In his Republic, Plato strives to answer pivotal questions about education: What is it? What is its goal, its purpose in our lives? How should it be accomplished? He begins by describing education as a quest to seek, know, and love truth. It is not a simple acquisition of facts, but a journey that transforms the soul. Its purpose is to bring us to know and love what is just, beautiful and good, and to enable us to live a life guided by devotion to the truth.
Fifteen years ago, I took my first high school teaching job. I was set to teach sophomore English at a large public school. The first day of classes was just a few weeks away. After some frantic reading and planning, the time came to decorate my classroom. Included among the most prominent items: a large printed C.S. Lewis quotation, a large printed Michael Scott quotation, and a Pearl Jam poster.
“Oh, if only I could see that manger in which the Lord was laid! As a tribute of honor, we Christians have now removed the mud-baked one and replaced it with a silver one; but the one that has been removed is more precious to me! Silver and gold are appropriate for the pagan world: the manger of baked mud is more fitting for the Christian faith.... I am amazed that the Lord and Creator of the world was not born amid gold and silver, but in the mud.”
- St. Jerome
December 25, 1956, New York City
It was Harper Lee’s seventh year away from home in Alabama. When she wasn’t working at her job as an airline reservation agent, she wrote fiction. She never expected to make a living from it.
Quiz: Name the five most influential philosophy books in Western Civilization. Go ahead, make your list. Don’t worry if you are not an expert in the history of philosophy. Just name the five most influential philosophy books of which you have heard.
There are a lot of viable candidates for that list of five. The number of possible lists is vast. But there is one book that, while it should be on everyone’s list, would show up on very few lists unless mentioned in advance. What is this most important work of philosophy that nobody remembers to list? The Bible.
Many moons ago, during my undergraduate days at a state university, I decided to discuss my Creationist views with my chemistry professor. After he informed me that I was brainwashed and headed for a dead-end career if I didn’t accept evolution, he asked me how I defined science. I repeated the answer I had been taught, that science is the study of observable and reproducible phenomena in the natural world. To this answer he laughed and said I was, “so 19th century.” This answer entirely befuddled me…wasn’t he the Darwinist? Wasn’t he the one who was “so 19th century?” I spent 20 year
If you ask a bleary-eyed high school teacher how things are going at school, he’ll likely mention grades within a few sentences. "Grades were due last night and I’m spent”... “I was up late emailing a parent about a grade.” Scores of teachers burn out of the classroom every year, many of them citing the grading load. And there is nothing quite like the existential despair that grips a man when he looks at a stack of 100 essays that he knows he must grade.
My husband and I have spent more time walking in our neighborhood together since March of 2020, when much of our city shut down. Rooting ourselves more deeply to home and place has been an unexpected blessing.
As I sat at my desk one evening grading papers, I got stuck on a poem. It was the final paper in a stack I’d been working on for nine hours. I stared and stared at it. I read it aloud once, twice, three times. I counted the syllables in each line. I wrote out the rhyme scheme. I walked away and came back. I read it aloud again. And I just could not tell what it was saying.