It was a Saturday morning and I was sitting in my library, frowning over Aristotle’s Politics and scribbling at an increasingly furious pace in my commonplace book (I swear I’m not pretentious…it’s not like I was reading it for fun. I was reading it as part of a 10-year Great Books reading plan, which admittedly, I am doing for fun). My six-year-old came in, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. Noticing my agitation, she asked me what I was doing.
Welcome to your sophomore humanities class.
This year, we will be reading early modern literature, which is roughly the seventeenth century through the nineteenth century. I have some fairly lofty goals for this class and I hope you do, as well. To be honest, when this class finishes nine months from now, I won’t know if I have accomplished any of those goals. I will need more time. Perhaps when you are forty or so, which is how old I am, we will both know whether this class has done you any good.
Most children would prefer to skip a meal to get dessert. Dessert is sweeter and tastier, although less nutritious than a balanced course. Yet, if they love their children, parents will usually insist that the child eats all his dinner first. Sweets are the highlight and culmination of supper, but they cannot be had without real food. The meal prepares for dessert.
As I write, Afghanistan has fallen and Bernard Lewis's ghost is calling to us from Kabul, reminding us that he warned us as far back as 2002 that, in the eyes of the world,
America is harmless as an enemy, treacherous as a friend.
We should be troubled.
Would you care to guess who said the following and when?
Five years ago, Tom and Hayley Bowen walked into a crowded conference room in London. After finding out about it the day before, they attended a gathering hosted by Christian Concern on being vocal Christians in an increasingly secular society. At this conference, they first learned about the classical Christian model of education from Revd. Dr. Joe Boot of Westminster Chapel in Canada. “As soon as I found out what it was, I felt like I had been cheated out of an education,” Hayley, who along with Tom had passed through the state education system in England, reflected.
In the last thirty years, Americans have gone from believing it is important to show others respect to believing it is necessary to make others feel respected. On a purely grammatical level, “showing others respect” and “making others feel respected,” certainly sound very similar, although assuming that someone who is shown respect will feel respected assumes their feelings align with reality. It also assumes people are obligated to acknowledge conventional signs of respect as actual respect.
In a previous article, Lewis's Accusation, I quoted C.S. Lewis from The Abolition of Man:
The following is the 2020 middle school graduation speech from St. Monica Catholic School, Mercer Island, WA.
If you are anything like I was when I finished 8th grade, you will almost certainly not pay attention to the speech I’m about to make. I hope you are better than I was.
In my previous post, Lewis Punks the World, I argued that the context of C.S. Lewis's claim that we are "not sufficiently attentive to the importance of elementary text books", might have driven a bit batty those whose attention was devoted to a global cataclysm.
"Why did you do it, Jack? Were you fiddling when Rome was burning? Were you laughing about dancing elephants at the ludi Romani while the enemies within the capital were eating out her heart?"
The modern man assigns profound value on asking questions, especially “tough questions.” Asking tough questions requires real courage, so we claim, and educators in particular tout the tough questions they ask their students about history, ethics, and religion as proof that their classrooms are mature and productive. If a man does not ask tough questions of others (and himself), his life will not be deep and satisfying, for grappling with tough questions is what gives life meaning.