As Wise as Pigeons: Lessons Never Learned

carol-Keehan and Joseph Biden July 8, 2009

Why must the children of light always be ten revolutions and a hundred years behind the children of darkness?  If we cannot always defeat our enemies on the battlefield, can’t we at least learn to recognize their tactics so that we won’t be fooled the next time?  Never mind that.  Can’t we learn to recognize, from the bullets whistling past our ears and our comrades lying beside us shot through the heart, that they are our enemies?

Several days ago I was at a tent meeting with some of the oddest of the children of light.  These Christians preach Christ, and Him crucified.  Indeed, they preach so doggedly about Christ’s atonement for our sins and our complete helplessness to save ourselves, that they never get around to talking our new life in Christ.  Every day is Good Friday, and what happened on Easter merely confirms the power of Christ’s blood and so redirects our attention to the Cross.

None of this is wrong, as far as it goes.  But it doesn’t go far.  I have a soft spot in my heart for underdogs, especially when they preach about the Lord to a people stultified by bad schools, television, and the unutterable banality of vice.  I wish my friends well, though I suspect they believe I’m not “saved,” because I haven’t been struck blind on the road to Damascus.  My conversion was slower and more embarrassing, but that’s another story.

After the meeting I enjoyed refreshments with the members of the group, including several young people, three lads and a lass, between seventeen and twenty four years old.  We got to talking about school.  I’m an American, but we spend our summers in Canada, in Cape Breton.  And since I always ask my freshmen at Providence College what they’ve studied in high schools public and parochial, and, more to the point, what they have not studied, what they haven’t ever heard of, I asked the same questions to these pleasant Canadians.

“I’m going to name a few English writers,” I said.  “All I want to know is whether you recognize the names.  You don’t have to tell me anything about them.”  These people were bright enough, as you could tell from their presence at the meeting and their conversation.

Milton.  No recognition.  Wordsworth.  No recognition.  Tennyson.  One of the boys said, “Albert?”  That was a hint that he had once heard the name.  “Close,” I said.  “Alfred, Lord Tennyson, the great Victorian poet.  Can you tell me anything about him?”  No, nothing.  “What on earth do you do in school for twelve years?” I asked.  That’s a question I’ve asked a thousand times, in both countries.  They laughed.  They were not going to defend their schools, not even as Canadians to an American.  They knew they were indefensible.

They did tell me that they read Shakespeare, one play a year, detached from the history of England, from the tradition of English literature, and, most disappointing, from Shakespeare’s Christian faith.  Shakespeare is the most theological of English dramatists.  It’s not simply that he alludes to scripture all the time.  It’s that entire plays are structured around theological questions—and are incomprehensible without the foundation of the Christian story.

Here the young lady became the lead interlocutor.  She was the oldest and had read the most.  She wouldn’t allow that Shakespeare was a profoundly Christian author; not because her interpretation of Shakespeare differed from mine, but because, in comparison with the gospel, the Christian writer meant nothing, even if he was the greatest dramatist who ever lived.  She understood that many people flourished by being taught at home, but she was glad she went to high school, not for what she learned there, which she admitted was not a lot, but because it gave her the opportunity to witness to Jesus.

I couldn’t let matters rest.  “But that’s not what school is for,” I said.  “Look at what you might have learned, in a sane world.  You might have learned about Bach, that giant of a composer, who dedicated every work he composed to the name of Jesus Christ!”  She shrugged and said she enjoyed Bach, but she wouldn’t go so far as to call him a Christian.  She was moved not one inch by the wealth of Christian history, art, music, drama, and poetry that she had been denied the chance to study.  She said she reads Jane Austen for pleasure, but the humanities in themselves mean nothing to her.

It struck me that there’s a strange similarity between these Christians and the secularists who dominate our schools and who have eviscerated our curricula, replacing the great poets of our heritage with ephemeral scribblers upon “current events.”  That’s the one thing that cannot be taught with any perspective.  But it requires no special study (ignorance is a boon if you’re reading Maureen Dowd).  It exposes no deficiencies in the teachers.  The young people at the meeting didn’t care about Wordsworth or Tennyson, because they had Jesus.  The secularists are worse.  They don’t care about Wordsworth or Tennyson, because they have Tony Kushner or some other purveyor of twaddle.

Which brings me to the Common Core Curriculum that is being pedaled (not peddled; the governmental foot is on the accelerator) to our schools.  Apparently plenty of Catholic schools are on board, too.  That is baffling.  Every big “reform” of the public schools for the last sixty years has been disastrous—the expunging of any trace of religion from the classroom; the replacement of small schools with hulking institutions; the consolidation of school boards to attenuate local control and personal oversight; the abandonment of geography; the shift from history to current events; the New Math; the basal reader; comic books to amuse the poorer students in high school; the war on boys; the expansion of health class to “sex education” (what the heck is so complicated?); the corruption of the latter; teaching to standardized tests; the absurdly biased textbooks; the abandonment of any systematic study of grammar; teaching foreign languages “conversationally,” which means, in effect, illiterately; the abandonment of math-based sciences such as physics and chemistry, in favor of biology, reduced to ecology, reduced to cuddles; what on earth would make us think that anything this system produces can do us any good?  Homeschoolers enjoy their signal and mortifying success largely because they see everything that is done in school and then go and do precisely the opposite.

So why should Catholic schools line up for a curriculum that stiffs literature and the arts?  Why accept a curriculum whose utilitarian presuppositions are inimical to everything that a Catholic is supposed to believe about human flourishing?  Why, to recall the article published here a few days ago, rush to adopt the Big History program promoted by atheist Bill Gates—a program that certainly is Big but is sorely lacking in History, that is permeated with determinist assumptions regarding human life, and that wholly ignores or reviles the single most significant event in human history (the one event my young evangelizers know about and cherish), and that wholly ignores or reviles the single most culturally dynamic institution in human history, the Church?  Why should John Dewey or Bill Gates write our curricula?  That would be like having Alfred Kinsey write our sex education lessons.  Ah, but I forget—we have those, don’t we?  Or it would be like having Carl Rogers run a “spiritual” retreat for nuns—ah yes, we did that too, didn’t we?  It would be like hiring the disciples of the secularist architects Gropius and Von der Rohe to design worship-machines for us, boxes that consign the Stations of the Cross to scratches of graffiti a hundred feet away, and that awake no sense of mystery, and recall no rich heritage of symbols and gestures—but wait, we built those boxes, and when we didn’t build them, we transmogrified perfectly lovely churches into their image and likeness; and we breathed upon them, and they became mausoleums.

But why should there even be a national curriculum?  Have we lost our minds?  Have we forgotten who and what we are?  A man and woman marry and have children, and the responsibility to educate those children rests upon them, because children aren’t bottle caps to be stamped with the same label, one after another.  The principle of incarnation forbids it.  One home cannot be a copy of another, because the spiritual, intellectual, artisanal, and physical strengths of one couple and their kin are not the same as those of another.  No two siblings are alike.  The very idea of a national curriculum, to be pedaled upon the children of three hundred millions, should be repugnant to a freedom-loving people, and anathema to people of faith.

Here I throw my hands up in despair, because the leaders of my church, after a hundred years of the attenuation of genuine community life, consumed by Big This and That, still cannot understand that there’s as much difference between a community and a faceless aggregate as there is between a free man and a numbered inmate in a prison.  They cannot understand that even if the National Curriculum were acceptable—even if, this time, the man who sold us rat poison for corn meal is going to give us healthy food—that there should be no such, that the very existence of a National Curriculum fundamentally alters the relationship of the citizen, the school, the town, the state, and even the family to the national government?  Why is that so hard to grasp?

Then there’s the Catholic Health Association, giving its lordly fiat potestas—let there be might—to the national government, to control every feature of our health care system.  What has made the bishops so slow to understand that, even if a nifty legal filter could pick out the specks of rat poison in the meal for Catholic schools and hospitals, that doesn’t do a damned thing for individual Catholics, or for other Christian objectors, or simply for people of good faith who don’t want to pony up for somebody else’s pills or diaphragms or snuffed babies?  Why have they not seen that a nationalized medical system also fundamentally alters the relationship between the government and the citizen?  Why can’t they divine the difference between inequalities that result by circumstance, and rationing as a matter of principle?  They’ve climbed into the lifeboat, then they object if the skipper mistreats them—when the thing to do was to reject the lifeboat and its principles, and to use our own resources and our Christian mandate to assist people in need.

The wise Laocoon hurled his lance at the wooden horse and cried, “I fear the Greeks, even when they are bringing gifts!”  Why, why must the children of light say, “Look here, Mammon’s going to build us a new school and a new hospital, and they’re free!”

As wise as pigeons—or as innocent as snakes.

Editor’s note: The image above depicts Sr. Carol Keehan of the Catholic Health Association speaking in favor of healthcare reform at a press conference with Vice President Joe Biden on July 8, 2009.

Anthony Esolen

By

Professor Esolen teaches Renaissance English Literature and the Development of Western Civilization at Providence College. He is a senior editor for Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, and a regular contributor to Crisis Magazine. His most recent books are The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (Regnery Press, 2008); Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (ISI Press, 2010) and, most recently, Reflections on the Christian Life (Sophia Institute Press, 2013). Professor Esolen has also translated Dante.

  • Deacon Ed Peitler

    #1 Why, when I see a photo of Keehan and Biden, do my innards want to react with retching? I should remember to have something to settle my stomach first.

    #2 This is a commentary that every one of our bishops ought to read and asked to address. Unfortunately, far too many of them are too busy hosting dinners for people like Obama or figuring out new ways to get around the latest scandal about CCHD, CRS, CCUSA, and all the rest.

  • john

    While Mr. Esolen doesn’t use the term “proportionality,” he exactly captures its virtues. This is an outstanding essay, in that its specific lessons about education and health care apply equally to nearly every other case in which the immoral/amoral national exceeds what’s left of the community’s values. I only wish he might help illuminate how minority Christian communities in outrageously secular places (like California, NY, New England) would suffer MORE as a result of increased local autonomy. In those places, the enemy has successfully muted the Church’s voice. In some cases, only the federal structure enables sane representatives from Kansas, for example, (like Sam Brownback’s “amendment,” of happy memory) to keep the edifice from crumbling completely nationwide.

  • Alecto

    One might as well ask why the mome raths outgrabe. Beware the jubjub bird and shun the frumious Bandersnatch. Like Mr. Carroll’s jabberwocky, nothing they say or teach makes sense. As for Ms. Keehan, is there much to do but pray for her? If someone will not listen to reason, to the truth, I think it’s best to leave him or her to the devices of the Holy Spirit.

    We know where this path leads. We see and read daily of the erosion of our society in a broad sense. It is the fundamental transformation of a free society to enslavement. Simple things like manners and civility are the first casualties of these efforts. Yet, can we afford to lament? Do we have the time? I think we had best get busy building something while they destroy.

    • Adam__Baum

      As for Ms. Keehan, is there much to do but pray for her?
      If she wants to be a politician, then treat her as one. Subject her to the “blood sport”, with all it’s insults, indignities, attacks and ambushes.

      • Alecto

        Or, present her with an ultimatum: “Your job or your soul.” She wasn’t elected to any office, so her pretense to the political realm is arrogant at best.

        • Adam__Baum

          It’s a common form of parasite that infests the NGO sector, they rather like exsanguinating the host public through the treasury.

  • Steven Jonathan

    Shout it from the rooftops Dr. Esolen! I shudder to think of anyone defending the public schools. Before the common core the state standards curriculum were already a diabolical usurpation of the power to perform the duties of rightful subsidiarity. The common core is a coup de grace for the bent soul.
    The mantra “but its free” is the foolishness of those who have unknowingly bought into the social utopian schemes, not Catholic Social Teaching.

    • musicacre

      Exactly; common core is the final nail in the coffin. Death of real education was already there.

    • Mr

      The only things worse than public school and universal health care are every other alternative.

      • Tony

        Strange … Every single alternative to the current public school system seems superior to me. Homeschooling is demonstrably superior. Genuine Catholic schooling is demonstrably superior. The public education that my parents received before most of the “reforms” kicked in was demonstrably superior. And we HAVE universal health CARE in the US. What we have not had is NATIONALIZED medicine. There is a difference.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Actually, we have neither even under Obamacare.

          On the universal health care front, there are many, many townships without even a doctor, let alone a hospital. Health care in the United States is centered in urban populations, where the greater number of patients bring in fat profits. Obamacare isn’t going to do thing one to change that situation, the poorest of the poor will still have to travel hundreds of miles for adequate care in specialized situations.

          On nationalized medicine, still no. Obamacare is a rewarmed version of Hillarycare, in which private insurance companies trade “defined levels of care” with the government for “guaranteed forced purchase by law customer base”. It’s about as socialist as Tammany Hall Politics were back in the 1920s in New York, and three times as vile.

          • Mark

            “Health care in the United States is centered in urban populations..”

            “the poorest of the poor will still have to travel hundreds of miles..”

            The majority of the “poor” live in inner cities.

            • TheodoreSeeber

              The majority yes.

              So do the majority of the rich.

              I’d suggest taking a car trip a few hundred miles from the nearest “inner city”- you WILL find people starving to death in the very townships that provide you with your corn flakes in the morning.

              Such is capitalism.

              • msmischief

                Starving to death. You have any evidence of that?

                • TheodoreSeeber

                  Metaphor more, though the rural use of SNAP food stamps is up greatly:

                  http://www.carseyinstitute.unh.edu/publications/IB-Bean-SNAP-Web-Final.pdf

                  Even though those in rural areas with low incomes are underregistered.

                  I’m not sure in what conversation I put it, but this HAS affected me locally, and it is due partially to business regulation: In Oregon, about 10 years ago, they started requiring any business carrying firearms to purchase massive amounts of liability insurance. This had the side effect of putting all the mobile slaughter businesses out of business; requiring cattle ranchers to now truck cattle many miles to a slaughterhouse alive to kill them. Which means rural food banks which could count on the donation of one steer out of a herd of 600-700, now couldn’t.

                  Same goes for other foods that require post-harvest processing. The local flour mill has gone out of business, and wheat is now sold to Asia, so the food bank doesn’t get bulk flour donated as often anymore.

                  In addition to all of that, farm subsidies now have most farms operating at a loss- so that the price paid for farm work is extremely low.

                  • Gail Finke

                    That is fascinating (in a bad way) about the firearms and the slaughterhouses, I’ve never heard that before. There is a lot more rural poverty than most people know.

        • Me

          Homeschooling may work well in some cases, but it is not the cure-all you seem to believe. Sadly there are home schooled kids who suffer abuse and neglect and are taught very little. Some young women who have grown up within the “quiverfull” movement describe lives of sexual, emotional, and spiritual abuse, and educational deprivation. Public schools can work very well and need to be available to the millions of kids who need them. We’ve done a combination of home and public school with our kids, and I’m very happy with the results. What little “nationalized medicine” we have here in the US is provided through the military (the VA system) or to the very poor or the aged. We still have many people, including children, who are uninsured. The goal, by the way, is not nationalized medicine but universal health insurance that will make medical care, including private medical care, available to everyone that needs it.

          • Amy Mitchell

            Sadly there are many, many public school kids who suffer abuse and neglect and are taught very little.
            We shouldn’t judge a successful movement like homeschooling because there are still damaged and sinful people in it. It should be promoted and supported and more families encouraged to join support groups.

            I have read a lot of “quiverful” blogs and articles and although it is sad, I can’t think that public school would have solved their problems.

          • emiliani

            It’s IMMORAL to take money from Jones to pay for Smith’s Health INSURANCE. It’s one thing to tax Jones to pay for Smith’s immediate needs, such as food or surgery to repair his broken leg — those are actual services and goods the church was commanded to provide for the poor — but to pay for 20-30 years of unused insurance coverage is actually an obscene inversion of Christ’s command. That’s sinister; that’s theft; that’s disgraceful, and it’s sold to us from our bishops as a social good (all except the abortion and birth control parts, that is). Billions upon billions of dollars will go to insurance companies to reimburse millions of people, many who can pay for their treatment needs, all while the truly needy are shafted from receiving aid to basic sustenance needs because of it. It’s a cruel inversion of our Lord’s command to serve and aid the needy. And deep down inside I’m afraid that our bishops simply can’t recognize that rather obvious reality…and have simply bought on to the socialist zeitgeist. The Church is the one institution that can lead us out of this monstrous situation; however, they’re not quite sure where the battle is yet. Instead, they offer honorary degrees and muck it up with Barak Obama, who supported the born-alive-infanticide bill back as a congressman in Illinoise. I actually wonder if these bishops were alive back in the day if they would have hosted the Marquies de Sade, Hitler, and Nero comedy roast. It’s not funny; it’s not fraternity; it’s not excuseable. We’ve lost all appreciation for our sacred calling.

    • Justin Donald

      If this is too personal, Steven, please forgive me (or just don’t answer):

      How, then, do you continue to survive as a teacher in the public school setting? Is there any hope for those of us (myself included) who are one of those students who meet the requirements to teach in the public school setting, interested in the teaching profession, but are now completely reluctant to even begin a teaching career in this setting?

      • Steven Jonathan

        Justin,
        Survival as a teacher simply requires a pulse, anything more than that is likely to get you into hot water. If you are interested in the public school but are Catholic and wish to remain faithful, you will find that you can not. If you are interested in embarking on a career in a Catholic Classical Liberal Arts school, faithful to the Magisterium, I can’t think of a more satisfying endeavor for one who would like to teach.
        This is truly a devastating climate for anyone interested in becoming a teacher- even in the parochial schools.
        To be frank Justin, I won’t survive much longer because I can not do what the state asks me to, it just depends on when that becomes inconvenient for someone in a position to fire me.
        I would like to talk to you in more detail about your intentions if that would be of help to you. I don’t envy the options you young folks have today.
        Best wishes, Steven

        • Justin Donald

          I feared, but expected, as much. Thank you for your honesty, Steven.

          From this point on, I really don’t know what to do. I’m aware of only a few websites that post employment opportunities in Catholic Classical schools, but requirements for these positions seem well above my qualifications — seeing as though I am a product of public schools. And apropos your comment to Connie, I started to become aware of my mis-education, and the “devastating climate” for teachers and students of good will, while I was taking coursework for a “Master of Education” degree. Now that my initial paradigm is shattered, just as I embark on the infamous job search no less, I am — needless to say — concerned and confused.

          I’d be grateful to discuss in more detail, if your offer still stands. My email is justindschmitt at gmail.com.

          God bless!

          • emiliani

            I’ll give my take. I teach here in Texas and don’t find the overt challenges to my faith as Steve does. As a high school SPED math / ELA teacher, there’s not a whole lot I cover from the actual curriculum that’s immoral or immodest or questionable. What is needed, however, a true discussion about the one thing that can change their lives around, Jesus Christ and his True Church, is a total no go; while many in the administration would probably say very little without an ACLU or parent complaint, it’s just not prudent or appropriate for the situation. Plus, deep down inside I know a lot of students are really being hurt by the directionless, valueless, faithless being experienced by my students. The model is all wrong…and ultimately I’m participating in it (hopefully for the better).

  • msmischief

    The reason why the children of light are fools next to the children of darkness is that we do not passionately desire to do good the way they want what they are doing evil for. Which is the fruit of original sin. And an observation not unknown outside Christianity.

    The Master said, “I have not seen a person who loved virtue, or one
    who hated what was not virtuous. He who loved virtue, would esteem
    nothing above it. He who hated what is not virtuous, would practice
    virtue in such a way that he would not allow anything that is not
    virtuous to approach his person.

    “Is any one able for one day to apply his strength to virtue? I have
    not seen the case in which his strength would be insufficient.

    “Should there possibly be any such case, I have not seen it.”

    • Me

      I’d be a little careful about identifying oneself as a “child of light.” Remember the pharisees?

      • Friar Dismas Sayre, OP

        1 Thes 5:5 “You are all children of the light and children of the day.”

        As long as we keep in mind just who the Source of that light is, we run a safer course. Plus, identifying as “children of light” is not a static title to glory in, but a call to conversion of self, Holiness and evangelization.

      • emiliani

        He didn’t say he was a “child of light.” He made a distinction between the “children” (plural) of light and darkness; nor did he include himself in either category, if you’ll read carefully. But your underlining assumption seems to imply that there are no such distinctions between the children of light and darkness–or that they even exist. You may want to reread the Gospels to see that this distinction was a common theme: bad seed, lost sheep, children/lovers of darkness, children of the Enemy, brood of vipers, wolves, goats on His left vs. sheep on His right, lovers of self vs. lovers of God, etc. The constant challenge is that we strive, with the help of God’s Grace, to be children of the light. But I think I understand that you’re encouraging folks not to presume which group you belong to…or even that where we start at may not be where we end up — it’s sobering reminder for humility.

  • grzybowskib

    Tell us how you really feel about this whole thing….. :)

  • TheodoreSeeber

    I’m 42 and I question the value of a common education at all. I’m putting my son through it mainly because it is expected- his learning disabilities mean that he’ll never be able to handle Shakespeare or Milton unless it’s in a book on tape or he goes to a play.

    But that’s OK in this day and age because he has Wikipedia.

    If I can ever get him to spell well enough to use it.

  • Connie

    This article really speaks to me. I graduated college in the late 70s and have felt for some time that while I was well trained for my chosen profession, I was very poorly educated. Is it too late? It took years, decades really, for me to discover how marginal my education really was. Is there such a thing as a “do over” available? It is a daunting task to try to educate yourself–I don’t know where to start or how to proceed.

    • slainte

      I used to spend a great deal of time driving to business engagements and discovered that if I listened to an audio CD of a classic book while driving, I could enhance my education very easily. This practice pays wonderful dividends and you will be proud of yourself as you listen your way through thousand page books. Many audio books are available in local libraries.

      • Alecto

        Traffic here is hell and while I normally listen to classical music, that is a great alternative. It also raises the difference between knowledge and education. The latter is a formal process, but we all have the ability and a duty to learn throughout life. Although, War & Peace on audio? How would you keep track of the character voices? :)

        • slainte

          I have the CD of “War and Peace” but have not gotten around to listening to it yet. Thanks for reminding me…time to get on it.

          I did, however, “listen to” Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead”, “Atlas Shrugged”, “Anna Karenina”, “Lady Jane Grey”, “Wuthering Heights”, just about all of the Jane Austen and Tom Wolfe novels, etc. The Jane Austen books inspired me to visit Bath England to view the Pump House, the manor homes, the Circus, the Royal Crescent, and the Roman baths…still beautiful after all these years.

          “The Diary of Samuel Pepys” set in 1660s England is a riot, in particular the churlish conversations between Pepys and his wife. His account of the great London fire was riveting. …highly recommend.

          Claasical music will calm the frayed nerves, but an interesting novel even when listened to will distract you from your anxious moments, and the stresses of traffic, by forcing you to concentrate. Enjoy…it’s a fun thing to do.

        • Adam__Baum

          Have you read Taleb’s “The Black Swan”? If not, his discourse on the difference between techne and episteme might prove interesting.

          • Alecto

            No, thanks! I’ll search it out along with slainte’s other recommendations.

            • Alecto

              Just reserved Pepys diary, Vanity Fair, the Brothers Karamazov, and both Taleb’s “Black Swan” and “Fooled by Randomness”. Time for a road trip. Thanks Adam and slainte.

        • Bono95

          Mom always recommended that you stick with audio books narrated by just one person rather than a whole big cast if you can.

          • Bono95

            Some audio books I’d recommend besides the several great ideas brought up already are:

            “Anne of Green Gables”

            “Watership Down”

            “The Phantom Tollbooth”

            “A Wrinkle In Time”

            “David Copperfield”

            “Great Expectations”

            “A Christmas Carol”

            “The Screwtape Letters”

            The Narnia series

            “The Lord of the Rings”

            “The Hobbit”

            “The Daughter of Time”

      • Connie

        Thanks–I have begun to read more “real” books, but my method is rather sporadic.

        • slainte

          I had the habit of beginning a book and then not finishing it (ie., the Ayn Rand books which are very voluminous)…but there was something about listening to the novel that kept me coming back for more. Try different classical novels until you listen to the right one; soon you will be hooked, and you will find yourself wanting to go on long drives to finish listening to a great book…and amazed when you actually finish one that you enjoyed.

          Buena Suerte Sue!

      • emiliani

        Listening to Catholic Radio, and reading Peter Kreeft/Fulton Sheen, can help make up a lot of ground, and put you ahead of virtually everyone, very quickly.

    • Marie Kokes

      Christendom College has all manner of great lectures, downloadable for free at iTunes U: http://www.christendom.edu/about/connect.php

      I love Dr. Cuddeback, Dr. Maguire, Dr. Marshner, and so many others!

      • Connie

        Thank you for the info!

        • Marie Kokes

          =)

      • slainte

        Great idea Marie. Yale University also offers many online Youtube coures such as this video on John Milton’s, “Paradise Lost”.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0AcfjEGw_k

        Yale also provides many Philosophy courses via Youtube which may be of interest.

        Good luck Connie….the internet is a wonderful, accessible tool which will help you refresh after being away from college for so long.

        • pmains

          I have a script that will allow you to download an Open Yale Course’s lecture mp3s automatically. They’re downloadable via iTunes, I guess, but not everyone has iTunes. You need Python (and a knowledge of how to work on the command line) in order to run my script, though.

          https://code.google.com/p/open-yale-course-lecture-downloader/

    • Steven Jonathan

      Connie,

      Your comment resonates with me. I graduated from universityand after a few decades of hindsight I realized that I was completely uneducated, and by my own standards, I was formally illiterate. I spent the last decade delving into the classics of the Great Western Tradition and it has been a joy beyond reckoning.

      The difficulty with the Great Books is that it is difficult to get started on your own. I believe that in the beginning, we are in real need of a guide. That may be the most difficult thing because most teachers and even university professors are themselves not properly educated. However, if you are in earnest, you will find a guide. The world will tell you that you can be your own guide, but that is a big part of the problem to begin with.

      Also, before you get to the Great Books, it is a good idea to start with the good books. I started with the Greek myths- and I recommend the good fairy tales from Grimms, Anderson, Lewis, Tolkien and a few others, but of course any advice would really depend on where your mind is, what level of knowledge and skill you have in the areas of grammar and logic and your view of the final ends of an education.

      I think the other suggestions you got were excellent, especially the books on cd and the lectures at Christendom are amazing. I would hope all Catholics would go there and devour them, they are really excellent.

      I would like to talk to you further if I can be of any help, let me know.

  • kentgeordie

    Amen. I sigh for the world that maybe was once, and could have been. A little voice deep down inside keeps telling me, stop being nice, start being tough. Stop smiling at Anglicans and bureaucrats and abortionists, and start proclaiming some Catholic truths.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    “because children aren’t bottle caps to be stamped with the same label, one after another”

    Well, Jules Ferry, the 19th century founder of the modern French public school system, did say that the purpose of public education was “to cast the nation’s youth into the same mould and to stamp them, like the coinage, with the image of the Republic.” That is why he wanted the system to be “obligatory, gratuitous and lay.”

    His system has been widely imitated throughout Europe,Perhaps, this idea has caught on in the United States?

    Ferry, by the way, was a man of the Right; he was the minister of Thiers during the crushing of the Paris Commune and the architect of colonization in Algeria.

    • Adam__Baum

      You probably think that Nazi’s were “right-wing” as well, despite the fact that they were statists flying the banner of “National Socialism”.

      • ColdStanding

        If all three of us were in a room and you said that to his face, I’d have punched your pie hole for uttering such mealy mouth nonsense. Pinhead.

        • tamsin

          #smh

          Given the limitations of comboxes, I can only say that Michael is justified in pointing out that Ferry may properly be considered a “man of the Right”, while Adam is justifiably sensitive to the qualification.

          I tell my own kids that the “totalitarian left” and the “fascist right” meet and become one at a point on the political spectrum, because the political spectrum is best described as a circle, not a line. The question is, “who (thinks he) is to be master, that is all.”

          Describing it as a line with a far left end point and a far right end point leads to unfortunate conclusions.

          • Adam__Baum

            Unfortunate conclusions with seruious consequences.

            I have distant relatives “in the old country”. When my late grandmother visited them in the late 1970′s, they were eager to hear from their American cousin. Because she was bilingual and able to converse with her own immigrant Mother until 1982, she had conversancy that facilitated a lot of revelations, such as the fact that they traded one foreign dictator for another after the War and in many ways the regimes were indistinguable. That experience is the acid test, not some abstract taxonomy.

            I used to use the “circle” but I realize that’s another abstraction. My critical measure of any political philosophy is how much it seeks to vest authority and control in a central government. Statism, no matter what the intellectual justification, always end up in the same place-mass imprisonment and mass graves.

            • slainte

              Does the centralization of Catholicism concern you?

              • Adam Baum

                No. Members of the Catholic Church have committed have comitted their fair share of sins, but it cannot tax me, conscript me or exercise any other power against me forcibly. If I sin, I can enter obtain absolution by asking. Not so with any secular authority.

                Most importantly, history records no mass slaughters like those committed by Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Castro or any number of lesser known monsters.

                • slainte

                  Adam Baum, What group caused injury to your family, and why? You referred earlier to your grandmother returning to her country of origin and her discussion with some cousins about exchanging one dictator for another?

                  • Adam Baum

                    Nazis and Soviets, in the course of their respective invasions and occupations.

                    My grandmother informed me with a certain degree of humility after her visit that at one point a child made the sign of the cross and his mother said “for this” he could never aspire to any position of status, especially those that required party membership.

                    • slainte

                      The little child enjoys the highest and most exalted status.

                      I am sorry for the injustices perpetrated against your family. Americans do not understand what it is like to live under a tyrannical dictatorship; we are naive in many ways. Our fathers who fought in World War II experienced man’s inhumanity to man personally, and in the post war years were vigilant trying to keep our shores safe. That generation has mostly passed on now.

                      Thank you for ringing the alarm bells,

                    • Adam__Baum

                      De Toqueville warned us about soft tyranny. It’s been here for some time. The pilot project was the Interstate Commere Commission (1887) and the Sixteenth Amendment gave the Federal government virtually unlimited funding.
                      There is no question that the tyranny is petrifying, how quickly it will ascend Moh’s scale of hardness is yet to be determined.

        • Adam__Baum

          You are the pinhead. The very fact that you issued such a peurile threat sight-unseen in a fit of intellectually vacant, visceral indignation shows that you are a fool.

          It’s pretty stupid to issue threats like that to people who are frequently asked “were you a linebacker”? I can pretty much guarantee you that your attempt a punch would mean your end. If you were lucky, you’d be “out-cold”.

          On the other hand, I prefer substance over emotion. The Soviets and the Nazi’s -despite their falling out, based on Hitler’s imperial ambitions and duplicity, originally signed a non-agression pact.
          Hitler had the SS and the concentration camps, Stalin had the KGB and the gulags. They both had cults of personalty, phoney populism, secret police, a culture of fear, centralized economic direction and regimentation designed to crush the individual person into a fungible ward of the all-powerful state.
          Atheism was the state religion. Even the propaganda art was similar.
          But you keep believing that idiotic nonsense that they are polar opposites on a linear continuum rather than two different flavors of the same God-forsaken abomination.

          • ColdStanding

            I make no claims as to how it would have ended up for me. I would have launched it regardless.

            I could not give a crap about your preferences. Anybody, demonstrating the lack of the basic sense NOT to drop a “Nazi” into the comment section can make not claims to “prefer substance of emotion.”

            Just disgusting.

            • Adam__Baum

              So you still have nothing but blind rage and willful imprudence. Thanks for playing, now hurry along.

              • ColdStanding

                It isn’t blind rage. It is disgust. As in what you suggest to Michael was mealy mouthed and disgusting.

                Had you any honour, you’d withdraw your fowl assertion and apologize to Michael.

                But you are without honour.

                • Alecto

                  Hilarious! Mention of the work “honor” (it’s spelled h-o-n-o-r on this side of the pond) from the man who likes fighting girls? Is the reference to chickens intended as a put-down?

                  • ColdStanding

                    Not in my country it isn’t.

                    Are you calling Adam a girl?

                    • Adam__Baum

                      I don’t generally take Barack Obama seriously, but his injunction to bring a gun to a knife fight sound better than your apparent belief that you can prevail in an intellectual thermonuclear war with a peashooter.

                    • Alecto

                      She stoops to conquer….

                • Adam__Baum

                  Disgust has a basis, it may be an emotion, but it’s reasoned.
                  You have no reason, or you’d have have actually offered a rational, dispassionate argument rather than issuing threats. Then again, your inability to distinguish “fowl” and “foul” speaks volumes about incapacity.
                  You offer gratutitous threats of violence and then question somebody else’s honor.
                  Buy a mirror.

                  • ColdStanding

                    Enjoy your weapons of mass ego inflation, at least I’ll die a man.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      You remind me of a guy I used to know who used to pick fights and they often ended badly for him. We had to tell him that it’s just stupid to try to beat the other guy’s fists with your face.

                      He stopped being a foolish child eventually.

                    • ColdStanding

                      All you had to do was with draw your foul assertion and apologize to Michael P-S for your unbelievable rudeness. Instead you doubled down with more ridiculous posturing.

                      That reveals character, or, more precisely, the lack there of.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      Oh I get it, you are using yourself a comedic foil. Narcisstic.

                    • ColdStanding

                      Blowhard.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      You make me think of a word.. yeah paucity.

                    • ColdStanding

                      That’s all you can think of is one word? That my, unfriend, is the definition of paucity.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      You are that uninspiring and foul.

                    • ColdStanding

                      Oh, I don’t know about that. I seem to have gotten you pretty inspired. You’d have left by now if otherwise.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      I’m a curious sort, I remember examining other lower life forms in a petri dish. To be studied, but not inspirational.

                    • ColdStanding

                      Yes, I’m the narcissist. Right. Got it.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      It took you long enough.

                    • TheodoreSeeber
                    • Alecto

                      How d’ya reckon that?

                    • ColdStanding

                      For starters, by not asking you.

        • Alecto

          Fund-raiser idea: Coldstanding vs Adam Baum in a cage match! I’d pay to see that….

          • ColdStanding

            Oh, look who is getting a man to do for her what she wants to, but feels she can’t do for herself. Ouch! That’s got to sting, Ms. Alecto.

            • Alecto

              Oh, no, I would gladly absolve you of whatever childish notions of gallantry to which you pretend on these pages for the profound pleasure of kicking your arse!

              • ColdStanding

                Fine. I’ll trade/abandon my faux-gallantry for you putting down that damnable violin you are always screeching on.

                • Alecto

                  We’ve been through this before, have you forgotten so soon? Tell me, do either sunlight or the concept of other people penetrate your fortress of narcissism?

                  • ColdStanding

                    I have not forgotten. Tell me again, why are you complaining about other people being dense?

                    • Alecto

                      Not dense per se, just impervious to light and truth.

                    • ColdStanding

                      OK. Why are you complaining about other people being impervious to light and truth?

                    • Adam__Baum

                      In your case, I think it’s charitable.

                    • ColdStanding

                      As I’ve stated before, what you think is of little account to me.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      And your thoughts on any matter, no account to me.

                    • Me

                      Now, now, Adam_Baum and Coldstanding, put away your swords. If you don’t stop posturing and threatening, one of you is going to get himself legally executed by the other, at least if you’re in a “stand your ground” state.

                    • Alecto

                      Not complaining. Laughing, at you, not with you. Good Gawd, man, you really have no comedic approach. You need to work on that.

                    • ColdStanding

                      No.

                  • Adam__Baum

                    Fortress of Narcissm. Briliant, just brilliant. That it’s contextually appropriate is even better.
                    Of course being across the pond explains his phoney bravado. I’m just not inclined to fly across the pond to provide the application of a blunt instrument so lacking.

                    • ColdStanding

                      I’m not across the pond.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      Ok, name the time and place and we can “discuss” this.

                    • ColdStanding

                      We are discussing it right now. See, before when I said I’d pop you in the pie hole, I didn’t know you were this badly unhinged. If I’d gotten an ass-whooping, it have been my fault. But now that you’ve so kindly revealed what you are like… well, there is defending honour, then there is stupidity.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      then there is stupidity.
                      Yes, and there’s nothing more unhinged than issuing a threat of violence and then likening yourself to an angel.

                    • ColdStanding

                      Sure, make it all about how bad I am.

                    • Adam Baum

                      I refer you to your initial “piehole” comment. Nothing I say is as indicting as that.

          • Adam__Baum

            There needs to be reasonable uncertainty of outcome to draw a big enough purse.

            • ColdStanding

              If you had any honour you’d fight me and not give a damn who was watching or what kind of money was on the line.

              But you are without honour.

              • Adam__Baum

                Oh I could easy imagine dispatching you, for nothing but satisfaction. I just did.
                How long are you going to play pinata?

                • ColdStanding

                  A very long time. ColdStanding is a but a shadow. It’s fun to watch you swinging away at a shadow. Dance, little Adam, dance.

                  • Adam__Baum

                    A shadow is created by substance obstructing light. You are insubstantial.

                    “Son, Drunk and Stupid is no way to go through life”.

                    -Dean Wermer

                    • ColdStanding

                      You mean to say object. Shadows are created by objects obstructing light. Objects are extended bodies. Objects have substance and extension. Angels have substance but are unextended. Therefore, they cast no shadow. So you are calling me an angel. Thank you.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      No.

                      6. substantial or solid character or quality:

                      Generally, angels exhibiting such a dedication to futility as you, are called demons. The Cure de Ars taught us to treat them with derision and laughter and you surely derserve no better.

                    • ColdStanding

                      Truly, I am unworthy of praise. To mock me is more than I deserve. I should retire from life so that I may weep until the end of my days for my faults.

                      However, for you to suggest I deserve less or no better than a demon is to denigrate Jesus Christ’s having died upon the cross for my salvation. A blasphemy. You further denigrate God the Father by demeaning a being created in the image of God.

                      You really need to stop digging and say sorry to Michael.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      What part of “no” don’t you understand?

                    • ColdStanding

                      The part where it comes out of your mouth.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      Worry about what eminates from your own “piehole”.

                    • ColdStanding

                      If that’s your standard, why did you post a comment, starting this thread, derisive of what someone else, Michael, said?

                    • Adam__Baum

                      You the one preoccupied with your own peculiar and irrational standards of decorum, not me.

                    • ColdStanding

                      That does me no disservice for you to say that because for you ANY standard of decorum would be peculiar and irrational.

                    • Adam Baum

                      No, must standards of decorum are obvious and instinctual. Yours is irrational because yammer on and on about honor when you first response was dishonorable. You seriously need to get somebody to tell how poorly you are faring here.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        No, I don’t.

        Ferry was a violent opponent of socialism, trades unions and the anarchists. On trades unions he said, “There exist only the particular interests of each individual and the general interest. No one is permitted to encourage an intermediate interest that separates citizens from the common interest through a corporate spirit”

        Needless to say, he favoured laissez-faire economics.

        • Adam__Baum

          How are public schools ” laissez-faire economics” or was Ferry just a confused individual. The idea of a “general interest, is an abstraction of the left. This guy sounds intellectually disjointed. holding left-wing and right-wing positions simultaneously, like a lot of politicians. Trade unions almost always dissolved by statists,i.e., men of the left- even if they are used as useful idiots in the quest for power.

  • slainte

    An under-educated citizenry is more easily led, less likely to dissent, and more easily deceived.

    • Adam__Baum

      I thought about this comment a bit. An undereducated citizenry presents the perils you identify, but an indoctrinated and dependent citizenry is a greater danger.

      • slainte

        We are led by indoctrination starting as very young children by teachers who unwittingly become “change agents” to encourage 5 and 6 year old students to renounce their individuality in favor of “Group Think”.

        Poster Sherry describes in this blog how the indoctrination process begins under cover of teaching kindergartners “Literature and Writing”.

        Sherry also provided a link to a video entitled “Indoctrination in Common Core ELA Texts” ….. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGph7QHzmo8

        Indoctrination and dependency are subtle instruments that destroy liberty.

  • Adam__Baum

    “Why have they not seen that a nationalized medical system also fundamentally alters the relationship between the government and the citizen? Why can’t they divine the difference between inequalities that result by circumstance, and rationing as a matter of principle? They’ve climbed into the lifeboat, then they object if the skipper mistreats them—when the thing to do was to reject the lifeboat and its principles, and to use our own resources and our Christian mandate to assist people in need.”

    Except the “lifeboat” is a slave-powered Titanic . Ever since the Civil War, there has been a trend to a larger, more centralized and unaccountable state. For a century and a half, the country has been imbibing a deadly cocktail of Roepke’s “cult of the colossal” and Hayek’s “Pretense of Knowledge”. The ultimate conclusion of this is at hand-Acton’s warning about power’s corrupting effect. If there is one thing I wish I could make the Episcopacy understand, it is that centralization does not produce expertise or equity, but unaccountability and impersonal rule. They have been playing with fire for decades, mindless that their fascination with the flame might be pyromania and they are now feeling singed eyebrows. One wonders if they sense that unchecked, the flames will consume the house. All this because they ignored subsidiarity in the pursuit of a false charity.

    We have all kinds of federal departments devoted to things like education, housing, labor, all staffed with lawyers and bureaucrats with impressive degrees from impressive institutions, and yet we still have ignorance, homelessness and unemployment, except among that priviledged caste.

    Ivy league JD’s are the new Pharisees, armed with missives that “scream for your submission”. The penultimate Pharisee is now Barack Obama, isolated and insulated from the practical realities for his entire life, but steeped in politics. He represents the debasement of politics, politics for it’s own sake based on nothing the way the Kardashians represent a new form of celebrity for its own sake based on nothing.

    The fundamental alteration of the relationship between the state and the citizen began with the income tax, which gave the federal government the untrammeled right to divide and conquer, plus enact various schemes to encourage a new feudalism of the welfare state (applauded vigorously by the clapping seals known as the Catholic Left).
    National healthcare only extends and completes that alteration.

    The twentieth century, was for those who care to think, the ultimate test of the golden calf of the “progressive” administrative superstate. The only thing less astonishing than the gulags, mass graves and the slaughter is the people that continue to think that they can corral the moral blackhole without slipping into the event horizon.

    • Alecto

      Those Pharisees and the power they wield over the populace; power never granted, only taken, explains the efforts to remove faith, guns and self-reliance. It also explains why there is a separatist movement gaining ground in the United States. Not a secession movement, but a separatist movement.

      • mary jo anderson

        No intent here to start a new Civil War or to defend the practice of slavery–however, 150 year later we have learned to our great regret why the South’s fight for State’s Rights was crucial. Had State’s Rights prevailed, perhaps we would not be looking at serfdom in the massive liberty eating machine that we call the federal government.

        • Adam__Baum

          But that was only the beginning. The enactment of the Sixteenth Amendment really made the states largely superfluous political entities that exist at the pleasure of the federal government, where as before the federal government existed at the pleasure of the states. The other problem is “FFP” or “federal financial participation”, where the feds pick up a small (but significant) part of some program, but only if the states comply with administrative or programmatic requirements, such as conditioning highway funds on having an age 21 drinking age. No matter what the black robes say, it is a serious attack on the Tenth Amendment.

          • mary jo anderson

            Precisely. I am waiting on the book or even an essay that lays out how states can push back–refuse to participate. States do have power to turn back federal demands–the political will to use it is perhaps the problem.

            • emiliani

              Read Mark Levine’s newly released book (released today): Liberty Amendments. You didn’t happen to go to Biola University, did you?

    • emiliani

      Nice prose.

      • Adam__Baum

        Thanks.

  • BM

    Too true.

    There is a more fundamental problem: in our arrogance we refuse to look to our past to provide context and guidance. (And is that not a mark of imprudence?)

    A few years ago I became interested in the philosophy of education, particularly within the Catholic tradition, and found that in the mid 20th century a number of solid books on the topic had been written by Catholic philosophers/educators. (One that comes to mind at random is “The School Examined” by Vincent Edward Smith.) What struck me while reading these books wasn’t the clean reasoning or how they brought the Catholic philosophical vision to bear upon the topic, which was typical of books written by such men at the time, but rather how it could be that wise and faithful expositions of what education is and how it is to be ordered could make no impression on those to whom it was directed. The works must have been utterly ignored by those in Catholic education itself, for they followed none of it. We looked to the world and did exactly the reverse of what we should have done.

    Until Catholics get over their rebellious aversion to the past, and especially to our own intellectual tradition, we will remain stupid and imprudent.

  • WRBaker

    Even I remember in the late-1960s a high school class I had called Humanities. Ask a high school student today and they have no idea what you’re talking about.

    I’ve complained about CC often for so many different reasons and I’ve looked at the curriculum of different schools that aren’t part of the mainstream Catholic diocesan systems and found that religion, languages and literature are far more important in comparison (NAPCIS and a Norbertine school). Diocesan education departments don’t want to discuss these types of things because they feel they are “too much” for students and they don’t want to give up the touchy-feeling and social justice nonsense.
    So enthralled by the Gates’ starting CC and Big History, there is a similar component for math and science called CMAST that seems to follow the video-heavy format and its lack of depth. (Let’s not talk about grading…)
    This is what we have become, a bunch of zombies (a TV favorite subject) in front of a computer screen…. (“Why teach multiplication tables when students can look them up on-line? Why memorize ‘long’ Catholic prayers when you can look them up on-line? – Actually heard from a Catholic administrator.)

    • Sue Korlan

      There is no need to memorize long prayers. If one recites them daily at the beginning of class, the students will soon know them by heart.

      • WRBaker

        That’s called memorizing by repetition and is the most common method to teach young students.

  • James Patton

    I loved reading John Milton’s work Paradise Lost in the fifth grade! My favorite quote: “To reign is worth ambition, though in Hell: Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.”

    • Sue Korlan

      I always hated that line because it seemed to me that satan didn’t rule in hell, he just thought he did. It’s not the prisoners who run the prison.

      • James Patton

        It demonstrates how much value is placed on the act of reigning, even if it is only in the mind of Satan. I also like the qualities of ambition that is used to pay for such an endeavor.

  • MountainAngel

    Now that a chicken is considered a vegetable, how can anyone with discernment believe anything the government puts forth…..Common Core is the final step to the indoctrination of our schools….There are large grants for the school districts that buy into this system, and I have read that standardized testing will be geared to the Common Core philosophy.

  • W Meyer

    Although the public schools have become cesspools of ignorance, let us not smugly believe that all Catholic schools are doing a great job. The theories of Dewey have been applied there, as well, but with a much later start. Even so, the downward slide has begun, and Catholic high school graduates can be nearly as deficient in their understanding of core subjects as those graduating from public schools. Even worse, they may have a very poorly formed understanding of the Faith.

    In short, the crisis in education is not only in the secular schools–it is also evident in the secularization of (formerly) Catholic schools.

  • Dick Prudlo

    Mr. Esolen is on top of this one, and the Church sleeps. When it isn’t sleeping it devises other means in destroying the Holy Faith.

  • Sherry

    There is an excellent You Tube that shows text books for English Language Arts:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGph7QHzmo8&feature=youtube_gda..

    I hope this is a “hot link”. Watch for the part where the books are teaching first graders to become “social activists” – using more emotional words to convince their parents or whomever to do what they are trying to get them to do – using words that will stir the parents anger regarding the issue at hand. It is chilling.

    • slainte

      Sherry, Thanks for sharing. The teachers are designated as unwitting “change agents” to cause children at a very young, impressionable age to adopt “group think” in place of asserting their own individuality. I guess this is the model for the acceptable citizen, I mean subject, of the global world order.

  • Tony

    Some of you have mentioned audio / video classes — you may be interested in those produced by St. Benedict Press, affiliated with TAN Books. They come in sets of 8 lectures per course, each lecture roughly 30 minutes long. Yours truly has produced 3 courses on Dante and a course on the ancient world. Father Barron has done several courses, along with Father Spitzer, Joseph Pearce, Benjamin Wiker….
    Meanwhile, in the Recovery of Culture Department: check out the novels of Riccardo Bacchelli.

    • slainte

      Dr. Esolen, I have purchased and listened to your 8 part audio course, a Study on “Dante’s Inferno” (CatholicCourses.com). I enjoyed it very much and learned a great deal, all while navigating my way down I95.
      I will move on to your other course studies on Dante’s Paradiso and Purgatorio.

      Thanks for making this available to the “listening” public.

  • RCSteve

    The reason the children of darkness get the best of us is because they have no rules to obey. Not to be concerned,though,he who laughs last,laughs best.:o)

  • RCSteve

    There are two types of Christians.Those that follow Christ on His terms and those that follow on their own terms. Choose !

  • Sherry

    The DVD courses from St. Benedict Press are wonderful! My husband and I have watched several of them recently – what an easy and comfortable way to learn and be able to experience “the best of the best” of teaching right there in our home. Also, several of my friends and I have watched them here as well.

    Professor Esolen’s lectures on Dante’s Inferno and Purgatory are terrific! The study guides that come with the DVDs are also excellent. I am happy to be able to study now (in my late sixties) what I missed in my education.

  • slainte

    As schools refrain from teaching the classics, not only will present day students be deprived ot the benefits of classical education, but those students who choose to become iterature teachers in the future will be woefully unprepared to analyze, interpret, and/or teach the enduring lessons of humanity contained in these works.

    Society will suffer in the short and long term, not unlike the Church does today as it grapples with so few priests capable of speaking, reading, or understanding Latin. Fifty years of neglected tradition has yielded a clergy largely unprepared to meet parishioner’s demands for access to Latin masses. What was once commonplace for millenia is now in short supply.

    Possibly, fifty years hence, the video and audio tapes prepared by current teachers of classical literature will be the only tools available to train future teachers when, and if, society finally wakes up. Thus, as a cautionary note, please be very thorough and detailed in your analysis and discussion of the classics as you prepare and produce these tapes.
    Your great granchildren will be the beneficiaries.

  • Stephen

    Well done! Will the USCCB listen? Only if the faithful, informed laity demand it.

    • mary jo anderson

      Please, follow this urge–write to your own bishop and–most crucial– to the Committee on
      Catholic Education for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Bp.McFadden died in May, am not sure an new chair has been appointed, but you can send the letter to the committee in care of Msgr Ronny Jenkins,J.C.D. @

      USCCB

      3211 Fourth Street NE
      Washington DC 20017
      202-541-3000

      Urge parents and Catholic educators to write soon–so that the question may be added to the Bishop’s Fall meeting agenda.

  • GaudeteMan

    “The truth is that the modern world has a mental breakdown; much more than a moral breakdown.” So said G.K. about a century ago but man is it spot on for our current craziness! There was a sort of optimism among Catholics when John Paul II led a presumably fired up remnant of the Church into the 3rd Millennium with a New Catechism, a handful of poignant encyclicals and evidently a solid core of young priests to feed and form the laity. I confess I was a tad optimistic myself. But as the onslaught of attacks against our religious liberty has intensified; as the homosexual agenda is being crammed into mainstream culture; and as the blood of the innocents continues to spill at an alarming clip, one would hope that the bulk of priests and bishops would be on the front lines fighting against these diabolical currents. But sadly most are doing nothing! Catholics can find there spiritual caretakers being indifferent, cowardly, and, God have mercy on them, co-conspirators in these unspeakable evils. So deep are the enemies dug in on the parish level, in our so-called Catholic schools and universities, and so immersed are most Catholics in their false gods of ephemeral activities that only a handful of orthodox Catholics remain to defend the Truth. In large part, we have been betrayed and abandoned by the Church hierarchy. This truly is the time of the laity. We should stop holding our breath for the clergy to blaze a trail for us. While there may be a bishop here and there who remains faithful and courageous there aren’t enough of these to go around. It behooves us to come together like no other time in Church history and stop waiting for the simple pigeon pastors to get their acts together because it ain’t gonna happen!

  • GaudeteMan

    Well other than that how was the play Mrs. Lincoln!

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  • hombre111

    I went to a high school that left all those mainstays of English Literature off the educational diet. It was called a seminary.

    • Beth

      I am sorry for you as you were sorely cheated. As for what you studied, or didn’t study, in seminary, maybe that explains your comments on these threads. I’m sorry for the Church that such seminaries existed/exit. I have faith that those places are becoming less and less populated and will soon be closed.

      • hombre111

        Actually, it was a great example of what not to do. I will always remember the annual speech given by the seminary rector. He would put the four Latin manuals we studied for Dogma and the three Latin manuals we studied for Moral Theology, and would tell us to review at least one book every year. That, he said, “was all the knowledge we would ever need during our lives as priests.” Instead, I became a lifetime student, earning two masters, one in systematics and the other in Scripture. Plus, I read, 50 years later, at least four books every year. Currently, I am working on Von Balthasar, who was Pope John Paul’s favorite theologian. But, so far, the theologian who has impressed me most in Don Gelpi, S.J., who answered a lot of the questions I had even when I was in the seminary.
        What saddens me now is to visit the homes of young priests. I always make it a point to sneak a look at their libraries. Most of them stick with the books they had in the seminary. In this deanery, there is only one young priest who seems to possess much curiosity.

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  • Leah

    I would read your books.
    Your words are wise.
    It is what we should know – but it is articulated well, even so.
    Bravo.

  • Gino

    WOW, thank you Anthony for this great article I just finished reading it with my dear brother and absolutely enjoyed it. GOD Bless

  • Me

    I’m puzzled by the author’s suggestion, in this piece, that “Big History” should be marginalized in schools, while he simultaneously decries neglect of Tennyson and Wordsworth. Why one and not the other? Why not both? The objection to “Big History” appears to be that it encompasses a great deal of science into a multi-disciplinary program and then teaches all this as science and history, rather than as theology. Science and history need to be taught as science and history. Theology in the classroom puts an inappropriately ideological spin on science and history. Expose kids to what is known and understood, and let their parents, priests, rabbis, imams, or whomever put whatever spin on it that makes sense within the culture of the family, but just teach my kids the facts. The author goes on to ask, “Why should John Dewey or Bill Gates write our curricula?”, which begs the question, “Why should Anthony Esolen write our curricula? Big History covers topics every educated person should know and does so within the fascinating context of thresholds of complexity. It provides a useful metanarrative. I can’t understand why anyone would wish to deny their children the understanding of cosmology, plate tectonics, natural selection, agrarian cultures, the Industrial Revolution, etc., that the course provides. Why the insistence on keeping our children in ignorance, while heaping scorn on their knowledge of British literature (and I find it hard to believe that these people were never, at some point, exposed to Wordsworth and Tennyson — it’s more likely they were and then forgot.) The rant is just so filled with contradictions and self-centered insistence that his world view is the only valid one. Can’t we agree that our children can be enriched by multiple streams of knowledge, not just the ones we particularly value? Isn’t that the benefit of a liberal arts education?

    • R. K. Ich

      Hi “Me”, I’ve got a few thoughts about your puzzlement:

      (1) As for your first puzzlement, which in essence asks, “Why does not Esolen decry the marginalization of ‘Big History’ as well as the neglect of Tennyson and Wordsworth?” The obvious reason has to do with to what end Big History is taught — what is the final cause (if I might wax Aristotelian) of Big History? The kind of cynicism we (benighted, traditional minded folk) have towards the Big History proponents is precisely because they are not merely reporting one damned fact after another. You write, “expose kids to what is known and understood,” as if that were synonymous with mere laboratory observation. The dirty secret here (not really a secret if thought about for two seconds) is that what is “known” and “understood” has everything to do with explaining how indeed we “know” something and “understand” something. Knowing and understanding require more than a litany of factoids. Understanding and knowledge require a framework in which to live and breathe. The “a-ha” moment of learning is the epiphany of how something different relates to the whole, the connectedness of one thing to the rest. It’s a hermeneutical endeavor whether you like it or not. So it’s not even really a question of whether religion enters the picture, it’s which priests have a more consistent and logical worldview — many parents unfortunately think the clergy of the State have the best explanatory power of connecting “mere facts” to the rest of life.

      (2) Then you ask the all-important question: “Why should Anthony Esolen write our curricula?” The funny thing here is that Esolen doesn’t need to write one. Our grand Western tradition practically writes out the curricula on its own. The problem here is the State cannot accept this. The religion of secularism cannot let this great and noble stream of proper enlightenment taint impressionable minds. The unity of virtue, faith, and knowledge rooted in a deep and meaningful tradition are dangerous to the High Church of the Brave New World–and It must perform a greater miracle than God’s creative ex nihilo act: create meaning out of nothing. Indeed, your question is really, “Why Esolen’s canon of knowledge over against the Secularists?” Because it is objectively better, grounded in a world and life view that has more explanatory power and actually educates in the True, Good, and Beautiful rather than merely indoctrinates with the promise of shallow and transient pleasure.

      (3) Finally, you ask: “Can’t we agree that our children can be enriched by multiple streams of knowledge, not just the ones we particularly value? Isn’t that the benefit of a liberal arts education?” This is especially begging the question, because you seem to assume “knowledge” is simply “cognizance”. I certainly want my kids to know about the godless regimes of Communism and Nazism, but not that they are simple historical facts, but that they are scourges to the welfare of mankind in general. Much like the vacuous “educational” institutions of our day do against Christianity (just take a look at what’s going on around in Europe, Christianity marginalized and suppressed in public education); do not think the Secularist State has come to bring peace, but a sword against traditional Christianity. Make no mistake: education of the young is about their souls. So, simply surveying the multiplicity of cultures and ideas has no value in itself. The goal here isn’t to win a Jeopardy game show. It’s to form the minds with knowledge. The liberal arts has nothing to do with cramming multi-culturalism down the throats of our children — because it is NOT true that all cultures are objectively as good, true, and beautiful. We immerse our children in the genuine liberal arts (arts of truly free people) that they may become nobler creatures. But alas, nobility and virtue have nothing to do with the programme of the Church of Secularisation, for these are transcendent concepts grounded in a God-oriented hermeneutic, the very Being that allows for man to even become a measure since it is in His image we exist.

      • Tony

        I have no desire to write any national curriculum, or any state curriculum, or even any municipal curriculum. Didn’t I say so already? We homeschooled our children — and as president of our homeschooling organization I told people all the time that they should use one of the many curricula available if they liked it, but by all means never to think that they must choose one or the other rather than devising one of their own.

        I assume, however, that in English class you should study the grammar of our language, and you should read some of the English “classics.” You won’t have time to read them all. There will always be a great amount of room for the teacher’s own strengths and predilections. Some people like Dickens, some favor Eliot; some people think Hardy is great; some prefer Henry James. The beauty of such an approach is that your students will be immersed in the heritage of our language — and you can hardly go far wrong. They will also be brought out of themselves and their ephemeral concerns.

        I believe that History ought to be taught, but NOT a secular religion masking itself as history. Science ought to be taught in science classes, and as science, not as anthropology.

        • Tony

          And I object to the teaching of lies and fatuities masking themselves as science. The idea that human communities developed “naturally” just as stars developed is either stupid or deliberately mendacious. A lot might be said in a World History class about the Greek invention of the free self-governing city. A lot should be said about it. Absolutely none of it would have anything to do with hydrogen and helium. It was not inevitable. Our own survival as a nation is far from inevitable. Let scientists stick to science.

        • R. K. Ich

          Dear Dr. Esolen,
          Might you be responding to the poster called “Me” instead? I defend your worldview and comments 100%. So much so that I’ve bought every book you’ve ever published. In fact it’s people like you that make me seriously converting to Catholicism (I’m a stodgy Anglican sort).

        • Me

          “Big History” is multidisciplinary. It is not just history or just science or just any one particular traditional discipline. As I see it, this adds to its appeal and applicability. It is not being taught as “secular religion” or any sort of religion. It’s just informative and factual. It covers information every child really ought to know. It appears the objection is that it is NOT religious. It appears that some think extremist fundamentalism and superstition should be taught in this class, rather than what is considered scientifically true about the big bang, evolution, the biosphere, etc. If you want to disagree with the current scientific consensus, that is really OK, but don’t try to deny reality and science to children. We Catholics do much better when we try to reconcile science with religion than when we simply deny the science. Denial hasn’t worked out so well for us in the past.

          • Adam__Baum

            Much of what is called “multidiscplinary” is nondisciplanary, Innumerable college catalogs are filled with such course descriptions.

  • Ruth Rocker

    My granddaughter just turned nine and is spending a month with us before school starts in the fall. She is very good at making pronouncements about things, in fact, very definite opinions on some things. But when we ask her why she holds an opinion we generally get something along the lines of “just because” or “it’s just what I feel” and when we press her to try to get her to think about what she’s saying, she just starts to cry. That generally works at home, but it infuriates me to no end. Critical thinking can be placed on the shelves along with actually expecting children to “learn” or “be educated” by the school system.

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  • Lisa Ann Homic

    We have a lot of work ahead of us.

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  • emiliani

    Ahhhh, exactly. And we wonder why the likes of McCain, Boehner, and Graham continue to let us down. Well, it’s because they don’t share our values or religious faith, so of course they’re going to frustrate us. Like Peter telling Christ, his God, that He didn’t know what he was doing by saying that he certainly wasn’t going to suffer and die for our salvation, we’re doing the same thing now: correcting God and telling Him what’s up. We Christians, myself the worst of the worst, consistently fail to conform ourselves to our God; instead we conform Him to our image, which explains our mediocrity. If we’re too small, it’s because we believe our God is as small as we are and asks even less. I actually heard a Catholic say that the Gov’t Education should be given the task of teaching our kids about the Faith…if it’ll save some money!! Yeah, we really need to repent and simply concentrate on doing what we know to be right. In this Spirit, my wife and I have decided to home school. I hope you, too, seriously consider taking up the challenge you know to be the right thing. I have too many experiences and stories from graduates that the local Catholic School is the worst of the worst of the party schools to trust them anymore. I will not criticize our Bishops — who am I?! — but this situation has been allowed to metastasize for way too long. Our kids are staying home where they belong. And everyone reading knows that this is the very best option, period. Come on, I know we’re scared…but you know you’ll never regret the choice to Home School. Come with me…as I’m coming with those before me!! We CAN do it, no matter what the know-it-all morons try to tell us. Onward!!!

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