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Pillar: <span>Education & Culture</span>

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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Isolation Bookshelf: The Pleasures of Rereading

I have called books and authors “friends,” and that they are. Aristotle tells us the highest form of friendship is that which aims at another’s good as though it were one’s own, for in truth it is indistinguishable from one’s own. We reread our favorite books in gratitude, not only for the repeated pleasure of the experience but to know once again the good that our old friends have selflessly done us.

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The Beauty of Self-Giving Love in Anna Karenina

If we combine the beauty of art and the power of narrative with rational argument, we can convince people of the worthiness of marriage and family life more effectively than by argument alone. Anna Karenina is an example of how to do this. It beckons the reader to choose the better path, contrasting the destructive adultery of Vronsky and Anna with Levin and Kitty’s enchanting journey into the life of married love.

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Educating for an Integrated Human Existence

The uniting of differing spheres of excellence is a hallmark of John Henry Newman’s fully fleshed out idea of a university. What young men and women most need is adults in their midst who joyfully embody integration, integration of the parts of knowledge and integration of the intellectual, moral, and spiritual dimensions of human existence.

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E Pluribus Nihil

We often assume that unity is the norm in human affairs, and strife the exception. But a cold-eyed view of history suggests the reverse. Unity is what needs the special cause, and today we lack the cause.

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On the Sacredness of Food

If life is sacred, food must be sacred too, since it makes life possible. And the higher the order of life which is given up to be food, the more sacred the food. That’s why vegetables are harvested, while animals are sacrificed. That’s why the Catholic Church considers the sacrifice of the Mass, when God offers his body as food for our corporal and spiritual nourishment, the source and summit of the Christian life.

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Isolation Bookshelf: Teachers and Influences on the American Project

In this strange season of the academic year, as classes begin with students and teachers scattered about and many gathering only “virtually” through their computer screens, my mind is cast back to a fall semester 44 years ago, when I arrived as a freshman at Virginia Wesleyan College (now University). It seems an age of...

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Ingratitude, Mob Violence, and Providence

Our culture’s deep ingratitude is the long, nihilistic outworking of the logic of modern thought itself. When human experience is reduced to only will and power struggle, there no room for gratefulness. Those of us who have not renounced cosmic order and the providence that brings that order to fulfillment, by contrast, know that all things willed or permitted by God work for good. Thus we should be grateful—profoundly grateful—for everything.

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Education and the Restoration of Moral Agency

Many students today lack a real formation in moral order and agency. Few adults have taught them what a worthwhile life looks like and what they could do to achieve it. University educators must give students access to authoritative moral claims, even as they allow them to judge and decide for themselves.

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Isolation Cinema: Crazy Love

What is it that makes screwball comedies so much fun? With their manic scripts and their depiction of characters of both sexes who will say anything and do anything for love, they bring together men and women—whose senses of humor often differ sharply—to laugh at the same crazy antics, and to see what mad joy love can be. In the summer of COVID, as we stay home with our loved ones, the screwball may be just what the doctor ordered.

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Isolation Bookshelf: History Outside the Academy

For reasons that pass all understanding, modern academic disciplines are where English prose goes to die. Fortunately, profound and compelling historical writing has a history of its own that predates the modern research university by two and a half millennia, stretching back to Herodotus in the fifth century BC. Such a tradition is resistant to the chloroform of the modern academy, so long as gifted storytellers find publishers and readers.

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Homer at the Beach

On Calypso’s island, we encounter both the allure and the dangers of the beach. There, Homer brings us right up against a mysterious fact: the fantasy of an undying beach body—even that of a love goddess whose collagen never loses its tensile strength—will not really make us happy. The best kind of lover will have skin in the game: skin that can age, that has aged, that is actively aging before our eyes. To escape the history that is written into our bodies is to escape the meaning, the meaningful struggle, of our lives.

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The News Makes You Dumb

We should stay away from the news lest we fall prey to its mania, foolishness, and stupidity. We should read books—difficult books—and be challenged to improve ourselves rather than settle for easy answers.

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Thought, “the World,” and Education

Inwardness, intellectual or otherwise, is the source and the safeguard of individual human flourishing, without which no community is judged to do well. Individuals must experience their learning as a mode of freedom and spontaneity, not a complex navigation of yet another structure of authority and achievement.

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