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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Various trends in American religion and right-wing politics further indicate that as the political influence of Christian nationalism is waxing, that of religious conservatism is waning. This need not be a fixed situation, but it does mean religious conservatives will have ample need of God’s grace as they consider how to avoid moral and spiritual compromise while navigating a particularly treacherous political landscape.
The first word of Emily Wilson’s new translation of the Iliad signals that this is not quite the Homer we’re used to. You may well ask whether anyone today can be used to an epic, conventionally attributed to a blind bard named Homer, that was composed some 2,750 years ago in a stylized form of Greek that no one spoke natively. But surprisingly, there have been more than a dozen translations into English in the past thirty-five years alone.
Our schools are failing not because of what happens in the classroom, but because of what happens—or more to the point, what doesn’t happen—at the dinner table. If we wish to be a serious people, then we must bolster our institutions with the power to humanize and domesticate the bedlam within us all.
Hörcher adeptly elucidates how Scruton’s belief in the intertwining of aesthetics, morality, and politics stands as a bulwark against the often fragmented worldview of today’s modern thinkers.
The scope of the crisis of masculinity is unchartered territory for America and the broader West. Yet many of the most exaggerated masculine traits have an ancient ancestry and can be traced back to one of the greatest works of the Western canon.
A parallel challenge exists in preparing active participants for life as citizens and as members of church communities. Similar strategies can help both.
By co-creating with God, we imitate his goodness, participate in his governance, and bring more of creation into the divine unity.
A book review is not an opening-night party for a book’s author, and it is not a quarrel carried on with brass knuckles. It is an exercise in considered, contextualized judgment for the benefit of readers.
Many students may not appreciate the importance of applying themselves rather than using AI, but we must encourage those who do. We should fortify promising students with the assurance that excellence in education is worth pursuing but requires taking a hard road.
Nicholas Spencer’s new book is an important resource for anyone who wishes to understand the scientific and religious entanglements that have shaped, and continue to frame, our views of God, humanity, and the cosmos.
A liberal education pursued in good faith, that is, with civility, generosity, humility, and an earnest desire (among teachers and students) to think for oneself and to learn from and with others, tends to render us all more thoughtful, reflective, and humane.
Classical schools embrace an older understanding of education, one that prepares students for festivity and friendship, rather than socially handicapping them. Like their ancient and medieval predecessors, classical educators maintain that a crucial purpose of education is to liberate students from a calculative, utilitarian mindset by teaching them how to enjoy intrinsically worthwhile activities for their own sake.
The point of a Christian liberal education is to take on the mind of God and to be conformed to Christ, or at least to begin to do so, for such a project is endless. This means that a Christian liberal arts school will seek to impart to its students some measure of wisdom and holiness.
The problem with the way that discussions surrounding university education are often framed is that they seem to accept as inevitable a pernicious anthropology that presumes students are autonomous subjects, consuming in order to be consumed. But we are more than what we achieve, more than we produce, more than our billable hours.
If our immediate surroundings and concrete responsibilities constitute the arena in which we are most uniquely competent, then reserving our attention for those objects is not quietism, but the pinnacle of activism.
Deep, broad cultural change often results not primarily from government imposition or propagation of ideas, but from committed social entrepreneurs who pilot alternative conventions. Public pronouncement of Christian values, absent change in underlying social conventions, is a poor substitute for deeply rooted change internal to the church.
Pope Pius XII exhorts the faithful to participate in daily Mass, frequent confession, personal prayer, mortification, and works of mercy. These practices are not minor, weak, or irrelevant responses to a world crisis; on the contrary, the pope believes they are powerfully efficacious and necessary, strengthening the bonds uniting the mystical body of Christ and sowing the seeds of peace. His counsel is spiritual in nature, but socio-political in its effects.
In her new book A Philosopher Looks at the Religious Life, Zena Hitz situates her philosophical ponderings within the context of her own life, here spotlighting a crisis precipitated by her conversion to the Catholic faith. Like Abraham about to sacrifice his son Isaac at the Lord’s behest, Hitz realizes that unconditional love of God, “wholehearted commitment without compromise,” might demand the renunciation even of what she has held most dear.
John Guillory’s Professing Criticism is a thorough and complex work of scholarship. It’s also a bracing call for literary scholars to significantly reform how they think about their profession, and its relationship to their students and reading public in general. At its core is a challenge that is simultaneously reasonable and radical: professors of literary study must be more modest in their aims and promises to suit the realities of their field in the twenty-first century.
The original rationale for summer camp is more valid than ever. Young people are struggling with mental health, addiction to technology, disconnection from the body, isolation, and many other painful realities. Summer camps cannot fix these problems. But for many adolescents, the experience of traditional summer camps might help them see that life is about more than accomplishment, and that is a start.
Audiobooks’ greatest potential is to encourage a sense of receptivity and leisure throughout the rest of life, not just one’s reading life. Listening to a novel, accepting its rhythms and flow of detail on the book’s own terms, is a gentle reminder that life’s most glorious things demand quiet, silent admiration, and loving acceptance.
If we take seriously Thomas Kelly’s ideas about bias blind spots, then we should seek public universities composed of a high degree of biased parts. Such universities would intentionally hire faculty members and administrators who harbor contrary views on divisive cultural issues. This would probably create campuses that can boast of having teaching and scholarship that have much less pejorative bias than their peer institutions.
The movie’s most profound insight is its distillation of pop feminism: a praise of women so unceasing that we no longer feel comfortable being normal human beings with blemishes, weakness, and fertility.
We need to study history as a subject in its own right, acquiring a deep appreciation for the story of Western civilization, with all its abysses of failure and all its deservedly celebrated achievements. We need to help our students understand old texts at a deeper level, in less anachronistic ways. Above all, we need to arm them against the hostility to their own tradition that has become such a destructive force in our culture.

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