What we're reading (November edition)...

Fall has finally fully arrived, and it is hard to believe that we have already finished the first quarter of the school year. It is such a joy to watch the ways our students are learning and growing each day. We so enjoyed welcoming parents, grandparents and other ILS friends to our First Quarter Lower School Showcase on October 19th. Our lower school scholars delighted in the chance to share their poems, songs, jingles, projects and other learning from the quarter. We are very much looking forward to sitting down together for first quarter parent-teacher conferences next week as another opportunity to continue our ongoing conversations about student growth and development throughout the year.

As we launch into November, we have once again collected articles and storied for a new edition of "What we're reading..." Our faculty and staff are always reading, and we take this opportunity each month to share with our families some of the things that we have recently read and found to be interesting, intriguing or otherwise thought-provoking.

As we do each month, we’ve compiled a selection of articles on different topics, including a look at the role of leisure in our lives, a reflection on some of the differences between boys and girls (and what that means for schools), news about an exciting discovery in a basement in Italy, several pieces on classical education, and a few great reads on music as well.

Have you read something lately that you think we, or other ILS families, may enjoy? As always, we love to discover new things to read and chances to learn!

The arias of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion are the most stunning evocations of passion in the work. In moving us powerfully, they provoke our wonder: What is music that it can move us so? What is the relation here between words and tones? What role do our passions play in the Passion as depicted by Bach? What does Bach’s music contribute to our understanding of Christ’s suffering and death? Before turning to the aria and to these difficult questions, I offer the following brief introduction to Bach’s “great Passion” as a whole.

The St. Matthew Passion is impressive even by Bach’s standards. It is a several-hours-long musical drama that depicts, expands and comments on Chapters 26 and 27 from Matthew’s Gospel, starting with Jesus’s foretelling of the crucifixion and ending with Pilate’s placement of guards at the tomb. The original version of the work was first performed in 1727 on Good Friday in St. Thomas’s Church in Leipzig. The revised version that we know today was first performed in 1736. The work consists of several different kinds of music: large-scale choruses, harmonized Lutheran hymn tunes or chorales, elaborate arias or songs sometimes preceded by a recitative, and narrative sections in which the Evangelist and the characters in the drama sing rather than speak the words of Matthew’s text in German. The Evangelist is a tenor, Jesus a bass.
— Peter Kalkavage, "The Power of Song in Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion”"

Have you ever attempted an extempore prayer? I know I have been in many situations in which someone calls upon me to offer a prayer, and I confess I don’t have many memorized beyond the basics (the Lord’s Prayer, Luther’s Morning and Evening Prayers, etc.). The ability to compose a prayer on the spot is important to learn, but oftentimes, previously composed prayers are more thorough and eloquent.

Thankfully, the Church has a rich history of prayers from which to choose. While it may be a daunting task to memorize prayers, we certainly have many options. Fortunately for the church musician, Lutheran Service Book also has an entire section of hymns titled “Prayer,” which comprises hymns 766–780. Some of these hymns describe what prayer is, and some are actual prayers themselves. Setting these prayers to music certainly makes it easier to memorize them, but beyond simply assisting with memorization, this section of LSB is an incredibly important asset for not only musicians, but also the whole Church.
— Marie Landskroener, "Prayer Hymns: One Immense Voice Raising Supplication to God"

“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” - Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park

As described in our modern mythical tale, Jurassic Park, technology may not always lead to positive outcomes if implemented without critical thought, moral ground or inquiry. From cloning to social media, it is more essential to understand the ethical implications of an idea and how it will impact people than it is to build well-designed code.

With modern challenges, such as cyber-bullying or the increasing cost of medicine, a classical education, with its focus on philosophy and inquiry, can offer students the opportunity to gain knowledge and develop innovative thought, while examining issues through a moral lens.

But how does a philosophy that has been taught for centuries stay relevant in an education age immersed with iPads and apps, and careers driven by the digital economy, automation and personalization?

The need for thoughtfulness in our technocentric world extends beyond the creation and use of new tools. Today, students are charged with shaping policy and fighting injustice, and have endless information, and misinformation, pushed to them.
A classical education provides the academic excellence and moral framework to fight this injustice. It encourages students to pursue the why, how and who of ideas and decisions in addition to the what, and helps develop young people who own their power to enrich their lives and the lives of others. Directly and indirectly, a classical education offers a deeper, lasting preparation for college, careers and living a meaningful life by encouraging its two guiding principles—wisdom and virtue.
— Dana Week, "How a Classics Education Prepares Students for a Modern World"

Italian archeologists just hit the jackpot—literally. A trove of hundreds of gold coins dating back to Rome’s Imperial era has been found in a soapstone jar unearthed in the basement of the Cressoni Theater in Como, Italy.

The coins were discovered last week, according to Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities. “We do not yet know in detail the historical and cultural significance of the find,” said Culture Minister Alberto Bonisoli in a press release. “But that area is proving to be a real treasure for our archeology. A discovery that fills me with pride.”

The coins have been transferred to a laboratory in Milan where archaeologists and restorers are analyzing them, according to CNN. Experts have not yet placed a value on the coins, but reports in the Italian media have speculated that they could be worth millions of dollars.
— Kate Brown, "Archeologists Just Hit the Jackpot, Discovering a Jar Full of Roman Gold Coins Hidden in an Ancient Basement"

In Plato’s Laws, while discussing education’s “two branches – one of gymnastic, which is concerned with the body, and the other of music, which is designed for the improvement of the soul,” an uncontested observation is made: that men and women possess a “natural difference,” a difference demonstrated in the “melodies and rhythms” that belong to them. Until very recent history, such an observation would require little to no clarification, backpedaling, or apologetic lines beginning with “Of course, we now know…” or “That’s not to say that…”

God created man, but when He saw the man by himself, He declared, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18). Before the Fall, only one thing was declared “not good”: man without woman. Together, they were complete. Together, they could “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion…” (Genesis 1:28).

All of this is intended simply to highlight the dignity, necessity, and difference of men and women. Men and women need one another and they need one another as men and women. And just as this is true in marriage and family life, it is true in the school.
— Brian Phillips, "Honoring Boyhood"

I wish some things were found in books, things that are not found in books even though books may speak about them. Holiness, for example. Would that I could find the right book to make me holy, a sort of how to for sanctity and piety. While it is absolutely true that God’s Word is just such a book, it does not work on us magically to make holiness appear out of nowhere. Instead, holiness is the fruit of patient struggle. God justifies us in a moment but the sanctification of that which He has declared just takes a lifetime and we never approach the end until the end.

Reading about prayer is always easier than praying — the uncomfortable and often terrifying moments of silence in which you are so painfully aware of your sinfulness and the fearsome holiness of God. Reading about piety is so much easier than trying to be honestly pious. You know what I mean. We want a short cut, a YouTube video guide to being good and righteous and holy or a list of bullet points (a short list) to get us from point A to point B and the wonderful satisfaction that we have arrived. But there is no such plateau of perfection to be had or known this side of glory. Instead God gives us the patient struggle of a sinner redeemed and guided by the Holy Spirit working through the means of grace to make the person what God has already declared the person to be.
— Pastor Peters, "What you cannot find in a book..."

A resurgence of interest in classical education has been evident in recent years. This has been due, in part, to a number of influential writings on regaining “lost” knowledge in our culture which have, in turn, inspired an increasing number of schools founded on a classical model. When surveying the landscape of classical education, it becomes evident that there is a clear vision available for the purpose of the study of humanities. What does not seem as clear, though, is the nature of mathematics in a classical education.

How is mathematics to be approached? Is mathematics a science? Is it a set of skills to be memorized? Can the study of mathematics be more deeply integrated into a classical education? If so, is this necessary or desirable? Nearly everyone would agree that the study of mathematics belongs in a classical education, but the purpose of this study is not always clear.
— Thomas Treloar, "The Purpose of Mathematics in a Classical Education"

As the school year is well underway, it may be worthwhile to examine the role which leisure plays in our lives. Although we all value our vacation time and enjoy moments of relaxation, leisure in its truest form seems to be a forgotten practice in this day and age.

To begin, when an attempt is made to be at leisure, there are many distractions which prohibit its practice. Some of these include the constant stimulation with technology to which we subject ourselves. Because of this, we are often out of touch with reality, and not experiencing the joys which creation brings. This results in taking people, situations, and the objects around us for granted. The stress and busyness of our schedules, whether of a continuous work schedule or with the extra activities we impose upon ourselves, often lead to stressful lives and much unhappiness.

Though this misery is never the intended outcome of any of the decisions that we make, perhaps we need a reminder of what it means to be at leisure. After all, it is not merely the individual who suffers due to a lack of leisure. Society as a whole is affected, for, as the German philosopher Josef Pieper famously noted, leisure is the basis of culture.
— Maria Cintorino, "Leisure, Contemplation, and Heaven"