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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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Learning in Love: Authentic Friendships and Liberal Learning

I’m not only trying to show younger people the futility of a life based on achievement, but to show that there are ways of thinking about achievement that are better for your soul. One of them is to see your desire to achieve as being inspired by a vision of the good. Ultimately, in the highest things, you end up not thinking about yourself. Once you become excellent at something, whether that’s teaching or writing or being a tax attorney or being a doctor, you’re actually looking for the good of other people. It’s about how you make the lives of others better and encourage them in their pursuits.

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Freshman Orientation: An Introduction to Monolithic Higher Education

My snapshot of freshman orientation highlights some of the failures of higher education. Too many universities today no longer teach students how to think but what to think. Instead of a marketplace of ideas, campus has become an echo chamber of ideas. But outspoken students (and faculty) can save the university by thoughtfully and deliberately making their voices heard.

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The Princess and the Stranger

Stories of encounters between strangers and princesses were common in ancient cultures. The two most famous, about Moses and Odysseus, seem to present a choice between passivity and activity, peace and violence. But the question becomes both more complicated and more interesting when we turn to the princess-and-stranger narrative to end all others.

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Our Post-Pandemic Institutions: A Conversation with Yuval Levin

"If you look at today’s Republican senators, there are differences among them about the role of government that are very profound, and that are deeper than anything we’ve seen in two generations on the Right. But they take those differences as reasons to be publicly disappointed with each other, rather than as reasons to actually mobilize some bloc of voters (and politicians, and activists, and intellectuals) and try to negotiate about what the party should offer the country."

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The Bookshelf: The Pleasures of the Table

One of the vital experiences of which the current pandemic robbed us for too long is the dinner party with friends. Reading about food, too, can be a pleasure in its own right, whether one tries out daring new recipes or not. My small kitchen library has a few notable classics that are as interesting for their authors’ voices as for their instruction in preparing dishes.

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Reflections from a Dean of Students: Virtue versus the Agreeable

Civilize your children long before you allow them to inhabit the decivilizing island of social media. Make sure that they can govern their own souls. But remember that virtue isn’t only about restraining impulses. It is also, and especially, about loving the good. Don’t just take things away. Give your children something better.

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Ramona’s World: The Quiet Christianity of Beverly Cleary’s Beloved Books

Beverly Cleary did not make Ramona a specimen of moral improvement, or a Christian evangelist. She made her a Christian child. Unlike Christian families today, however, Ramona’s family lives a world in which traditional morality is the cultural default. Going to church makes you normal, and practicing Christianity garners social rewards. Christian life simply means living.

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The 50/50 Problem: How the Internet Is Distorting Our Reality

More than 50 percent of Americans spend more than 50 percent of their waking hours living in virtual, artificial worlds rather than the given, created one in which their bodies exist. The 50 percent threshold represents a tipping point that renders dialogue, deliberation, civic friendship, and compromise extraordinarily difficult in any society.

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Enduring Longings: Reflections on DuBois’s Reflections on Francis of Assisi

The conception of the good life that W.E.B. DuBois discerns in the pattern of St. Francis of Assisi’s life straddles the secular and sacred. It can provide a starting point for a recovery and re-articulation of enduring longings in a secularized culture. The cultivation of those longings, in turn, is at the core of truly liberal education.

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Building a Catholic “Civilization of Love”: A Response to Nathaniel Peters

Why must a “serious Catholic politics” tolerate a regime that worships the profit motive and carnal pleasure but recoil from one that worships the Blessed Trinity? Why is it sophisticated to ask the state to recognize truth of supply and demand but simplistic to ask that the state recognize the truth of the sacraments?

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It Is Right and Just Offers Inspiration, Not Serious Catholic Politics

In their new book, Scott Hahn and Brandon McGinley provide a rousing exhortation for Catholics to unapologetically live out their faith. Unfortunately, the book contains too many generalizations, overstatements, and imprecisions to be a thoughtful guide to Catholic politics. Any serious Catholic politics must recognize that the problem of pluralism cannot be solved by dominating non-Catholics and imposing our view of the good on them.

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Against Conservative Rationalism

Humans are frail creatures, depending on much beyond our control. Those who do not recognize this have never seen their father watch the clouds, or had livestock die, or waited as the ultrasound searches for a heartbeat that will never be heard. God is good, and he loves what he has created, but we are dust, and he allows the winds to blow.

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A Time to Build Schools

Our nation’s morally formative institutions are weak and weakening further, thanks in no small part to the enormously destructive effects of social media. The single type of institution best suited to resist these and other pressures of our times is the mission-driven, tech-skeptical K–12 school. The successes of our best countercultural colleges and universities, viewed in the light of Yuval Levin’s invaluable work on the nature of institutions, show us how the incentive structures of an excellent K–12 school make it the formative institution our time needs most.

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