Teaching for Generations

EducationThumbby Anniel   7/16/14
Remember a time in America when classroom educators freely discussed the bible and the biblical tradition? The great literary corpus of all western civilization is so much nonsense without the knowledge and tradition the bible provides. All students are impoverished in mind and spirit when that knowledge is denied them.

A grandson has come to live with us so Bear and I can help him get his high school diploma. He is eighteen, but has not yet graduated for a variety of reasons, including an auditory processing disorder. He is currently enrolled in an internet independent study program and has been struggling just to try and understand what the instructors want. I am nothing short of appalled by what the program claims to teach when the instructors themselves don’t understand the materials and leave the kids so woefully unprepared.

Two days ago Jack and I went through the pain of some punctuation, grammar and organization involved in writing an essay. I hope what we discussed takes and we can expand on it. But yesterday, at least for me, was absolutely mind blowing. Jack read me a poem he was to answer some questions about. I immediately recognized the work, but his reading showed he didn’t understand a single word, nor did he know how to read a poem, or even follow the punctuation. I asked him the title of the piece, he said it was untitled on the worksheet. Who wrote it? Again, the worksheet didn’t say.

The poem was the sonnet On His Blindness by John Milton. This is one of the masterpieces of English literature, but how can anyone possibly critique a poem with no identifiers and absolutely no background about the times or the author? How can you even tell Milton has gone blind at a young age from the allusions in the first two lines?

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and and wide,

For all we know Milton is poor and just had his last candle burn out. And which light is he discussing – His sight? The light of his poetic talent? Or maybe the light of God? Understanding Milton requires thought on all of those issues. How does anyone know what made Milton great without pondering such questions? How can one ponder without considering Milton’s faith in God and His will?

During our hours long discussion of the work, and poetry in general, I was transported back to my high school Junior year English Literature class with the redoubtable Miss Reynolds. Though she was a teacher par excellence, and she brooked no nonsense, she was far from beautiful and had a grating voice. Naturally the kids detested her. But she was so passionate about language and literature that I came to love her, though I never told her so. I wish I had.

The only book I kept from high school was the one from Miss Reynold’s class, simply entitled English Literature, copyrighted first in 1937. But this book is so much more, besides literature it also covered English history and art. I carried that book with me everywhere I went. I read it to my children and taught them from it’s pages. It was always where they could use it. The spine finally broke, the pages turned yellow, grew fragile and torn. I almost cried to think I might lose it completely. Two years ago Bear, bless him, found a like-new copy for me on Amazon Used Books.

So yesterday I got my book out and my grandson and I read about John Milton and his life. We discussed what he was really saying about God and his blindness, and I was struck again with what we used to learn, really learn, in school. How can anyone call themselves educated in anything today? I talked to Jack about the line where Milton says, “who best bear his mild yoke,” and why he said it was mild to one who trusts God. One of the questions Jack had was if this particular statement was hyperbole, understatement, or metonymy. I honestly thought the question pertained to the word mild, and the question made no sense. The line is simply a statement of fact for Milton. Jack guessed the answer as metonymy, which means substituting one name for another, which even doubly makes no sense, unless the word they wanted the answer for was yoke, and what would yoke possibly be a substitute for? The correct test answer was understatement, which makes no sense on any level about anything. By the time Bear retreated into silence and Jack and I stopped trying to understand if we had just missed something, it was long past bed-time.

This morning I have again been reviewing my precious book. Near the front is a chart spread over two pages. Across the top of the two pages ten categories are listed, such as Period and Date; Language and Contribution; Moulding Institutions; etc., while down the left hand side the different phases of English history are divided into eleven time periods. If you want to know what the great literary contributions of any group are, say from the Ancient Celts, who were the group in England from ? B.C. – 600 A.D., you simply find them on the left, go over to the column marked Great Books and find the books were Stories of Conchibar, the Saints, and Arthur.

If anyone thinks our current Education system has anything to do with education, think again. That two page chart in my old text book is more history of our English language, literature and political and religious foundations than our children will ever be taught, even in college.

It seems we are doomed to repeat the lessons of history over and over again.

I’m not sure how redoubtable I am, but maybe my book and I can awaken in Jack the same love of learning Miss Reynolds helped awaken in me. I may even bequeath the book to him so he can teach his own children from it some day. • (1227 views)

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12 Responses to Teaching for Generations

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    John McWhorter noted in one of his books that poetry isn’t much taught any more. I notice that my 12th grade English text includes “On His Blindness”, but I don’t know if we read it. Nor do I recall if we read it in 10th grade (I don’t have my poetry text, unfortunately) or in college (I don’t have that text either). We definitely did read a few excerpts from Paradise Lost, and no doubt some additional work by Milton.

    • David Ray says:

      There’s one book no longer taught in 10th grade – “Animal Farm”. Apparently that gem cuts a little too close to the liberal bone.
      But fear not! There’s a proven fraud that IS required reading in college and Rigoburta Menchu thanks our tenured professors for it. Coercion is the only way it can be sold. (Can I get a gig like that?)

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I read Animal Farm on my own while I was in the 6th grade, and did book reports on it at 2 different levels (and schools, a consequence of a military upbringing), but never had the book in school. However, in the 10th grade we did have 1984 (which I’d already read) and Brave New World.

  2. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    The great literary corpus of all western civilization is so much nonsense without the knowledge and tradition the bible provides. All students are impoverished in mind and spirit when that knowledge is denied them.

    Not only the literary corpus of Western civilization, but Western history, culture and thought is incomprehensible without knowledge of the Bible and the Christian tradition. As the historian Fernand Braudel wrote:

    Christianity is an essential reality in Western life: it even marks atheists, whether they know it or not. Ethical rules, attitudes to life and death, the concept of work, the value of effort, the role of women and children-these may seem to have nothing to do with Christian feeling: yet all derive from it nevertheless.

    • Rosalys says:

      This is why Christianity is under such relentless attack. Those who want to destroy western civilization, so that they can “rebuild” a Utopia in its place, must destroy its foundation, and they have been very successful over the past hundred years. Through subtle infiltration and the redefinition of long understood words and concepts, black has become white, day has become night, and up has become down. One can hardly speak anymore because our very language has come under attack to the point where a simple statement can be understood by two different people in diametrically opposite ways.

      To the Christian the Gospel is, “Christ died for our sins!” To the progressive the Gospel becomes Social Gospel and means, “The white man must give back what he stole from the masses, which is everything, because he stole it all!” To the Christian marriage is a sacred, inviolable union of one man and one woman. To the modern mind, poisoned by years of progressive education and the relentless drumbeat of hey-dude-whatever-floats-your-boatism, marriage is fast becoming something that sodomites do to show us Neanderthals just how many warm fuzzes they have for each other (you may now retch here!) To the Christian the family is God’s plan for the safe upbringing of children and a stable society. To the Left a family is a bunch of people living in the same room/house/commune/whatever. To the Christian “children are a heritage from the Lord” (Ps 127:3). To the Socialist/Communist/Fascist children are “our most important resource!” (That one has been sticking in my craw for over three decades!)

      As we watch our society crumbling around us take heart in a few things. First, though all hell break loose, the Lord will never leave nor forsake His own. Whatever comes He will be with us through it. Next, the new Utopia/Distopia/Utter-Mess is doomed to failure because it has no real foundation. It will be “built” upon selfishness and greed – the very things which the lying left purports to be remedying.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        The corruption of language is a major part of liberalism (as Orwell observed, though not specifically linked to them). It’s roots can be seen in the Rolling Stones lines: “Just as every cop is a criminal, and all the sinners saints. Just as heads is tails, call me Lucifer.”

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    The great literary corpus of all western civilization is so much nonsense without the knowledge and tradition the bible provides. All students are impoverished in mind and spirit when that knowledge is denied them.

    Let me also reiterate the importance of this quote as Mr. Kung has done.

    When doing vigorous hiking, as I was tonight, I have ideas run into my brain. It could be because of a lack of oxygen. But I was thinking about Leonard Cohen, hippies, the counter-culture, and just what it means to be conservative. Are we all just killjoys with a stick too tightly wedged up our rear ends?

    And I thought, No, for conservatives tend to have a good sense of humor and want to enjoy life. They don’t want to parade themselves around as victims. They don’t want to define themselves by their grievances. They don’t want to be moral exhibitionists who lord themselves over others as self-righteous pricks. We want to live and love, but we also think there are such things as right and wrong and that a society that forgets this is one that soon becomes a society that is the equivalent of trailer trash.

    It also occurred to me that, whatever one’s exact religious beliefs, conservatives have a reverence for this world. And I don’t mean something as vacuous and shallow as hugging trees. I mean a religious/spiritual/Godly comprehension of this world. If the world can be glimpsed naively through rose-tinted glasses to the detriment of some, it can also be looked at through Godly-tinted glasses to the benefit of many. That is, there can be reverence for the majesty of being and a concomitant humility regarding our personal place in the scheme of things. We are not nothing, but the Everything is so much more.

    And then I realized there is that propagandized, ruined side of society. They are the people who have been taught that religion is all just bullshit, that science and “reason” are everything, and that a sense of egotism, not humility, is the proper orientation to this world. And for those people, they read books such as those written by Charles Bukowski where the degradation of mankind, and the meaninglessness of life, are the “bible” of this other side.

    And I’ve read a couple of his books, so I know of which I speak. We are indeed impoverished without the wisdom of the ages. That’s a great thought, Annie.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      It makes sense that conservatives would tend to be happier than liberals, and in fact I think I’ve seen surveys indicating this, even in the Obama Nation. One obvious reason for this is that liberals seek to be victims (and thus unhappy) or else outraged on behalf of victims (regardless of whether those victims think of themselves that way). Neither attitude is conducive to being happy. Then, too, it’s hard to be consistently happy when you adhere to a politics/religion that frequently requires the denial of reality.

      As for a sense of humor, liberals have the blind spot that they can’t allow themselves to enjoy humor that targets their politics/religion. They can’t even allow themselves to recognize that it’s intended to be humorous, so it’s just another excuse to be outraged (or occasionally just to feel superior).

      • David Ray says:

        Us conservatives can be self-deprecating and laugh at ourselves. Liberals need to laugh at others.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          When the political satire group the Capitol Steps (which was originated by a group of staffers for liberal GOP Senator Charles Percy of Illinois) appeared before Reagan and Bush 41, the presidents insisted they do nothing but jokes about the president. I doubt Clinton would have said such a thing, and I’m confident that Obama would do the opposite and insist that there be no such jokes.

          • David Ray says:

            Reagan once signed a poster of him and a chimp from the movie “Bedtime for Bonzo”.
            Ya gotta love it. He wrote “I’m the one wearing the watch.”

            BTW, you’re quite correct about B. Hussein.
            At White House correspondence dinners, the jokes are traditionally self-deprecating . . . but that doesn’t apply to shallow narcissists. Therefore, Rush Limbaugh was the butt of vicious slander pawning itself off as humor and the jug-eared one loved every second of it.

  4. I suspect your grandson’s worksheet was missing the author and background info because most lit curricula today is deconstructionist — it denies the relevance of context. Any text means what it means to me, or you, or your grandson — unless your opinion differs from the teacher’s. Basically, such curricula rob students of half the information they need to make sense out of anything. This applies as well to the lack of biblical information, and since most of Western lit is laced with biblical references and allusions the kids are robbed again of a large percentage of the meaning and discovery available and come away from lit thinking none of it is relevant. I’m glad your grandson has you to guide him.

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