Harold Burroughs Black was born July 16, 1945.
What are the strongest indicators of future success for a high school student? If a teacher were a gambling man, what character traits and personality attributes at the age of sixteen are most apt to become happiness and success at the age of thirty-six? I am tempted to say happiness is simply too slippery, too elusive a fish to catch with predictable lures and conventional methods. I have been in and around classical school since I was fourteen, and I have seen class clowns get rich and valedictorians tank.
By the time a man is ten years into his career, he will have professionally encountered a few people who cannot stand him. A man makes his way in the world, sets goals, refines his methods, and in the midst of it all, at least one person with whom he has a professional relationship will say, “I do not like you and I intend on doing something about it.” Politicians meet such adversity every day. Missionaries often meet such adversity. So do classical educators.
In Paradise Lost, the hours before the Fall see Adam and Eve in a disagreement about work. Eve tells Adam they should part ways for the day so they can get more done, for when they are together, they distract one another with conversation and flirtation. Eve is not content the two are accomplishing enough. Every night, the day’s work of pruning and trimming is undone by the natural growth of the limbs and branches and fruit. But Adam is not persuaded this really matters. God cares little about the shape of the garden and much about man’s delight in it.
In The Federalist No. 51, James Madison famously states that, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” For reasons unknown to myself, Christians of our own day yet repeat this proverb in discussions of statecraft and human nature as though it were obviously true. While I have respect for the aphorism, and I appreciate a counterintuitive maxim, the saying in question is laughably unacquainted with Scripture.
In my first year as a teacher, I desperately needed my literature students to talk, however, I asked a lot of banal questions, which made it difficult for them to have anything interesting to say. Their silence spoke to my incompetence, and I believed that discussion and conversation would cover over the fact I did not really know what to say or how to say it.
A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.
In the many debates currently raging over race in this country, one often hears the claim that the historic, centuries-old wrongs enacted by whites against African Americans still matter. We may not pretend as though slavery did not happen, or that slavery is sufficiently far in the past that we can forget about it. Time does not heal all wounds. Rather, past wrongs ferment like wine and become more potent the longer they sit in the dark.
1. If Early Christians were tempted to Gnosticism, Modern Christians are tempted to materialism.
2. The abiding power and testimony of Early Christian thought and deed (especially martyrdom) suggests that our own materialism is more a problem for us than Gnosticism was a problem for Early Christians.
Yesterday my Modern European Humanities class began with their catechism, but not a full recitation. I asked my students to stand, but asked them to not have their catechisms in hand. “Let’s see how much you have memorized already. I will read the longer answers in the catechism and occasionally pause. When I pause, you supply the next word.” Most of the catechism is longer excerpts from the curriculum, including some ornate passages from Burke and St. Paul.