touchstone archives


Piquant excerpts lifted from Touchstone editors' own reading & listening.

Topic: Education

All too often, relativists relativize others but not themselves. They relativize the past but not the present. They pour the acid of their relativism over all sorts of issues but jealously guard their own favorite ones. A recent study of classical education in the universities [Victor Davis Hanson in Who Killed Homer?, 1998] points to this attribute when it defines the present-day American academic as "a well-fed, elite, institutionalized thinker of the late twentieth century, who crafts ideas for his peers, with the assurance that the consequences of those solutions should not and will not necessarily apply to himself."

Os Guinness
Time for Truth (2000)

Education Commonplaces #5 July/August 2020

If you know what you are saying and believe it to be true, make it clear—and not just to dons, but to everyone. . . . Descent into jargon to give the impression that obscurity is profundity is a temptation indulged not only by ecclesiastics, for it luxuriates in the ivied halls of academia and the labyrinthine corridors of government. But it parades with colorful panache in the Church, and it can bewitch even in English translation. If you make a list of jargonish adjectives and another of jargonish nouns, you are on your way to writing your own neoplastic academic speech, papal audience address, Apostolic Exhortation, or even your own Encyclical. . . .

By switching back and forth, or by occult inspiration, you can construct prophetic sounding platitudes such as: "integrally ecological field hospitals," "planetary coprophagists," "dialectical nominalists," "epochal soap bubbles," "nuanced rigidities," "ontological peripheries," "clericalist paradigms," and "pickle pepper-faced ecological debts." Then you can start crisscrossing: "issue-oriented coprophagists," "paradigmatic consequentialists," "sloth-diseased nominalists," and so forth. You can even describe "planetary field hospitals," "osteoporotic nominalists," "epochal peripheries," and "schizophrenic clericalists." It's fun, and might have been the sort of pastime the late imperial senators in moth-eaten togas engaged in while the Ostrogoths menaced the crumbling Roman walls in the sixth century.

Fr. George W. Rutler
Crisis Magazine, (September 23, 2019)

Education Commonplaces #6 July/August 2020

The gas chambers of Auschwitz were the ultimate consequence of the theory that man is nothing but the product of heredity and environment; or as the Nazi liked to say, "of Blood and Soil." I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some Ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers.

Victor Frankl
The Doctor and the Soul: From Psychotherapy to Logotherapy (1955)

Education Commonplaces #8 May/June 2020

The child learns by believing the adult. Doubt comes after belief.

Ludwig Wittgenstein
On Certainty, ¶160 (c. 1950)

Education Commonplaces #17 March/April 2020

Pascal knew that Montaigne was cheating: to most humans, curiosity about higher things comes naturally; it's indifference to them that must be learned.

Mark Lilla
The Hidden Lesson of Montaigne (NYT review, March 2011)

Education Commonplaces #27 Nov/Dec 2019

Again, in the habits and regulations of schools, universities, and the like assemblies, destined for the abode of learned men and the improvement of learning, everything is found to be opposed to the progress of the sciences; for the lectures and exercises are so ordered, that anything out of the common track can scarcely enter the thoughts and contemplations of the mind. If, however, one or two have perhaps dared to use their liberty, they can only impose the labor on themselves, without deriving any advantage from the association of others; and if they put up with this, they will find their industry and spirit of no slight disadvantage to them in making their fortune; for the pursuits of men in such situations are, as it were, chained down to the writings of particular authors, and if any one dare to dissent from them he is immediately attacked as a turbulent and revolutionary spirit.

Francis Bacon
Novum Organum (1620), XC

Education Commonplaces #52 May/June 2019

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