What is to be Done? Samizdat Classical Education

The most effective thing that we can still do to conserve our civilization is raise and educate our own children in the way that they should go. Shortly after the Orthosphere began operating in early 2012, I posted an item about the superiority of homeschooling. But what about middle and secondary school? What about college?

Two of our most luminous and percipient writers, both themselves professors – Anthony Esolen and Roger Scruton – have recently posted on these questions.

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Mere Reaction

Secular reaction can’t work. As Bruce Charlton pointed out yesterday, secular cultures must tend always leftward – i.e., toward chaos and death – because at bottom they are guided and governed by disordered passions and desires, and so furthermore are careless of their danger. This will be as true of their noblest exponents and leaders as of their common folk. And we won’t be able to persuade a whole people that the first principles of their secular society are insane using only secular arguments. To sway them, we’ll have to put the fear of God into them. And we can’t give them what we don’t ourselves possess.  Continue reading

The Great Metaphysical Heresies

The Great Christian Heresies crop up again and again, and the Church will probably have to deal with them all the way out to the eschaton. They tempt the mind because they are simply easier to take on board than many of the most difficult and mysterious Christian doctrines, such as the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Atonement. Being easier to make sense of, they seem to make more sense. And they all start from, and partake of, some kernel of theological truth. This too increases their credibility. But they are all errors.

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Why Modern Authorities are (Generally) Dishonest Manipulators

[This will not be news to most Orthosphere readers, but we need clear statements of basic principles to educate the young.]

Not all authorities are dishonest manipulators, of course, but the higher their rank, the more dishonest and manipulative they tend to be. And this is not just an unfortunate fluke. In the modern world authorities have to be manipulators. They have no real authority but they must somehow establish and maintain order, so manipulation is usually their only recourse.

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A bit of history: Until modern times (roughly, before the end of World War I), most people made most of their important decisions based largely on tradition and authority. “Tradition” means the ways of thinking and living they inherited from their ancestors, and “authority” means the teachings and the commands of people such as lords, kings, pastors and teachers. Tradition and the authorities were recognized as having the right to answer the important questions of life and to tell us, in broad terms, how we ought to live.

But now, thanks to the successful liberal takeover of the West, tradition and authority are greatly diminished.  The liberal jihad fights, in large part, under the banner of personal freedom, and in the modern world we are all supposed to be autonomous, self-actualizing freedmen who accept no authority not freely chosen and who are liberated from the tyranny of tradition. Continue reading

A Father’s Advice to His Son on Becoming a Man, Part Four: the Dos and the Don’ts

[Part One.  Part Two.  Part Three.]

Be a Christian: Trust Jesus Christ

The Bible is not just an ancient holy book. It contains the words that God intended mankind to know in order have a right relationship with God and in order to have true wisdom about the world. According to the Bible, man’s greatest need is to have his sins forgiven through repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ, on account of Christ’s nature as both God and man and his work of living a sinless life and dying on the cross to take away our sins.

An important and necessary part of faith in Christ is knowing and believing what he taught. This is especially important these days, as the church (that is, the total of all Christian churches considered as one assembly of people) contains a great deal of bad and even false teaching about Christianity. Scripture itself, both Old and New Testament, warns Christians to guard against false teachers, false teaching, and “false Christs.” “False Christs” does not mainly mean people who falsely claim to be Jesus, although such people do exist. Instead, it mainly means false descriptions of Christ, false ideas about Christ, such as the idea that he is not God, or that he did not teach the necessity of faith in him for the forgiveness of our sins.

Therefore a good man studies Christian doctrine (teaching) so that he can recognize and reject false teaching, and so that he can hold more tightly to the true faith in Christ that saves him. But how exactly can one recognize false teaching? Continue reading

A Father’s Advice to His Son on Becoming a Man, Part Three: Love and Marriage

But first, we conclude the discussion at the end of the previous post:

Character

 Let’s understand that word “character.” When it refers to human behavior, character is the way you habitually behave. It doesn’t just mean how you behave some of the time, when you try hard to do something you don’t usually do. Instead, it means the way you naturally react to a situation. It’s the way you usually behave. For example, if you’re habitually lazy, this doesn’t mean that you never work hard. It means that it’s your habit to avoid work whenever possible, and it takes a great effort for you to work hard.

Maybe it doesn’t need to be said, but being habitually lazy is a very bad habit to have. Lazy people don’t achieve much in life, they rarely get what they want (unless they only want to be left alone), and other people don’t respect them. You should not want to have a lazy character.

And notice that character is based on habit. If you act lazily often enough, laziness becomes your habit. And when it becomes your habit, then you will either have to fight hard to change your character, a battle that will take a long time and much energy, or else you will just remain lazy for the rest of your life, and you will then be a failure.

And what can be said about laziness can also be said about the other bad character habits: greed, anger, impulsiveness (the inability to control your desires), pride (the desire for others to honor you), envy (the hatred of others for having what you want but don’t have), and so on. Once you have these habits, they are very hard to break, and they drag a man down to destruction. To be a good leader, a good man, you must have self-discipline so that you can control your bad habits and strengthen your good habits.

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A Father’s Advice to His Son on Becoming a Man, Part Two

[Part One]

The importance of books

 To gain the knowledge you need to be a good man you must train yourself to be a good reader. Even in today’s internet / media age, most of the world’s knowledge and wisdom, the wisdom you need to live a good life, is in the written word.

There’s a reason for that:  Wisdom cannot be learned through music or video. Music and video, although they have their value, are non-intellectual. They cannot communicate ideas correctly. They can suggest ideas. They can reinforce them. But music and video cannot communicate ideas accurately. Ideas can only be communicated correctly by words.

True, a video can include words that communicate ideas. But the communication of ideas in a video is done in a non-visual way. The words are a non-visual addition to a medium that is primarily visual.

Music and video, in fact, are often used to manipulate you, that is, to trick you into thinking or acting in the way that the author wants. Dishonest or evil people often use video and music to manipulate your emotions instead of trying to teach you truth. Instead of using words to teach you, they use music and pictures to get you to feel that something is true, or that something is good, when it really isn’t. Continue reading

A Father’s Advice to His Son on Becoming a Man, Part I

Introduction for the Orthosphere

 I have a young son. I plan one day to talk to him about becoming a man. Of course, I currently mention the topic from time to time. But my son will need more systematic instruction, at least to lay the groundwork for thinking correctly about the realities of being a man. Thus the present work, which is a provisional script for what I plan to teach.

 Introduction: One day, you’ll be an adult

 Today you’re a boy. A child. But one day you’ll be a man. An adult.

Becoming an adult is a big change. As an adult, you’ll need to take responsibility for your own life. Now, what does that mean?

When you’re a child, your parents protect you. They protect you from the dangers that come from outside forces, and they also try to protect you from the harm you bring on yourself when you do the wrong thing. When you’re a child you get used to this protection.  You learn to rely on your parents to protect you.

Of course, they don’t protect you perfectly. And even as a child, you learn to protect yourself in certain situations. But when you’re a child you know that an adult will rescue you (or at least try) if you get in major trouble.

But when you’re an adult people no longer protect you. When you’re an adult people expect you to protect yourself. Therefore as you grow up you must change your ways. You must learn to do things for yourself. Sure, even an adult must sometimes ask for help. Nobody can do everything for themselves. But most of the time, as an adult, you must take responsibility for your own well-being. To be an adult you need to understanding what must be done, and then do it, without someone else telling you what to do. If can’t do these things well, you won’t succeed in life.

So you need to begin understanding what it takes to be a man. Continue reading

Living Beyond the Pale

Back when the West was sane, egregious transgressors of the traditional customs of the city were exiled to the wilderness beyond the pale – i.e., beyond the palisade (of poles, or pales, or piles) that walled the settlement, and constituted it a polis. The worst of them were also bewildered – led deep into the forest blindfolded and lightly bound, so that when they finally struggled free they would be hopelessly lost (criminals were of course just killed).

Nowadays we all live among a people who have as one body ventured forth without the pale, bound and bewildered themselves.

Our problem, then, at least severally, is to loosen our bonds, tear off our blindfolds, and find our way back to the city. But as we do so, we must be careful not to arouse too much notice from the tyrants who have emptied the town and loudly howled to attract the wolves, or they shall kill us as dangerous traitors. We must just disappear from amongst them, as if we had been eaten.