Stories are the most powerful tool for communicating truth. Truth is a logos and idea that must be incarnated for the mind to apprehend it, to contemplate it, and then to incarnate it itself. The classical educator, the parent, the teacher, the mentor, each leads another in the hope that the student, child, or apprentice will accept the truth he is teaching and act on it. Stories are the most powerful tool for teaching, in this sense.
Joshua Gibbs recently authored the article, “Engaging Culture, Cloak For Mediocrity: Giving Up On Pop Music.” What follows is intended to be a response to Josh’s article, although it might be better understood as a reaction. This is because, for the most part, I agree with his conclusions. For example, Josh writes,
A walk on a cool, winter afternoon can be bracing. The crisp, cool wind blowing along the street pierces straight to the bone. The extremities of your face stiffen as the chill reaches them. Green needles wave on pine branches as the wind passes through them. A single sentence passes into my mind, on this 15th day of March, “Now is the winter of our discontent.” When will it be made into a glorious summer? I ask.
Seek ye first the walk and all these things will be added unto you.
Why walk? When I was a child, people would walk a path around the mall. They started early on Saturday mornings and would have already walked many laps before I arrived, pocket full of quarters, to challenge the arcade. Walkers still walk today, although I suspect fewer of them are in the even fewer malls while many of them are marching through neighborhoods, armed with Fitbits.
Looking to Scripture for examples of how Jesus was taught can be a tricky endeavor. It is my intent both to remain within the bounds of Christian orthodoxy and to learn something from the analogy of Scripture without making it say more than it does. Forgive me when I inevitable fail on either of those two counts.
“Children are born persons” is the first of Charlotte Mason’s principles. A person has a voice, or wants a voice, or should have a voice, especially children. In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he indicates as much, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). Actually, what he indicates is what might be a universal tendency in the older generation to despise the thoughts, ideas, and opinions of the younger generation.
What is rhetoric? You’ve probably heard or thought of rhetoric as the art of persuasion. Fans of Aristotle will probably think of it as the art of finding the available means of persuasion. If you follow in the vein of Quintilian, you will probably think of it as the art of persuasion toward truth (and goodness and beauty). For those of you who have heard Andrew Kern speak on the topic, you’ve probably picked up something along the lines of rhetoric being the art of decision-making in community. One of these is decidedly not like the others.
In a previous article, “Why Do You Teach,” I wrote about teachers pursuing the good of their students. Drawing an analogy between friendship and teaching (as Aristotle did between friendship and governance), I wrote:
For the good of the other, that is the answer to our question. Or is it? What does that even mean? In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle explains what friendship is. Perhaps understanding friendship might help us to understand the relationship between teacher and student, even if the relationship between a teacher and his student is not one we might typically describe as a friendship.
For Aristotle, that student of Plato and therefore Socrates, there are three kinds of friendship: a friendship of utility, a friendship of pleasure, and pure friendship.
Plato is one of those old, ancient philosophers—a Greek no less. That necessarily means he will be hard to read—and boring. Far better would it be to read a book about Plato rather than actually read his stuff. Besides just being old and Greek, he wrote dialogues. Who writes dialogues anymore? Write an essay or write a novel but don’t write dialogues! I couldn’t imagine having to read something so boring or confusing.