Why Bother with the Humanities in a Time of Crisis? – This article proposes answers to a question that we have not had to ask much on American soil. But it also answers a question (“Why should I study if I just need to urgently take the Gospel to the world?”) that created much mental conflict in my mind as a teen.
“In times like these, I find myself returning to a piece composed by C.S. Lewis in the first months of the Second World War. It was originally a sermon, called “Learning in War-Time,” delivered in the autumn of 1939 in the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford. In it, Lewis addressed the students who had not gone off to war, but were still students, still meant to be reading and learning and thinking and writing, still “fiddling while Rome burns.” He argued that there is a bigger question behind any question about the justification for studying at such a time: every Christian who goes to university, he says, must ask, “How it is right, or even psychologically possible, for creatures who are every moment advancing either to heaven or to hell, to spend any fraction of the little time allowed them in this world on such comparative trivialities as literature or art, mathematics or biology?”
In other words, it is “the permanent human situation” to live always under the shadow of life-and-death eternal issues, whether in wartime or not. And even with a consciousness of this precipitous situation, it is an inevitable part of human life to be involved in cultural activities—it is in our nature to search for knowledge and beauty even in the middle of crises and alarms. We can justify this search in such times only by engaging in it humbly and wholeheartedly. For Christians, no matter what sort of time we live in, Christ’s call is to engage in both the noble, cultural activities (“the work of a Beethoven”) and the humble everyday things (“the work of a charwoman”) always to God’s glory.”
“Surely this escape from the tyranny of the immediate is one of the key goods of education. In a culture of instant gratification and instant communication, young people increasingly need help to contextualize: to recognize that the world beyond their own immediate lives is real, interesting, and “relevant,” not only on their own doorstep but also in other parts of the world, and in the past of their own civilization and that of others. Reading widely in the literatures of the past is not generally going to offer immediate practical solutions to present social problems. But this kind of reading is set fair to create a more thoughtful, sensitive, and articulate public sphere where awareness of past crises, their contexts and the rhetoric around them, will inform and broaden present response. If the humanities can’t save us, they can surely and beautifully help us to see what salvation might truly involve.”
Raising Successful Children – In this New York Times piece by Madeline Levine, the author takes a look at what she terms “overparenting.” (Clearly, successful may be a limited, earthly term, here; and while I don’t agree with the entirety of the article, it’s good food for thought.)
“The central task of growing up is to develop a sense of self that is autonomous, confident and generally in accord with reality. If you treat your walking toddler as if she can’t walk, you diminish her confidence and distort reality. Ditto nightly “reviews” of homework, repetitive phone calls to “just check if you’re O.K.” and “editing” (read: writing) your child’s college application essay.
Once your child is capable of doing something, congratulate yourself on a job well done and move on. Continued, unnecessary intervention makes your child feel bad about himself (if he’s young) or angry at you (if he’s a teenager).
But isn’t it a parent’s job to help with those things that are just beyond your child’s reach? Why is it overparenting to do for your child what he or she is almost capable of?”
“While doing things for your child unnecessarily or prematurely can reduce motivation and increase dependency, it is the inability to maintain parental boundaries that most damages child development. When we do things for our children out of our own needs rather than theirs, it forces them to circumvent the most critical task of childhood: to develop a robust sense of self.”