Tuesday, February 28, 2017

books, peas, and school

The "Closing of the American Mind" is all but closed. Some interesting points including a back-handed compliment on Great Books curriculums. Here we are 30 years later and the holding hostage of colleges is beginning again. The colleges never recovered from the first time.
I finished listening to Michael Strogoff by Jules Verne last week. Verne often uses science or writes science fiction (i.e. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) in his stories. This one was devoid of it except near the end on one crucial point. Without giving a spoiler, let me just say that Verne makes use of the Leidenfrost effect (you've seen this when a drop of water skitters across a skillet when the skillet is much hotter than the boiling point of water - or when liquid nitrogen drops skitter across a floor.)
Planted peas and broccoli, and carrots, and radishes, and lots of other things the past two weekends. However, it has been so warm, I wonder if I am not a few weeks late.
I tilled the patch we will be growing sweet corn this year. I am thinking of planting some this weekend.
Teaching is going this spring. I hesitate to say "going well" because I am not sure what that means: everyone getting "A's" for example? Well that's not the case. Mid-term is at the end of this week, and one of my classes is a disaster (grade-wise.) I am hoping the test this week will renew my confidence in today's students!
There seems to be two major problems with the students I see. First is a lack of foundational knowledge in math (after all, I teach sciences). It is hard to understand more complex topics if the underlying math (usually high school algebra) is close to a mystery for the student.
Secondly (and this may be the cause of the first), there seems to be an expectation of continuous opportunities. That is: do poorly on a test and just retake it and do better.
I can see why. Apparently many high schools give almost unlimited chances to complete homework and test assignments. Do the assignment as many times as you want - until you get the grade you are satisfied with (this last is a quote from a teacher). I kid you not. I have recently become quite aware of this. It may be a way to move students along (because failure is bad for self-esteem?).
I don't know, but it does not do the students any good when they reach a higher level.
Oremus pro invicem!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Listening to .... Michael Strogoff

by Jules Verne.

I had never heard of it, but have enjoyed a few of Verne's books (most notably The Mysterious Island recommended by son Matthew) so I randomly picked this one from LibriVox.

Turns out, according to Wikipedia, "Critics consider it one of Verne's best books."

The full title is Michael Strogoff, The Courier of the Czar.

I am almost 1/2 way through, and it is very good so far.

Oremus pro invicem!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Got the latest issue of Grit Magazine in the mail this weekend. I don't subscribe, but a received a complimentary copy because an article of mine was included in the magazine. It is not available online, but if you look at the table of contents in the link, it is the one about pigs - who'd have guessed?
I wish I had the time to write and publish more. I used to write articles (and get them published) pretty regularly, but mostly in Catholic online magazines - and those don't pay anything! These days I really can't afford to work for free even if I had the time.
I have continued in my journey through The Closing of the American Mind. The chapter on music has a devastating indictment of rock and roll. I don't have the text available to me as I write today, but if I can come up with a representative quote later, I may update this post.
Energy and hope still linger from my visit to Aquinas College in Nashville this past weekend.
Oremus pro invicem!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Aquinas College, Nashville, TN

My daughter was scheduled to attend scholarship day at Aquinas College in Nashville, TN this weekend. Mrs. Curley was going to take her, leaving the homestead early Friday morning.

Somehow at 6:00 AM on Friday morning, the responsibility changed, and I was taking her. I am glad I did.
I have visited Northeast Catholic, Wyoming Catholic, Christendom College, and University of Dallas (or more accurately Holy Trinity Seminary at UD). I have come away from each re-energized in my Faith and renewed in hope for the coming generation.
For some reason, even though Aquinas is a Newman Guide school, I didn't expect the same, but I got the same renewal none-the-less.
From the president of Aquinas, Sister Mary Sarah, O.P., to the professors, to the students, I found a college that knows what(who) it is, and what its purpose is.
I spent 15-20 minutes speaking with Sister Mary Sarah, O.P. and didn't know until later who she was. These Dominicans know what they are doing - they want to bring people to Christ.
The scholarship candidates and their parents split into groups based on their intended majors and met with the dean of that college. We met with Dr. Aaron Urbanczyk, dean of the college of arts and sciences. I loved his presentation on the purpose of education and of the value of the liberal arts. (My daughter says, "Of course you did. He says the same things you say!")
As to Nashville .... bigger than I thought. We stayed in a cabin at a KOA. We ate well, but fairly inexpensively. Live bluegrass music while eating a $12 supper - not bad at all! The Cathedral was beautiful, but not breathtaking. They had confession, which we took advantage of. We assisted at Mass at St. Edward Sunday morning. Great homily from the pastor.
Glad to be home, but glad I went.
Oremus pro invicem!

Monday, February 06, 2017

the family

Written in 1986, from the Closing of the American Mind:

The dreariness of the family's spiritual landscape passes belief. .....People sup together, play together, travel together, but they do not think together. Hardly any homes have any intellectual life whatsoever, let alone one that informs the vital interests of life. Educational TV marks the high tide for family intellectual life. ...fathers and mothers have lost the idea that the highest aspiration they might have for their children is for them to be wise - as priests, prophets, or philosophers are wise. Specialized competence and success are all they can imagine.

I think this is an inevitable consequence of the breaking apart of the family (everyone leaves everyday.) Our real lives are at work and school, not at home. Home is just the hotel and periodically the vacation. Some of what he says is not even true now - families don't sup together and play together on a regular basis.
In my previous posts I asked questions about the long-term viability of a democratic republic. I am not a monarchist (never thought much about it either way.) Just asking questions.
Charlie makes the comment: The problem we have today is not a problem of government but a problem of morality. There can be no liberty among the immoral.
The founding fathers believed that Constitution would only work for a moral people.
Regarding the best government, a truly moral and benevolent monarch with good judgment, would perhaps be the best form of government, but who is to vouch for his successors? I guess that any government made up of moral people with good judgment would be the "best" government.
Many make the case that since this is unlikely to happen, the democratic republic is the best compromise ....
Oremus pro invicem!