Don’t forget

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Home schoolers opportunity

If you are a home schooler, how would you like to sit at a table with Laura Berquist, author of Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum and collector of The Harp and Laurel Wreath?

Here’s your chance, as Mrs. Berquist will be facilitating a round table discussion for home schoolers at the annual CiRCE conference. You’ll join 11 or 12 other home educators to discuss issues that arise in a Christian classical home. To learn more about the CiRCE conference or to register, visit our web site at www.circeinstitute.org.

In and Out of Humor

Sometimes we don’t realize what is most practical in a given situation. For example, the CiRCE conference theme this summer is humor. I don’t know how many people have done research on the necessity of humor in the life of a school, but I suspect scarcity defines the number.

And yet… And yet. How many headmasters have have survived without a sense of humor? How many 2nd grade teachers can get from one day to the next without taking the time out to laugh? How many middle school teachers – do I even need to complete this thought?

Furthermore, can you build a relationship without laughter? Should you?

Can you teach literature without wit? Can you teach history without drollery? Can you teach science without attic salt? Can you wake the drowsy wag without persiflage?

Can you write the preceding paragraph without a thesaurus?

Well I can’t.

And besides, what is humor and, perhaps more important, what is its importance? What is its use?

Ben Johnson wrote a pair of plays in 1598 and 1599, one called Every Man in His Humor and another called Every Man Out of His Humor. He claimed that his plays were an attempt to cure people of their humor.

But he didn’t mean that he was trying to take away what we call a sense of humor. Johnson was referring back to the original use of “humor.” In the ancient and Renaissance worlds, people believed that our personalities were governed by four dispositions, each of which depends on the liquids in our bodies: blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile. If any of these are out of wack, a person has a disposition out of balance and needs the balance restored.

Johnson proposed to restore the balance, or at least to help restore the balance, by creating extreme and eccentric characters that the viewer would laugh at. Excess blood makes a person sanguine. Let us laugh at such a person. Excess phlegm makes him congested, but in the old days it made him phlegmatic. Excess yellow bile made him choleric and excess black bile makes him melancholy.

So to be humorous is to lack a sense of humor, which lack causes one to suffer from a humor and thus to be the object of the humor of others.

And indeed, how many excessive lovers of books have been cured by Don Quixote or how many excessively self-impressed scholars have been corrected by A Confederacy of Dunces.

I don’t know the answer to either of those questions, but I can tell you that both books have terrified me through my laughter and brought greater self-awareness and balance to my soul. And that, Johnson (and Robert Burton in his Anatomy of Melancholy and Thomas Elyot, Thomas Linacre, and Thomas Wright in their books – which probably should have dealt with an excess of Thomas) argued, is the point of comedy.

Here at CiRCE we believe that education is about bringing human faculties to life. The faculty for humor, it turns out, may be the most practical of all. It helps us teach, it nourishes self-awareness, it promotes rest, and it balances the soul.

I hope you’ll be at this summer’s conference and laugh yourself into heaven.

Can you think of an occasion where humor has helped you?

Paideia Prize Winner Announcement

You are the first to know that Dr. Peter Sampo, founder of Thomas More College in New Hampshire, has agreed to accept the Paideia Prize at this summer’s CiRCE conference. I’m anxious to learn more about Dr. Sampo and his work, but I can tell you already that he laboured for years in an extremely difficult vineyard to bring St. Thomas More College to life and fruition. He retired from the Presidency about two years ago and Dr. Jeffrey Nelson, formerly of ISI, is now carrying on the work.

Dr. Louise Cowan has described the curriculum at Thomas More as one of the best in our country. I agree. College provides four years to the guardian’s of our culture to raise the vision of the young to something worth aspiring to. The unspeakable waste that is the American college in general underscores the value of St. Thomas More College to those few who are willing to leave the dark cave and gaze on the splendour of the work of God in the human soul and in the cosmos.

Look for more big conference news over the next few weeks. We’ll have details about Dr. Sampo, the program, some very exciting speaker news, and more. I’ll blog about things as they develop here and we’ll post the formal announcements on the web site (www.circeinstitute.org) and in the CiRCE Papers (our free E-letter – sign up here if you don’t already receive it).