Growing up, I was the kid who was at church “every time the doors were opened.” Since my Christian school was a ministry of our church, my school and church schedules never conflicted, and I never had to choose between two masters. Wednesdays were “no homework nights” because everyone was expected to be at the mid-week services. The family schedule deferred to the church calendar, meaning that Sunday worship, mid-week services, and volunteer service in ministries were non-negotiables.
Teacher: For history tests, I have my students make a cheat sheet that I allow them to use. It works great.
Gibbs: What’s on the cheat sheet?
Teacher: They’re allowed to put whatever information they like on the cheat sheet.
Gibbs: I would put passages of Scripture and quotes from Herodotus, Thucydides, and Horace on my cheat sheet.
Teacher: Well, those kind of quotes wouldn’t do you much good.
Gibbs: How come?
Teacher: Because I don’t ask about those things on history tests.
Parent: We’ve had a rough start to this school year.
Gibbs: Tell me more.
Parent: Well, Adrian was disappointed with the grade he received on his Virgil essay. He didn’t entirely understand your comments.
Gibbs: What kind of comments did he receive on it?
Parent: You said a lot of his observations were too obvious and that his essay was poorly arranged, poorly argued, and that it contained a lot of filler.
Gibbs: Are those comments so hard to understand?
Imagine that you are entering a classroom for the first time. The first images you take in are speaking to your soul in a subconscious way. Immediately your senses are sending messages about the learning that will take place in that classroom. The learning atmosphere is being set before any actual content is taught. For most people it is a natural process to adjust to our daily surroundings and in turn become numb to the messages that the atmosphere of a classroom is sending.
Like pallbearers they each took a corner of the mat upon which I lay. Into the nave of the chapel the liturgists of the church triumphant bore me, beckoning me: “Say these words . . . See this symbol . . . Receive these blessings . . . Eat this bread . . . Drink this wine.” Another typical Sunday in which I am escorted into the presence of the One who is the Resurrection and the Life. There at His bidding, by His grace, and in His Spirit He grants me to rise and walk.
As a classical educator, I often hear parents say, “I want my child to get the education I never received.” This is a fine and noble sentiment. When I was a child, I watched entirely too much television and now I want to give my children a love of books I never received. At the same time, I still watch entirely too much television now. Old habits die hard, but this is no excuse. Likewise, “I want my child to receive the education I never received” is a noble sentiment to have as a parent, it is also a bit unnecessary.
I love George Herbert’s The Temple—the major hits, the b-sides, everything. The more I read Herbert’s work, the more I realize just how inventive it really is. Take even a minor poem like “Paradise” for example. Like so many works by Herbert, this one is a little Matryoshka doll of meaning—a highly intricate artifact containing successive, hidden surprises.
As the school year gets underway, I would like to offer a suggestion for the end of the school year. Maybe, with enough time to look ahead, teachers and homeschooling parents will have a chance to add this suggestion to the curriculum of one class or another if they don’t use it already. I want to make a case for arguably the greatest speech in American political history. One that, while it is already recognized, is still massively underrated in terms of structure and import.
In 1984, Keva Rosenfeld took a documentary crew into Torrance High School in Los Angeles County and spent a year in the surfy, sunlit cultural trenches. Torrance was a model for the school depicted in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and the campus has been used for a half dozen teen flicks you’re better off not remembering. What Rosenfeld found was not terribly interesting at the time, and shortly after All American High was publicly shown, the reels were set aside and then lost for three decades.
I bought a wooden sign at Hobby Lobby the other day. I was actually there to purchase a single picture frame to showcase some of my daughter’s school art work when I noticed a fifty percent off sale sign for all of the wall hangings. Needless to say, I got lost in the aisle. Actually, I got lost in the beautiful words. Each of the signs beckoned to me with their varied sappy and sacred phrases.