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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Wondering and Wandering: Peter Augustine Lawler’s Higher Ed Heresies

A proper understanding of education means embracing the creation of small liberal arts colleges in which students have the leisure to study and faculty the leisure to teach them. As Peter liked to say, every human person is “wondering and wandering,” and higher education is where one wonders and wanders the most. To those bound up in standards of efficiency, wondering and wandering seems like a waste of time. But there is no other way for a person to learn.


Uncivil Discourse: A Conversation about Civility with Teresa Bejan

Civility has a distinctly minimal character you don’t see with virtues like decorum or politeness—the idea that one can be merely civil. This means that to be civil is to meet a low bar grudgingly, and it is important for any adequate definition of civility to account for that minimal sense.


The Speech of the Century: Remembering Teddy Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena”

The recent anniversary of Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena” speech provides an opportunity to reflect on the enduring relevance of his insights into the role of virtue and action in education, the importance of family life that is ordered towards the creation and formation of the next generation, and the need to build political community based on truth and integrity.


Sex and Gender Ideology in New Jersey’s K–12 Curriculum

New Jersey’s sample lessons for K–12 state-required sexual orientation and gender identity instruction sparked parental outrage. The sample curriculum contradicts basic biology, offers age-inappropriate lessons about sexual abuse, and imposes an LGBTQ religion on public school children. Nonetheless, New Jersey parents still have the power to influence what happens in the classroom.


The Christian Roots of Good Old-Fashioned American Individualism

Social conservatives used to have a much more nuanced understanding of the development of modern liberalism out of the medieval Christian world. Our insistence on individual immortality, an idea hammered home by the almost preposterous teaching of the resurrection of the body, ought to make Christians dyed-in-the-wool individualists.


The Bookshelf: Classic Hollywood’s Religious Uplift Project

The Hollywood “religious epic” movie genre of the postwar period was all about uplift, toleration, and offending exactly no one. Though entertaining at its best and an important part of the story of America’s rising pluralism, this genre proved finally to be too anodyne and unable to do justice to Scripture or the life of the early Church.


David Bentley Hart’s Post-Christian Pantheism

The debate over whether it is grace or nature that directs human beings towards the beatific vision was one of the most contentious intra-Catholic theological disputes of the twentieth century. David Bentley Hart’s 2022 You Are Gods: On Nature and Supernature shows that the debate is alive and by no means merely academic and inconsequential—pantheism, tradition, orthodoxy, and heterodoxy are all very much at stake in the argument.


How Progressive Politics Entered American Education

America’s education professionals—meaning government bureaucrats, administrators, and teachers—have been trained in an education philosophy driven by progressive politics. Whether in Mississippi or in California, much of America’s school staff attended colleges of education that teach similar, politically infused educational philosophies. The question is, can parents really retake control of public education?


Critical Race Theory, Public Schools, and Parental Rights

Today, in Part I of this essay, I explain critical race theory and show how many of its ideas have made their way into public schools across the country, prompting a backlash that has led to the introduction of anti-CRT education regulations in many states. CRT views values like “objectivity” as tools of oppression. It’s clear that many public schools are indeed incorporating plenty of CRT-inspired ideas like these in their curricula.


The Bookshelf: The Joys of Used Bookstores

At used bookstores, I’ve discovered lesser-known titles from celebrated authors—Waugh, Koestler, and Cather. These works represent this most precious impulse of twentieth-century literature: that every life that comes within our reach has its claim on us, and is not to be wasted or sacrificed to any cause, program, or system on which we have the conceit to place a higher value.


Is the Fearless Pursuit of Truth Enough?

Is the fearless pursuit of truth sufficient to form the basis of a new university? Is it enough to be always in pursuit of truth? Or does one hope, along the way, to find, keep, and act on some of it? Is a commitment to truth and freedom in the abstract sufficient to ground an academic community, or is something else—a larger tradition—required?


Christians and the University of Austin

For Christians, UATX’s educational model poses a dilemma. On the one hand, guided by the truths of revelation, how could Christians endorse an institution that eschews all claims to prior knowledge? On the other hand, is there a strategic advantage to allying with non-sectarian schools when the bulk of American universities are unyielding partisans of secularism?


Embracing Our Limits: Dedication in a World of Endless Choice

Millennials and Gen Zers have been subjected to decades of social messaging that the good life is predicated on fostering unbounded dreams, reaching for ever-towering heights of achievement, and “changing the world.” Two new books push back against this narrative, urging readers to make a stand against the chaos and vapidity of our world by delineating a small corner of it that will demand our care and attention, making choices that limit yet enrich our existence.


Why Addressing Climate Change Should Be a Top Conservative Priority

We are not isolated individuals, free to create our own moral codes and obligations based on our preferences, desires, self-identifications. We enter a world already tied up with pre-existing relationships, duties, and obligations. These are basic principles of conservatism. Given the drastic environmental changes awaiting future generations, conservatives ought to start considering climate change a top priority.


The Bookshelf: A Little Help from My Friends

Anyone who has spent his life in the academy, as I have, has reason to keep his mind open and his interests broad—namely, friends who write. My professional association over the last dozen years with the Witherspoon Institute and Princeton’s James Madison Program has introduced me to a dazzling array of brilliant and productive minds. No, I don’t want my writing friends to stop. They have given me much to ponder, and I look forward to what they will all write next.


Higher Education Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow: A Conversation with Baylor University’s Thomas Hibbs

The continuity between administration and teaching for me has always had to do with the question of the moral, intellectual, and spiritual development of young people. Finding creative ways to meet students where they are and draw them into the most important questions is a source of endless fascination for me. When it comes to education, it may be the case that, as Alasdair MacIntyre argues, the only way to carry on sustained debate is from within and between rival traditions, assuming, that is, that members of a particular tradition are genuinely interested in engaging perspectives quite different from their own.

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