For a job, I talk to teenagers all day. I read to them, lecture them, ask them questions, listen to them talk. I stare into their faces all day and gauge their interest in what I am saying based on their eyes, their mouths, and their posture. I rarely gauge their interest based on what they say, for teenagers like talking to each other, but do not much like talking to adults (I know, your teenager is different).
“At a school like this one, you hear quite a bit about the importance of having a servant’s heart. In fact, you hear enough about service that you might be quite tired of the subject by now and think that adults only speak to you of service because it means less work for themselves. After all, when teachers talk of service, they are usually asking students to do things which will make their own lives easier. “Service” usually means picking up trash on the quad, moving and setting up chairs for assemblies, and tidying the men’s room before leaving.
The most fashionable critiques of any institution will always be the ones people from within the institution borrow from those on the outside. The thrill which comes from conversing with one’s peers and casually letting drop a little cool approval of detractors and naysayers, then watching the faithful turn their heads in confusion and dismay, is more than many postmodern men can pass up.
While Americans have been bemoaning the loss of “sir” and “ma'am” for forty years now, these greetings are not entirely absent from American society. Like most Americans with a car and a blue blazer, the poor and homeless regularly ask me for money. On street corners, they ask with signs. In parking lots and gas stations, they ask directly. When they ask directly, they call me “sir.”
Is there such a thing as a straight A student? Yes and no.
There are students who, by the time they graduate high school, have received nothing but A’s on their report cards. However, I doubt that the straight A student is a kind of student. I don’t think the straight A student is natural, as though some students get A’s the way that birds fly or fish swim. Put another way, if a sophomore with a 4.0 GPA received a low C on a semester exam, I wouldn’t think something was wrong. I wouldn’t say something unnatural had happened.
The most important moment in a blogging career comes surprisingly close to the beginning. By the time a blogger has published a dozen articles, he will have already developed a decent sense for what people want to read. When he looks back over the first twelve articles, he will quickly be able to size up what made the popular ones popular and what made the unpopular ones easy for everyone to pass over. And then comes the temptation to only write what people want to hear.
Social media has given rise to a host of seasonal debates among American Christians. Is Christmas too commercialized? Was Christmas originally a pagan holiday? Is Easter still a pagan holiday? Should Christians celebrate Halloween? Should Protestants celebrate Lent? Of course, in any debate over such questions there is also a healthy contingent of people who prefer to not take a position, but to scold everyone engaged in the debate about manners and “more important issues.” For my money, the scolds are usually the most sanctimonious of all, but who am I kidding?
Parent: There’s a lot of changes at school this year.
Gibbs: What’s changed?
Parent: All of a sudden, several upper school classes are beginning the day with catechisms. The school has switched from offering Spanish to offering Greek. The report cards at this school used to be fairly straight forward, but I hear that’s changing this year.
Gibbs: I see.
Parent: Look, don’t take this the wrong way, but I have to ask: are you just experimenting on my kids? So much is in a state of flux.
With classes resuming next week across the country, it seemed a good time to revisit the most common delusions which beset American classical institutions. It seemed prudent to bypass those delusions which are commonly acknowledged (grades, grade levels) among classical educators in media outlets such as this and to move directly to second-tier delusions which often go unaddressed. As such, I offer the following five observations.
Given how many classical educators attended public school when young, most classical schools have progressive “hangovers” as Dr. Christopher Perrin sometimes puts it. A progressive hangover is simply a body of assumptions about education which is uncritically and unknowingly derived from modernist philosophy, as opposed to classical or Christian philosophy. Renewing classical education necessitates slowly overcoming this hangover and rooting out all the false beliefs about education which we don’t even know we have.