We should read broadly. People love diversity, and that's good--so I suggest getting books from a wide diversity of authors. Often when people say, “I read diverse authors,” they meet sometimes mean “I read multi-colored authors.” That's not what I mean. I mean that you should read ideologically diverse authors. For example, take Voddie Baucham. He requires his children to read Mein Kampf, Origin of Species, Malcolm X, Langston Hughes, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, and Greek mythology. He's not afraid to do that. He himself spends nearly as much time reading books with which he disagrees as those which affirm his positions, and he is able to identify with and profit from both.
The topic of discussion for Parent Traditio this evening will be “Raising Readers: Cultivating a Love of Literature in the Home.” One facet of this conversation will be the importance of good literature in the forming of a child’s moral imagination. To illustrate this point, consider the scene from C.S. Lewis’s The Silver Chair (from the Chronicles of Narnia), where one of my favorite Narnian characters – a marshwiggle – bolding declares his commitment to the truth.
The pursuit of wisdom consists of basic things: reading boni libris, competing with a charitable heart on the field, turning in commonplace books, parsing Latin and Greek, working out complex Calculus problems, reciting poetry, memorizing Scripture, crafting essays, exercising your vocal cords in choir, and submitting your best art (even if you don’t think you’re much of an artist). Well, maybe it is better to say that these are the concrete ways you will pursue those lofty aims advocated by Aristotle, namely phronesis and techne. Both of them are arts aimed at the cultivation of the soul, phronesis meaning moral virtue, and techne meaning skilled virtue. Morals and skills. Or to use Paul’s language, “by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).
At other times I have written here about the importance of the home, church, and school being in agreement, and it is a message that bears repeating. Those three entities have the most influence over a child’s formation. If the home, church, and school have different messages about who God is or who His people are or how they are called to live, a child’s mind will be divided on issues that are foundational to her existence. For a child to flourish spiritually and emotionally, hearing a consistent message from home, church, and school is necessary. By that same standard, a classical education cannot take root and flourish in the life of a child if it isn’t being supported at home.
People come and people go. That is a truth in any community. It is human nature, I suppose to some extent, for people to get interested in a thing, even convinced about a thing, then lose interest or become unconvinced over time. Maybe we just have a short (and shortening) attention span. Because it is enrollment season, though, and families are deciding whether or not their children ought to attend Trinitas next year, I am spending a few weeks focusing on some of the top reasons people give for losing interest in and leaving Trinitas. This is the third of four such installments, and I hope you find it helpful if you are trying to make an enrollment decision.
A pretty famous guy once said that the goal of a good education is not to make one think right, but to make one act right. I’m paraphrasing, of course. I can’t recall the exact quote or the name of the fellow who uttered it, but the gist of it is hard to forget. Now, we all know that education does not save—only Jesus can do that—but education can and does form virtue in students when it is done well by parents and teachers; and virtuous students, after all, are students who act right. Last week I asserted that a good education teaches “a way of being.” Another way of saying it is to say that a good education forms virtue in students so that they not only think right, but they also act right. And what better way to form virtue than by reading old books?
Once while introducing an author who was confined to a wheelchair most of her life, I asked a group of students, “What would you do with your time if you had to spend every day of your life in a wheelchair?” Here are the top three answers: 1) play video games, 2) watch television, and 3) sleep. No one said “Read” until I prompted them. The option of reading was simply an after-thought.