Undereducated and overschooled

Anthony Esolen names a common malady:

When my daughter was young, she would often be asked, not usually by fellow homeschoolers, why she kept reading The Lord of the Rings. I told her to reply, “Because I want to know what’s going on in the world.”

That came to my mind today after a discussion I had with a Catholic men’s group at our school. One of the young fellows told me that his professor in Introduction to Sociology — a typical course assigned during orientation to unsuspecting freshmen — expressed her disdain for our twenty-credit Development of Western Civilization Program, required of all students. “You should be studying something that will be of use to you in the Real World,” she said, “like feminist sociology.”

Pause here to allow the laughter to die down.

Homo academicus saecularis sinister, the creature beside whom I have spent all my adult life, is a source of endless entertainment, like a child with wobbly consonants trying to talk serious grownup. I really could not repress the merriment. . . .

I dearly hope that my students will never consider the sand-furrowing child, or the galumphing retriever, or the setting sun, to be anything other than deeply Real, mysteriously and beautifully and achingly Real, and that their encounter with the great poetry and art of the west, not to mention that perennial philosophy of Aristotle, and that wisdom-seeking eros of Plato, and the word of God itself, will confirm them in their love for that Reality. . . .

The college professor who sniffs at the Gilgamesh, Hesiod, Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Pindar, Plato, Aristotle, Livy, Cicero, Virgil, Marcus Aurelius, Augustine, the Torah, the Psalms, the Gospels, and the letters of Saint Paul — just to take the first semester for example — is not overeducated. That professor is undereducated, and overschooled, a deadly combination. Deadly, but common enough, from what I see, and especially common among people who reduce all matters to contemporary partisan politics, as homo academicus saecularis sinister is wont to do.

via Touchstone Magazine – Mere Comments: The Real World.

Final Four?

Well, none of you predicted the Final Four.  I suspect no one in the country predicted the Final Four!  It seems like in every NCAA tournament some little college comes out of nowhere and does really well.  But this year two such underdogs made the Final Four!  The basketball superpowers, including my alma mater Kansas Jayhawks, were all shot down.  So the national champion will be either Virginia Commonwealth, Butler, Connecticut, or Kentucky.  The two big state schools will play each other, and the two little schools will play each other.  So one of the latter will be in the final two.

Predictions?  Are you pulling for the underdogs?  Is anyone for the overdogs, on principle?  I think I will be for Virginia Commonwealth, now that they beat Kansas and now that I live in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  (Not a state, mind you, but a commonwealth.)

2011 Bracket – NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament History – The Washington Post.

End of the world countdown

We’ve blogged about how radio preacher Harold Camping is predicting that Christ will return on May 21 of this year.  Journalist Kimberly Winston interviewed Mr. Camping and asked him how he calculated the date with such precision:

If preacher Harold Camping is right, that’s the exact date Jesus will return and the righteous will fly up to heaven, leaving behind only their clothes.

That will be followed by five months of fire, brimstone and plagues, with millions of people dying each day and corpses piling in the streets. Finally, on Oct. 21, the world ends exactly as the Book of Revelation says it will — with a bottomless pit, a lake of fire and, at last, a new heaven and new earth. . . .

Asked how he arrived at the date, he opened his Bible to Genesis and said Noah loaded animals into the ark in 4990 B.C., a number he said he arrived at years ago after looking at carbon dating, tree rings and other data. Paging forward to 2 Peter, he read aloud, “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years and a thousand years is one day.”

Leafing back to Genesis, he said that the seven days Noah spent loading the ark was really 7,000 years. He then added 7,000 to 4990 B.C to arrive at 2010. He added one more year, he said, because there is no year one in the Bible.

As for the exact date of May 21, he pointed again to Genesis, which says the flood began on the “17th day of the second month.” According to the Jewish calendar, which he believes God uses, that is May 21.

“Now I am telling you, that gets pretty heavy when you see this coming right out of the Bible,” he said, looking up from his Bible’s dog-eared pages.

via A durable doomsday preacher predicts the world’s end — again – USATODAY.com.

But. . .but. . .What connection does Noah’s ark and the number of days it took to bring in the animals have with the return of Christ?  I know, the parallels with God’s first destruction of the world, but that can hardly be definitive, especially since God told us that He won’t destroy the world like He did last time.  And how does Mr. Camping know the exact date of the flood?  By carbon dating?  Of what?  And doesn’t he know that those dates are not precise to the year?  And. . .Well, even accepting his premises, I don’t understand how he and his thousands of followers are so sure of his numbers.

At any rate, his claim is meaningful because it is falsifiable.  We’ll know very soon if he is right or wrong.

Air support for al-Qaeda

Oh, great:

Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi, the Libyan rebel leader, has said jihadists who fought against allied troops in Iraq are on the front lines of the battle against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

In an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, Mr al-Hasidi admitted that he had recruited “around 25″ men from the Derna area in eastern Libya to fight against coalition troops in Iraq. Some of them, he said, are “today are on the front lines in Adjabiya”.

Mr al-Hasidi insisted his fighters “are patriots and good Muslims, not terrorists,” but added that the “members of al-Qaeda are also good Muslims and are fighting against the invader”.

His revelations came even as Idriss Deby Itno, Chad’s president, said al-Qaeda had managed to pillage military arsenals in the Libyan rebel zone and acquired arms, “including surface-to-air missiles, which were then smuggled into their sanctuaries”.

Mr al-Hasidi admitted he had earlier fought against “the foreign invasion” in Afghanistan, before being “captured in 2002 in Peshwar, in Pakistan”. He was later handed over to the US, and then held in Libya before being released in 2008. . . .

via Libyan rebel commander admits his fighters have al-Qaeda links – Telegraph.

Do we have any idea what we are doing in our military interventions into the Arab world?

We assume that those who are rising up against brutal dictators–with another uprising now breaking out in Syria–are doing so for the universal desire for freedom.  But aren’t we projecting our own civilization on a very different civilization with very different foundations?

The jihadists, such as the members of al-Qaeda, have long called for the overthrow of these secularist and worldly dictators.   The jihadists may well be for democracy, which for them is not the expression of liberty but the vehicle for the imposition of Islamic law.

I’m not saying that this “rebel commander” is representative of all of the rebels against Gaddafi, and a mere 25 fighters are not very many, though he is suggesting that there are more.  But now our pilots, under the foreign command of NATO, are put in the position of defending some of the very men who fought against them in Iraq and Afghanistan.

‘King’s Speech,’ the PG-13 version

The King’s Speech, the account of King George VI’s stuttering problem that won the Academy Award for best picture, is coming out in a PG-13 version in April.  The original was rated R because of a scene in which his speech therapist was trying to get the monarch to loosen up and let the words flow by using some bad words.

It isn’t clear how the new version, which will be the only one in theaters, will handle that scene.  But the movie, whose virtues go way beyond its portrayal of speech therapy,  is certainly a good one for young people to see, raising as it does all kinds of issues about character, the burdens of leadership, and the history of World War II.

‘King’s Speech,’ the PG-13 version, coming in April – Celebritology 2.0 – The Washington Post.

Going kinetic

New word department. . . Actually two new words:

“Retronym” is a word coined by Frank Mankiewicz, George McGovern’s campaign director, to delineate previously unnecessary distinctions. Examples include “acoustic guitar,” “analog watch,” “natural turf,” “two-parent family,” and “offline publication.” Bob Woodward’s new book, Bush at War, introduces a new Washington retronym: “kinetic” warfare. . . .

In common usage, “kinetic” is an adjective used to describe motion, but the Washington meaning derives from its secondary definition, “active, as opposed to latent.” Dropping bombs and shooting bullets—you know, killing people—is kinetic. But the 21st-century military is exploring less violent and more high-tech means of warfare, such as messing electronically with the enemy’s communications equipment or wiping out its bank accounts. These are “non-kinetic.”

via “Kinetic warfare.” – By Timothy Noah – Slate Magazine.

Can you think of any other retronyms?  (There used to be no need for “two-parent family,” since what other kind of family was there?  Now we need a term for the distinction of a family having two parents.  Now that we have “gay marriage,” I suppose we’ll need a retronym for “straight marriage.”)

Can you think of any other uses of “kinetic” (involving action) and “non-kinetic” (not involving action) for a retronym other than for warfare?  Say, for a program in its planning stage being “non-kinetic” and when it is implemented being “kinetic.”


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