The Abolition of Man

PSA: I wanted to give a heads up to the few readers who expressed interest in my blogging through Voddie Baucham’s Fault Lines. I’m planning to run the first post on Thursday. So if you’ve been reading along, please honor us with your initial thoughts on chapters 1-3.

As a home educating family, in near constant association with other home educating families, and embracing a classical approach to education, we have many opportunities to discuss educational philosophies and purposes. After one such conversation, I was moved to re-read C.S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man.

The thrust of, this one of Lewis’ shorter works, is a critique of modern educational techniques. Keep in mind that for C.S. Lewis, “modern” was 1943, and the book was originally three lectures that he delivered that year. If Lewis had a problem with education’s regressive trajectory in 1943, he would mostly be horrified of what has become of education in this, the year 2021.

As we have discarded the transcendent from our pursuit of knowledge, education has become nigh useless for anything outside of the classroom, which belies ts ultimate purpose. Because this s a well known work, I’ll round this out with some of the more profound quotes from the book.

On training the mind in the right direction:

“For every one pupil who needs to be guarded against a weak excess of sensibility there are three who need to be awakened from the slumber of cold vulgarity. The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature will be avenged and a hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head.”

On the result of filling children with facts, disregarding the importance of teaching them to love what is True, Good, and Beautiful.

“In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

On the reality of objective, transcendent, reality:

The Tao, which others may call Natural Law or Traditional Morality or the First Principles of Practical Reason or the First Platitudes, is not one among a series of possible systems of value. It is the sole source of all value judgments. If it is rejected, all value is rejected. If any value is retained, it is retained. The effort to refute it and raise a new system of value in its place is self-contradictory. There has never been, and never will be, a radically new judgment of value in the history of the world. What purport to be new systems or…ideologies…all consist of fragments from the Tao itself, arbitrarily wrenched from their context in the whole and then swollen to madness in their isolation, yet still owing to the Tao and to it alone such validity as they posses.

If you haven’t read it, it’s less than 130 pages, and if you are in any way involved with the education of a child, I consider it a must-read.

Word Nerd Wednesday: Blaggard

Alfie Doolittle

I recently watched the 1964 musical My Fair Lady, starring Audrey Hepburn. I’m not a huge fan of musicals, yet I found it delightful. The film is a modern adaptation of Pygmalion, George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 theater production.

For those unfamiliar, My Fair Lady stars Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle, a loud, uncouth young woman selling flowers on the streets of London. Her father, Alfred Doolittle, is quickly revealed to be little more than a drunkard and a hustler. At one point in the film, Professor Higgins, Eliza’s unkind and insulting but determined benefactor, determines at first meeting that Alfie is little more than a *blaggard. I really liked the word, partly for it’s whimsical phonetics, and partly because we seem to be a country being led by many blaggards. I think a definition is in order.

Blaggard: A scoundrel; an unprincipled contemptible person; an untrustworthy person. Usually, only used to refer to a male person.

I’m not particularly keen on the notion of relegating this type of character to one of the male sex, but I assume there is a female equivalent to be found in the language of the time when blaggard was more commonly used. I could not find today’s word in most popular dictionaries. Instead most referred me etymologically to the word blackguard, from the 1530s, which is defined similarly, having been transformed into the word blaggard by both the English and the Irish.

Alfie Doolittle (r), constrained by middle class morality.

One interesting thing about our blaggard Alfie Doolittle was that he was solidly opposed to what he referred to as “middle class morality”. He enjoyed the freedom of being on the lower rungs of society. He had nothing, so no one expected anything of him, leaving him free to do whatsoever he desired. And what he most desired was to drink, carouse, and not be bothered with marrying the mother of his children.

Later, due to a passing joke made at his expense by Professor Higgins, Alfie inherited a tidy sum of money. At once, he felt a responsibility to marry Eliza’s long time “stepmother”, and as the film closes we find Alfie in a tux, swigging booze and chasing women with his last night of freedom. Middle class morality means he needs to do the respectable thing, but not just yet.

Beneath the veneer of the tails and top hat, he’s still a blaggard at heart. With his last night of freedom, he parties the night away, while repeatedly reminding his companions to “get me to the church on time!”

I suspect George Bernard Shaw’s perception of middle class morality was both complex and ironic, with a bit of contempt thrown in besides.

*My browser considers every instance of the word blaggard misspelled. For some reason, I enjoy it when that happens; especially when I know that my word is a legitimate one.

Word Nerd Wednesday: What Anti-Racism Really Means

It hasn’t been lost on regular readers of this blog that I am a devout Christian. It isn’t an explicit focus of this blog, but every now and again, I review Christian books and discuss classical Christian education.

A recent development in the American Christian church is a renewed push to combat racism in this country. The implication, patently false on its face by every metric, is that racism is a serious problem where no progress has been made for the past 60 years. However, that’s not really what I want to get into today.

My concern with this post is the startling number of Christians, mostly good -if non thinking- people drawn in by cleverly chosen words and phrases, who have jumped on to this “anti-racism” bandwagon. They sincerely believe that embracing this ideology is the Christian thing to do.

Here’s the problem, though. The king of anti-racism and author of the best selling book How to Be and Anti-racist, has declared emphatically, that this ideology which has made him richer than most of us can imagine, is explicitly anti-Christian. Here is Ibram Kendi making it crystal clear that his theology explicity rejects Jesus as Savior:

The Truth about Anti-Racism and Christianity

This is something where I feel compelled to raise my “black voice” to contend for the faith.

There are people much more compelling, educated and articulate than me tackling this. To that end, I want to plug Voddie Baucham. He is an extremely intelligent apologist for the Christian faith who is being used in amazing ways.

On April 6, he has a new book coming out called Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe. The book is already coming under immense pressure and attack from within American Evangelicalism. A major Christian bookstore has already tried to cancel it, but was thwarted. The mainstream press is trying tie a ministry with which Bro. Voddie is connected to the massage parlor shooting in Atlanta, which is such a weak attempt that I can only surmise this is an additional preemptive attack on Voddie’s book.

There is nothing the left hates more than a well-educated, articulate, critically thinking black conservative voice. I pre-ordered my copy through Walmart, for reasons of principle, but Bro. Voddie has made it clear that the best way to help launch the book is to buy through Amazon.

When I receive my copy, I plan to read and review it here. I may even blog through it, so it would be encouraging to know that some of you have pre-ordered and are reading along with me so that we can search through these truths together.

Enjoy the rest of your Wednesday.

Word Nerd Wednesday: New Words That Are Not

I’m finna ask you all to bear with me and read through what might seem like a sequel to The Jabberwocky.

2020 single-handedly changed the nature of the English language. Supposably, we must expand our dictionaries to reflect the dialects of every ethnic group, no matter how much their dialects butcher the English language.  We also need to embiggen our perspectives to linguistically address the rapid changes occurring as we secure justice for all of us burdened, oppressed BIPOCs of America.

I am far from the GOAT when it comes to words, etymology, or their meanings, but have acronyms always been listed in the dictionary? I mean, GOAT and BIPOC represent nine specific words between them. Are dictionaries not collections of specific words? Turns out that G.O.A.T. is listed in the “slang category. Given that there is already a real, concrete easily identifiable and universally accepted understanding of what a goat is, GOAT doesn’t quite fit in at the big kids’ table.

Because the English language must be primarily under girded with an understanding of economic and social justice, there are a few words that must not be left out. After all, when the inevitable result of all this stimulus comes knocking, certain words need to be a part of the lexicon. Universal Basic Income, for starters, must be included. Since we’re a lazy lot who can’t be bothered to say it out, best list it as UBI for expedience sake.

I’m a habitual doomscroller, and apparently there are a lot of people who could chime in to say “Me too!” (scroll down to definition 2 of 2). Every time we doomscroll onto a headline revealing a chick coming out to say a guy stood too close to her in the elevator, at least 100 of us can fully relate to the trauma she experienced* So let’s add both of those to the dictionary as well.

Thankfully this year, our children were not subjected to the highly ineffective modes of hybrid learning or blended learning, which the record has shown is mostly all hybrid and blending, but very little learning. Google, on the other hand, has had a bang up year when it comes to machine learning!

I really could go on and on about this, but I get the feeling you know how I feel about this rapid evolution. Besides, I need to take a bio break.**

*I am extremely sympathetic to victims of actual abuse, so please pause your outrage meters. I just don’t happen to think every unpleasant encounter between a man and a woman constitutes abuse, which is what the word Abuse has been expanded to mean.
** That’s TMI, and I would never tell y’all that. I just couldn’t resist including that stupid new “word” in this wieldy diatribe.
***Hey, wait! Can we add my word (wieldy) to dictionary.com?

Friday Faves: Truths Likely to be Walked Back.

Making the rounds this week is the news that Columbia University (yes, that Columbia University), is hosting six separate commencement ceremonies. They will be segregated by race, sexuality, and income level as the students self-identify.

Columbia University is offering virtual ceremonies for Native American, “LGBTQIA+,” Asian, “Latinx,” black, and “First-generation and/or low income” students over the last week of April, described as “Multicultural Graduation Ceremonies.”

They cover graduates of Columbia College, Columbia Engineering, General Studies and Barnard College, its sibling women’s college. Students must register by March 21 to get their “multicultural graduation gift,” such as stoles, tassels and pins, and by March 31 to be listed as participants.

The virtual segregated ceremonies do not replace ceremonies for the whole Ivy League university and its individual schools, but rather provide “a more intimate setting for students and guests to gather, incorporate meaningful cultural traditions and celebrate the specific contributions and achievements of their communities,” the page says.

This reduction of our humanity to its basest characteristics, those things often out of our control to do anything about, offends me. My Christian belief in God’s ability to confer on us a glorious, more transcendent identity in which to live recoils at this nonsense, until I remember that the identity I hold most important and precious is not one that most people are willing to embrace. Humans like regressing to the mean, even as we give lip service to desiring to “be all that we can be”. But I digress.

As I thought about this insanity, I remembered that there was a time when people with a bit of notoriety would speak unpalatable truths. They were even caught on camera telling these truths! Two in particular are Morgan Freeman, who referred to the idea of Black History month as “ridiculous” for valid reasons, and Denzel Washington, who also told some inconvenient truths about some of the roots of “historical disparities”. The first video is a minute long. The second is 10 minutes.

I may be wrong, but if I had to wager, I can almost guarantee you that by now, Morgan Freeman has walked back some. if not all of this. It is a few years old, after all. Our entertainment royalty can barely stand a little push back against anything they say, especially when it’s true.

Demzel might hold his own on some of this, but who knows?

Happy Friday.

 

Where are We on Fortune’s Wheel?

Boethius, born in 477 B.C. was a Roman senator. He is known in our era chiefly for the literary work he left behind. Most notable among those is The Consolation of Philosophy. One of the things Boethius discusses as he sadly observes the fall of the Roman Empire is the symbolic construct he refers to as “the wheel of fortune”. The idea is that fortunes change, and are never constant. The one constant thing about Lady Fortune is her inconstancy.

It’s my belief that history is a wheel. ‘Inconstancy is my very essence,’ says the wheel. ‘Rise up on my spokes if you like but don’t complain when you’re cast back down into the depths. Good time pass away, but then so do the bad. Mutability is our tragedy, but it’s also our hope. The worst of time, like the best, are always passing away.

As Boethius’ fortunes turn for the worst and he laments his fate, Lady Philosophy challenges him:

But Lady Philosophy stayed my tongue and would not let me slander she who turns the Wheel. Was it not my choice to make Lady Fortune my mistress? Did I not surrender my calm peace of mind to her flattering ways? Who exactly did I think I was taking as my companion and guide?

“Know this,” Philosophy spoke and sang, “that Lady Fortune shows her constancy by being inconstant. Were she ever to stop the spinning of her Wheel, she would no longer be Fortune. Indeed, she can only be constant by being perpetually inconstant. That is her nature and her end. Those who make her their mistress must turn with each turn of her Wheel.”

In other words, to attach our affections to the temporal pleasures of life is to make Lady Fortune our mistress, and when the wheel of fortune turns, as it always does, we will be ill-equipped to handle it. But even the bottom of Fortune’s wheel serves a purpose:

All fortune is good fortune; for it either rewards, disciplines, amends, or punishes, and so is either useful or just.

Empires rise and fall, and as I consider the words of Boethius I wonder how close our civilization is to the bottom of Lady Fortune’s wheel.

Friday Faves: Two Quotes from C.S. Lewis

Today I am pondering the state of things around us. i do not refer simply to the headlines of the day, but what those headlines tell us about the state of the world and the human condition. To that end, I’ve chosen to C.S. Lewis quotes to feature. The first is his description of why he believes in democracy. The second is the danger of worshiping anything other than the king of Kings.

To clarify, when Lewis says, ‘I am a democrat” in this first quote, he is not referring to a political party or movement, but to a political philosophy under which men have a say and a stake in the way they are governed.

I am a democrat because I believe in the Fall of Man. I think most people are democrats for the opposite reason. A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that everyone deserved a share in the government. The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they’re not true. And whenever their weakness is exposed, the people who prefer tyranny make capital out of the exposure… The real reason for democracy is just the reverse. Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows. Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters.

This quote speaks for itself as we find our entire cultural trajectory being pushed to and fro by the angst, whims, and delusions of blue checked celebrities of Twitter and other social media. Do you not find it absurd that we are being governed in reaction to things referred to as “tweets”? I certainly do. But we worship absurdity, and so absurd we have become:

“Where men are forbidden to honour a king they honour millionaires, athletes, or film-stars instead: even famous prostitutes or gangsters. For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison.”

Just some food for thought.

Happy Friday!

The Bolshevik Reboot Comes for Dr. Seuss

The grand march towards a utopian society of perfect diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging has uncovered another transgressor of the progressive, postmodern catechism. It is none other than beloved children’s author Theodor Gesiel, more famously known as Dr. Seuss. From CNBC:

Six Dr. Seuss books — including “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” and “If I Ran the Zoo” — will stop being published because of racist and insensitive imagery, the business that preserves and protects the author’s legacy said Tuesday.

“These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” Dr. Seuss Enterprises told The Associated Press in a statement that coincided with the late author and illustrator’s birthday.

“Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ catalog represents and supports all communities and families,” it said.

The other books affected are “McElligot’s Pool,” “On Beyond Zebra!,” “Scrambled Eggs Super!,” and “The Cat’s Quizzer.”

As it happens, despite having read tens of Dr. Seuss books , I don’t ever recall reading one of the six listed here. I’m sorely tempted to buy them, but my bibliophile budget is already accounted for.

While I want to appreciate (no, I don’t)  the proactive attempts by the Seuss Enterprise group to purge the library of books that may be genuinely offensive, I have a problem with this move. I actually have several problems with it,  but this is my primary contention:

Once you open the door of credibility to any assertion that Dr. Seuss was racially insensitive, which in 2021 is tantamount to grand wizardry in the KKK, you give a house key to the racial witch hunters of our day. There is no absolution being offered for good people who just happened to be born in 1904, a time when everyone’s attitudes were offensive when compared to post modern norms, including many black people’s attitudes. To do this is to paint with a broad, hard-bristled brush, and Dr. Seuss deserves better than that.

Wasn’t it just a short time ago, I mean in real time not Internet time, that the Obama’s were praising Dr. Seuss? Was not even the Cat in the Hat a guest in the Obama white house just a few short years ago? Why, yes. Yes, he was!

I’m not exactly sure who all these super sensitive, thin-skinned minorities are. Who are these people, simpletons who can’t discern between and appreciate generational divides, changing mores, and the reality that people who were born in 1904 are necessarily different from people born in 1984?

But if you are among them, I am very happy not to know you.

And stop picking on Dr. Seuss. My 25-year-old daughters learned their letter sounds from Dr. Seuss’s ABC. That’s a memory I’d not have tarnished by your stupidity.

Friday Faves: Trumpet Trees

It’s pretty warm in Florida right now. Last week, while nearly the entire rest lower 48 was digging out from under ice, we had a cool snap with high temperatures in the upper sixties. This weekend, it’s going to be even warmer, with temperatures in the 80s. I’m not really a fan of 80s in February, so I’m kind of looking forward to our next “cold” front.

With spring just around the corner (Can y’all believe March 1st only 3 days away?), there’s a familiar site emerging around these parts. Every time I walk outside or drive around town, I am treated to the dazzling spectacle of pink or golden trumpet trees in full bloom, and I love it.

Aren’t they beautiful?

Truth is, we won’t really transition into perpetual daily warm temperatures until May. Temperatures will continue to waffle up and down for the next couple of months. Right now, walks outside are still pleasant due to more breeze and slightly less humidity. So I’m taking this opportunity to enjoy the early signs of spring.

Happy Friday, All!