The evening of March 25th found me and six others in the home of my associate pastor, celebrating the Feast of the Annunciation around a long and laden banqueting table. However, like good hobbits, we were also celebrating the destruction of the Ring of Power and hailing the Gondorian New Year—that day when Sauron the Great met his doom and when Frodo and Sam were “brought out of the fire to the King.” The food was rich, but the conversation was sublime.
The hardest thing by far about my vocation is the travel, and the hardest thing about travel is coming home.
No, it isn't returning to my dear Penelope (nee Karen) that is so hard. It's returning to a world that has kept on moving without me, both at home and at work. And it has been moving without my guidance or oversight or sovereign rule.
Again, don't misunderstand me. I don't even mean the people - I just mean the world. It keeps on changing and adapting to changes around it.
From a certain standpoint, classical education is just about the least faddish thing possible, because human beings have been reading Plato for well over two thousand years now. On the other hand, classical education is not simply “reading Plato.” Classical education is also sports programs, Land’s End uniforms, Spring formals, mission statements, and parent-teacher conferences, and it is from a position amidst all these things that the question, “Is classical education just a fad?” is a bit harder to answer.
“ . . . [W]e continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more ‘drive,’ or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or ‘creativity.’ In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”
At various times I get the opportunity to speak to groups at the beginning at the school year. I often deliver some variation of the following—especially as it leads to a beautiful picture of what a wise, generous, and truly loving person looks like.
“Despair is for those who see the end beyond all doubt,” Gandalf cautions the men, elves, and dwarves (and hobbits) who have gathered to discuss Mordor’s activity and the revelation of the One Ring. While Sauron gathers orcs and evil men to himself, in a stroke of fortune they hold the Enemy’s great Weapon. The gathering is divided between two possible strategies: they will either use the Ring’s power to conquer the Dark Lord, or they will destroy it in Mount Doom’s fire.
I would like to argue the classical educators should own up to a common understanding of what the word “classical” and “classic” mean. Rather than explaining classical education in terms of Dorothy Sayers and three stages of learning— which makes Sayers out to be little different from Freud, Piaget, or any of the other 20th century theorists who were always reducing childhood to a sequence of stages— classical educators should happily admit that “classical” connotes “old things” and not be embarrassed by it.
Fellow on a train: What line of work are you in?
I am reading Ovid’s Metamorphoses all the way through, beginning to end, for the first time this summer. I have read bits and pieces, and I have looked up certain stories or references in order to become familiar with them, but I’ve never read the whole thing. Being the extrovert that I am, I didn’t want to read it alone, so I started a Facebook group for the sole purpose of roping friends and strangers into reading it along with me.
Junior: Look, I’ve heard all the reasons for studying Latin and logic, but I don’t see why this school doesn’t offer AP classes and or do something in the way of SAT prep. A little college prep wouldn’t kill anyone. Latin and logic and virtue are great and all, but at the end of the day, I need a job.
Gibbs: At the end of the day, you need a soul.
Junior: I already have a soul.
Gibbs: You already have a job, too. You bag groceries at Kroger.
Junior: I mean a good job.
Gibbs: I mean a good soul.
Not only does classic literature provide wisdom for life and virtue, but it also yields all the advice needed to plan the perfect vacation, as exemplifed in the following cursory survey.
If you don’t want surprise company upon your return, be sure to lock the doors and close up tight when you leave home. (Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows)
Choose a mode of transportation that feels “free and easy and comfortable,” preferably one that allows for plenty of stops along the way. (Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)