A quote by C.S. Lewis, from Mere Christianity:
If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and help others do the same.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
Professor David Naugle from Dallas Baptist University tells the following story:
Once upon a time, but not that long ago, a there was a backwoodsman who lived and worked in a very isolated forest where he chopped down trees with an axe for a living. One day the woodsman bumped into a fellow from the city who took him into town to a hardware store and the city slicker showed him device that he said would increase his productivity and profit a 500%. He said if you normally chop down five trees in one day, with this new thing, you will chop down fifty. So he bought it.
The woodsman could hardly wait for the next day to arrive. As soon as the sun was up, he was out in the woods whittling away at his first tree. He worked and he worked, and he sweated and sweated. But by lunch time, he had only made it half way through one tree. He thought to himself, “this afternoon, things will go better.” By the end of the day, however, he had only chopped down two trees. Normally he could take care of five. Frustrated, disappointed and even angry, he resolved to work even harder the next day. But the results were pretty much the same. So were the emotions.
On the third day, he thumbed a ride into town, and went to the hardware store where he had gotten this new fangled device that was suppose to help him be so much more productive, and asked to speak to the manager. He told the manager that this thing he got from them didn’t work and that it wasn’t any good.
So the manager asked to see it, examined it carefully, checked its chain, made sure it fit snuggly on its guide, examined the fuel mixture and level, and its moving parts. Everything looked fine. Then manager said to the woodsman, “Stand back and I’ll test it.” The woodsman, unsure about what he meant, obeyed nonetheless. The manager pulled the starter cord with a jerk and the device made a loud, roaring noise: voovoom, voovoom! The woodsman, shocked at what he heard, yelled out in surprise: “What’s that noise?”
You see, the device was a chain saw, but woodsman didn’t know what it was or how it worked. He had a great new tool, but he didn’t know how to use it. Since he didn’t know anything about the tool or how to use it, all he experienced was frustration, difficulty and discouragement in his work at felling trees. Similarly, if a plumber doesn’t know how to use his wrenches and pliers, he’ll have a very hard time fixing a leaky faucet. If a carpenter doesn’t know how to wield his hammer and saw, he will find it very difficult to build a house. So it is for many students and school. If don’t know how to use their intellectual tools, it’s terribly hard to learn and get an education. As a result, education and schoolwork is nothing but difficult, frustrating, and discouraging. Because we have lost the tools of learning, going to school and trying to learn is just about as painful as a root canal.
Naugle then relates, “About 60 years ago, a woman named Dorothy Sayers (1893-1957) recognized this problem and in 1947 wrote one of the most important essays on education in the 20th century titled, ‘The Lost Tools of Learning.’”
One of the best things you can do for your child’s education is to read Mrs. Sayers’s essay. Just Google “The Lost Tools of Learning,” and it will be easy to find. Why does Regents Academy exist? The problem and solution Dorothy Sayers articulates in her essay gives the answer. What do you need to know to help your child succeed in his or her education? Again, I can’t urge you strongly enough to go get this essay and read it.
Fundraising is real. Sure, in a perfect world your tuition dollars would cover the whole budget. But the fact is that it doesn’t. Tuition funds 84.7% of our school’s budget. Most of the rest comes from fundraising and from generous donors. If we didn’t bring in funds from fundraising, the school would need to raise tuition by more than $1,000 per family. Every dollar in our budget is planned, prayed over, and directed to an intentional use. Most of it goes to our hardworking and underpaid teachers. Please don’t despise our fundraising efforts. They are essential for meeting the needs of our school.
Please join in and make them as effective as possible. Everyone profits from your contribution of time, creativity, effort, and money.
Many people think you are foolish for sending your children to a private school. A recent article in Slate highlighted just how foolish (and rotten) one author thinks you really are (see “If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You Are a Bad Person: A Manifesto” by Allison Benedikt).
But I want to say that you are making the right choice – the courageous choice – and that you are doing the most good not only for your children but for our nation by doing so. You sacrifice to send your children to Regents. You take a shorter vacation than you could otherwise. You put off purchases that you might not otherwise. You are committed to spending time daily helping with your child’s academics. But by your sacrifice for and commitment to your child’s private school education, you are investing in something that has eternal consequences and that, not incidentally, is your single greatest duty before God – the raising of your children for Him. Cost is measured in different ways. The cost of private education might be high, but the cost of not giving your children a Christ-centered education is not one you want to bear. Stay the course, friends. You are doing the right thing, no matter the price.
Congratulations to Regents Academy senior Wesley Young. Wesley has been named a Commended Student in the 2015 National Merit Scholarship Program.
About 34,000 Commended Students throughout the nation are being recognized for their exceptional academic promise. Commended Students placed among the top five percent of more than 1.5 million students who entered the 2015 competition and took the PSAT during their junior year.
Pictured below is Wesley with his parents, Tim and Kelly Young, with Headmaster David Bryant.
Congratulations, Wesley, and may God bless you!
I shared an article with our faculty last week by Carl R. Trueman from First Things blog called “Teaching as Joyful Rebellion: Thoughts at the Start of the New Academic Year.” I’m sharing it with you here now, not only stirred by the article itself but also encouraged that our teachers found it so uplifting and affirming. We are blessed to have the teachers we have at Regents Academy – they embody the vision of the article below, thanks be to God.
As I prepared to return to the classroom this week, I remembered my very first foray into full-time teaching, some twenty-three years ago. I had just been appointed to the faculty at the University of Nottingham, and it was required that I attend a three-day training session on how to teach, and then to do a refresher course of similar duration two years later. On both occasions, my wife went into labor by day two. Felix culpa indeed, for I was then allowed to leave the pointless course prematurely and return to the real world. We had not timed the pregnancies that way, but what can I say? God is good. God is very good.
I remember the sections I did attend for the desolate and desultory nature of their content. Not a single thing I heard was relevant to anything I have ever subsequently done in a classroom. There were plenty of buzzwords: “goldfish bowls”; “shared educational journeys”; “transferable skills”; etc. And there was the usual pious claptrap: “There are no teachers, only learners. Lecturers and students learn together on their mutual journey.” I remember thinking at the time that that was self-evidently false. I was being paid to teach. My students were paying (albeit indirectly, in those days) to be taught. Follow the money, as they say.
What was most striking, however, was the reduction of teaching to the merely technical. What discipline we taught was apparently irrelevant. The room was full of historians, theologians, philosophers, medics, nurses, engineers. But that did not matter, because education was ultimately not about disciplinary content. Rather, we were to use our disciplines to teach “life skills.” Given that most of us in the room had made the disastrous decision to pursue Ph.D. studies and thus dramatically to reduce our usefulness to society as well as our earning potential, the possibility of our helping others with their “life skills” seemed rather remote.
Of course, this Philistinism was not why I had chosen to be a teacher, and I doubt that it has ever motivated anyone who actually became a good one. In fact, it was not why I had chosen to be taught in the first place. I was not driven to study Classics at university by a desire to learn “life skills.” I was driven by a desire to learn about the world, to uncover some of its mysteries, to learn in that very act of learning how much more there was that I did not know and never could know, and thus to gaze in increasing awe at the unfathomable vastness of the universe, even that tiny piece of it which human beings had cultivated over the millennia. And I did not want to be in a classroom to sit in a “goldfish bowl” or to be on a “journey of mutual lecturer-student discovery.” No. I wanted to witness a great human mind wrestling with the mysteries of the human condition and engaging with great truths.
Last week I noted over at Public Discourse how the loss of a metaphysics of personhood underlies the current problem of free speech on campuses. That is the most obvious place where we see the loss, but there is also a connection with the problem of education as a whole. Courses like the one I attended have no metaphysics or, perhaps better, they have an unstated, perhaps even unconscious and unwitting, anti-metaphysics. They prioritize instrumental reason, implicitly deny transcendence, and ultimately make the world a gray, prosaic, and soulless place.
Where truth is a personal construct, where there is no transcendence, where the individual is to create the world and not discover it, there relativism reigns supreme. And where relativism reigns supreme, knowledge becomes either a matter of constant critique tending to cynical nihilism, or else merely an instrument to obtaining more of whatever we choose to desire—money, sex, and power being the three basic categories. And teaching is inevitably prostituted to these ends.
And that is why I love teaching the old way, the way that is driven by a metaphysical conviction about the world and about truth. For me, this kind of teaching is an act of rebellion in this present age—an attempt in some small way to convey the idea that the world is given, not constructed, and that meaning is to be found, not created. A good teacher must always be driven by conviction—that the world is and that it has meaning, and that it is so much bigger than any one person can ever apprehend.
Teaching—true teaching, not the mere imparting of techniques or earning potential—is perhaps the most delightful calling and privilege in the world. It has its challenges, but it brings incomparable joys. The second greatest joy I have as teacher is seeing that flash of light in a student’s eyes when a previously unknown or misunderstood concept suddenly becomes clear because of something I have said. And the greatest joy (albeit a rarer one) is the one I experience when a student writes or says something that indicates they have gone far beyond that which I, as a teacher, have been able to teach them. When they become greater, I delight that I become less. For such is the proper order of things, if teaching is truly about truth and not about power or making disciples. Yet neither joy is possible where there is no truth to discover and where the world is simply whatever the loudest and most aggressive among us care to claim that it is. Good teaching is a matter of metaphysics.
In preparation for the new academic year, I have been reading James Schall’s beautiful new book on teaching, Docilitas. This slim volume has more wisdom and inspiration for teachers in a single page than myriad “goldfish bowls” and accompanying fatuous gibberish. As Schall expresses it, “[t]he consolation of the teacher, at its highest, is when he realizes that his students, however grateful, see beyond him to what is and to the mystery of why something is rather than is not.”