This post has been edited (January 4, 2020) to include a link to a podcast for those reading along.
In my last article, I submitted Charlotte Mason’s practice of narration for consideration as another lost tool of learning. My main contention in its favor followed Charlotte Mason’s claim that narration is a natural gift of children as persons made in the image of our storytelling God.
For those coming late to the party, narration is a simple and elegant teaching tool containing two parts:
There is now a common saying among teachers, “Fifty years ago, if a student failed a test, the student got in trouble. Today, if a student fails a test, the teacher gets in trouble.” When the garden-variety Republican hears this saying, he is apt to nod, then shake his head and bemoan the welfare state, the courts, emotionally fragile millennials, safe spaces, trigger warnings, and a world wherein no one is made to take responsibility for their actions.
Last year, I spent the Sunday night after Thanksgiving in the ER.
My husband, Joshua, had been battling persistent pneumonia for months and had finally been cleared right before the holiday weekend. That Sunday, a mere ten minutes before friends arrived for a Thanksgiving leftovers dinner, Joshua started not feeling well. He became nauseated, had trouble breathing, and started having violent chills and a fever.
The concept of a tool of learning will be familiar to many from Dorothy Sayers’ famous essay “The Lost Tools of Learning.” The underlying idea is derived from the medieval conception of the liberal arts as rational skills or practices that enable a person to fashion knowledge. Just as a skillful carpenter can use the tools of his trade to produce a beautiful and serviceable chair, so the master of the liberal arts can produce new knowledge by means of those arts.
How much you owe the Salvation Army every time you listen to the following Christmas songs:
“Last Christmas” by Wham!: 50 cents
Any Christmas song by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra: $1
“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid (1984 version): $1
“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid 20 (2004 version): $2
“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid 30 (2014 version): $3
“Christmas Shoes” (Bob Carlisle cover): $5
“Christmas Shoes” (NewSong cover): $10
Pretty much any version of “Mary, Did You Know?”: $20
“As Grandmother’s biographer, I’d have to guess she was never really happy after, say, her thirty-seventh year, the last year when she lived an idyll in Boise Canyon.”
“But she lived a long time after that,” Ellen said.
“She lived to be ninety-one.”
“But she wasn’t happy.”
“She wasn’t unhappy, either. Do you have to be one or the other?”
The contentious question of when to begin listening to Christmas music is, I believe, a red herring. The real question is, “Why listen to Christmas music at all?” Once we have sorted out this question, we will know when to hit play on “Silent Night.”
So far as I can tell, there are four schools of thought as regards the timeliness of Christmas music, and they are as follows.
Thanksgiving Day joins together friends and family to feast, laugh, and reflect upon the innumerable blessings of God upon each of us; some of the most important ones gathered around the table. And, while for too many, Thanksgiving has morphed into “Turkey Day” – a day to eat too much, fall asleep watching football games they don’t care about, and plan Black Friday shopping – the intentional act of giving thanks is important.
A lot can change depending on whether you focus on sight or hearing. When I teach Plato’s Republic, we spend weeks discussing whether beauty is real or not. Our students generally regard themselves as counter-cultural. They will tell you they utterly reject the moral relativism and atheism that they see in the broader society beyond their family and community. And yet they will always say, with remarkable confidence, that “beauty is completely subjective; it’s in the eye of the beholder.”