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October 10, 2016

I think, when students complain of having to be in school, as if it’s a prison sentence (which it is), it will be good to remind them that this was written from a jail cell. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather… Read more

October 7, 2016

I am a substitute teacher. It’s not what I envisioned as my teaching career when I was a teenager and it’s not what I had in mind when I was in undergrad, but colleges don’t tell you that their education departments are filled with paper pushing, data mining, pseudo-academics who couldn’t outwit a Vogon; and I’ll spare you my speech about how “education” isn’t even a legitimate academic discipline and wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the modern bureaucratic nation-state. Right… Read more

October 2, 2016

Last night I went to a talk by Dr. Mads Gilbert, an anesthesiologist who did volunteer medical work during the 2014 attack on Gaza by Israel. He also volunteered his medical services during the attacks in 2006, 2008, and 2012. It was a graphic presentation. He showed us private photographs of dead and wounded Palestinian children, with limbs amputated, and bullet holes and shrapnel wounds carving up their young bodies. Babies with facial burns and teenagers with legs exploded off… Read more

September 1, 2016

Last week my pastor Anita asked me to write a sermon about bridging the gap between liberals and conservatives. It’s scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 6th. I’m shooting for 15 minutes. I’m not sure what shape it’s going to take, but to prep I’ve been re-reading Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue, as well as listening to some philosophy podcasts, and it’s such a refreshing break from our left-right, Clinton-Trump moral and political milieu. There are no hashtag movements in academic philosophy, nor the level of un-examined premises…. Read more

July 22, 2016

One of the Republican nominee’s more recent affronts to conventional politics was his statement in an interview that the United States should only honor its treaty obligations to Nato if it is in American interests to do so, and if Americans are properly “remunerated” for their trouble. Treaties, Trump says, are “deals.” This, of course, evokes his book The Art of the Deal, which helped give him the national prominence that made his successful bid for the Republican nomination possible. Trump’s ghost-writer, Tony Schwartz,… Read more

July 4, 2016

If my last post betrayed a certain frustration with this year’s experience at Acton U, it’s because I felt this year more strongly than last that many of the speakers were largely preaching to the choir while presenting their ideas as if they were new and surprising. I noticed it more strongly this year because, having already been through the experience once, I knew what to expect far more than I did last time. I understand that one reason for this… Read more

June 29, 2016

One of the reasons I attend Acton U is to improve my highly sketchy understanding of economics. I bear in mind that the folks at Acton don’t represent all economists by any means, but they claim that their positions are rooted in sound economics, and to understand (and either accept or refute them) these positions I need to understand the economic arguments. So while I enjoy sessions like “Maritain vs. MacIntyre” much more, I make sure to attend some economic… Read more

June 20, 2016

On Wednesday morning, my first session was a lecture on two important Catholic philosophers: Jacques Maritain and Alastair MacIntyre. Both were former Communists who adopted a philosophical position deeply influenced by Aquinas. Both have been very influential in Catholic circles. Yet they are very different figures. The speaker, Carrie Gress, described Maritain’s approach as the “mountain” and MacIntyre’s as the “valley.” Maritain has a grand vision of society, including advocacy of world government. He was deeply concerned with questions regarding… Read more

June 17, 2016

The first plenary speaker at Acton University was a Senegalese entrepreneur named Magatte Wade, a dynamic speaker who was featured extensively in the documentary “Poverty Inc.,” produced by Acton several years ago. Wade has founded several companies which market African products and techniques to Western consumers, including beverages and skin care products. She began her talk by saying that she had always been “haunted” by the death toll among her fellow Senegalese who had tried to escape the lack of… Read more

June 14, 2016

This is my first post on Pickled Pencil. My name is Edwin Woodruff Tait, and I’m a parent, homesteader, and freelance writer living in Richmond, Kentucky. (I know Brandon from Huntington University, where I used to be a professor.) I attended Acton University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, last year, and blogged about it on Mission Work. You can read those posts here. (That’s the last post and contains links to the previous ten posts.) This year my wife Jennifer is… Read more




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