What We're Reading (April edition)...

Spring has arrived, and our journey through the penitential season of Lent continues. Once again we bring you our latest edition of "What we're reading..." with variety articles, sermons, and news that we have found intriguing or interesting these past few weeks.

For April, Pastor Esget kicks us off asking the question of “Do You Believe in Monsters?” Also included are articles from Mrs. Marie Greenway, ILS Music Teacher, as well as Mr. Mark Hemingway, ILS parent and School Board member.

Have you read (or written!) anything recently that you think we and other ILS families may enjoy? We always welcome you to share any articles or blogs with use to consider including in future blog features.

Do you believe in monsters?

Our word monster comes from the Latin monere, which means “to show” or “warn.” I’ve never seen for sure, but I suspect that monster stories arose to warn people about dangers in general. The monster put a scary, if imaginary, face on the general danger that is outside the safety of home and village.
So our history is filled with monster stories: Leviathan, the sea monster; Cyclops; Beowulf’s Grendel; up to more modern monsters like Tolkien’s Smaug.

Some people even believe there are real monsters that exist today, like Bigfoot or the Lochness monster.

Do you believe in monsters? You don’t need to be afraid of any monster underneath your bed or hiding in your closet. Those things aren’t real. But even if you are afraid, you can call on the name of JESUS for help, and God’s holy angels will protect you.
— Pastor Esget, "Sermon: Do You Believe in Monsters"

After taking a required, online state assessment designed to select a career pathway for each student prior to entering high school, a rising ninth grade student asked me, “Mr. Payne, what does this mean?” I walked over to respond and saw the pathway assigned: Animal Production & Processing.

I paused for a moment as I realized that the mandatory assessment software was recommending that this 14-year-old student should abandon his dream of becoming an architect, a dream he and I routinely discussed over the three years we had known each other, to pursue a high school regimen designed to send him into meat processing.

“It says you should go into meat processing,” I said.

“Why doesn’t it say architecture? Do I have to do this?”

“No, you don’t,” I quickly replied, knowing that, as principal of this public school, I probably should have agreed with the assigned track.

Should career readiness govern a high school student’s coursework? Is that the primary goal that we, as educators and parents, should expect our children’s schools to focus upon?
— Benjamin Payne, "Education should focus on who students are, not what they are"

I live right outside Washington, DC, a transient area where a two-year resident is practically a seasoned veteran. This area recalls the constant movement of our culture and the idea that things simply do not last or even last long. In this day of discarding the barely used for the brand new, how do we ensure that our artistic endeavors in the Church last? Specifically, how can our hymn texts survive a rapidly changing culture?

I am an avid reader and, at the risk of sounding elitist, primarily enjoy classic literature. You know, those lists of “The 100 Greatest Novels of All Time” or “50 Classic Books Everyone Should Read in Their Lifetime.” My shelves, like the shelves of many, are filled with Homer and Dante, Austen and Shakespeare, Hardy and Eliot and Tolstoy and Dostoevsky and Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Why do we read classic literature? Why do these sometimes centuries-old stories still appeal to us today as much as they did in Ancient Greece or Victorian England or twentieth-century America? Why do the tales of fictional men and gods, heroes and heroines never grow old?

These stories survive because they tell us something true about human nature, the human nature that has not changed since the creation of Adam. Furthermore, they point to the nature of God and man’s relationship with God. In all those works considered “classic literature,” we find certain universal truths that remain unchanged through the centuries.

Our hymns do much the same. Each hymn is not only a retelling of God’s Word, a prayer to God, or an explication of a biblical text but also a comment on man’s true nature, on God’s true nature, and on the relationship between the two. When we sing hymns every Sunday, we are reflecting on who we are, who God is, and what our relationship to God is. These hymn texts declare the truth to us week after week, and we, by singing those texts, declare the truth in our turn.
— Mrs. Marie Greenway, "Why Certain Hymn Texts Endure"

Reading something the other day I came across a reference to St. Thomas Aquinas who said that God is not improved by our worship but we are. It is true wisdom. God is not enlarged by our worship of Him nor is He somehow improved by it. We cannot add to Him nor can we subtract from Him. But we are enlarged by His gracious gifts and improved by His work in us and we are added to by His mercy and diminished by the lack of it.

In other words, the benefit of worship is not in the worship but in the doing of what the Lord asks us to do (hear, eat, drink, pray...) because He is at work in them even more than we are. Let me put it another way. Worship does not provide other things — it is not a means to get something greater or more profound. Worship provides its own reward in the God who comes to us where He has promised, delivers to us the grace our Lord has earned, and shows to us the mercy that forgives our sins, redeems our life from the grave, and saves us to be His own now and forevermore.

We are a pragmatic people. Perhaps that, too, is the fruit of sin’s work in our hearts. We think in practical terms. If we go to church, we think we ought to get something for it. If we read God’s Word, we expect to get something for it. If we receive His sacrament, we feel like there ought to be some tangible benefit or blessing. If we pray, we figure the least God can do is to give us what we prayed for. But this is not only simplistic, it is wrong. It misses the whole thing in favor of some hidden outcome or delight that is beyond the gathering around Word and Table in prayer and praise. The blessing is not something added to the gift. The gift IS the blessing.
— Pastor Peters, "God is not improved... but we are..."

The celebrity college admissions scandal feels tremendously validating. I don’t mean I’m reveling in the misfortune of vapid celebrities with disagreeable politics, although if I’m being honest, my schadenfreude meter blew past acceptable levels for a practicing Christian as soon as the story broke.

I mean this: As soon as my wife and I started talking about marriage, we started talking about having kids, and as soon as we started talking about having kids, we started talking about what a good education for them would look like. That’s not a terribly uncommon sequence of events for college-educated couples who decide to get married.

However, my wife and I have a very different view of what a proper education looks like than does American culture writ large. Our primary goal is that we raise children who continue to practice our Lutheran faith and have stable, child-rearing families.

Yes, concerns about career achievement and financial security are in the mix, but only insofar as they are necessary to support their family, church, and community, and do not otherwise interfere with a life focused on higher things. We believe inculcating specific values such as gratitude, selflessness, charity, and a diligent work ethic is a recipe for their happiness.

Decisions related to educational philosophy have dominated our lives. We made significant financial sacrifices to move close to where our Lutheran church’s classical school is located, and we are actively involved in the school as parents and members of the congregation. I have educated myself in classical curricula and pedagogy, and I’m even on the school board.

Getting good grades at my children’s school requires even the good students to grow and face challenges. The school encourages self-sufficiency among students, and is not afraid for children to face consequences for bad behavior and mistakes. This is what I want for my children, precisely because I want what’s best for them.
— Mark Hemingway, "Do You Want Your Kids to Go to an Elite College or Get an Education? They're Not the Same Thing"

There is a common perception that children are more likely to read if it is on a device such as an iPad or Kindles. But new research shows that this is not necessarily the case. The Conversation

In a study of children in Year 4 and 6, those who had regular access to devices with eReading capability (such as Kindles, iPads and mobile phones) did not tend to use their devices for reading - and this was the case even when they were daily book readers.

Research also found that the more devices a child had access to, the less they read in general.

It suggests that providing children with eReading devices can actually inhibit their reading, and that paper books are often still preferred by young people.

These findings match previous research which looked at how teenagers prefer to read. This research found that while some students enjoyed reading books on devices, the majority of students with access to these technologies did not use them regularly for this purpose. Importantly, the most avid book readers did not frequently read books on screens.
— Saiyidi Mat Roni and Margaret Kristin Merga, "Children Prefer Reading Books on Paper, Not Screens"

Whenever I am asked to speak before a gathering of conservatives, one question I can count on hearing is some variation of “What about education?” In other words, “Is there any way to reclaim the culture without first winning back the halls of academe?”

Sadly, there isn’t, yet short of violent revolution, there is also little hope for restoring traditional education in public schools that includes civics, moral instruction, and strict discipline. That’s why I tend to be pessimistic about the long-term chances of survival for the free society that is the bequest of the ancient Greeks to our ungrateful generation. Storming the Bastille is one thing, but storming the ivory tower behind its massive defenses of tenure and obdurate tenacity is quite another.

I read with interest, therefore, James Delingpole’s lament at Breitbart.com last week titled “O Tempora, O Mores! Social Justice Is Killing Classics.” It should be noted first of all that Delingpole doesn’t feel the need to translate his Latin quotation, which is the sign of a true classicist. That signals his expectation that anyone with a decent education ought to recognize the quote from Cicero, the Roman statesman, which bewails roughly, “Oh, what times! Oh, what customs!”

But of course Latin, once a standard tool of education in Western society, was one of the first casualties of the progressive education system advanced by John Dewey at the start of the 20th century. Under the principles advanced by Dewey and now embedded in every public school in America, education doesn’t serve society. It doesn’t even serve the parents who pay for it. Rather, progressive education sees its client as the student, and this, in a nutshell, is why it caters to the whims of children — children, it goes without saying, who have no interest in learning the dead language of Latin with its declensions, cases, genders and a host of accompanying dead writers to rub it in.
— Frank Miele, "The Recurring Question: 'What About Education'"

Thus Highet essentially argues that “scientific teaching” is a kind of a category mistake. Humans are not raw material (like metal and rock) to be fashioned into products. Nor are humans mere animals that should thus be best trained by behavioral conditioning (though we should not deny that such conditioning can in some ways change behavior—we just are hesitant to call modified behavior education). Our inherited vocabulary for education hint at uniquely human aspects of teaching. The traditional approach to education sought to fully “humanize” people by teaching “the humanities.” The traditional goals of education were wisdom, eloquence and virtue—traits that no animal could ever possess.

James K. A. Smith has said (in Desiring the Kingdom) that every pedagogy assumes and anthropology. Some 65 years ago Gilbert Highet said much the same thing. Is education an art or a science? Much depends on preceding questions about the nature of humanity itself.
— Christopher Perrin, "'Teaching is... An Art"