"Ask not for whom the bell tolls," advised John Donne, quickly adding, "it tolls for thee." Yet we may well ask for whom Homer tolls, or more accurately, for whom his song still sings today. Are his writings texts to be translated, merely "a bit of Greek construe" as a student once argued with Michael Redgrave in the classic film The Browning Version? Are they works to be mined to support this or that idea or cause du jour? And what has all this to do with the reigning question across social media at the moment, "How often do you think of the Roman Empire?
Tuesday, September 26, 2023
Sunday, September 17, 2023
Many people talk about biblical illiteracy today, but what about God illiteracy, our misreading of God Himself? How do we fall into the trap of reading between the lines and seeing what is not there when it comes to God?
Faith and Misreading God
Reading Through Lenses
Tuesday, August 22, 2023
|Astronaut Dr. David Bowman in 2001: A Space Odyssey|
Control is fun. Starting at a young age, every one of us wants more of it over more aspects of our lives. We begin to pick out our own clothes, decide what we want to eat, and, with our first tricycle, discover the thrill of plotting the course of our own journey. The pangs of anxiety that come with increased control as we fret over more significant decisions like whether to ask someone out on a date or which university to choose are quickly quelled by the sheer fun of the myriad smaller acts of control that decorate our lives. It's fun to customize our laptops with stickers and curate our own music lists online. Sooner or later, however, we discover that the pressures of control are no longer outweighed by the joys, and the best that many hope for is to keep the pressures and joys in balance. We play the stress of controlling our finances off against the pleasure of choosing where to go on vacation. Yet there is something far better and far more freeing, but it requires a bit of imagination and getting lost.
The Imagination of God
Monday, June 26, 2023
Which is the more difficult word, "love" or "antidisestablishmentarianism?" At first glance, many would say the latter, but that is because long, multisyllabic words seem scary. When you get right down to it, "antidisestablishmentarianism" is easy to break down into its etymological roots, and the definition is quite narrow and specific. It means the belief that a church that has received government support should continue to do so and should not be disestablished. "Love," on the other hand, is a word applied to a romantic interest, a favorite type of pizza, devotion to one's country, and the driving force behind the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Through constant use and familiarity, it has taken on so many meanings as to be nearly meaningless, and the same is true of another common word, "faith." It has come to have a sort wispy sense, something light and delicate and otherworldly, but, as we will see, it is a concrete, robust word capable of supporting the massive edifice of a human life.
Etymology and Theology
|Trinity, Andrei Rublev, 1425|
Etymology and Philosophy
Putting It All Together
Saturday, June 17, 2023
In 1982 a British hard rock band released its fifth album, and in 2023, the television game show Jeopardy! aired the latest of its more than eight thousand episodes. What could either of these possibly have in common? They each have something to say about contemporary biblical literacy.
Less Than Subtle
Blank Stares for 200
What's Going On?
Tuesday, May 30, 2023
|Marcus Tullius Cicero, 106-43 B.C.|
While cleaning out some things at my mom's house, I ran across something she had saved from my freshman year at Indiana University. Apparently I had written a poem about a speech we had read in our Cicero class, and my dad had typed it up. What could have prompted a young man of eighteen to compose on such a topic? The answer can be found in 374 words.
A Speech and a Poem
Thursday, May 25, 2023
At the suggestion of my principal and thanks to the incredible response from colleagues and parents to an email I sent, I am sharing here the story of a friend of mine and how it affected some of my students.
Tuesday, May 23, 2023
The ad verecundiam fallacy comes up when we claim something is true solely on the grounds that someone who is not an authority says it is true. This fallacy underlies much celebrity-based advertisement and it is why I am not inclined to accept uncritically the ideas of Elon Musk, Bill Gates, or even those who sit on boards and committees of education. Yet a good friend sent me this video of Musk's thoughts on education, and after watching it I couldn't stop pondering what he had to say.
In the fall of 2021, there were approximately 49.5 million preK-12 students enrolled in public schools, which of course says nothing about the number of students in private, hybrid, and homeschool models. Although these tens of millions of students are not evenly distributed across the country, thus creating some schools with very large enrollments and some with very small, the need is simply too great for each and every one of these students to participate in an inductive, discovery-based model of learning in all areas. Let us be clear. This does not mean that such a method cannot work at all in larger schools. It may be well suited to certain subjects or certain units within certain subjects, but the time and low student-to-teacher ratio necessary for the success of this model cannot be obtained in the schooling of nearly 50 million children across twelve or more years in reading, writing fiction, writing nonfiction, earth science, biology, anatomy, chemistry, physics, algebra, geometry, calculus, Latin, Spanish, French, German, Hebrew, Chinese, Japanese, choir, band, orchestra, 2-D art, 3-D art, coding, and the nearly endless list of curricular offerings.
When I say that time constraints and human ratios are of necessary importance for this model, I mean that unless they are gotten right, the model will not work. Let's start with time. We continue to find ways for time not to be an obstacle to learning, but in a large school setting, we simply cannot serve the time needs of each and every student. Student A may need more time to grasp a concept, but Student A cannot remain in the classroom of Teacher X to do so if Student A is required to be present in another class and if Teacher X must likewise teach another group of students. However much we are able to accommodate the time needs of Student A, and perhaps even Students B through G, we will come to a point where practicality sets in and we will not be able to meet the need for Student H.
This challenge is a function of the other necessary factor at work here, student-teacher-ratios. Most schools are limited in the number of teachers they can employ. To reach a workable student-teacher-ratio for the model Musk describes, a ratio that will differ depending on the subject and needs of the students, far more money would be required than even the most ardent supporter of school funding considers, for not only would more teachers need to be hired, but there would have to be significant increase in building space in which teaching and learning would be done. To educate 50 million children across fifty states from more than twelve years, practical forces, unlikeable though some may be, shape what we can and cannot do, and those forces have brought about the form of education that most people think of when they consider education at all, a form that can seem more like an assembly line of mass-produced parts than a hand-crafted work of art.
Salad Bowls and Melting Pots
Tuesday, May 16, 2023
|St. Jerome Translating the Bible|
They say that people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, and since I am working on my own translation of Vergil's Aeneid, it may be ill advised for me to offer the scathing critique I am about to put forth here. On the other hand, sometimes a child needs to shout, "The emperor isn't wearing any clothes!"
The Whys of Translation
The Hows of Translation
One That Cruncketh in Howling
Matthew 3:1, 13-14
Thursday, April 27, 2023
A daycare worker in Fishers, Indiana, a growing suburb north of Indianapolis, has been charged with nineteen felony battery accounts. Documentation shows evidence of shoving a child's head into a change table, slamming her down, and covering her face with a blanket. Video evidence shows children being dragged, thrown to the ground, and pushed. Further video shows a boy being struck in the back of his head and kicked in the back before being lifted from the ground by one arm. Another girl was dropped onto a tile floor.
In Brownsburg, Indiana, a town of approximately thirty thousand just west of Indianapolis, a teacher and aide have been charged with felony offenses against a special education elementary student. Three other staff members have been charged with misdemeanors for failure to report the incident. A child of seven was told that if he vomited, he would have to eat his own vomit. A tray was placed in front of the child, and when the child vomited, he was given a spoon with which to eat the vomit, which he did, as the adults watched.