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Pillar: Education & Culture

Education & Culture

The fourth pillar, education and culture, is built upon the recognition of two essential realities. First, the Western intellectual tradition requires a dedication to and desire for truth. Second, education takes place not only within colleges and universities but within our broader culture, whose institutions and practices form us as whole persons.

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Charting Public Discourse’s Past and Future: A Conversation between Serena Sigillito and Elayne Allen

Our hope is that, by reading PD regularly, our readers will be formed in such a way that they have not only knowledge on particular topics, but also virtuous habits of mind. By illustrating the capacity to earnestly and carefully think through what’s good and what's bad about both conservative and liberal positions, we show that sobriety and careful, detached thinking is still possible—that we really can have knowledge about the truths that give order to our being.

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The Contradictions of Absolute Academic Freedom

The official moral relativism of absolute academic freedom makes universities self-negating institutions. No wonder many student activists are eager to fashion and enforce new norms and taboos: they realize, however inchoately, that a community of inquiry and instruction must also be one of practice, and that the liberal university fails to integrate these elements.

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Lockdowns, Mandates, and Conservatives: Remembering the Good of Government

Given the overreach of government, and perhaps especially given the failure of so many elected officials to remember that they do not rule us, it’s all too easy to slip into libertarianism by default. But government is not alien or unnatural to our condition and needs. It emerges from the community’s associations, affections, bonds, and mutual sense of self-responsibility.

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The Bookshelf: Who Is in the American Canon?

Moving books home has turned my mind toward publishers that seem to be of high value because of the enduring importance of their books. One such is Liberty Fund, which specializes in classic conservative and libertarian texts in politics and economics. Another is the Library of America, which has a broad mission to publish (in its own words) “America’s greatest writing.”

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Public Education and Liberal Neutrality

Attempting neutrality in public education ends up creating a systemic preference for a particular ethical standpoint—a rather controversial one at that. Ironically, this creates a tension between public schools and the principle of liberal neutrality. Fortunately, this tension can be resolved without abandoning government-financed education through policies that are both popular and effective: school vouchers and education savings accounts.

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How Do Christians Know When Their Understanding of Scriptural Teaching Needs to Change? Ten Questions to Consider.

We should be very wary of changing our minds about a teaching or practice that has been taught clearly, continuously, and authoritatively on the basis of scripture throughout the history and breadth of the Church. The following ten considerations can help us think carefully when friends inside or outside the Church ask us to reconsider what the Bible teaches.

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Dante’s Hell and Our Humanity

My students and I—orthodox Jews at Yeshiva University—found something more profound than mere gore in Dante’s textual bequest to posterity. His hell provided us something that we could never find in his Purgatory or Paradise. For us, the Inferno’s true contribution was not its penal landscape of scorched sands and steaming pitch. On the contrary, what stirred us most was his evident concern for our humanity.

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Fostering a Culture of Academic Integrity in Our Business Schools

Our schools of business should be places where the whole academic community, which includes administrators, faculty, and the students themselves, can work together towards educating tomorrow’s business leaders, cultivating the very best in them. We should not allow the cheating subculture’s self-righteous and narcissistic agenda to undermine the higher quest for excellence.

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In Defense of the Boomers

The determination to make one’s own way in life is what marks out the difference between those who make the best of what they have and seek to improve things for themselves and others, and those who instead diminish themselves by blaming the Baby Boomers for what they don’t like about their lives.

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Credibility Requires Accountability: Monitoring Priests’ Cellphones

In light of the vocations issue and concerns about privacy, a policy that significantly intrudes on priests’ privacy should be a last resort. However, given the tremendous damage the earlier sex scandals did to the Church’s credibility, as evidenced by declining attendance and financial support, renewed concerns about priestly celibacy may justify such a resort.

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Saving Pedagogy: Dante as the Poet of Education

Dante reveals to students the essence not only of their relationship to their teachers, and ours to them, but also of our combined relationship to the reality (natural, human, and divine) studied during their liberal education. The end of a liberal education is an experience of the Love that created both the subjects of a liberal education and the human persons in need of that education, and Dante achieves that purpose. Through truth and virtue, he becomes wise, and his wisdom sets him free.

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Lost in the Chaos: The Danger of Total Politics

Every human lives out the drama of existence in his or her way, and with great risk: they gain or lose heaven, embrace or reject love, bring a child into being or not, form friendships and romances or sink into loneliness, become sages or fools. If we forget or forgo the primacy of the person, choosing instead the story of power and chaos, it seems likely we’ll lose the cosmos of our own souls.

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Not a National Family: Critical Race Theory, Civic Education, and the Ties That Bind

If a shared identity is to emerge and persist, if citizen strangers are to have a shot at becoming civic friends who recognize a mutual obligation to create a just land, the foundational principles of our constitutional order must be consciously taught and reaffirmed. And, of course, teaching and affirming these principles does not itself entail a claim that America has historically lived up to them.

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Is Everything the Boomers’ Fault?

Many readers will find it easy to accept Helen Andrews’s claim that the boomers left the world worse than they found it. Yet the biographies Andrews has written are evidence less for the special guilt of the boomers and more for the limits of human finitude, the persistence of sin, and naïveté in the face of evil.

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Wrestling with Philosophy

Aristotle thought that contemplation was man’s highest activity, and that the virtues developed in other aspects of life prepared one for this activity. Indeed, as Plato predicted, wrestling prepared me for the contemplation of truth. Thankfully, I did not need a perfectly intact spine to do so.

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The Bookshelf: Books That Stick

Some of the best perspective-altering reading experiences I’ve had in recent years have come from books that I read well outside the bounds of my own research. Nonetheless they made their way into my thinking and writing in various ways—they “stuck.” And books that “stick” in this way we are apt to recommend whenever an opportunity arises.

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Muriel Spark in Jerusalem

The British author grappled with the Eichmann Trial in her most ambitious novel. The book is worth revisiting for its fascinating portrait of Adolf Eichmann’s rhetoric and his ability to obscure the reality of the Holocaust.

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How to Build Your Own Renaissance

The historical parallels between fourteenth-century Europe and our own times can be useful in our current civilizational crisis. Petrarch aimed to create a new synthesis between classical and Christian civilization, to use the resources of antiquity to heal the spiritual diseases of his own time. What he and his followers created over the next century and a half is known to historians as the Renaissance, the rebirth of antiquity. It followed a formula that can still work today.

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