Archive for the ‘Classical Education’ Category

[This post is a follow-up to the question I posted today on Facebook about whether I should read the Harry Potter series.]


Alright. Thanks all for your input today. I was not calling for divisiveness, but I knew that saying “Harry Potter” would bring you all out in full flourishes. You did great.

Just a couple thoughts and then an answer…

  • Yes, it is! The “magic” in Harry Potter is the same thing as the magic in Narnia and LotR. Accepting it in one and rejecting it in another is a problem.
  • You all don’t know many of each other and didn’t see that some of you were speaking tongue-in-cheek for part of the time at least.
  • I’ll be writing/speaking more on it in the next school year, but let us be really clear that the Bible has many, many objectionable elements in it, much more varied than Harry Potter. The Bible as a movie would be rated R in parts. The matter is how those elements are treated. Condemning a work because it contains something you don’t like isn’t just cause. The fact is that there must be conflict, there must be something that makes everything ugly and need redemption. That’s what makes a story good. Conflict/problem is what makes every story not a documentary/infomercial (and even documentary is enhanced by conflict).
  • If you’re struggling with people enjoying Harry Potter, I think that I Cor 8 should be your guide.
  • If you’re struggling with people being offended by Harry Potter, I think that I Cor. 8 should be your guide.
  • For meat!? For Harry Potter!? Are we willing to make mincemeat of the bonds of Christ? Don’t!

I don’t need to write a response, because one has already been gracefully and beautifully written. I read it last summer, and it helped swing me over to officially be willing to read/listen to the series (not sure I’m interested in the movies, but we’ll see if it’s convenient to watch them).

The fact is that “we turn to stories and pictures and music because they show us who and what and why we are.” (Madeleine L’Engle).

The best position I’ve read on the matter was written by Andrew Peterson. He said in part,

Let me be clear: Harry Potter is NOT Jesus. This story isn’t inspired, at least not in the sense that Scripture is inspired; but because I believe that all truth is God’s truth, that the resurrection is at the heart of the Christian story, and the main character of the Christian story is Christ, because I believe in God the Father, almighty maker of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ his only begotten son—and because I believe that he inhabits my heart and has adopted me as his son, into his family, his kingdom, his church—I have the freedom to rejoice in the Harry Potter story, because even there, Christ is King. Wherever we see beauty, light, truth, goodness, we see Christ. Do we think him so small that he couldn’t invade a series of books about a boy wizard? Do we think him cut off from a story like this, as if he were afraid, or weak, or worried? Remember when Santa Claus shows up (incongruously) in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? It’s a strange moment, but to my great surprise I’ve been moved by it. Lewis reminds me that even Father Christmas is subject to Jesus, just as in Prince Caspian the hosts of mythology are subject to him. The Harry Potter story is subject to him, too, and Jesus can use it however he wants. In my case, Jesus used it to help me long for heaven, to remind me of the invisible world, to keep my imagination active and young, and he used it to show me his holy bravery in his triumph over the grave.

The full article is called Harry Potter, Jesus and Me.” Please follow the link and go read it. Every word. It is seasoned with grace and addresses the wide array of problems that were brought up today. It will be an encouragement to the proponents, also.

Thanks for taking part.

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“The Church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours, and to come to church on Sundays. What the Church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables…Let the Church remember this: that every maker and worker is called to serve God in his profession or trade–not outside of it… The only Christian work is good work well done.

Dorothy Sayers

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To rear our kids to be learners and thinkers requires skills well-beyond information retrieval. We as moderns with our high-powered phones often feel well-educated because the facts we need are so close by; mere seconds of typing and waiting separate us from knowing all sorts of truths. I have more than once replied to an innocent fact-wondering family member or friend who asked a simple question, with a flick of my phone-filled wrist and a caustic,  “Is my Google better than yours?” From the Chronicle of Higher Ed yesterday,

When it comes to the materials of learning, we should impress upon students the importance of carrying these materials around in their own heads.  Facts about the Civil War, scientific laws, poems by Emily Dickinson . . . these are not just items to retrieve when a situation calls for them.  They are rightly part of a youth’s character and sensibility.  The Gettysburg Address isn’t just a text on the syllabus to be invoked at test time.  The cadences and assertions should be internalized forever.

The danger of Google is that it’s so convenient that it turns the materials of history, science, literature, art, and politics into information, not learning.  In a Google-ized classroom, we lose the practice of education-as-formation.  And the more we let search engines function in student work, the less we can expect that students will remember our instruction once the semester ends. — Google Memory 

We have already left the abacus, the cubit, the slide rule and the butter churn behind. We have found efficiency in new things, and that’s ok. Today we have hard talk about what we must perhaps give up tomorrow (paper books, cursive, multiplication tables, spelling lists, fossil fuels!) and to educators, it hurts to say too much.

Technology is coming, and that’s ok.  But tech is replacing our knowledge-level, utilitarian hardware. It cannot replace our logic or rhetoric skills that make us more fully human, or at least give us the opportunity to do so. Technology is primarily efficient, not beautiful (though it be shiny).  Technology cannot instill virtuous childhood. A search engine cannot cultivate a child’s mind; it can only deliver the seeds.

A water wheel cannot grow crops, make bread or even grind wheat. It’s sole job was to receive product and deposit product. In so doing, it moved other parts. The water wheel did a great job doing what it was supposed to do. It was a great technological feat that saved lots of labor (though there were probably purists who continued to sell hand-threshed or oxen-ground wheat in the specialty stores). It came and went.

Our knowledge retrieval systems will come and go. 150 lb. encyclopedia sets came and now they are long gone. Google is here and will be replaced tomorrow with something better.

But let us not confuse these methods of retrieval with what they are not. They are not education, and an education that concerns itself primarily with facts and fact objectives and pounds towards its testing deadlines is missing the great bulk of what education truly is.

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My favorite book is getting a documentary, and I am excited. Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl is loved and hated and incredibly difficult to explain and understand.

Click here to give the book a $10 chance. It has interesting reviews on Amazon. Feel free to start with the 1 star ones.

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Well it starts with food and coffee…sort of.

Here is an article that centers that question on Moscow, Idaho…home of Douglas Wilson.

Evangelical vs Liberal: A Report from the Pacific Northwest

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This is one of the best Presidential addresses I have ever heard, and it’s stunning on several fronts. It’s worth hearing several times. Brilliant. Poetic. Historical. Consoling. Gritty. Heroic.

“The future doesn’t belong to the faint-hearted. It belongs to the brave.”

If you weren’t born when this happened, you should know that this event was a much bigger deal than shuttle launches are now. The publicity was heightened even for this one (I remember anticipating it for weeks) and it had even more attention because of Christa McAuliffe’s addition to the crew as the first teacher in space.

The speech was written that morning by Peggy Noonan.

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Ryan and Christie - Plimoth - April 2008

Yesterday we, along with some JECA and FB families, enjoyed a 1/2 hour online, field trip to Plimoth Plantation. I’ve been around the block a few times, and Plimoth is one of my favorite places in the world. It’s the beginning of probably my favorite fragment of history (1600-1800), and my four trips to the village are very pleasant memories.

The moderator did a very good job, and I especially appreciated the two Pilgrim interpreters (one was a young girl). He even did a little pull on them with the comments about football and the airplane, and they plied their craft masterfully.

Anyway, I appreciate Scholastic for hosting the event, and, though I don’t know how long it will remain, you can watch a replay of the event here: Plimoth Plantation Virtual Field Trip.

Afterwards, you can go here to learn more about the special place. Visit the online shop, too, to find some very creative gift ideas. I especially love the reproductions, which they make on site (right now I’m drinking sweet tea out of my three-handled tyg). Enjoy: Plimoth Plantation Website.

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