Quiddity is Moving!

The CiRCE Institute has a beautiful new website and Quiddity is part of it. Please click HERE to visit the blog and please update your links to Quiddity for the convenience of our mutual visitors. Thank you!

We hope that this new website (created with help from the fine folks at Blackwood Media Group) will enable us to more effectively provide you with information, inspiration, and insight that will, in turn, enable you to direct your students towards the True, The Good, and The Beautiful.

Of course, we’re still getting acclimated to our new digs and ironing out a few details. If you see any problems (like links that are dead, for example) please don’t hesitate to email us. If you are confused about the layout of this new site, or miss something about the old one, or if you are having a difficult time finding something, let us know and we will do our best to get it sorted out for you.

A few things you will notice:

1. Our blog is now incorporated into the layout the main website. Now all of our posts will be right here in the website, easily accessible, and clearly labeled and linked. As time goes on you will find that we will be publishing primarily four kinds of posts: our usual, daily posts, made up of less formal musings, quotations, videos, etc; profiles, which will introduce and detail the work of other organizations and groups who are doing great things in the world of classical and Christian education; features, which will be formal featured articles by guest writers; and book reviews (presented with help from ISI and Eighth Day Books).

2. You will notice that our store is still visually a part of the old site. This will be the case for a while until we get it moved over too. No worries – it still operates as it always did.

3. Please note the Nota Bene space on the right of the homepage. Here you will find links to the most recent news and blog posts. As soon as something is posted in one of those two sections it’s linked in this section – so check back daily to stay up to date.

4. Finally, if you scroll down to the bottom of the homepage, you will find a section titled “Your Feedback,”
made up the most recent comments from our readers. This is a great way to keep up with the ongoing conversations that are continually popping up and percolating around our blog.

If you’re a regular reader of Quiddity be sure to update your RSS feeds to the new blog, be sure to bookmark the new link, and please be sure to send us a note with any concerns you have about this transition.

Please note: we will continue to post here for a short time during the transition but will eventual post exclusively at the new website.

We hope that this new website leads to deeper conversation, more thorough exploration, and more passionate teaching. We hope that it operates as a tool, as an aid, for those of you dedicating your lives to the vision and mission of classical, Christian education.

We hope that it will allow us to seek first the Kingdom of God alongside you. As Aslan said in The Last Battle, let us go further up and further in!

“Teaching Attentiveness” – chatting today @ 3pm ET.

Teaching Attentiveness

Why the Short Story?

When I was in high school I remember feeling some strange disappointment when I would come across a book of short stories by an author whose novel’s I admired or when I was assigned a story for school.

I loved to read and always had, and did so a fair amount, but I found that I much preferred the long form of the novel to that of the more brief, inherently and uniquely reserved, short story. I certainly enjoyed, for the most part, what I read of author’s like Flannery O’Connor (who I today consider one of America’s greatest writers ever), mostly, I’m sure, for her weirdly ambiguous endings and mysterious characters.

Yet, I seem to have found the lack of unique plot twists and of distinctly moving moral situations so common in the short form to be a negative. I’ve been wondering why. Today, I prefer few novels to a wonderful short story (and no, it’s not because a short story does not surpass the 300 page limit I often say I don’t read beyond, jokingly of course).

Don’t get me wrong. Good short stories, and certainly O’Conner’s, do contain moving moral situations. But they are necessarily reserved in their immediate implications towards the reader. Since, in the short form, the author is limited regarding how much information they can provide, how much background they can introduce, how close they can make the reader feel to the situation or characters, such moral dilemmas can only mean so much to the reader. In other words, since you can’t know Mr. Smith from Joe White’s The Made-up Story as well as you could have had the story been a novel, then the fact that he is about to burn down his home and join a militia group is going to be less meaningful than it would be if you did know him as intimately as a similarly plotted novel would allow.

(Note that I said that short stories are limited in their “immediate implications.” Further contemplation and interpretation certainly will open up a world of implications to the thoughtful, observant reader.)

So, it would seem, the short form is concerned above all with the “why?” of the tale and the novel above all with fact, incident – the “what” of the story.

Of course, part of my lack of affection for the short form back then probably derives from the fact that novels – and the good one’s especially – are uniquely capable of creating plot-based excitement and anticipation, emotionally transfixing moral conundrums, and characters whose many layers offer insights into the human existence. Things that the short story simply cannot provide in the same way. The short story writer must work within the confines of their form and therefore they must say what they want to say, or rather show what they want to show, in a much less complicated – though, hopefully, no less thoughtful – fashion.

Necessarily, therefore, the short story, since it cannot do all the work itself, demands much more of the reader than the common novel (there are exceptions, of course). This is probably why, as a high school student, I didn’t much appreciate the form. I didn’t want to have to work as much as was being demanded of me.

I love this quote by Harold Bloom (from How To Read and Why) that, I think, sums the idea up pretty well, and provides some advice to boot:

Short stories favor the tacit; they compel the reader to be active, and to discern explanations that the writer avoids.The reader… must slow down, quite deliberately, and start listening with the inner ear. Such listening overhears the characters, as well as hearing them; think of them as your characters, and wonder what is implied, rather than told about them. Unlike most figures in novels, their foregrounding are largely up to you, utilizing the hints subtly provided by the reader.

From Turgenev through Eudora Welty and beyond, short story writers refrain from moral judgments… The most skilled short story writers are as elliptical in regard to moral judgments as they are in regard to continuities of action of the details of a character’s past life. You, as reader, are to decide if moral judgment if relevant, and then the judgment will be yours to make.

The short story provides some unique challenges for both writer and reader, challenges that they must, in effect, confront together, in concert with each other.

In it’s own meta-fictive way, reading a short story is a bit like solving a mystery. The clues are laid out for us (one hopes) and it is our job to make sense of them.

It is for this reason that I love reading a good short story.

And I suppose, therefore, that writing a short story is something like creating a puzzle, perhaps one of the crossword variety even. It is the job the writer to set forth pieces whose shapes will appropriately fit together. With just the right amount of ambiguity of course.

I for one hope the short story makes a comeback.

Live Chat …. 3 pm….6/17

Join us as we discuss….all things classical ed. 3 pm.


2010 Conference Reading List

Are you registered for the upcoming summer conference?

If so, you can prepare by reading the following books.

This list will be updated from time to time so add a bookmark and check back soon!


The Magna Carta

The Constitution of the United States

The Declaration of Independence

Two more added:

De Toqueville’s immortal Democracy in America

Edmund Burke: Reflections on the Revolution in France

And the poetic knowledge panel poem for this year:

France, An Ode by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Other recommendations if you have time:

  • Michael Polanyi: The Logic of Liberty
  • The Federalist Papers (#10 is the most famous. Read any one or two and you’ve been schooled!)
  • Russell Kirk: The Roots of American Order
  • Friederich Hayek: The Road to Serfdom
  • M Stanton Evans: The Theme is Freedom: Religion, Politics, and the American Tradition

To see the replacement of freedom ordered by nature to God with a secular, abstract, and ultimately untenable forms of freedom, here’s some late night reading (keep the night light on, some of this is scary stuff): 

  • Machiavelli: The Prince
  • Thomas Hobbes: Leviathon
  • John Locke:
  • John Stuart Mill: On Liberty (a decisive vacating of the meaning of the word)
  • Jean Jacques Rousseau: The Social Contract (fatal errors, literally)
  • Adam Smith: Cities and the Wealth of Nations
  • Kant: Critique of Practical Reason, What is Enlightenment
  • Hegel: Yikes
  • Marx: Das Kapital, Communist Manifesto
  • John Dewey: On the Impact of Darwinism Upon Philosophy (this is only about ten pages and available on line so if you can only read one of these selections, this is the one).

Finally, for an amazing collection of books, many available in digital form for free, go to the Liberty Fund and find their Library of Freedom. Too Enlightenment, but helpful nonetheless.

Meet the Speaker: Leigh Bortins

{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 first is Leigh Bortins, of Classical Conversations.}

Leigh Bortins is a nationally acclaimed educator, perhaps best known for her ability to demystify the fundamental tools of learning. As a teacher, author and commentator, Leigh is credited with helping to launch the “home-centered learning” education movement.

After earning a degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Michigan, Leigh worked in the aerospace industry before beginning her work as an educator. In teaching study skills for almost 20 years to children and adults, she has written several books including The Foundations Program: A Classical Curriculum (a teaching guide) and The Essentials of English Language Guide (a teaching guide for language arts from the classical perspective). She has authored complete K-12 curriculum guides for program directors, teachers, and tutors all across the country.

Leigh is the founder and CEO of Classical Conversations Inc., an organization that models the home-centered learning approach to empower learners of all ages. She trains facilitators dedicated to duplicating her methods, and is thereby transforming education and improving the quality of family and community life. Classical Conversations is nearly doubling in size and scope each year.

Leigh is currently working on developing The Home-Centered Education Institute where anyone interested in combining the classical model with technological advances in delivering education can be trained in effective methods. She believes that individualized methods and new technologies will continue to make the modern approach to classroom education obsolete, and is excited about preparing the next generation of teachers to help students learn from home, the office, the field, or wherever life might take them. She is presently enrolled in the Doctoral program in Global Education at the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary near Boston, where she is further developing her thinking and writing on this subject.

Leigh’s emphasis on the time-tested enjoyment of learning and the fundamentals of education and critical thinking skills grew out of her own experiences in homeschooling her four boys with her husband Robert. They live in Pinehurst, North Carolina.


** You can read Leigh’s blog, One Smart Mama, here.
** Check out Leigh’s radio show on Blog Talk Radio, Leigh at Lunch, by clicking here.
** Order Leigh’s book, Echo in Celebration: A Call To Home-Centered Education, here.

For more information on the 2010 CiRCE Conference (A Contemplation of Liberty: Because Free People Rule Themselves) click here.

The 2010 Lost Tools of Writing Essay Contest

High school students, don’t miss this opportunity to win a prize of up to $500!

Education and Liberty are themes as American as baseball and apple pie. Yet, much of American literature, and most of American pop culture see the two as antithetical. Some people seem to see school as a barrier to liberty. In the 2010 Lost Tools of Writing Essay Contest, students are asked to consider the relationship between education and liberty. Are they indeed opposites? Or can one fulfill the other? Can a person be free without being educated? Can a person be educated without being free?

You decide. Then persuade us.

MAY 1, 2010


MAY 10, 2010

Students, grades 8-12.

▪ Each essay must be between 900 and 1100 words(3-4 pp)
▪ Each essay should be double spaced
▪ Per the registration instructions below,
each essay is to be submitted via email.

1ST PLACE: $500
2ND PLACE: $250
3RD PLACE: $100

Send an Email to essaycontest@circeinstitute.org with
your name, address, grade, and phone number included in the body.

Please attach your essay to an Email and send it to


Email David Kern via david@circeinstitute.org


From the CiRCE Store this Christmas

Looking for a gift this Christmas? Why not consider our 2009 Christmas CD set, The Incarnation of Christ: A Christmas Celebration?

This six-CD set contains some of our favorite conference recordings, specifically selected for Christmas. The perfect gift for a teacher, parent, or head of school who hopes to cultivate wisdom and virtue in their students!

Included in the set are the following talks:

1. James Daniels: The Incarnation of Christ and Its Implications On Teaching
2. Ken Myers: Ordering the Soul to God
3. Andrew Kern: Orthodoxy, Heresy, and Order
4. Dr. Lloyd Newton: Knowing and Loving within the Trinity
5. John Hodges: A Sacramental View of the World as a Basis for the Arts
6. Laura Berquist: Christianity Does Not Simply Replace Our Natural Life (Colloquy)

Sold separately, the set would go for $36, but we’re offering it this Christmas for only $24!

You can go here to purchase.

Additionally, each of our complete conference CD sets are 20% off until January 2nd! That’s a savings of nearly $30.

If you’ve ever been to one of our conferences and enjoyed it so much you want your friends and family to be able to share that experience with you, then this is the ideal gift for you.

And for those of you who have been unable to join us in years past – or who have only recently found out about us – now is the perfect time to take advantage of the sale and discover for yourself what our attendees have been experiencing each July for the past eight years.

All you need to do to receive the discount is enter “CHRISTMAS2009” in our coupon box.

To purchase or view the CD sets in more detail simply visit our store here.

Merry Christmas from your friends at The CiRCE Institute!

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


Further Up & Further In with CiRCE…

As you regular readers well know, we have recently kicked off a new fund raising campaign that, borrowing from C.S. Lewis’s fantastic Narnia book, The Last Battle, we are calling Further Up & Further In.

The purpose of this campaign is to raise funds so that we will be able to more effectively fulfill our mission and our goals, so that we will be able to help you instill wisdom and virtue in your students. More specifically, the purpose of this fund raising effort is to ensure that CiRCE will be able to achieve our primary goals, from a long term perspective as well as in the near future.

Raising $50,000 by December 31, 2009 will help us achieve these primary goals:

1. Complete the Lost Tools of Writing II
2. Fund the 2010 conference.
3. Build towards the creation of a CiRCE Journal
4. Provide for greater financial stability going forward.

But we don’t ask for your help without offering something in return. So, as thanks for your generosity, we are offering downloadable materials for anyone who makes even the smallest donation. Whether you donate $1 or $100 or $1000 there is a gift waiting for you.

As we wrote in our campaign letter, in return for your help, you will be able to download talks like Debbie Harris’s popular talk Understanding and Instilling a Love of Beauty, and Andrew Pudewa’s useful and inspiring, Teaching Boys and Other Kids Who Would Rather Be Playing In Forts. You can also download Ken Myers’ talk on how to Re-educate Oneself As An Adult, or Laura Berquist’s insightful talk about Assessing Student Performance. Also available soon will be articles in PDF format and book excerpts.

We understand that this rotten economic climate makes for an untimely season in which to request funds. But we hope that you will prayerfully consider joining us as we go Further Up & Further In.

Every little bit, every dollar, will help us put on next year’s conference, will help us improve The Lost Tools of Writing, will help us build towards creating a CiRCE Journal. Every little bit will help provide financial stability for the future.

Want to help us spread the word?

We live in a time dominated by the viral spread of information and many of you are bloggers; most of you email regularly. If even a few of our readers were to post a note on their blog or send a quick email we are sure to meet our goal.

You can help us go Further Up & Further In by doing any of the following:

– Promote our campaign by pasting the campaign letter (available here) on your blogs, or send it via email to your friends.
– Post a campaign image or banner on your blog or website.
– Set our website as the homepage in your browser
– Befriend us on Facebook
– Follow Andrew on Twitter
– Join the list for our E-mail newsletter, The CiRCE Papers
– Bookmark this blog
– Promote us on your own Facebook and Twitter pages

If you have already made a donation or helped spread the word, than thank you! While you’re at it, please let us know how we can  improve. What should we do (or do  better) to help you  fulfill your goals as educators? In what ways can we help you cultivate wisdom and virtue in your students?

We look forward to working alongside you in the coming years as, together, we climb Further Up & Further In.