27 March 2012

Book Club: The Roots of American Order
Chapter 6

I loved this chapter, probably because I pretend I live in the Middle Ages when I can, sans all the bloodshed, of course. There is a lot in this chapter, so I'm just going to pick out two ideas: the rule of law, and gentlemen and scholars. That last one is one idea, mainly because I followed one half {gentleman} better than the other half {scholars}.

Ahem.

The Rule of Law
The first thing we need to do is define the concept of the "rule of law." In this phrase, rule does not refer to something prescriptive, like house rules or club rules. Rather is refers to a reign, or a type of sovereignty:
The law, which is no respecter of persons, stands supreme: that is the essence of British legal theory and legal practice, and it passed into America from the first colonial settlements onward. The king himself is under the law; should he break it, his subjects would be absolved from their allegiance. And the law is not merely the creation of kings and parliaments, but rather the source of their authority. At heart, the law is the expression of natural justice and the ancient ways of a people.
There is a lot in there, but I couldn't bear to cut the quote down, it gives such a complete picture. Let's summarize this in bullets. The rule of law means:

  • law stands supreme
  • law is no respecter of persons
  • even the king is under the law
  • law is viewed as a Permanent Thing, meaning it transcends kings and parliaments--rather than being a creation of lawmakers, it is a thing which all authorities are required to give due respect
  • disrespecting or disregarding the law is a forfeiture of authority
Briefly, I would say that this explains the American War for Independence. Even though I have gladly reaped the benefits of that war, though I feel blessed to live in this country, I never understood how one could justify rebellion against a king, even a king who was breaking the law {and he was, denying the colonists their natural-born rights as Englishmen}. What I haven't understood until now is how connected this was to the English tradition of correcting and deposing kings who had broken the laws--the king was no longer seen as king if, when confronted with his disregard of the rule of law, he did not repent.

But that isn't what I want to focus on here, because something else--or a lot of something elses, as the case may be--jumped out at me here.

The something elses were the connections I made between what was--the Rule of Law--what ought to be--also the Rule of Law--and what now is or is coming to be.

The Rule of Law is, ultimately, equity at its finest, is it not? Here we have a law above which no man can be--regardless of how rich or powerful or important, regardless of his race or religion. Before the Law, all are equal, and all are equal under the Law. This is what we used to mean by equality, and when there were disturbances over inequality, what was being pointed out was that there was a group or an individual that was not equal under the law. The problem was not the Rule of Law, but that someone wasn't receiving the benefit of the Rule of Law.

The law was not ruling supreme--there was some place identified over which her sovereignty needed to be extended.

But now?

Now I notice the conversation changing, and people want a person or a special interest group or a pet idea to be above the law. This is the antithesis of the Rule of Law, to elevate something above the Law, to draw a line in the sand and say to the Law, "Thou shalt not pass."

Examples?

Well, let us take for instance the Supreme Court hearings currently going on over Obamacare. On both sides of the issue, I have heard a lot of "I like Obamacare" or "I hate Obamacare." What I don't hear from average man-on-the-street conversations is the desire to see the Law reign supreme. The conversation we have over Obamacare ought not be about health care at all.

It ought to be about the Law, and whether or not Obamacare is in violation of the Law.

I understand that health care is an issue in our country, but it does not logically follow that we should forfeit the thousand-plus-years of tradition of the Rule of Law, that we might "solve the problem." In other words, this issue is not above the Law. And pragmatism is apparently the enemy of the Law.

To give another example, I tweeted an article today about what some are calling the War on U.S. Homeschoolers. In the article, a case is discussed. A homeschooling family, anonymously accused of some sort of legal violation, refused to allow a social worker into their home without a warrant. You can read the article if you want all of the details, but essentially the conclusion that we must draw is that by refusing to hear this case, the Supreme Court has essentially communicated that the Rule of Law doesn't apply in confrontations with social workers {or, at least, the article implies this}. In other words, the concern of social workers has been elevated above the clear application of the Fourth Amendment, which acknowledges the rights of citizens to be free of unlawful search and seizure {I would group the practice of police checkpoints in with this as well}.

Do you know what I love about the Rule of Law, though? It keeps the emotions out of highly charged situations. It protects the weak from the strong and the poor from the rich and the humble from the person of great influence. It is the great equalizer. It could rightly be said that the Rule of Law is foundational to a just society.

I know Emotional People, who think they Know because of their emotions. They are the types to talk about health care or "the children" rather than the Law and its proper application. And I understand that these can be emotional issues. But the best way to sort out issues that get people's feelings all bunched up in a wad is to appeal to the neutral third party of the Law, for feelings often blind Justice rather than put spectacles on her.

Gentility and Scholarship
Kirk says:
Two types of humanity were the wonder of medieval Europe: the great saint and the great knight. In later ages, their descendants would be the scholar and the gentleman.
We could write this out as a ratio:
great knight : gentleman : : great saint : scholar
I found this totally fascinating, especially the correspondence between the great knight and the modern gentleman {not that there are many gentlemen these days, but the concept of the gentleman carried over into post-Renaissance times, whereas knighthood's flower is forever locked in the Middle Ages, and modern knights are about as heroic as your average rock band {and sometimes are your average rock band, but I digress}.

But first: the story of John of Brienne was one I had never heard before, and I found him truly remarkable. He was like Ivanhoe, but real. He seemed to possess the old Roman virtues and a Christian salvation all rolled into one.

This, then, was my favorite sentence in the entire chapter:
The age of chivalry was an age of wonders. Where did the actual begin and the imaginary end? No man knew.
That might seem like a weird favorite sentence in a strange favorite passage, but stick with me for a moment. Kirk says many times that John of Brienne was only possible because of the imagination of his age. He was the literal, physical embodiment of the ideals of knighthood and chivalry. Very few men could actually attain those heights, but the ideals dictated that he could be imagined, and because he could be imagined, he could come into being.


Have you ever thought about that? The only things that can be in our time are the things we can imagine. This is why the moral imagination is so important. If we cannot imagine a man of virtue, a man of honesty, a man of integrity, well then, we should all just throw in the towel now.

But even though all the highest qualities are rarely united in one man, as Kirk said in a previous chapter, the fact that we can imagine him is significant.

And every age does seem to have a handful of men and women who come close to the embodiment of the ideal.

Do we ever stop to think that it was the ideal and the knowledge of said ideal which makes this possible?

As chivalry faded and knighthood fell out of fashion, the remnant of that ideal became gentility. When we see the greatness of those who fought in the War for Independence and of those who framed our founding documents, it is not hard to see that they are the heirs apparent to knighthood and chivalry:
America was no aristocratic land, but such examples were not lost on the men of colonial times and later days. Captain John Smith, commanding what force the early Virginian settlement could muster, was a kind of latter-day paladin, full of tales--half fanciful, perhaps, half genuine--of his wars against the Turks. America would have no nobles, but it would have gentlemen. And they would dare much.
Kirk has taught us that Rome and Greece decayed both from without and within in a sort of symbiotic way. The decay of the inner man--of the morality, the religion--coincided with the fall from without--the inability to win a battle and defend the homeland. We talk about decay here at home, and we see something similar--a decay in faith, a decay in morality. When I think of one practical application, one thing that I can do, as a mother, right here in my own home, I think of something I must say a hundred times a week:
Be a gentleman. Be a lady.
Or sometimes it comes out as a correction:
That was bad form! That was not ladylike.
We can add to our list, then: cultivate gentility.



__________________________________
Read More:
-Buy the book and join in the conversation
-More book club posts linked at Cindy's blog


26 March 2012

Announcement: The 2012 Bakersfield Home Education Conference

Most of you probably remember last year, when our family helped launch a local home education conference. Well, I've been working away at this year's website, and I'm pleased to announce that we are now open for pre-registration! I know that some of you are local readers, so head on over to the conference website and check it out.

And, yes, I'll be speaking again this year. About what, you ask? Well, about memory work. We'll talk about a philosophy of memorization, its place in the educational program, and then the practical aspects of choosing memory pieces and actually memorizing them. I've been studying up and let me just say that it'll be fun.

And there will also be speakers waaaay better than me, of course, which makes it all the more worth attending, in my opinion.

So do come, if you can.

24 March 2012

2011-2012 Term 3 Circle Time Plans

Wow! The last term of the year! It's quite amazing, actually. I was going to add a new read-aloud or two to Circle Time this term, but I realized that most of what I purchased earlier in the year will take us through at least half of the term, so I decided to just let our time get gradually shorter, as if I planned to taper off all along! Since we have lots going on in May and June, it'll probably be best to have a shorter Circle Time at that point, anyhow.

I also think I'm skipping exams at the end of this term! I love exams, but June is so packed already, and there is a visit from Si's aunt and grandma, both of whom I haven't seen since A.-Age-Seven was about ten months old, to consider. Perhaps we'll just have a simple recital and call it a year.

I haven't totally decided, but that is the way I'm leaning.

Here are the plans...



Circle Time Weekly Schedule 2011-2012 Term 3


Resources:
Books
Poems
Folk Songs
Hymns
Artist Prints


Bierstadt (Landscape)

Bierstadt (Portrait)

23 March 2012

Highly, Highly Recommended Reading: Uncovering the Logic of English

If you have been reading here for any length of time, you probably know that I run another little blog called Teaching Reading with Bob Books. Before I began that blog, I talked about teaching reading fairly regularly. Afterwards, I relegated those sorts of posts to TRwBB, with Rare Exceptions. I didn't want this blog to be swamped with teaching reading posts.

Today, then, is a Rare Exception day.

I just finished listening to two fabulous, wonderful, amazing talks from Denise Eide on the logic of the English language, which are available for download free online which used to be available for free download, but aren't any longer. I was able to find, however, a YouTube video that, while shorter {and therefore less thorough} should still give you an idea.. If you teach reading or know budding readers--which is probably about every single one of you--you ought to carve out time to listen to these talks.

My interest in teaching reading began at a very young age. My parents told me, when I was twelve-years-old, that I needed to have a job in the summer. No more running around playing all of the time. Now, this wasn't a big deal--just four or five hours a week or so. They just wanted me to step it up a notch in the responsibility area, and I am thankful for that.

I opened a tutoring business, and I never looked back. Some kids babysit or walk dogs, but I was all about the reading. {At least until I got my driver's license. He he.}

The reason I love to teach reading is that English makes perfect sense.

I don't remember being taught phonics as I began reading at a very young age. Perhaps I was, perhaps I wasn't. But I have always thought in patterns. This is how my mind works, by noticing patterns and then noticing things that don't conform to the pattern. In English, though, it is not that a word does not conform, but that it fits in a different pattern. I love teaching reading because I love showing children who do not naturally see patterns that all of this seeming chaos actually makes sense.

According to Eide, somewhere between 95% and 98% of English words fit a pattern.

They have a rule.

I felt like Eide was a kindred spirit. She is my new best friend; I just haven't told her yet.

The difference between myself and Eide, however, is that she is way more informed than I am {or would ever care to be} and that she explains it all much better than I ever could.

Jesus said this:
A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.
In her talk, Eide gave some frightening statistics on adult literacy in this country. How can we pass on a gift we have not received?

After listening to Eide speak, I can tell you that she gets it. She sees the patterns, and she knows how to teach them. But a pupil will be like his teacher, which means that first we who teach must know and understand these patterns. We must know that English makes sense, that it is not a crazy language full of exceptions.

Probably the most fascinating thing I heard Eide say was to explain functional MRIs that have been performed on children while they are reading. Good readers use different parts of the brain than struggling readers and non-readers. But here is the cool thing: after only 80 hours of teaching a la Eide, the struggling readers' brains looked like the brains of good readers! In fact, they were no long struggling readers. Some, she says, are now defining dyslexia as a student whose brain activity does not improve after the 80 hours of instruction.

So I am highly, highly recommending her book, even though I haven't yet read it {I want a copy so badly!} because I am convinced, after hearing her speak, that she is helping to bring literacy back to our country. So go. Watch her YouTube video.. And buy her book. Become the teacher your children need you to be.

22 March 2012

Quotables: The Roots of American Order

The Roots of American Order
by Russell Kirk
The latter half of the first century before Christ was stirred by many rumors of the approach of a Savior, a Redeemer, a divine being who would bring a new order to mankind. {p. 137}
Augustine had seen how professed Christians often preferred some fantastic sect or partial truth to the Gospels...{p. 163}
The function of the state is this: to keep the peace. {p. 163-164}
Although all states are corrupt in some degree, is does not follow that every political structure is as bad as every other. It does not follow that because laws are badly executed, or perhaps badly framed, mere lawlessness would be preferable. {p. 165}
[Saint Augustine of Hippo] endeavored to make the Church as near an approximation of the City of God as may be realized in  this world... {p. 172}
The American order of the soul would be Christian: the responsible freedom of Americans, as Tocqueville would perceive in the nineteenth century, would develop from Christian "mores"--from those habits of thought and action by which men regulate their conduct. And the political order of America, though pluralistic and in part secularized, also would owe much to Christian teaching. {p. 173}
[T]he Hebrew and Greek and Roman civilizations all had arisen from the soil of religion; and when the power of the cult had declined, those cultures had begun to decay. {p. 173}
American politics is not a matter of national party conventions or of presidential elections merely: rather, those conventions and elections and all the other contrivances of American practical politics are means of implementing a body of beliefs about the human condition. {p. 174}

21 March 2012

Book Club: The Roots of American Order
Chapter 5

Chapter Five is called The Genius of Christianity, and it details, first, the life of Christ and then the life of His Church during the decay and fall of Rome. If any of you are not very familiar with the life of Christ, this chapter offers a fine synopsis.

I was particularly interested in the portion of the chapter that covered Saint Augustine of Hippo. It made me want to dust of my copies of Confessions and The City of God and give them another go. It is possible I am finally mature enough to read them.

After the sack of Rome, many wanted to blame the "new religion" {Christianity} for the demise of the eternal city. Augustine, however, replies that there is nothing new under the sun:
for from Adam's fall, before cities existed, man has been corrupt. Every age, suffering from violence and fraud, complains of its tribulations; but if we read history, we perceive that the humane adventure is a chronicle of disasters. In every age, society has been relived only by the endeavors of a few people moved by the grace of God, and has been made tolerable and constrained to relative peace from time to time only by the compulsions of the state--though the state itself shares in the general corruption.

Rome had fallen...for want of order in the soul.
I live a small life. In a world where people try and tell you that "you can change the world" and "you can make a difference," where everyone wants to be a star--well, frankly, it can start to seem like you aren't doing enough, or doing it right.

But lately I've noticed that it is the small things that matter, and the ordering of the soul, and of my family, is actually the place where it all starts. This is my guess on why Scripture emphasizes the personal and family lives in the qualifications for elders of the church. It isn't because elders need to present some sort of perfect front for the world to look at so much as order is, first of all, personal. Disorder within never produces true order without out, while order within often allows for survival in the midst of external chaos, keeping a person from being swept away by the winds of faddism and novelty.

We fall apart from the inside out, do we not?

Yet there is hope.
The soul may be restored to order through divine grace.
Augustine's solution, during a very chaotic time in history, and while living a life personally fraught with danger and disaster, was quite simple and timeless:
Order your soul; reduce your wants; live in charity; associate in Christian community; obey the laws; trust in Providence--so will we find order...and so will we come to know that service of God which is perfect freedom.
Will this matter? When the world seems to crumble around us, will it even matter that there was "order in our souls?"

The answer, surprisingly, is yes.

The reason I'm surprised is because I expected the answer to be yes because of an eternal consequence. In other words, yes, because God still cares, because God will reward it in heaven, because God sees and values it. We live for Him, after all.

I didn't expect to be able to say that yes, it matters right now.

But order preserves.

This week, I read R.C. Sproul Jr.'s insightful answer to the question of why God destroyed Sodom. He explains that there are two views {and I'm sure you can guess which is the traditional view}, that the people there engaged in perversion, or that the people there failed to engage in hospitality. I can't say it better than he did, so I'll simply quote him here:
I’m afraid they both seriously miss the point....A more careful look at the story tells us why Sodom was destroyed. It was destroyed not because of the evil of the unbelievers. It was destroyed because of a lack of a remnant...

Remember Abraham’s careful conversation with God, his virtual negotiation for the city of Sodom. Would God spare the city if there were fifty righteous there? Forty-five? Forty? Finally God agrees that He will spare the city for ten. But Abraham could not find even ten. Don’t miss though what might have been. This dark and evil city would have been spared had there been but ten righteous people. Despite the perversion, despite the scope of the evil, the city would have been spared for just ten righteous.
I'm not advocating the idea that God deals with every corrupt civilization the same as the way in which He dealt with Sodom and Gomorrah, but I do find it interesting that ten ordered souls were all that stood between the cities of the Plain and their destruction.

And they didn't have it.

The order or disorder in individual souls decided the fate of nations that day.

It's possible it could matter again in the future.

Or now.

When we order our souls, and when we help our children and our loved ones order their souls {and we accept their help in ordering our own} we contribute to the world here and now, to our churches here and now, to our cities here and now.

If you recall my list from before, here are the things that we can do:
  1. Deepen society's religious understanding 
  2. Find a ruler who leads by his good example and not just his words 
  3. Teach and engage those who will listen 
  4. **NEW** Reform and order our own souls. {see here for quotes that also affirm this; Plato and Augustine agreed on this}
__________________________________
Read More:
-Buy the book and join in the conversation
-More book club posts linked at Cindy's blog

20 March 2012

Learning Not to Fear a Time of Rest

I have written about this before {like here and here}. To summarize, once upon a time, my son was having a terrible time with math. Worse, he claimed he hated math. {So much for training the affections.} It was such a struggle. He had hit a brick wall. What do we do in times like these? Do we keep pushing and pushing and expecting different results? I suppose that is one option, but is it the best?

And then I dropped formal mathematics.

Gasp.

Okay, collect yourselves, people!

I dropped it, and I replaced it with logic-building worksheets from Critical Thinking Press that were supposed to improve math ability. We did this for about nine months. It was the best thing I ever did for my son's relationship with math, and he has done quite well in math ever since.

But that was then, and this is now, as they say.

Right before Christmas time, I began to get that feeling with my daughter. You know the one. It's the one where math is starting to seem suspiciously like a Problem.

I tried the pushing approach after the first of the year. After all, she'd gotten three weeks off for Christmas, right? So we did worksheets, and she completed them, but what I was noticing seemed suspiciously like a lack of real comprehension.

At first, I thought maybe it was a bad day, but then it began to seem like bad weeks. All of this came as a bit of a shock to me, for this child had shown an early aptitude in math, at least compared to her older brother.

As we did math poolside while the preschoolers were swimming, I remembered the copy of Ray's Arithmetic I had purchased after Andrew Kern waxed eloquent about it in a CiRCE talk or two.

Why not? I though to myself.

We were going so slow that I wasn't sure it really mattered what we did at that point.

So I switched. The little sister joined in, and soon we were counting balls and learning number names up to 100. My older daughter knew the names, but what I learned was that she actually couldn't read most of the numbers.

Good old Ray, starting at the beginning. Who would have thought? I simply assumed the ability to count was the ability to read; it hadn't crossed my mind to check.

So we worked and worked and worked on learning to read those numbers up to 100. Frankly, I got sick of it, it took so long. Why must the teens be so very difficult for children? Why do eleven and twelve get special names?

Why do five-year-olds ask so many questions?

I think A.-Age-Seven and I were both on board with that last one.

Ahem.

We spent about a month doing this. I felt sort of like a slacker, but what else could I do? Pretend to do math, and "get things done," while knowing full well that she wasn't really learning or connecting with it?

Yesterday, I got a math sheet back out, just to see how she did.

I circled one line of about six or seven basic addition problems. What does this say? I asked, pointing at the first one. She read it aloud correctly {it was 8+1=___}. So what should you do? I asked, taking the lid off of her little plastic tub of pinto beans, which is the poor man's version of a math manipulative. Instead of acknowledging me, she calmly wrote 9 in the answer blank.

"This is too easy for me!" she said to me. Was that a defiant twinkle in her eye?

"Oh, I'm sorry! I didn't realize. Please do this entire row on your own."

She laughed. And then she proceeded to get every problem correct. And she smiled while doing math! She only used beans when she needed them, and even those she managed without any assistance from me.

She was so successful that I circled another row and told her to do those, too. She missed one, and when I pointed out that three and four were not nine, she calmly grabbed her beans, counted them, and corrected her mistake.

"How did you figure all this out?" I asked her.

"It's because I'm so clever," she said, flashing me an impish grin.

It's such a small triumph, and yet I relished it. We have had days where this child would be voted Most Likely to be Confused, and yet she called herself clever with a self-satisfied smile.

Today, we did a whole bunch more, with the same success, and for the first time in a long time, I'm excited about it.

Once again, I have learned that taking a break--getting a change of scenery--can be so vital for a child. It seems counterintuitive to say, "Behind in math? Take a month off!" And yet, I've done this twice now.

We are so afraid of Sabbath.

We think that if we stop for even a short time, all the balls will drop, and we'll be nothing but failures. But is this true? Maybe we're just afraid to admit when there is a problem. Maybe, if we keep working away, we won't have to acknowledge that things aren't working quite right.

Maybe rest really is as restorative as it sounds.

The worst thing in the world is not being behind a month or two or ten in math. To some extent, I even question the premise. Is a child behind in math? I mean, a child, if someone is lovingly educating him, is always exactly where he is. He isn't behind or ahead, he is where he is, and it's our job to come alongside him and help him to grow and keep growing. Comparing a child to peers and declaring him to be "behind" or "ahead" doesn't change anything about what our job is, and what we have to do next.

I'm not saying we should ignore warning signs when it comes to learning disabilities, but I do think we could all stand to relax a little.

Or, at least, I could sometimes.

Anyhow, I've left off worrying for the time being, as my funny little girl is apparently quite "clever" in math.

19 March 2012

Miscellaneous Musings on Monday

Welcome to a beautiful Monday, the first day of exams...for my oldest student. I am giving A.-Age-Seven a shorter week celebration of completing a term, but I'm still doling out reading lessons left and right, to whoever will take them. I want a break so badly, but I am still stubbornly holding out for Easter week. It's tradition!

In other {real} news...

  • Obama's History Lesson by Mark Steyn. Sigh.
    Christopher Columbus? Once upon a time, your average well-informed high-schooler, never mind the smartest president in history, understood that Columbus was laughed at not because everyone believed the world was round: Educated Europeans of his day accepted that the earth was spherical and had done since Aristotle’s time. They laughed because they thought he was taking the long way round to the East Indies. Which he was.
  • Kids Sleep Better with Outdoor Time from the National Wildlife Federation. Let's file this one under "not surprising."
    Natural light from the sun regulates the body’s internal “sleep clock”, which makes children more alert during the day, and tired at night.
  • Twix Brownies from Jasey's Crazy Daisy. Tempting. Very tempting.
    You ask if there was anything wrong with Twix candy bars before they met the brownie. Not really, and yet somehow taking the creamy caramel filling, crunchy cookie base, and delicious chocolate topping and combining them with a rich moist brownie layer some how transforms both desserts into one super decadent treat.
  • The recommended daily allowance from Mental Multivitamin. Modern science meets Charlotte Mason?
    A young woman walks into a laboratory. Over the past two years, she has transformed almost every aspect of her life. She has quit smoking, run a marathon, and been promoted at work. The patterns inside her brain, neurologists discover, have fundamentally changed.
  • A Whale of a Distinction by Martin Cothran. Learning to draw appropriate distinctions...
    The classical conception of man considers him to be different, not just in degree, but in kind, from the beast. To the Greeks, man was a “rational animal.” This was not a judgment about his biological nature or origin: it was a metaphysical statement about what he essentially is. The Christian view of man—which, as in so many other things, was larger and more comprehensive than the worldviews that preceded it—incorporated the Greek view into its own idea that man was animal with a rational soul, an endowment he enjoyed by virtue of bearing the image of God.
  • The Fight for Foie Gras in California from Cheeseslave. I notice more and more that the people who try and make laws about how other people raise animals rarely have any actual experience raising animals.
    My mother visited a foie gras farm on a recent trip to France. When she asked if the gavage hurt the geese, the farmer said, “Are you kidding me? They line up for it.”
  • Trusted and True by Lanier Ivester. A beautiful tribute to friendship. I thought of the wonderful friends in my own life when I read this.
    But the reality is—I acknowledged it with a stab of grateful joy—that it’s the shadows themselves that have made such a fellowship possible. These women have walked with me through some of the darkest passes of my life. They have told me the truth when my soul was parched for it—they have not only spoken God’s love to me, they have lived it in the flesh.
  • Confessions from a recovering pride addict by Amy Scott. She always gets us laughing {and crying} at ourselves, doesn't she?
    I had the opportunity to say something cruel, something sideways and sarcastic. Instead, I asked this question: How will you wished you behaved in the morning? And then I did that. I chose not to be my authentic self, because at the moment, my authentic self sucked.
  • Things that undermine the complementarian position from Practical Theology for Women.
    Problem number 1 is calling this debate a gospel issue. Now it’s true that the interplay between husbands and wives in the home is a TESTIMONY of the gospel as it reflects the nature of Christ’s profound love for the church. But being a testimony of the gospel is not the same as being the gospel. I said in another post that the gospel informs everything, but it is not everything. And we start entering dangerous territory quickly when we are not precise in how we talk about the link between the gospel and the complementarian position. The gospel plus anything is not the gospel at all.
  • Robbing kindergartners of play in the name of reform from The Washington Post.
    Now the superintendent of the Hartford School District, Christina Kishimoto, wants kindergarteners at the district’s lowest performing schools (as measured by standardized test scores) to stay in class for 11 months a year instead of the regular nine, and stay hard at work. That leaves less time than ever for the thing they should be doing the most — playing.

18 March 2012

Exam Questions for Year Four, Term Two

Thus ends my least favorite term. Term two, that is. I always dislike the second term of the year, at least in comparison with the other terms. Why? Well, I suppose it is that we are most likely to get sick, and scratchy voices make it hard to practice our memory work or our beloved songs. It always feels a bit cluttered, but in a weird way {like preschool swimming lessons or unexpected doctor visits}. And there is never a break after the term. We go straight into the next term, and wait for Easter break. I want an Easter break, so I plan it this way, but oh I wish I had an extra week and might add in a break here as well!

As you may know, we have our own way of doing exams {and I don't give exams to children under about age eight or so}. I give written exams during the day, and then we have an exam night one evening, which also include a recital {all of the children like to participate, though some of them know the selections better than others!}.

And of course we serve dinner and dessert.

The grandparents come over, and we generally have a nice time.

Here, then, are the written exam questions, which I spread out over four days:
  1. Why did God take the kingdom from Saul and anoint David instead? {Bible}
  2. Why was it okay for David and his men to eat the showbread in the tabernacle, even though it was against God’s law? How is Jesus’ disciples picking grain to eat on the Sabbath like David and his men eating the hallowed showbread? What else did Jesus do on the Sabbath? {Bible}
  3. Write a newspaper article telling about (a) the Boston Tea Party OR (b) the Boston Massacre. {composition, American/colonial history}
  4. You are John Adams. Write a letter to Abigail updating her on the news. {composition, American/colonial history}
  5. Tell a story in prose, or verse, about David Balfour. {composition, literature}
  6. Tell a story in prose, or verse, about (a) Baucis and Philemon, (b) Proserpine, (c) Glaucus and Scylla, (d) Pygmalion, (e) Dryope, (f) Venus and Adonnis, OR (g) Apollo and Hyacinthus. {composition, mythology}
  7. How are mountains formed? What is a volcano? Give a diagram. {natural history/general science}
  8. Describe, with drawings, the four types of clouds: (a) cirrus, (b) cumulus, (c) stratus, and (d) nimbus. {natural history/general science}
  9. Why do mountains in the distance appear to be blue? {natural history/general science}
  10. Draw a map of the coast of California, putting in cities and landmarks. {geography, CA studies}
  11. Tell about the flow of the Mississippi River from Minneapolis to the Missouri River. Use drawings if desired. {geography}
  12. Describe John Singer Sargent’s "Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose" OR "Oyster Gatherers of Cancale" {picture study}
  13. Make a sentence where “you” is understood. {grammar}
  14. Make a sentence containing a subject, verb, and prepositional phrase. {grammar}
  15. Diagram this sentence: Jack left them here for my dinner. {grammar}
  16. Translate into English: {from Latin}
    In principio est Deus. Terra non est. Non est caelum. Deus creat caelum et terram. Terra est vacua. Terra est obscura. Lux non est in terra. Vacua et obscura est in terra. Estne lux in terra? Non est. Suntne populi in terra? Non est. Suntne herbae in terra? Non sunt. Suntne bestiae in terra? Non sunt. Ubi sunt herbae et bestiae et populi? Non sunt in terra. Terra est vacua. Terra est nova et obscura et vacua. Deinde, Deus dicit: Fiat lux. Deinde, lux est in terra. Lux est bona.
I don't include math in the test, but we do continue with math throughout the week, doing about two pages per day.

Evening Recital

  1. Parable: The Treasure Hidden in a Field {Matt. 13:44}
  2. Psalm: Psalm 8
  3. Poem: My Shadow by Robert Louis Stevenson {younger three children}
  4. Poem: Crossing the Bar by Alfred Lord Tennyson {E.-Age-Nine alone}
  5. Hymn: Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise
  6. Folk: Now is the Hour
  7. Children's Catechism: up to question 33
Evening Oral Examination
  1. Describe Satan’s temptation of Christ. {Bible}
  2. Why did Brutus help kill Julius Caesar? How could he believe that this was not a crime against Rome? {citizenship/Plutarch}
  3. What part did George Washington play in the French and Indian War? {American/colonial history}
  4. Tell the story of Pontiac’s rebellion. {American/colonial history}
  5. How did Ch’ien Lung, emperor of China, defend China from the influence of the European “barbarians?” {world history}
  6. How did Alexander Hamilton end up in the American Colonies? {American/colonial history}
  7. Explain what a bubble is using the example of the Mississippi Bubble. {economics, American/colonial history}
  8. John Wesley was a missionary to America when he was not yet saved. Describe Wesley’s true conversion. {church history}
  9. How did Pierre Caron become a nobleman, even though he was born a bourgeois? {world history}
  10. Tell about the miracles of Christ. {Bible}
  11. It was said that Brutus was much more virtuous than Cassius. Give some examples of why this was so. {citizenship/Plutarch}
  12. Why is Honda Head called The Devil’s Jaws? What happened there? {geography, CA studies}
  13. Why does a nettle sting? {natural history/general science}

15 March 2012

Reading the KJV to Young Children...and to Myself

I have chosen, for many years now, to read the King James Version of Scripture to my children during our daily morning Circle Time. This is not to say that the KJV is the Only True Version. I attend a church that utilizes the ESV, although, being a Biola graduate, I'm fairly well obligated to use the NASB. For our Romans class, our oldest son reads the week's passage every day, each day in a different translation.

All of that is to say that I fully embrace the usefulness of the various available translations. I don't want to be seen, in what I am about to say, as one of those Good-Christians-Only-Use-the-KJV people.

Okay?

Okay.

After many years of studying Scripture using various translations, I have personally come home to the KJV, and I've found it to be very enriching.

Today, I thought I'd share a few of the reasons why.

Archaic Language Enhances

I have had people tell me--in loving concern, of course--that in exposing my children to archaic language during Bible reading, I am jeopardizing their understanding. The implication is that all of the language needs to be immediately accessible to them. We'll come back to this idea later, but for now let me just say that I don't believe this is true.

When I was in seminary, one of my favorite professors did his daily Bible reading using the Greek text. He always came to class with these amazing insights. The Greek, though, was sometimes a struggle for him to understand, even though he taught Greek. It would never be as natural to him as reading in English, which was his first language. But reading in a more difficult language gave him more insight, not less. The amount of thinking he had to do naturally increased the amount of time he spent meditating on passages.

Likewise, I have been reading through my Bible this year using the KJV. This is the first time I have done this. I cannot rush through it the same way I am tempted to do in the modern translations. The unfamiliarity of the language assaults me at every turn--I cannot escape, I cannot read mindlessly. {I know some of you are perfectly capable of reading a modern translation with your full mind; I am the weaker brother here.} Truly, I have felt pursued by the Hound of Heaven when I read it.

Thees and Thous Clear the Way

If I were to start a movement, it'd be to bring thee and thou back into usage. Growing up, I always thought that these terms were fancy ways of saying you. I thought that perhaps people who retained the usage {which is very uncommon, I know} were putting on airs.

What I didn't know was that thee and thou have clear grammatical usefulness. Did you know that you is plural while thee and thou are singular? Once you know this, it is so helpful in trying to understand difficult passages! It gets more complicated than this, of course, but in a fabulous way.

Thee is typically a direct object, or the object in a preposition. In fact, it is the objective case {in Latin we'd call it the accusative case} of thou, so when we see thee in a passage, there is a certain clarity that we do not see in modern English {which we know is there in the Greek and Latin texts, which are wonderfully precise}. Likewise, thou is singular and in the nominative case, meaning that thou is always the subject {grammatically speaking} of the sentence.

It wasn't until we really got into studying Latin that I appreciated how clear this makes the language, and also how true it enables a translator to be to the original language. By discarding thees and thous, we have simplified the language, yes, but in the same sense that muddied waters are a simplified form of mud and water separately. There is less distinction made, not more. The result is that misunderstanding is more likely, not less.

Metaphor is the Bridge to Understanding

I already linked once before to Cindy's brilliant little piece on metaphor's ability to enhance understanding. What I am saying here is tied to that idea.

In I Peter 1:3, Christians are told to "gird up the loins of your minds." If you know Greek, then you know that this is exactly what the Greek says. It's a metaphor, a poetic device. The KJV translates it precisely. The ESV, NIV, and NASB, however, all say to "prepare your minds for action." This, my friends, is not a translation.

It is an interpretation.

The translators have made an executive decision to eliminate metaphor and attempt what Martin Cothran calls the "direct route of bald prose":
To say that the best approach to truth is the direct route of bald prose not only goes against the approach of the original Biblical writers, who employed vivid imagery in their writings, but is also an example of what Richard Weaver, in Ideas Have Consequences, once called the "quest for immediacy"—the idea that truth must be approached like a conquering mental army, besieged and taken captive. But truth is mystery, and tearing the veil off of it reveals little. It can only be approached indirectly.
Metaphor is what keeps the heart soft. It communicates layers of meaning, rather than a singularity. It is more than the sum of its parts.

Frankly, it is more natural to ponder the metaphor of girding up the loins of one's mind than it is to ponder preparing one's mind for action. Preparing for action is only one aspect of girding up the loins, which implies virtues such as courage and strength and manliness. There is so much more to think about when immersed in the original imagery.

A Gift to My Children

What has been interesting to me is that my children do not seem to find the language archaic. A.-Age-Seven can often narrate a story from the Old Testament in the KJV language better than she can a story from James Baldwin or Aesop. I can only attribute this to the fact that I have read it to her since she was two or three, and to her it is her native language.

I am only giving my children what I myself have found beneficial. We could talk about manuscript validity {I don't think the Textus Receptus, from which the KJV is  translated, has the problems some people think it does, but that is just my opinion.} We could talk about money, which is the real fuel behind the modern versions and updates. We could talk about the ethical issues involved in something like copyrighting the Word of God. We could talk about the KJV enhancing the intellect in a way the NIV never could.

But these are just background noise, in my opinion. They are real issues, yes, but I don't think they are reasons to use or not use a translation. We must think more broadly than that.

I'm not saying there is never a reason to use the modern translations. I myself have used them for years, and I still use them regularly. My husband uses them when he reads to the children. And obviously he and I both use retellings written for children. What I am saying is that there is more to the KJV than meets the eye, that it has its own peculiar benefits, and it ought to be considered seriously for family reading.

14 March 2012

Quotables: The Roots of American Order


The Roots of American Order
by Russell Kirk
All the way from the Roman Republic to the American Republic, a continuity runs. {p. 98}
Certainly the Roman understanding of the rule of law still lives in the modern world, restraining destructive impulses. This Roman concept of law and obligation, as variously expressed by Polybius and Livy and Virgil and Cicero and the Stoics, passed into American political thought and jurisprudence, and is permanently embedded in the American Constitution. {p. 98}
A sense of duty and an attachment to honesty and honor worked upon their leading men. {p. 99}
Polybius' historical analysis of Roman character and the Roman constitution, about the middle of the second century before Christ, was earnestly studied by the leaders of America's Constitutional Convention two thousand years later. {p. 100}
This system incorporated both the checks and balances upon political power, and provided for separation of political functions...It was the "mixed government" praised by Aristotle, but which Aristotle had thought almost impossible to maintain on a grand scale. {p. 101}
At its height, this republican constitution had the high advantage of uniting all the citizens for strenuous public efforts. It was peculiarly suited for enabling men of strong practical talents to rise to authority...The best of the senators were heroic; even the worst of them were able enough in more than one walk of life. {p. 101}
Two thousand years later,...the framers of the American constitution would emulate the Roman model as best they could. The Roman institutions of checks and balances in politics, and of separation of powers, would be imitated in the frame of government for the United States. {p. 101}
When this is done [government becomes a democracy], the government will assume indeed the fairest of all names, that of a free and popular state; but will in truth be the greatest of all evils, the government of the multitude. {p. 102}
[T]he family was believed to be a spiritual continuity of the dead and the living and those yet unborn, united by blood. {p. 103}
A pious man, in the Roman understanding, was one who fulfilled his duties, religious and social--one who subordinated his own desires to the claims of others...[snip]...A pious man...submitted himself to things sacred, and believed unflinchingly that it was better to perish than to fail in his sacred duties. {p. 103}
[T]here cannot be a good commonwealth unless most citizens are virtuous, and the citizens find it difficult to hold by the old morality in a time of political disorder and corruption. [T]hat fall from virtue accelerated the political disintegration of the commonwealth. {p. 104}
Directly or indirectly, the mind and life of Cicero are bound up with the American understanding of order more than are the thought and action of any other man of classical times. {p. 105}
[T]he study of Cicero lay at the heart of the curriculum, both in Britain and in America, all during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. {p. 106}
[N]atural law may be defined as a loosely-knit body of rules of action prescribed by an authority superior to the political state...[snip]...Also natural law sometimes is confused with assertions of "natural rights," which may or may not be founded upon Greek and Roman concepts of natural law. {p. 109}
Natural law is not a written code, but rather a means for doing justice by referring to the general norms for mankind. {p. 110}
Recourse to the law of nature kept Roman law from becoming archaic as Roman society changed. {p. 110}
[P]roperly understood, the law of nature is the moral imagination, and that natural law enables us, through reason, to apply customary and statutory law humanely. {p. 112}
If a dictator, like Caesar...has flouted or overthrown the constitution of a state, then their decrees do not have the moral force of true law. {p. 112}
In the old Roman definition, a proletarian is a man who gives nothing to the state but his children. Rootless, impoverished, unemployed, fierce but cowardly, what had been the People had decayed into what was only a heavy burden upon the imperial city. {p. 114}
Indeed there is magic in Virgil's lines, but the magic that operates upon conscience rather than upon material objects. {p. 116}
And his aim is not happiness, but virtue. {p. 118}
Sickly from birth, Epictetus is said to have been tortured by his master, and so have learned from helpless suffering that happiness is the product of the will, not of external forces. {p. 118}
Social regeneration does occur now and again in distressed societies... {p. 119}
"Power tends to corrupt," Lord Acton writes, "and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Yet is was not so with Marcus Aurelius. {p. 121}
[Marcus Aurelius] never ceased to restrain himself. {p. 121}
In the long run, the Christian faith which Saint Peter and Saint Paul had brought to Rome would renew the moral order, even though it could not save the state. But Christianity was a revealed religion, the worship of a crucified God, and it would touch the heart. {p. 125}
Grinding taxation impoverished every class. {p. 126}
Human nature being a constant, the same virtues and the same vices appear in every era, though political forms fade away. {p. 128}
[T]he very diversity of these exotic cults destroyed religious and ethical consensus among the Roman population. {p. 132}
[A] people who have lost both their religious convictions and their freedom cannot feel [pietas]. {p. 133}
The Roman experience was mentioned repeatedly in the constitutional debates at Philadelphia. {p. 134}
The Roman law though influenced by philosophy was close to reality. {p. 135}
What was the Roman tension is today's American tension. {p. 136}

13 March 2012

Book Club: The Roots of American Order
Chapter 4

I am falling deeper in love with this book by the day. Because there is so much to the chapters, I'm making myself read a section a day {or so}, and I really think I'm getting more out of it this way than when I do what I usually do, which is to say, read the whole chapter in one sitting, and blog about it the next day. I am a big fan of the Romans {is that a really dumb thing to say?}, so this chapter struck my fancy.

What was interesting is that some of what I learned I didn't expect to learn. I expected, for instance, to learn that the early Americans were fairly well steeped in their Roman history, and that they saw parallels between themselves and the rise of the Roman republic {and Kirk does mention this}. I suppose I didn't expect to read about the fall of Rome much at all, only because I assumed the parallels were elsewhere.

A good argument could be made that the parallels are now, but I'm sure someone, somewhere has already written a book about that.

Ahem.

What Was Lost
Kirk tells us that T.S. Eliot pointed out three key words in regard to Rome {as presented in Virgil's poetry}: labor, pietas, and fatum. Quickly, I'll share Kirk's definitions:

  • Labor: the dignity of labor
    He knew that we must find our happiness in work, or not at all.
  • Pietas: not mere churchgoing or correctness toward parents
    He meant a humility before the gods, a love of one's country, and a sense of duties that are not adequately expressed by any English word.
  • Fatum: Roman imperial destiny
    Rome's duty, imposed by unknowable powers, to bring peace to the world, to maintain the cause of order and justice and freedom, to withstand barbarism. 
The interesting thing to me was that Kirk was able to trace Rome's decline in all three areas.

I think that the decline in fatum makes the most sense in light of the other two ideas he gives us. If there is a decline in the first two, if the populace has become lazy {or is unable to work for other reasons, such as sickness or lack of jobs}, and if there is no real piety {meaning every man for himself, essentially}, how could Rome possibly maintain some sort of goal for worldwide peacemaking, or even simple self-defense against the barbarians? Big visions are hard to maintain when there is chaos on the lower levels of life.

Which, I might add, is why we tend to lose steam when, for instance, the laundry has piled up, we're under with a cold, and we just ran out of food. How can we possibly maintain a vision of cultivating or enculturating souls when it is all we can do to run around frantically putting out fires.

The answer is: we can't.

That right there is my best argument for some basic organization in the home, something my home has lacked this past week while I have been sick.

On Bread and Circuses
The decline of labor {and the general economy} really stuck out to me. By the time Diocletian came around, Kirk tells us, Rome had
a degraded population which was kept alive by doles and kept quiet by shows in the Colosseum and the Circus Maximus and the other circuses and theaters.
Later, he explains:
Most of the free urban population of Rome itself became an unemployed and turbulent proletariat.
I found this an interesting parallel to our time, where small family farms have generally been replaced by large corporations farming thousands and thousands of acres {and even many of the remaining family farms often feel "owned" by larger corporations or the government}:
[T]he disappearance of a free agricultural population...and the growth of tremendous estates tilled by slaves or serfs both transformed the social basis of Roman institutions and resulted in a decline of productivity.
Early America, likewise, was very much a "free agricultural population." I remember reading that for every one family in the city, there were 20 in the country, working their farms and selling their surplus. The more I read, the more I think that this is the superior alternative to cities full of aimless unemployed. As we push family farms out of existence, we actually push out a means of reasonable subsistence for modest families.
The decline of agriculture, and of the citizen-farmer's affection for the land, had commenced early, but had been accelerated by the violence and oppression of the third and fourth centuries. Commerce and crafts decayed, too, and shortly after the death of Diocletian, artistic and engineering talents dwindled swiftly. A servile people labor only under hard necessity or compulsion. Labor, once deconsecrated, became a tedium.
The decline of labor was signified by a decline in agriculture and affection for the land {and I might add that "affection for the land" is not the same thing as modern environmentalism--affection for the land is embodied in a family's affection for their own land--affection is personal, not general, and it is based upon real knowledge, not emotional idealism}, commerce, crafts, artistry, and engineering.

This is decline in culture, for culture is expressed in the artifacts it produces. Here we have it beginning with lack of production of food and meat and drink and ending with lack of production of...well, of much of anything of value.

Repeatedly Kirk references this seeming mob of unemployed. They seem to be uneducated and constantly bored. In order to pacify them, the government officials pass out free bread and offer free entertainment. They are unproductive in the sense that they produce nothing of value--they only take. They can be forced to work, of course, but only by force.

The truth is that they were lacking something inside of themselves, and Kirk basically says this about the entire populace when it comes to the decline in pietas. They were empty. No one really believed in anything anymore.

It would be really easy to use all of this to attack the Occupy folks, or welfare recipients, or what have you. But I'd rather focus on thinking about my own children. How do I give them the gift of meaning? How do they not become this kind of person who, with nothing of value on the inside, lives solely for the distraction of entertainment? If we see these things in our children, or in our communities, {or in ourselves!} what shall we do? How do we inspire? How do we cultivate?

These are the questions interesting me, and I'll be thinking about them throughout this week, I think.

__________________________________
Read More:
-Buy the book and join in the conversation
-More book club posts linked at Cindy's blog

12 March 2012

Miscellaneous Musings on Monday {Daylight Savings Edition}

Good morning and welcome to another Monday full of........zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz..............Oh. Sorry. Ahem. Whoever decided to tinker with the clocks like this really hates parents. {Emphasis on hates.} It really is hard to get up while it is still dark, Proverbs 31 or no.

You know?

Here is today's {random} collection of links:

  • Contentment by Rebekah Merkle.
    When you’re a young mom, older women tell you all the time that you should make sure to enjoy it . . . because these years go by so quickly. Instead of rolling your eyes and thinking, “let’s pray they do,” try and actually stop and listen to that advice.
  • Heart Surgeon Speaks Out on What Really Causes Heart Disease by Dr. Dwight Lundell
    I trained for many years with other prominent physicians labelled "opinion makers." Bombarded with scientific literature, continually attending education seminars, we opinion makers insisted heart disease resulted from the simple fact of elevated blood cholesterol.
  • Paleodiet and Polio Virus by Don Matesz
    In 1941, Dr. Benjamin P. Sandler, M.D., published “The production of neuronal injury and necrosis with the virus of poliomyelitis in rabbits during insulin hypoglycemia,” a largely ignored report of his experiments which demonstrated that the poliovirus can only attack neurons suffering from insulin-induced hypoglycemia.
  • The New Scar on my Soul from American Thinker
    My soul carries a new scar. The pain is fresh and keen, and I know that while time might see the pain fade, I will never fully recover from what I've seen, and done. For I have failed, intentionally and knowingly, in the first duty of a parent: protecting the lives of two of my children.
  • What if Catholic bishops aren't bluffing? by Ed Morrisey
    Earlier this week, Francis Cardinal George of the archdiocese of Chicago sent a message to parishioners in Barack Obama’s home town that imposition of the HHS mandate to fund and facilitate contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization would force the Catholic Church to close its hospitals, clinics, schools, and all other organizations that would otherwise have to comply.
  • A rush of life by Mindy Belz
    In six years teaching at Classical School of the Medes (CSM) in Sulaymaniyah, a city of 1 million in northern Iraq, Jeremiah Small brought to his classroom lessons steeped in Shakespeare, John Bunyan, Joseph Conrad, C.S. Lewis, and American-made movies. All the while, the sandy-haired American himself was becoming more a Kurd.
  • And finally...last night Si and I watched the one-hour Crying Wolf movie...which was surprisingly informative and interesting! Watch it while it is available free online.
Leave your interesting links in the comments, of course.

09 March 2012

Why Stories Matter

I wasn't going to write today. My nose is running, my throat is sore, and I'd much rather be languishing on my couch. But I was browsing the Internet for a moment, and I saw WORLDmag.com's interview with N.D. Wilson. We here are old enough that we have begun collecting Wilson's novels, and I read the interview with interest.

He didn't let me down, and he did wow me with this one:
You've said you learned more philosophy, maybe even theology, from C.S. Lewis and Tolkien than from anything you studied in college. Is that one reason you write fiction rather than theological tomes?

Christians have sometimes been suspicious of stories, because they really can influence you. If you read the Twilight novels once a month for a year, I think you'd be a different human afterward—and not a sparkly one. Stories are like catechisms, but they're catechisms for your impulses, they're catechisms with flesh on.
My first response to this was, naturally: thank you!

And then after that, I had nothing but a whirl of thoughts in my brain.

For instance: when I come across very well-intentioned homeschooling parents who want to strip stories from their curriculum and instead concentrate on "facts" because facts are...well, you know...they are just so much more factual than stories. And then I try to explain why we read fairy tales and Greek mythology and lots and lots of literature, and some of them get it.

And some of them walk away thinking I'm the crazy one.

If you are wondering how a story could possible be a "catechism with flesh on," Cindy perfectly answered that question over at the CiRCE blog:
It is interesting to me that in our culture we allow people to feel things emotionally or we allow for facts but we shun the use of metaphor which brings the two together. Often we glorify our feelings to the level of truth without any propositional backing or, alternately, we rest on propositions which we do not love, all while fearing the metaphor which would illuminate our truths into our loves. Metaphor is what takes us from the known to the unknown, the heart of teaching.
I have seen people who love facts defend stories containing really bad {false} ideas because the stories gave them really nice feelings about God or their spouse or their children or something. So we see that this idea of story-as-catechism is important as both an offense and a defense.

Story matters, and it matters what the story says.

08 March 2012

Books Read in January and February

I have read almost nothing, and what I have read deals mainly with four-legged creatures with a penchant for dying on me. But E.-Age-Nine has read quite a bit, and this year I asked him to do something different. I asked him to keep a list of what he reads. I know he reads a lot, and I know he reads quickly {because I don't allow him to spend too much time reading}. I know what books are available to him. But I've never known exactly what he's been reading, nor which books he chooses to re-read {with the exception of Tolkien and Lewis, both of whom he's been re-reading since he was six}.

So here is the Official List of what he's read. I thought you all might find it interesting, especially if you are in need of books for boys around this age.

January Books
E.'s January Favorite
The Lost Baron by Allen French
In Story-Land by Elizabeth Harrison
Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates by Howard Pyle
The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White
The Children's Hour, v. 5 by Eva Tappan
Stuart Little by E.B. White
The Orange Fairy Book by Andrew Lang
The Book of Missionary Heroes by Basil Mathews
The Violet Fairy Book by Andrew Lang
The Story of Siegfried by James Baldwin
The Yellow Fairy Book by Andrew Lang
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

February Books
E.'s February Favorite
Bambi: A Life in the Woods by Felix Salten
The Green Fairy Book by Andrew Lang
Ways of Wood Folk by William Joseph Long
The Pink Fairy Book by Andrew Lang
Sir Nigel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Five Little Peppers Midway by Margaret Sidney
Miss Hickory by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey
Five Little Peppers at School by Margaret Sidney
The Sword in the Tree by Clyde Robert Bulla
The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
Five Little Peppers and Their Friends by Margaret Sidney
The Story of Dwight D. Eisenhower by Arthur J. Beckhard
Lassie Come Home by Eric Knight

I myself am not a big fan of Margaret Sidney's Little Pepper series, but my son loves them for some reason, so I keep them around.

07 March 2012

Quotables: The Roots of American Order


The Roots of American Order
by Russell Kirk
Yet the ancient Greeks failed in this: they never learned how to live together in peace and justice. {p. 51}
[N]o Greek commonwealth ever succeeded in establishing a good constitution that would endure long... {p. 52}
So far as they turned to classical examples for political justification or guidance, Americans paid more attention to the Roman Republic that they did to the Greek cities; and upon them, the direct influence of the Greek historian Polybius--writing about the Roman constitution--probably was greater than the combined influence of Plato's and Aristotle's political theories. {p. 54}
Some of the American leaders, from colonial times up to the Civil War, had read the Greek and Roman historians in the classical languages; many more had read those works in translation, or at least in abridgements.  {p. 54}
Almost at the beginning of things, the Greeks knew everything. But how did they come to know it? {p. 55}
Within every city, class hostilities, political feuds, and private ambitions rent the fabric of civil social order every few years. {p. 59}
Tom Paine...admiringly paraphrased Solon's principle that popular government was at its best when "the least injury done to the meanest individual was considered an insult to the whole Constitution." {p. 61}
[Solon] was a man of vision, a seer: he implied that truths were imparted to him from a source beyond his private rationality, and in that he was like a prophet. {p. 61}
Without seizing the property of the wealthy, he succeeded in improving the condition of the poor and in restoring a tolerable economic balance in the commonwealth. {p. 64}
Honor, not possessions, should be sought by the virtuous man--that honor which comes from excellence. {p. 65}
Puffed up by pride and greed, afflicted by that arrogance which the Greeks called hubris, the Athenian democracy abandoned Solon's righteousness for the prizes of empire. {p. 70}
Empedocles had said that his fellow-citizens of Akragas built as if they thought themselves immortal, but lived as luxuriously as if they expected to die on the morrow. {p. 72}
Plato and Aristotle loom larger in the twentieth century than they did in the eighteenth, so far as Americans are concerned. {p. 73}
[O]ne cannot fully appreciate Saint Augustine's City of God without knowing Plato's Republic. {p. 74}
[I]n the eighteenth century, and for much of the nineteenth, formal education in American was so attached to classical learning that nobody who had passed through grammar school could be thoroughly ignorant of the teachings of Plato and Aristotle... {p. 74}
The wisdom and virtue necessary for contending against a sea of troubles rarely are found united in one man. {p. 77}
The typical Sophist of the fifth and fourth centuries before Christ did not take the health of the soul into his reckoning of success. But if man does not restore order in his soul, Plato reasoned, then order cannot be restored in the state. {p. 78}*
[Homer] did perceive that his society was disordered because the souls of men were disordered. He recognized that man's soul is the center of his passions, but also the center of his ability to order and judge knowledge. {p. 79}
Plato affirmed that God is the measure of all things. {p. 81}
Plato writes in symbols, for there is no other way in which transcendent knowledge can be expressed. {p. 81}
The best possible society, Plato argues..., would be one in which every man should do the work for which he is best suited by his nature, and in which the more intelligent men would be guardians of the common good, under good laws. {p. 83}
[J]ustice is "to each his own": that is, every person should perform the duties and receive the rewards that accord with his own nature. {p. 83}
If we form in our minds a concept of the just republic, perhaps we can begin to understand the character of the just man--and commence our social reform thus by reforming one individual, one's own soul*. {p. 83}
[R]eform of the soul and reform of society must proceed in parallel fashion. {p. 83}
Poetic, ethical, and political truths endure longer than do scientific theories. {p. 87}
[T]he mean amounts to that harmony achieved by avoiding excesses and extremes; it is moderation, or balance, in private life and in public. {p. 90}
By monarchy, Aristotle signifies the leadership of one man of excellent virtue, under a body of laws which limit his power. By aristocracy, he signifies the predominance of a class of men of high birth, dutiful and filled with the spirit which later would be called noblesse oblige. By a commonwealth, he signifies the exercise of power by a majority--but a virtuous majority, respecting the lawful rights of all classes.

As for deviations, democracy is rule by the crowd for the benefit of the dominant majority; oligarchy is rule by a few for the good of that few; tyranny is unconstitutional assumptio of power by one man for his own satisfaction.{p. 90}

*I am going to go back and add this to yesterday's post under the  Restoring Culture section. I want my list to be complete.

06 March 2012

Book Club: The Roots of American Order
{Chapter 3}

This chapter's angle wasn't what I expected at all. The main point seemed to be that Greece set a poor example, and that, for the most part, the Americans learned from Greece what not to do. After the previous chapter singing the high praises of the Hebrews, I expected the same for the Greek Empire, but that wasn't what happened:
What they found valuable in the Greek experience or order was a cautionary tale of class conflict, disunity, internecine violence, private and public arrogance and selfishness, imperial vainglory, and civic collapse: what to shun.
Plutarch
I found it fascinating that Kirk says that what the Americans knew of Greek's history, they knew from...Plutarch. This was encouraging on so many levels. I think the American Founders pulled off an amazing feat when they designed the United States Constitution. In the same way, Charlotte Mason pulled off an amazing feat when she designed her curriculum. {Follow me here...} With Charlotte Mason, I have been trying not just to read what she said, but read what she read. This is obviously a long-term project. But my point remains. I don't just want to be educated by her, I want to be educated like her.

I feel the same way about the Founders when it comes, especially, to the type of reading I'd like to see my children do before they leave home. I don't want them to just read the Founders {though read the Founders they will}. I want them to read what the Founders read. The Constitution was born out of the souls of men who were filled up to overflowing. Out of the man's heart comes the documents he writes.

Or something like that.

I don't pretend I'm raising the next John Adams, but I'd like to think I'm educating men {and women} who have souls full of similar thoughts.

So to know that Plutarch was the biggest influence? I heaved a sigh of relief. We're already doing it, and I didn't even know!

And having read Plutarch, even just a little bit {Poplicola and Brutus only}, greatly enhanced my ability to understand the chapter.

Is there one chapter of Plutarch that is a must-read before graduation? According to Kirk, it's the life of Solon:
The Greek architect of order most impressive to Americans of their country's formative years was Solon.

[snip]

Dr. Benjamin Rush, Philadelphia physician, scholar, and signer of the Declaration of Independence, was no hearty admirer of the curriculum of classical studies generally. Yet Rush dreamed a dream in which three lawgivers came to him, and the first said, "I am Solon."
On Democrats and Democracy
I just thought this little fact was interesting:
[T]hen most educated Americans read Plutarch attentively, and some read the overwhelming history of Thucydides, the Athenian general who beheld the end of the Great Age and understood the reasons for Greek failure. The Great Age of Greece was a democratic period, in Athens and many other states: that was one reason why few American politicians, until the time of Andrew Jackson, chose to proclaim themselves democrats.
Attempting to export "democracy," as our nation has been doing for most, if not all, of my short lifetime, is the equivalent of exporting foolishness and failure. It will be most interesting {and likely saddening} to see where these poor countries, to whom we gave the "gift" of democracy, will end up.

Democracy wasn't the downfall of Greece, but it probably made sure she couldn't get back up once she fell.

Restoring Culture
I'm trying to keep a mental list of what restoring culture {or renewing culture, or whatever along these lines} looks like according to Kirk and the sources he quotes. Here are three I noted in this chapter:
Like Socrates before him, Plato endeavored to renew the vitality of Greek society by deepening its religious understanding.
And:
[Plato] sought much of his life for a philosopher-ruler, a second Solon, who might restore righteousness through wisdom and example. 
And finally:
[Plato] could not cleanse his world, but it would have become a worse world more swiftly had not Plato taught those who would listen to him.
It's probably obvious, but for now my list looks like this:
  1. Deepening society's religious understanding
  2. Find a ruler who leads by his good example and not just his words
  3. Teach and engage those who will listen 
Considering what it is I do all day, I'd say number three is the top of my list right now.

On Philosophers and Philodoxers
This was only one portion of the chapter, but I could think about it for a long time, there was so much to it. Kirk explains that the Greeks had two words, for one of which we have no English equivalent. The philosopher was the lover of wisdom. The philodoxer was the lover of opinion. The philodoxer was
an opinionated man suffering from vain wishes, who passionately pursues illusion.
I was trying to think of an example, when I read a little post from Andrew Kern in which he said:
I read this on another blog that I don’t care to draw attention to:
Remember, comrades, it is only bourgeois truth that is concerned with actual facts. Revolutionary truth is concerned with what advances the revolution. That is the truth we should be embracing.
Of this sort of thing, Kirk says that the philodoxer is
the man whose desires override his righteousness.
The concern for truth and real knowledge has been superseded by a special interest {or two}. This morning, in our Pilgrim's Progress reading, we covered the Mountain of Error. For ages, men climb upon the mountain, believing that if they gain its height, they will be able to see farther than other men, but once they reach the height, they fall and are dashed to pieces at the base of the mountain. The Shepherds show Christian and Hopeful the bodies at the base of the mountain as a warning to avoid error. This seems an appropriate warning for all of us, who are all tempted to be philodoxers at one time or another. From the Mountain of Error we think we gain a great view, but the result is death. Much better to love knowledge more than our own opinions; by this, we gain integrity and avoid a grisly death.

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Read More:
-Buy the book and join in the conversation
-More book club posts linked at Cindy's blog