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.

Maybe.

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.

The impoverished childhood of the modern child

We were, until about a year ago, the wealthiest society in the history of the world, or so I kept hearing. I question that.

I am trying to imagine a childhood more impoverished than one without fairy tales.

Look at it this way: education is the

  • training of the intellect
  • passing on of a tradition
  • formation of the soul
  • preparation for the “real world”

But our modern mindset has destroyed the imagination, which is 1000 times more important than anything else a school can cultivate.

Seeing Through the Invisible

While I know you are all desperately waiting the posting of pictures and tales from my trip out west (a “business cruise” with Andrew Pudewa’s organization), I’m afraid you’re going to have to wait for a day or two to see them.

I only have a moment and you don’t want to hear all the explanations about computers burning out and getting purchased and being adjusted to and all that rot. You just want to hear this:

CS Lewis introduced  a theme in The Pilgrim’s Regress that he developed continually throughout his writings, in particular, perhaps in The Abolition of Man.

I’m referring to his recognition that the modern and now the post-modern delights in “seeing through things.”

That part is recognized by almost everybody now, and the Beatles made a living off the motif after Sergeant Pepper, at the latest.

Pause.

They had a song on their Revolver album, I believe, entitled, I’m Looking Through You so it was even before Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play.

But what Lewis saw was that, if you see through everything there is nothing left to look at.

You end up asking questions like Stanley Fish’s, “Is there a text in the classroom?” or writing essays like Susan Sontag’s Against Interpretation.

Indeed, texts do disappear when you only look through them and interpretation becomes impossible when you stop noticing the forms of what you are looking at.

For these reasons I appreciate a phrase I saw a few minutes ago, though I no longer remember where. What I saw was, “the beauty of grammar.”

I don’t think most people think grammar is beautiful. Then again, they don’t think geometry is beautiful either. All that means is that they don’t have eyes to see.

The beauty of grammar is a formal and a calm beauty. I would go further and suggest that it is a hidden beauty.

Grammar is the skeleton of our language, but skeletons aren’t generally considered beautiful. If we want to hold to that metaphor, then let’s say that grammar is what makes the beauty of language possible.

The soul does not like confusion and disorder. Grammar removes them. It takes wild and whirling words and orders them, not arbitrarily but with deep meaning and purpose. It breathes respect for the auditor and ancestor into the sentence, and so exalts the speaker who humbles himself before her.

She makes human society possible and delightful. She weaves hearts together, even when they disagree.

Honestly, it is heartbreaking to see how she is despised and neglected in our day.

People want to see through every text and every statement, and not knowing grammar makes it a lot easier to do so. But the Beatle’s lyric comes back with a bit of a haunting conclusion:

I’m looking through you…

Where did you go?

Truth, Tradition, and Trajedy

In general, three approaches have dominated education from the beginning of time and I’m not sure there can be any more that are not combinations, parts, or permutations of these three.

The sophist does not believe in a knowable universe, so he focuses on adapting to change. The modern version of this approach is progressivism.

The traditionalist believes that knowledge is embodied in a tradition, so he focuses on absorbing and perpetuating that tradition. Many variations of this approach are followed in contemporary schools, but the best of the traditional theorists is probably ED Hirsch with his Core Knowledge approach.

The classicist believes in a knowable world in which knowledge is perception and relationship.

Individual Christians hold to any of these views, though Christianity is obviously a tradition in that its truths reside, not in the discoveries of the student, but in the wisdom of the fathers.

I find that Christian teachers trained in conventional colleges are strongly influenced by Progressive approaches, which discourage, by their nature, philosophical reflection on what you are doing.

For the most part, accepting these Progressive approaches without reflection undercuts the work and claims of the Christian school.

I don’t believe any of these approaches aligns with the teachings of scripture at a high level except for the classical approach.

At the root of the classical approach is a commitment to the belief that things have a nature and that we can know them according to their natures and treat them in ways fitting to their natures.

In addition, things have a purpose, and love enables its object to fulfill both its purpose and its nature.

In the classical tradition, the object of a science is to know the nature of a thing. The object of an art is to refine one’s ability to know the nature of things.

The sophist or Progressive educator does not believe we can know anything.

The traditionalist believes that we can know only through the tradition.

The classicist believes that we can perceive the nature of things and relate to them according to their natures.

What does your teaching lead your students to? That will tell you which of these theories you hold.

The

Rallying the Really Human Things: Excerpt Now Available!

Now available as part of our Further Up & Further In fund raising campaign is part I of Dr. Vigen Guroian’s wonderful book Rallying The Really Human Things.

This fascinating first section is called “The Three Voices of Christian Humanism” and examines the work of GK Chesterton, Flannery O’Connor, and Russell Kirk.

The PDF version of this book can be yours for whatever price you feel it’s worth. As part of our campaign it – and several other downloads – are yours when you make a donation to CiRCE of any amount. Yes, it can be yours for just $1.00.

Click here to donate and download now.

Here is some more information on the book:

General Description:

For Vigen Guroian, contemporary culture is distinguished by its relentless assault on the moral imagination. In the stories it tells us, in the way it has degraded courtship and sexualized our institutions of higher education, in the ever-more-radical doctrines of human rights it propounds, and in the way it threatens to remake human nature via biotechnology, contemporary culture conspires to deprive men and women of the kind of imagination that Edmund Burke claimed allowed us to raise our perception of our own human dignity, or to “cover the defects of our own naked shivering nature.”

In Rallying the Really Human Things, Guroian combines a theologian’s keen sensitivity to the things of the spirit with his immersion in the works of Burke, Russell Kirk, G. K. Chesterton, Flannery O’Connor, St. John Chrysostom, and other exemplars of the religious humanist tradition to diagnose our cultural crisis. But he also points the way towards a culture more solicitous of the “really human things,” the Chesterton phrase from which he takes his title. Guroian’s wide-ranging analysis of these times provides a fresh and inimitable perspective on the practices and mores of contemporary life.

About the Author:
Vigen Guroian is Professor of Theology at Loyola College in Maryland. He is the author of numerous articles and books, including Ethics after Christendom: Toward an Ecclesial Christian Ethic and Tending the Heart of Virtue: How Classic Stories Awaken a Child’s Imagination.

What’s Being Said:

“In this eloquent and substantive book, Guroian uses the light of the past to point the way to a more human and civilized future.”
Michael Medved, radio host and author of Right Turns

“Guroian is a rare and precious bird these days: a scholar of the Real. Here he focuses his moral passion and theologian’s mind on some of today’s most smoldering issues.”
Kevin Ryan, Professor Emeritus, Boston University

“Vigen Gurorian’s courageous and discerning vision illuminates both current issues of burning importance (campus promiscuity, nationalism, and gay marriage, for example), and major Christian thinkers of the recent past (Chesterton, O’Connor, and Kirk). This compendium is a resource that will help us all see more clearly.”
Frederica Mathewes-Green, columnist for Beliefnet.com and author of The Illumined Heart: The Ancient Christian Path of Transformation

“These eloquent and wide-ranging essays in the moral imagination establish Vigen Guroian as our own Chesterton. For with fine Chestertonian wit, he demonstrates that the modern West is not heinously wicked so much as it is wildly virtuous, as the old Christian virtues, uprooted from their native theological soil, continue to produce mad sprouts. Responding astringently to the cultural and religious vexations of our age, Guroian restores these saving virtues to the deep loam of Christian tradition.”
Ralph Wood, University Professor of Theology and Literature, Baylor University

“Rallying the Really Human Things does not so much inform as remind. Vigen Guroian has busied himself with one of the most pressing tasks in our intellectual life, which is to rescue the dignified word “humanism” from the damage wrought upon it by both the secularly self-sufficient and the piously ignorant.”
Tracy Lee Simmons, author of Climbing Parnassus: A New Apologia for Greek and Latin

“Professor Guroian’s book is both a powerful and provocative defense of traditional Christian humanism in its conflict with secularism.”
Bob Cheeks, intellectualconservative.com

“Of course, this review hasn’t even mentioned excellent essays on ‘gay marriage’ and why businessmen ‘should read great literture.’ There are myriad positions in his pages I would like to sound with trumpets on one hand and anathematize on the other. Like Chesterton, Guroian can write infuriating passages, but never dull ones.”
David Paul Deavel, Gilbert Magazine

furtherupandinbanner