Classicists do not believe a Golden Age is nestled somewhere in the past. Classicists are not trying to revive a Golden Age, and neither do classicists aim to bring some Golden Age about in the future. Neither classicism nor conservatism has any interest or belief in a Golden Age.
The classical tradition has much to say about the quest for self-knowledge. Nonetheless, I often hear classicists treat the self-knowledge offered by personality tests as an important and reliable development in the Western quest for self-knowledge. I cannot but resist. Few modern intellectual “disciplines” seem as flimsy, faddish, and prone to flattery as the current intrigue with categorizing personalities. That we might all disabuse ourselves of personality tests (and the shallow conception of personality which attends them), I offer the following seven theses:
The thought of sending my daughters off to college does not excite me, as it has been many years now since I last heard an encouraging news story come out of an American college campus. I do not doubt that good colleges yet exist, although the question of whether I can afford them is another matter. And I am sure that good professors may be found on every college campus in the country, though I am not persuaded that three fine literature teachers can justify a hundred thousand dollars of student loan debt. Nonetheless, beyond high school, my daughters will need something more.
Last Friday, I nearly burned the place down. During my lunch break, I started a pot roast simmering in wine and diced onions, and when I walked back in the door two hours later, the smoke alarm was blaring and the apartment was thick with smoke. My wife and I spent the following day cleaning every inch of our little home. Every blanket, every towel, and pillow case was laundered, and several armloads of clothes were taken to the dry cleaners. We set out bowls of vinegar, bowls of baking soda, and bowls of aromatic oils. We have a professional cleaner scheduled for later this week.
Student: In class, you talk a lot about the temptations which come with college. How did you do in college?
Gibbs: Badly. If I had it to do over again, I would do college very differently.
Student: Occasionally I hear about graduates from this school going off the rails in college.
Gibbs: So do I.
Student: Why do you think some students go off the rails and others don’t?
Few maxims are likely to excite the concern of a classicist quite like, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” The claim rings with the kind of subjectivity that eschews the transcendent and easily slips into radical relativism.
McLaren: Some students told me that you were not covering Jackson Pollock, de Kooning, Franz Kline, or any of the great 20th century abstract expressionists in your art history class. Why is this?
Gibbs: This is a classical school, and I don’t take that kind of art seriously.
McLaren: The larger art world takes them seriously, though.
Gibbs: I don’t really take the “larger art world” seriously, either.
Parent: I wanted to tell you that I read this really amazing book by John Piper recently and it blessed me so much that I thought I should tell you about it. I think it would be a great fit in the school’s theology curriculum.
Dean: I am sure the book is quite good, but given that John Piper is still alive, the book does not meet the basic criteria which this school uses for admitting new titles into the curriculum.
Parent: What criteria would that be?
Dean: For starters, curriculum books ought to be old.
Parent: How old?
Student: Why do we have to wear these uniforms?
Gibbs: Would you like to make an argument against uniforms?
Student: God made every human being to look different. If God is comfortable with us all looking different, then why try to make us all look the same by wearing uniforms?
Gibbs: I am glad to see you begin with a theological-ish argument. What exactly do you mean that God made every human being to look different?
Student: I mean no two human beings look alike.
Student: I am thinking of switching to public school next year.
Gibbs: I see. Why is that?
Student: I don’t think I am being challenged in my faith at this school. I’m worried that I’m just going along with the crowd, just going through the motions. It’s easy to be a Christian here. Everyone here is just kind of passive about their faith.
Gibbs: What does it mean to be “challenged in your faith”?
Student: I don’t think my faith in God is growing deeper here. I want it to grow deeper.
Gibbs: Why don’t you get rid of your phone?