In a recent essay, “Harkness Cautions: You Need a Sage on a Stage,” Joshua Gibbs explains why he has abandoned his Harkness table and returned to a more conventional classroom seating arrangement. He goes on to explain that the changes in the physical setup of his classroom reflect his uneasiness with one pedagogy—Socratic inquiry—and his endorsement of another: the sage on the stage.
When was the last time you stood in silent awe before something created? I mean a silence with no plans, no sizing up, no using? A silent admiration of clouds, ants, squirrels, crystals, microchips, or skyscrapers. Are there any whole classes of creatures that no longer inspire wonder in you or never did? If so, what blunts that astonishment? What murdered that wonder?
The end of the year calls us to take up, once again, our traditional positions on a whole host of arguments about holidays, holy days, and the calendar. When is the proper time to begin listening to Christmas music? Is Black Friday shopping demoralizing and degrading? Has Christmas become overly commercial? Was Jesus Christ actually born on December 25th? Was Christmas simply a Christian attempt to co-opt Saturnalia? Is there really a war on Christmas?
“You will smile here at the consistency of those democratists, who, when they are not on their guard, treat the humbler part of the community with the greatest contempt, whilst, at the same time, they pretend to make them the depositories of all power.”
-Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), p. 56,
Little has changed in the last 200 years.
The last day of the 2017-2018 school year was a poignant one for me, to say the least. Most last days are, of course, but this one found me on the verge of a cross-country move which would all but guarantee that I would never see some of my fifth-graders again. We had come through a long, often hard year that I would neither then nor now trade for love or money. We were a tight bunch, frankly, and we loved one another in ways that only divine goodness could explain.
“What do you mean you don’t teach Augustine’s Confessions?”
This is an adaptation of a lecture I recently gave to the students at Veritas School in Richmond, VA.
In June, Joshua Gibbs offered a critique of the typical classical school senior thesis program and proposed an alternative. It seems likely that his primary goal was not to advocate for the demise of senior thesis programs but rather to extol the value of the study and creation of proverbs, a proposition with which I have no quarrel. To the extent that he is seriously proposing proverbs replace senior theses, however, his article requires a response.
The only time I have ever been a consistent coffee-drinker was during high school, when a daily cup sustained me through hours spent hunched over my desk struggling through math homework. (Perhaps the resulting associations form part of the reason I have not been a coffee-drinker since.) Unlike my humanities studies, math never came easily for me; it was my homeschooling mother’s commitment to academic rigor rather than any personal motivation that ensured its prominent place in my curriculum each year until I graduated.
Several weeks ago, I bought a Beach Boys CD for my daughters and heard, for the first time ever, “Be True To Your School.”
When some loud braggart tries to put me down,
And says his school is great,
I tell him right away,
“Now what's the matter buddy?”
Ain't you heard of my school?
It's number one in the state.”
So be true to your school
Just like you would to your girl or guy