts but carry no meaning of their own. In this case, for example, the term citizenship is borrowed from the ancient concept of belonging to a community.

But citizenship is granted by a governing body, such as the Roman Senate or the American courts. By making it global, it becomes a mere sentiment.

Or worse. It could be that some of them actually intend to establish a global government and to give citizenship to some and not to others. Can you imagine a setting that would guarantee a more complete tyranny?

At present, in any case, there is and can be no such thing as global citizenship. It is a merely abstract concept, driven by symbols and numbers (any global governing body would govern entirely with statistics for the simple reason that there would be no other way to do so).

Global warming plays into this same mentality. Nobody has time to love their neighbors any more, so they get about loving the planet. Some have even given her the status of a goddess. What a relief that must be.

Now I can not only ignore my neighbor, I can condemn him for not being as devout as I in the preservation of the mother of us all.

And so the tables are turned. Those who believe that the world turns on love because love embodies itself in concrete acts of kindness, fidelity, devotion, self-sacrifice, patience (all sorts of things that are and require virtue and form) are displaced by those who believe that love is a wonderful feeling – or something.

In fact, if you pay attention it becomes rather obvious that love, to the star, politician, and, to a lesser extent, the reporter, is simply a tool to gain more recognition and praise.

When Paul McCartney reflected on the impact of the Beatles on our culture he suggested that, because they had sung about love, that can’t be bad.

As much as I like and admire Paul McCartney, this was not a wise statement. Redefine love and you have misled souls.

That is where we stand today.  Everybody wants to change the world, make a difference, even save the world.

Global warming and climate change provide an outlet for that combination of fears (fear of annihilation, fear of irrelevance, fear of meaninglessness) while providing a pleasing opportunity to feel contempt for the neighbor who doesn’t separate his plastic from his paper.

Abstract morality, abstract love, abstract crisis: too perfect for those who don’t want to contend with the soul-forming, nerve-wracking, gut-wrenching task of keeping a vow to someone who doesn’t fulfill their fantasies.

God loved the world. That gives us the freedom to love our neighbors and leave the big stuff to Him.

So now we are faced with untenable options. Because of the godless carelessness of the giant industries to the stewardship of their local resources, pollution is an undeniable problem throughout the world.

The solution we are offered is an even bigger multi-government bureaucracy who have as much chance of healing the planet as Hollywood does of healing the family.

The crises of the 21st century is a crisis of scale and of neighborliness. There are no solution to these crises apart from a return to neighborliness and smaller scales.

And that may not be possible for the simple reason that it is of the nature of democratic forms of government to seek ever more centralized rule.

But if it is not possible, that simply does not mean that we should not do it. As I said above, God loves the world. That lets us stop wasting our time trying to make a difference, change the world, and all that abstract nonsense that drives marketing plans.

We can love our neighbors and love the earth beneath our feet and leave the rest to someone who can handle it.

Plutarch on Mark Antony

…he left Italy and travelled into Greece, where he spent his time in military exercises and in the study of eloquence. He took most to what was called the Asiatic taste in speaking, which was then at its height, and was, in many ways, suitable to his ostentatious, vaunting temper, full of empty flourishes and unsteady efforts for glory.

Nice summary of both a character and the moral side of rhetoric.

This is from the Dryden Translation, The Modern Library Classics, volume 2, the chapter on Antony.

On Children’s Literature

Follow this link to some good advice on choosing children’s literature.

What do you think?

Hat tip to Teren Sechrist.

Game day

for the record: I expect a very low scoring game between the Pack and the 49er’s so if you are a fantasy footballer I’d go defense on this game.

SF might win and everybody will call for McCarthy’s head, but SF is better under Singleterry than they’ve been recognized for so far.

This isn’t their year, but next year might be.


Posts Worth a Post

My friend Sorcamford has posted an extended parable about the way conventional education works that I want to encourage you to read. His blog is called New Dark Ages Culture and the parable is about what happens when you study a horse using the conventional perspective.

As the generations went by, the students grew and began to teach about the horse themselves, and, as might be expected, they mostly discussed the aspect of the animal that their individual teachers had studied the most. So there came to be schools of thought about the horse. The “students of the nose,” as they were called, came to believe that their part of the animal was the most important, as did the “hoof scholars” and the “mane institute” – and they passed their best information on to the next generations of students as best they could, writing in the “New Albany Journal of Horses,” all about their individual studies, and about how each thought his study really got to the most fascinating and essential parts of the horse.

To read more, go to New Dark Ages Culture.

Also, Ordo Amoris seems to share my concerns about the future of the home school mom and home schooling generally. She says:

I have a premise that the last vestige of a leisured (educated) class is the mom at home. I am pretty sure I am right about that since all the powers of hell conspire to get mom out of the home. The home is the quiet refuge where ideas blossom.

This intrigues me, because if she’s right it might be a corollary truth that an education oriented toward skills or information undercuts one of the social supports of motherhood.

Of course, a home is only a quiet refuge if you make it one.

The Power of Comparison and the Three Obstacles to the Healing of Our Country

It amazes me how much we learn by comparison, the second of the five topics of invention in LTW.

For example, I transitioned from PC to Apple in the last couple weeks because I’d given PC 22 years to figure out how to create a reliable computer and they failed – too driven to stay ahead of whatever they’re trying to stay ahead of.

So now I am learning to use the Apple operating system, keyboard, desktop and all that. And it’s not an easy transition.

Each approach does mostly the same stuff. But each does it differently. And I’m accustomed to the old way. I like the forward delete key on the PC keyboard, for example. I liked how easily I could move between windows on the PC.

Now I’m having to learn all the new tricks with Apple.

I’ll come round, I’m sure, but just by virtue of the act of comparison I recognize some virtues in the PC that I didn’t appreciate much in the past.

On the other hand, we have the two political parties in the US. Both do basically the same things, but they  do them differently.

The Republicans expand government and the Democrats expand government. Each offers the state as the resolution to all our problems.

In this, the Democrats are much more honest and that is why they make “better” politicians.

The Republicans fight wars without much common sense and the Democrats fight wars without much common sense. Each offers war as a way to spread the values of democracy throughout the uninterested world.

In this, neither party approaches honesty or wisdom, so neither does it very well.

The differences in the parties are on their fringes, which is where you can see the sources of their energy. This dynamic complicates our politics, because the fringes are apolitical in that they despise compromise and see the other side as the enemy.

Yet, without those fringes, neither party would have any energy. They would just administer the country without any disguises at all.

I have decided to rename the parties for my own convenience. The Democrats, who have stolen and perverted the word liberal, are in fact the Progressivist party, firmly rooted in a Utilitarian philosophy.

On the fringes, they believe that religion is the ultimate evil that needs to be eradicated from the world, that the State should reorder society based on their pragmatic moral commitments (a mixture of utility and libertinism), and that we should all be forced to get along in one big happy unified country

The Republicans are the Progressive-light party. Since they are the party of Hamilton and Lincoln, they are in favor of gigantic corporations, even when those gigantic corporations fund their enemies.

You can find conservative idealists among them, but they reside somewhere between the people in power and those on the fringes. Their conservatism is only slightly more closely allied with historical conservatism than the Democrats liberalism is allied with historical liberalism.

On the fringes, they believe that religion is the only source of good in the world, that the state has no legitimate role to play in the ordering of society except to defend the homeland, that the real reason for guns is to shoot the tank driver when the feds come to take your children away to their state indoctrination centers called schools, and that we should all be left alone to get along as we see fit.

The game is lost, for the conservative, on two fronts. First, the Progressives have such complete control over education that even in “conservative Christian schools” the Progressive model is followed and Progressive techniques are used to teach.

As a result, Christian schools don’t do a good job of producing Christian kids and they don’t understand why 12 years of A Beka science haven’t inoculated their kids against the Dorm Brothel of college morality.

Furthermore, the colleges are entirely devoted to the Progressive mentality, including and maybe especially in the business schools. I saw a book at the airport that was written by a Harvard MBA student.

I don’t remember the author or title, but he let’s you know how utterly Utilitarian the school is, particularly in matters of ethics.

The second front is financial. We simply love money more than anything else. The “conservative” tends to think highly of Milton Friedman. I like some of his ideas myself. But his statement that the only purpose of a business is to turn a profit for its investors reflects an aversion to ethics that I can’t accept.

The worst thing that can happen to a man or to a business is to do evil, not to fail or die.

And there’s the core agreement between our parties and the American people: no matter what, we must survive. We must be top dog.

There, in turn, we see why the true Christian faith will win in the end. We won’t set ourselves on fire, in the manner of the Buddhist monk. We do like it when we’re set on fire by the Eternal Flame.

But the saints have proven over the centuries that they’ll die before doing evil.

Which leads me to the real point and third front. The evangelical church in America is not the evangelical church I grew up in and the one I grew up in was not the one my father grew up in.

It has lost its way.

Evangelicalism has become party spirited, taking the tone of an Ann Coulter. It’s driven by the market, many churches measuring how they should do their work the same way any other business or government agency does.

If you asked 100 pastors what is the nature of the church, you’d get a diversity of answers, but most of them would, I am quite certain, revolve around some utilitarian definition. The church is what it does.

Sounds great.

But it’s false. In fact, it’s Progressive, just like the two political parties, the public schools, and the various branches of the government.

The Church is the fulness of Him who fills all things.

Market driven people don’t make good martyrs. People who measure their pastoral success by the size of their congregations and the professionalism of their operations don’t make good lovers.

So in the real world, our country continues a decline in some areas and an ascent in others. But neither political party can draw us out of our Progressive/Utilitarian worldview and neither can the Evangelical church, so pleased with itself for continuing to oppose gay rights and abortion, while, practically, accepting fornication and serial adultery.

Maybe in the next generation enough home schooled and classically educated kids will take leadership and have some idea what they are about and what they are up against.

Then maybe we’ll see a gradual weakening of the control of education by the state, of the obsession with giantism by the corporations, and of the parallel obsession with growth by the churches. Maybe people will remember that God gave things a nature and that we have to respect the nature of things.


He said it

I was listening to an interview with Democratic Rep John Conyers where he said these words (and I will quote them exactly)

… the public option’s only available, which is the only way you’ll manage costs and give some competition to thirteen hundred other health insurance companies, the only way he could have gotten that through is that progressives held their nose and voted for the plan anyway.

I included the last portion only to show you how clever the progressives are in that they try very hard to keep the Progressive political label separate from the Progressive educational label, even though both are born of an interesting merger of Messianism and Darwinism at the end of the 19th century. In other words, our schools are supported by the state that needs them.

But what I really want you to notice is his truly extraordinary statement about competition. There are, he tells us, 1300 insurance companies.

But they don’t have any competition.

The only way they can have any competition is if there is a state agency that oversees a 1301’st insurance option.

Rep. Conyers is a very smart man and had to know what he was saying. Either, therefore, he is brazenly dishonest, which I don’t have reason to believe, or he is thinking within a paradigm that prevents him from seeing the most blatantly obvious facts.

If 1300 insurance companies are not competing with each other, and that is possible, then there is already too much of a public option involved. What I mean is that in any market, if you have 1300 companies sharing the market and not competing with each other, it is because the government has already divided the market up into the shares each company gets.

Now, to increase competition, he says, Rep Conyers wants to introduce a force that has no fiscal responsibility, no need to make a profit, and no reputation for running things well anywhere else.

We are watching the dominoes fall on what I have called “the catastrophic continuum.”

A long time ago, we decided to socialize large portions of our economy. Many people benefited from this process, especially the very poor or the leaders of the largest companies.

But a force was put in motion that, in my opinion, guarantees the end of free society.

Put simply, when the wrong level of government identifies a problem that others (citizens or politicians) ought to be solving, it never passes up the opportunity to seize power.

It displaces those who are responsible to fulfill the duty in the first place. Those displaced are delighted, even convincing themselves that they are free.

But the solutions offered by the state inevitably, as a matter of scale, create even more problems than they initially tried to deal with.

But they control reporting and accounting, so they can, as we say, cook the books.

So when the seven problems that replace the one problem are realized by their victims, they feel helpless and call out to the only power big enough to come to their aid: the state.

And the generous and kind-hearted state, funded by the generous and kind-hearted (though increasingly irresponsible) citizens, multiplies the seven problems by another seven, each crippling one set of citizens by usurping their duties and another by putting them under its matriarchal control.

Look at Social Security, welfare, the VA hospitals, public education, Medicare, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (during their state owned eras), etc. etc.

As the state expands, people are left with an increasingly empty sense that they don’t influence their own lives very much, so they’re going to go ahead and make a difference.

So they get into politics.

Our state is what it is today because the American people are fundamentally irresponsible. That may expalin why any politician who calls for responsibility is so dreadfully feared by the Progressives who control the media and the state and the schools.

It’s been a deep week in politics. I wish I had time to gather my thoughts more tightly together. I love government. I love my country. I just wish each would mind their own business instead of imposing their insecurities on others in the guise of ideologies.