The Illusion of Education

We had fed the heart on fantasy,

The heart’s grown brutal from the fare.

                        William B. Yeats

     “For the truth is,” wrote Jose Ortega y Gasset, “that life on the face of it is a chaos in which one finds oneself lost.  The individual suspects as much but is terrified to encounter this frightening reality face to face, and so attempts to conceal it by drawing a curtain of fantasy over it, behind which he can make believe everything is clear.”

      Winning is all that matters. Morality is irrelevant. People have their own logos, uniforms, slogans, them songs, cheerleaders, and other badges of communal identity.  They all are striving to be unique but all they accomplish is being like everyone else.  All that matters is their own achievement.

     Plato in The Republic, imagined people chained to the wall in an underground cave. The cave is their total reality. One person escapes and get out.  He comes back and they despise him. The world is no longer simple shadows on the wall, but complex and messy…they ridicule him and swear never to go into the light lest they BE BLINDED as well!

     Plato feared the power of entertainment, the power of the senses to overthrow the mind, the power of emotions to obliterate reason.  No admirer of democracy, Plato said that the enlightened or elite had a duty to educate those bewitched by the shadows on the cave’s wall, a position that led Socrates to joke: “As for the man who tried to free them and lead them upward, if they could somehow lay their hands on him and kill him they would do so.”

     We are chained to the flickering shadows of celebrity culture, the spectacle of the arena and the airwaves, the lies of advertising, the endless personal dramas, many of them completely fictional, that have become the biggest part of news, celebrity gossip, New Age mysticism and pop psychology.

      Daniel Boorstin writes that in contemporary culture the fabricated, the inauthentic, and the theatrical have displaced the natural, the genuine, and the spontaneous, until reality itself has  been converted into stagecraft ( think education or politics). More and more Americans are living in a world where fantasy is more real than reality.

      He warms: We risk being the first people in history to have been able to make their illusions so vivid, so persuasive, so “realistic: that they can live in them.  We are the most illusioned people on earth. Yet we dare not become disillusioned, because our illusions are the very house in which we live; they are our news, our heroes, our adventure, our forms of art, our very experience.

       Our system of learning is fatally flawed and had created a people and a culture that serves and sees only itself. Few make it through the learning process intact, equipped and ready to take on the challenges of the day.  They have learned now to think and reflect, correct their ideas and thinking without becoming part of the “herd.”   God forbid if my iPhone did not work, the world will come to an end.

       Are you happy being in the cave, or are you making you way to the light!

I have come to love learning but education sucks!

The TYranny of Being Nice

“Truth has a way of dividing”
I was having a conversation recently with a good friend, on the way to a nearby town to retrieve my pick-up that was being worked on.  During the trip we were discussing  many topics but one stood out.  Change and why we are not transformed in a real way by our beliefs. A thought that had been toying with me suddenly coalesced. We are exposed to many concepts of change, however few of us spend time “reflecting” on the concepts! By reflection I mean for example a particular scripture that might have an impact on you.  Do we mine it meaning on my life, my actions, how I see my fellow man, realizing how “fallen” my nature is? What do I need to change in my words, and actions to make that transformation real in my life?  Often in our conversation with one another we speak with a Christainese vocabulary, we know all the right words and we know all the correct phrases that demonstrate how “Spiritual” we are! It feels good, and sometimes is encouraging, however often it is something we do, with little result in our lives or those around us.WE OFTEN SUCCUMB TO THE TYRANNY OF BEING NICE. I hope that the writing of Mr. Rice has an impact on each of us, as we Reflect on his thoughts.  Be Well….

     I found the following article written by Rick Rice  Catholic Thought, “Courage, Culture, Justice, Moral Equivalence

I succumbed to the tyranny of nice, a rare thing for me admittedly.
Which makes this piece by Msgr. Charles Pope, titled “The Real Jesus Wants To Know Where You Stand” all the more relevant, timely and instructional:
There is a false, unbiblical notion of Jesus that emphasizes and isolates some of his teachings and traits, while excluding others. Hence there are many who reduce Jesus’ moral teaching to a vague notion that we should be nice and try to get along. This not only simplifies Jesus — it trivializes him.
Jesus, in describing his own ministry and why he was hated so irrationally that even Pontius Pilate had to marvel, said to Pilate: The reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me (Jn 18:37). Pilate scoffed, of course, and like a 21st century secular or libertine, said, “Truth! What is that?”
But there is something funny about the truth. The opposite of the truth is not just less meaningful, or just another opinion. The opposite of true, is false. Truth has a way of dividing. It will not abide competitors. That Jesus is Lord, is true. Anything different from this is not just less meaningful or someone else’s view — it is false.
Jesus says, “I am the truth” (Jn 14:6). As such he cannot be reduced to a harmless hippie going about speaking of love and inclusion. Did he speak of these things? Surely. But he also summoned us to a choice for him or against him. To choose for him was to be saved; to choose against him was to be condemned. The same Jesus who said, “Love one another” (Jn 13:34) also said, Unless you come to believe that I AM, you will die in your sins (Jn 8:24).
In times like these we are going to have to recover a healthy sense that Jesus not only unites many in his truth, but he also divides and distinguishes by that same truth. Myopic and wistful notions that Jesus want us to be nice and get along cannot supersede his command that we love him and put faith in his truth, even if it means our own family disowns us or is “offended” by us.
In this sense Jesus did not come to “unite” in some merely sociological sense. He came to distinguish his true followers from those who actually follow the world or Satan.

Once the Truth comes into the world, what is false must be rejected. Once the Light has come into the world, the darkness must be called by its proper names: confusion and obscurity. Once the Way has come into this world all other paths are excluded and lead only to Hell. Fr. Robert Barron says well and artfully: “Jesus compels a choice.” We are free to choose, but we must choose. Tertium non datur (no third way is given)!
Yes, in times like these we are going to have to recover notions that Jesus will divide, even as he seeks to unite us in the truth. We cannot go on clinging to a “Hallmark card theology” of pleasantries about getting along and being “nice.” Jesus did not end up before Pilate and nailed to cross by soft-pedaling the truth.
The Truth divides. And some of the divisions are very uncomfortable, reaching right into our families. There are going to be “weddings” we should not attend, gatherings we must refuse, affiliations that must end, affirmations we should not give, confrontations we must make, and silence that is no longer tolerable (if it ever was tolerable).
Indeed, we have gone on too long remaining silent — even approving — while sons and daughters, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends cohabitated, stopped attending Mass, got divorced and remarried and engaged in any number of other immoral and questionable practices.
We thought being quiet would bring peace. It did not. Compromises with the world and the devil do not bring peace but only demands for further concessions and compromises. At the end of the process we are silent, dead in our sins, and the world and the devil just have more victims. This mess we are in today happened on our watch. We who should be prophets are left shaking our heads and wondering how it got so bad. No real mystery here: silent pulpits, silent dinner tables, and suing for a false “peace in our times.”
Somewhere we bought into a notion of a fake Jesus, a harmless hippie who just wanted us to be nice and get along. But that Jesus would never have ended up before the Sanhedrin, or Pilate, or on a cross. The fake Jesus would not have had enemies at all. The fake Jesus would never have many who left him and would no longer follow him because of his teaching on the Eucharist (John 6) or marriage (Matthew 19), or his own divinity (John 8). The fake Jesus is loved by the world because the fake Jesus’ is of this world.
But the true Jesus stood accused before Pilate, and was condemned to die by a world that hated him because he was not of the world.
Seriously. Boom.
That is hard, dare I say brutal, honesty and well worth reading in its entirety.
I should have the courage of taking Msgr. Pope’s piece and passing it along to the person with the silent Christian friend.
I really should. God grant me the opportunity… and the courage.
Carry on.

The Illusion of Wisdom

Many of the ills that currently plague this great nation of ours can be laid at the feet of our elite colleges. Those that support and sustain our educated elite. Most do only a mediocre job of teaching students to question and think.  They focus instead through the filter of standardized test, enrichment activities, AP classes, high priced tutors, private schools and the blind deference to authority, creating hordes of incompetent students.

It seems today that universities and public education disdain honest intellectual inquiry, which is by its nature distrustful of authority, fiercely independent, and often subversive.  They organize learning around minutely specialized disciplines, narrow answers, and a rigid structures designed to produce such answers.  Need I say PARCC, if you are not familiar with PARCC, you need to explore it. In our local system I recently learned after an harried year of preparing students and teachers for this exercise, WE HAVE SCRAPPED IT! The cheering you hear is from educators who know how to teach not proctor test.

We have bought hook, line and sinker into the idea that education is about training for “success,” defined monetarily, rather than learning to think critically and to challenge. Our elites use a private dialect that is a barrier to communication as well as common sense.  They have set themselves as the arbiter of Truth,Wisdom and Knowledge.

They shun anything written prior to 1960.  Writers from Euripides to Russell Banks have used literature as both a mirror and a lens, to reflect back to us, and focus us on, our hypocrisy, moral corruption, and injustice.  Literature is a tool ot enlighten society about it ills.  It was Charles Dickens who directed the attention of middle class readers to the slums and workhouses of London.  It was Honre de Balzac who, through the volumes of his Human Comedy, ripped open the hardened hearts of France.  It was Upton Sinclair who took us into the stockyards and shantytown of Chicago in The Jungle.

In the hands of academics, however who rarely understand or concern themselves with the reality of the world, works of literature are eviscerated and destroyed.  They are concerned for obscure trivia and irrelevant data that can be put into a computerized test.  They have been trained only to find solutions that will maintain and support the system. NEVER asking the question, “Is it good for the student?”  Most students become so conditioned to success they become afraid to take risks.  They learn to placate and please authority, never to challenge it.  By the time the graduate, the system has forgotten to teach them, that along the way to the way that the purpose of education is to make minds, not careers!

Here is a tease!  Our school system ranks in the bottom 5% in the state according to testing data. However we have one of the most historically prestigious and respected facilities in the state…..the point…seems we are proud of our buildings and our past but not to concerned about the quality of students we are producing….

The Examimed LIfe

Thinking about life is more like mulling it over, and the more complete understanding this brings does not feel like crossing a finishing line while still managing to hold onto the baton,it feel like growing up more. Philosophical  meditations about life present a portrait, not a theory. The portrait may be made of theoretical pieces, questions, distinctions, explanations.

Why isn’t happiness the only thing that matters?  Are Eastern doctrines of enlightenment valid? Why am I so much like my father, can I change? What is wrong when a person cares mainly about personal wealth and power? What is wisdom and why do philosophers love it so?  Am I on a path to Truth? Are some existing things more real than others, and can we ourselves also become more real?  All these bits of theory constitute a portrait.

The understanding gained in examining a life itself comes to permeate the life and direct its course. To live an examined life is to make a self-portrait.  When additional and distinctive component such as reflection is added to our skills it is like adding new data to be fit to a curve, a new overall pattern than results.  The old components too then get seen and understood differently, just as previous scientific data points are now seen a fitting a new curve or equation.

The author’s voice is never our own, exactly the author’s life is never our own.  Still we can gain from their insights, wondering and pondering in their light. Thoreau’s Walden and Nietzsche’s writings, for example invite  or urge us to think along with them, branching in our own directions.  We are not identical with the books we read, but neither would we be the same without them!

Socrates stated the unexamined life if not worth living, this seems a bit harsh. But when we guide our live by our own pondered thoughts, if then is our life that we are living, not someone else’s. An examination of life utilizes whatever you can bring to bear and shapes you fully.

The philosophical traditions since Plat has sought to establish ethics by showing that our own well-being is served or enhanced by behaving ethically.  We do not want to get committed to any one particular understanding and get locked into it. This danger looms large for in the public’s mind or in our own they can easily become identified with a particular “position.”  Once having pigeonholed people and figured out what they are saying, we don not welcome new information that would require us to re-understand and reclassify them, and we resent  their forcing us to devote fresh energy to this when we have expended  more than enough in their direction already.

In our culture at this time in history, we are so prone to look on the outward appearance of other and do exactly at mentioned above – pigeonhole people, places and things without a second thought. And unfortunately if we just take but a moment and reflect we just might discover a richness that we had so quickly  looked  over.

Once upon a time, philosophy promised more than simply contents of thought. “Citizens of Athens,” Socrates asked, ‘aren’t you ashamed to care so much more about making all the money you can and advancing your reputation and prestige, while for truth and wisdom and the improvement of your souls you have no thought or care?”  He spoke of the state of their souls , and he showed us the state of his own!

The Examined Life

by: Robert Nozick

Christianity Is a Worldview

How Now Shall We Live?

“Without a biblical worldview, all the great teaching goes in one ear and out the other.  There are no intellectual pegs… the mind of the individual to had these truths on.  So they just pass through.  They do not stick. They do not make a difference!”

     What if we really lived by what we say we believe?

      The way we see the world can change the world. Our choices are shaped by what we believe is real and true, right and wrong, good and beautiful. Our choices are shaped by our worldview. Our major task in life is to discover what is true and to live in step with that truth. Every worldview can be analyzed by the way it answers three basic questions: Where did we come from, and who are we (creation)?. What has gone wrong with the world (fall)?  And what can we do to fix it (redemption)?

      These three questions form a grid that we can use to break down the inner logic of every belief system or philosophy that we encounter, from the textbooks in our classrooms to the unspoken philosophy that shapes the message we hear on Oprah.

      We can apply this three-part grid to critique non biblical worldviews, while at the same time framing a biblical worldview on any subject, from family and life education, from politics to science, form art to popular culture!

      In days to follow I will add more to these musings…I promise to not get tangled up in all the “Christainise” that is rampant in today’s marketplace…please read, reflect and respond!

Be of Good Cheer…..