While the rising popularity of classical Christian education means the average family’s classical buy-in is far lower than it was twenty years ago, there are also a few classical schools that are doubling down on their classical convictions. “If stylus and paper were good enough for Plato, they’re good enough for us,” reads the technology policy at St. Francis Classical in Pensacola, Florida.
The last week of a delightful sabbatical has arrived, and I find the seemingly unrelated books I read and discussions I partook in have led me to a common place: hospitality. I entered the spheres of Paradise with Dante in The Divine Comedy, longed for Home with Odysseus, and learned to love my fellow man better with Jayber Crow. The True, Good, and Beautiful hospitably extended an open hand to me, and I now long to extend this invitation to my own students.
A Charlie Brown Christmas is not like other Christmas movies. For over half a century, A Charlie Brown Christmas has been playing a game of chicken and we tune in every year to watch it win again. When will CBS finally cave and remove Linus’s recitation of Luke 2? When will the story of Christ’s birth finally be replaced with some spineless pablum about equality, teamwork, and oblique references to fashionable politics? “Surely this will be the year they cut it,” we say, folding our arms as the spotlight falls on Linus.
“Know thyself.” The first time I noticed these words, they were posted in the dead center of a bulletin board covered with black paper. I must admit that as a brand-new teacher, I was shocked to see them displayed in a Christian school. They sounded far too much like Emerson’s transcendental “Trust thyself” or the secular humanism threaded through many modern films. Wasn’t it just a little self-centered? A call to navel-gazing to find truth rooted in ourselves? Shouldn’t we “Know Christ” and forget ourselves?
The word hierarchy has become offensive to our modern ears. American society has dethroned kings, popes, aristocrats and now takes aim at billionaires. Our culture loves the egalitarian turn — the general who dines with the common soldiers and fights on the frontlines; the girl who can shotgun beers, curse like a sailor, and fight just like “one of the guys;” the torn-down statue because “he was no better than us.” Superior is a four-syllable curse.
Summer break always feels too long to me. Christmas break never feels long enough. The school year always resumes just a day or two after New Year’s, the bleakest holiday of the year, and my mood invariably follows this bleakness. Janus is an ironic god whose second face is entirely unnecessary, for he sees the same things in the past that he sees in the future.
At the end of this school year, I made the mistake of making 15 middle school papers due the same day final course grades were due. This left me about 30 minutes after school to rapidly grade these papers. Normally, assessing 15 papers would take me 2-3 hours. I like to read the papers thoroughly and leave comments explaining my judgments. On this day, though, I had no time for comments. Shockingly, having decided to grade the papers without offering comments, I was able to finish on time.
I teach the same books over and over and over again.
Starting a new year makes us particularly conscious of time. Time makes us conscious of limitations. And, contrary to the spirit of the age (at least prior to 2020), this is good, because limitations allow for definitions.
When we pretend we don't live on a calendar that comes to an end and has a beginning, we try to pretend in turn that we are immortal beings whose angelic imaginations can achieve any ends. That's how we fall.
A teacher recently asked me for a list of writing rules I use as a professional editor. Grammatical mistakes aside, I find myself making the same edits consistently. In case you too want to clean up your writing – or your students – I've listed below the rules I use as a writer and editor. Some of these are stylistic, but assuming a somewhat formal context, they tend to universally apply. I hope you find them helpful!
1. Never use a big word when a simpler one will suffice. To do otherwise is loquacious.