Waves of Joy

I wish I had seen this before Easter (Pascha as most of the non-Germanic people’s call it), but this marvel of a video shows waves of joy in a way few things can.

H/T to Father Stephen, where you can read a translation. Here’s a clue: the refrain means “Christ is risen and brings joy.”

Nowhere Near the Honor Due

Perhaps you have noticed by now that level II of The Lost Tools of Writing will be released to the Cosmos on April 19. If I were to start publicly thanking everybody who had a role to play in the development of this work, I’d be posting for a long time. If I proceeded to enumerate all the reasons they deserve thanks, I’d never stop writing.

My invention knows no limits, not because of any genius on my part, but because of the reach of the work done.

I can begin with the topic of definition, asking the question, “Who is it?” And that leads to a list of names that fills a phone book. For example, the two superstars of LTW II are Leah Lutz and Camille Goldston.

First they studied both classical instruction and classical rhetoric for three and four years as CiRCE Apprentices. No, that wasn’t first. Both had already been teaching for years before they joined the Apprenticeship, and what a lot they had to add when they joined.

This year I can think of many things each of them did, but would shame myself and undercut them if I tried to enumerate them all. Let me, instead, present some types and reveal some kinds.

Leah pretty much oversaw the development of the worksheets and module guides for the past two years. Perhaps you know the old bromide about not wanting to see how a sausage or a law is made. That may be, but if you had watched how LTW was made, you’d have a very different feeling. Leah has an amazing mind for ordering disparate and confusing things.

She kept us all on track without once losing her temper. She gave her time sacrificially to collect and review drafts and either revise them or make suggestions for revision by the writers (of whom more later). When difficult issues needed clarification, her input and questions were always insightful, appropriate, and productive. She wrote plenty of the materials herself, first as an apprentice and then as a developer.

If you remember the first edition of The Lost Tools of Writing, Level One, (which you probably don’t since it was so much less perfect than I had credited it with being!), you will appreciate the leaps, the bounds, the works of supererogation that have been accomplished when you see Level Two. And Leah was the ordering mind behind much of the improvement.

Leah, allow me here to publicly express my gratitude for your amazing work. The world will receive your work with great joy, beginning on April 19.

Because of you, LTW II will be clearer, full of better examples, easier to use, more thorough, more effective, and easier to understand than any other writing program available – even, for now, than LTW I. In fact, because of you, LTW I has been and will continue to be improved in many ways.

As you put it in an E-mail, “The end is in sight!! And it looks like a pretty great end.”

Friends, make no mistake, for the last 125 years our approach to teaching children has undercut their ability to think and to communicate. We are living in the early years of a dark age. Unless a light can be shined on how to think and communicate.

While the classically educated in time past would not think a whole lot of what we are doing now, they would appreciate that we are doing something. A genuine renewal is possible, but only if each teacher devotes herself to teaching the child in front of her instead of trying to save the world all at once.

The Lost Tools of Writing fancies itself a tool box for such a teacher: one who wants to learn how to think herself, and who wants to teach her students how to think, how to communicate, and how to grow in wisdom and virtue even in an age that, in its darkness, reflexively scoffs at such a fanciful dream.

Leah is one of those teachers, and we are all blessed by her commitment to the Christian classical vision.

Come back soon, because I have to tell you about Camille as well. And a lot of others. This could take a while!

When you see the product of their workmanship, you’ll undersatnd why I’m so grateful.

Meet the Speaker: Dr. Paula Flint

{EDITOR’S NOTE: The following post is the first in a series dedicated to introducing to the readers of Quddity the men and women who will speaking at this summer’s CiRCE Conference: A Contemplation of Liberty. Up next is Paula Flint, of The Flint Academy in Arlington, Texas.}

Dr. Paula Flint has worked in the field of education for 40 years. Her formal education includes a B.A. in elementary education and English from the University of Northern Colorado, a M.Ed. in special education (emotional/behavioral disorders and learning disabilities) from Rhode Island College, and a Ph.D. in special education (emotional/behavioral disorders and counseling) from the University of North Texas.

Additionally, Dr. Flint trained in the Great Books discussion method, classical/Christian education and administration, Waldorf school techniques, Charlotte Mason educational training at the Ambleside Schools International. She trained in numerous special education techniques and interventions.

Her professional experience includes teaching in both private and public schools, at all elementary grade levels, junior and high school English, and at the university level training teachers. She has taught students in special education with emotional/behavioral disorders, ADHD, learning disabilities, and dyslexia. She has also worked in private practice as an educational diagnostician, dyslexia remediation specialist, and behavior specialist.

In 1981, Dr. Flint read the Susan Schaeffer McCauley book, “For the Children’s Sake” and was inspired to, one day, open a classical, Christian school utilizing the Charlotte Mason educational approach,
but she vowed to also include students with learning challenges.

After earning her doctorate and teaching for 3 years at the University of North Texas in their special education department, Dr. Flint quit her job and opened The Flint Academy in Arlington, Texas in the fall of 2006. The school is a full inclusion school, educating students who are academically advanced, typical, and/or have special education needs inthe same classrooms. Now completing their 4th year, the school serves 96 students from preschool through 12th grade. This is the only school of its kind at present and, because of the high demand, there are plans to open a second school in the Flower Mound, Colleyville area of Texas in the fall of 2011.

In addition to running her school, Dr. Flint promotes full inclusion by providing training, at other private schools, for teachers who would like to learn how to successfully include students with disabilities in their general education classrooms. Her Circe conference seminar this summer will consider that topic.

** Visit the Flint Academy here.

Love Never Abdicates

We 20th century Naughts share a common error when we think.  We tend, against our better judgment and against our natures, to look at the universe and all that is in it – material or immaterial – scientifically, as though life were one big laboratory.

However, the cosmos is not a great scientific experiment nor can we live wise, successful, or prudent lives on that basis. Life is an art, not an experiment, and the differences are far-reaching.

So are the similarities. For example, both involve uncertainty and what we might loosely call experiments. The artist does not approach her work with complete certainty about where the next brush stroke belongs, how the next line should scan, or when the orchestra should reach the crescendo. She experiments.

The difference between art and science is not whether the artist and the scientist experiment, but how they judge the success of the experiment, which implies further that each has a different purpose for their experiments.

The artist judges by fitness – by whether the stroke, line, or note harmonize with the elements and idea of the specific work of art. The artist is formal.

The scientist judges by fitness as well, but his fitness carries a much narrower, a more precise (perhaps) purpose. Does the information gathered fit the hypothesis? The scientist is, at least in an ideal way, factual.

It’s ironic when you think about how little practical information can be gained through the so-called scientific method. No doubt, if we think about the discoveries made by scientists over the last 800 years, we are astonished. And some of those discoveries are so immensely powerful that they seem to be quite practical.

Nor do I want to diminish the use that has been made of many of these discoveries. But the scientific discoveries are only practical, that is to say, they only benefit people, when they are applied in an ethical context. When scientists function within a power context (in other words, when scientistific research is driven by political ends and the drives of businesses whose highest function is to make money), the results are quite mixed.

They are only beneficial to the people who benefit from them. And people only benefit from them when they are brought into an artistic framework.

I have to leave this point somewhat unfinished and no doubt provocative (please don’t make me say anything I didn’t say when you attack me – I am in no way opposed to science; I love it and I yearn to see it restored to its rightful place) because it isn’t what I meant to write about.

What I meant to write about is how I and virtually everybody I know is trained from early childhood to think in the scientific mode while the artistic mode atrophies.

We are trained to assume that things should be assessed quantitatively instead of formally.

We tend to believe what is scientifically compelling, and dismiss those elements of being that stand outside the reachof the sciences as either unimportant or as merely personal.

To read the news web sites, one would think that we don’t know of any other ways to find truth than through the sciences. Newspapers constantly call on experts, who generally are readers of statistics, often from a particular brand called “social sciences.”

Let me list a few examples of this bias that come easily to one’s mind:

We build our subdivisions (not neighborhoods) on the technical ideas of the civil engineers, not the formal ideas of the artists. Even our architecture tends toward a technical, rather than a formal approach.

Our economy is regulated by people who seem unable to even imagine valid information that stands outside their technical analysis. They do not think about the nature of an economy (which literally means “household customs”), of the household in it, of the soul in the household, etc.

Political science, so-called, is utterly informal. People learn how to scientifically measure and thus to manipulate the masses. The person in that mass does not merit the politician’s personal attention. The symbol embodied in a person, yes, but not the person.

Our inner cities are the results of technical analysis applied to a reality that is fundamentally artistic.

So are our suburbs, our schools, our malls, and even our entertainment, though at least movies and music are unable to completely eliminate the artistic element that makes up their essence.

Even religious life is approached scientifically in America. Consider church growth and even the Emerging church. Progressive, cutting edge, and failing utterly to grasp the nature of the Bride of Christ.

We don’t trust the person who cannot back his case up with the sheen of scientific research, regardless of whether the issue relies on scientific research. We might not even know how an issue could possibly NOT rely on said research.

The sciences are powerful and admirable. They are marvelous servants; it is their nature to serve. But they do not and they cannot tell us what is right and wrong, how things ought to be, what the nature and essence of a thing is, whether and how we should use the power they give us, or the forms of beauty.

They cannot tell us (though they can provide information – they can advise us) how to raise children, how to nourish our souls, how to love our spouses, how to develop our virtues, how to arrange our flowers, which books to read, how to manage our time, how to build our communities, the foundations of sound government, how to play an instrument, whether a song is beautiful, what love is, what truth is, what knowledge is, what goodness is, what justice is, what freedom is, or, for that matter, what anything IS.

Happily humans are not finally scientific by nature. We include a scientific impulse in our nature, but we are artists, formalists, creators by nature. Even the great scientists approached science like an art, and that is because underlying and mastering the scientific method is a deeper commitment to the arts of truth and knowledge. When that commitment is lost, the sciences become tyrannical and tyrants use the sciences for their ends.

This post is an appeal to get back to nature. To stop surrendering our common sense to the latest research. To stop believing that the misapplication of the methods of the natural sciences can save us. Only love can save us. Only beauty can save us. Only truth can save us. Only the Good can save us.

And, while each of these rejoices in the work of the natural sciences, none would ever bow their knee to them. Love never abdicates.

Breaking and Important Educational News

Important news on the child-rearing front:

Increasing Number of Parents Opting to Have Children School-Homed.

If you care about America’s children (or maybe your own), don’t miss this article. Especially the last sentence.

Can We Know?

Warning: this post is very philosophical.

Immanuel Kant is one of the most interesting philosophers to read because he is so incredibly hard to understand. Before he wrote in the late 18th century, philosophers were trying to figure out what was knowable. The Rationalists, following the French Philosopher, Rene Descartes, argued that we had innate ideas in our heads and that was what we could know. Descartes famously expressed it this way, “I think, therefore I am.”

But the Empiricists, following Bacon, Locke, and Hume denied innate ideas. They argued that no idea could ever enter our head unless it came first through the senses.

Kant wanted to resolve the impasse, at least partly because he was worried about the sciences losing their way and at least partly because he was worried about religion being overthrown by materialist philosophy.

His solution is elegant. He argued that we do have ideas in our minds, such as time and space, that no amount of experience could ever put there. In fact, they precede experience. We can’t even have an experience without time and space being a part of it.

But these ideas are dormant until experience arouses them. So experience is just as necessary as thought, and thought is actually radically limited in its power.

Because time and space precede thought, we can never understand time and space. But we can also never really know the particular thing we know through our senses either (which is the only way we can consciously know things) because we can only know them through our senses as our senses operate and in the context of time and space.

He developed some terms for this situation which are kind of fun.The thing that we perceive is the phenomemon. The thing in itself he called the ding-an-sich, which cleverly means “the thing in itself.” In other words, the thing that is and exists independently of us, whether or not we perceive it. He argued that we can never know the ding-an-sich, but we could perceive it with our senses.

This is a really huge idea, one of those things that manifests itself in the nerdiest corners of everyday existence after it works its way throug people’s minds. What Kant is arguing is that the universe outside of our minds is real, and therefore it is a valid object of study. However, we can only know about it; we can never know the universe itself.

Since Kant wrote that, German education, more specifically Prussian, has become the dominant intellectual force of the modern world. The American school system finds its model in the schools of 19th century Germany, and these schools were, at the least, strongly influenced by Kant’s thinking.

The higher criticism, for example, is a direct development of Kant’s so-called Critical Theory.

While I admire Kant, I think his influence on the way literature is taught is problematic. In some ways, it was positive, because he influenced Coleridge and Shelling in England and Germany, and both had some valuable insights into the creative process. But when his influence reaches the classroom, all the transcendent value is washed out of it and it seems to reduce itself to knowing about instead of knowing.

In the typical literary class, at least one that is dominated by the text book, a group of students sit outside a text the way a photographer sits outside a wedding. They observe it, record some high points, learn some technical language, and produce an artifact. But they don’t, typically, enter into the ceremony of reading.

The text itself is unknowable.

I think I know why, and this is what prompted me to write this blog even though I absolutely should be working on editing documents for LTW II right now. Forgive me Leah and Camille – I will get back to work.

I think the reason is because Kant and most moderns think of knowledge as something scientific, almost material. When you know the qualities of a thing, you know the thing. When you can act on or with a thing, then you know it. That’s the Pragmatism of Dewey or James.

But this is not the case. Knowledge is first and foremost a formal relationship between things.

Kant and many of these philosophers break down every sort of knowledge because of this mistake, which is cyclically related to language. Let me explain.

When I think a thought, I always think about something. In other words, my thought always has a subject.

In addition, every thought I think always thinks something about the subject. We call that the predicate, which comes from the Latin “predicare” which means “to say about.”

Every thought, therefore, has a subject and predicate. This is the form of thought.

Now consider things that exist. Everything that exists is something. It is a subject. But nothing can exist without something being true of it. Every existing thing has a predicate, even if the only thing “predicable” of a thing is that it exists.

Therefore, you can see ratios and proportions in thinking and being. As thinking is done in subjects and predicates, so existing is done in subjects and predicates. Thinking is relating predicates to subjects. Existing is relating predicates to subjects.

Thinking and being are both about relationships. And thinking and being are related to each other.

The relationships are all formal, not material. The material substance of an object can never enter my soul. But its formal substance certainly can.

That is the fundamental problem with the Enlightenment, with Modernism, with Post-Modernism, and with conventional education.

In the earlier cases they tried to build a theory of knowledge that was rooted in physics (Descartes, Bacon, Hume, Locke, and Kant all tried this in varying degrees), but the first four failed utterly to develop a tenable theory of knowing and Kant’s theory reduced knowledge to something more limited than necessary).

In post-modernism, the attitude seems to be that since the Enlightenment couldn’t give us a way to know things with their radically limited tools, nothing is knowable, so we won’t worry about it, since the many meta-narratives of the Enlightenment were found wanting, we are obliged to enter into a meta-meta-narrative that rejects meta-narratives.

My hypothesis is simple: the error is fundamental in all these schools of thought. They all reject what the Latins called Form, what the Greeks call an eidon or idea or logos. They are all so anxious to move away from Logos that they make knowing impossible.

Everything has its own inner logos. The Enlightenment started out looking for these logoi using the tools either of reason or of experience. It didn’t work, so Postmodernism denies the existence of logoi at all. All is convention, constructed in the human mind. There is no logos in the mind that matches the logos in the cosmos, that can perceive and know it. So knowledge is impossible.

However, the doctrine of a logos, an essence, a nature, an idea, is not mere Platonism. It is what makes knowledge possible. It is what makes us able to know things we can’t see, such as justice, freedom, and truth. Without it, justice, freedom, and truth can’t exist in human souls or society. They are reduced to words that have a strange power to manipulate others and move their souls, but that have no existence in reality.

Let me try again. My hypothesis is simple: Knowledge is first formal, then personal, and in all things relational. My soul can absorb the glass that holds the wine just as surely as my body can absorb the wine itself. It cannot absorb it physically, but it can absorb its form.

Not perfectly, by any means. But truly.

Until our world accepts this principle, our civilization will continue to disintegrate and unravel. All that is good in our age and everything worthwhile in our schools is a remnant of the time when people lived in this knowable world. All that is dangerous and unstable, all the forces of disintegration in the modern soul and society arise from this rejection of the logos.

Whatever else Kant achieved, it seems to me that he could never resolve the issue he was facing simply because he did not understand or embrace the formality of knowledge.