Contra Mozilla

Friday, February 7, 2014

Seven Quick Takes Friday (vol. 8): Some Quick Links and My Reactions

In the early part of last month (I never claimed these would be new links), Wall Street Journal published an article which identified many (not all) of the problems with a university education. After doing this, the authors concluded that the "university bubble" would soon burst, which is not a farfetched conclusion per se. Nor is it necessarily a bad thing (way too many people are getting university degrees, many without really wanting the degree or ultimately needing it). However, the authors' ultimate conclusion/solution bothered me a bit.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who was bothered by it. Professor Budziszewski wrote a pair of blog posts responding to it (scroll down to Posts 14 and 15):
Medieval students had to master seven elementary studies before going on to advanced degrees.  The first three, called the trivium, were grammar, or the laws of language; rhetoric, or the laws of argument; and dialectic, or the laws of clear thought.  The next four, called the quadrivium, were arithmetic, or the laws of number; geometry, or the laws of figure; music, or the laws of harmony; and astronomy, or the laws of inherent motion.

Why these seven?  Because medieval universities were organized around the view that the universe makes sense, that knowledge is grasping that sense, that the mind can really grasp it, that all knowledge is related, and that all of its parts form a meaningful whole...

Having abandoned the vision on which the medieval university was built, what are modern universities organized around?  The answer is “Nothing in particular.”
They are queasy alliances of interest groups which have no ultimate commitments in common.
Among the more respectable things the university tries to be are a job training center, a place for technological research, and an accreditor of fitness for employment.  But universities don’t do any of these things well, and each of them can be better and more cheaply by other kinds of institution....

The things universities do which other institutions can do better eventually will be done by other institutions.  The things they do which don’t need to be done will eventually lose public support.  I will not mourn these changes.  They are overdue.

I will mourn the loss of the one thing universities can do well, which was done in medieval universities, but which the modern university no longer believes in:  Pursuing the vision of the coherence of reality and its friendliness to the mind, and forming minds which are capable of sharing it.
Would that universities embrace this vision. They could at the very least take their own mottoes more seriously. For example, the University of Texas (where Budziszewski is a professor) has as its motto, "[A] Cultivated mind is the guardian genius of democracy." Before that, and still printed on the main building, it was "And ye shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set ye free."

A woman responds to a pro-abortion (let's not lie and call it pro-choice) email, and her response is beautiful. She also brings up some interesting points, including:
I was once like you. I was once told that aborting my children was the answer to my life. I was once told that my boyfriend too would have to drop out of the University he attended, and I wouldn’t be able to attend the following year after I graduated from High School. The funny thing was, because of my son, my ex-boyfriend and I qualified for several grants and scholarships. In fact, I’m one of the few people I know that was able to go to school without taking out student loans. Which is probably why I’m a home owner at 26.
That's on the purely facts and logic side of the argument. Children are a bit of work, but they don't necessarily mean that you must give up on all your hopes and dreams.

Here is a critique of the New Evangelization in the US by an apparently faithful (and orthodox) Catholic Millennial:
From my admittedly limited vantage point, the gravest dangers for us seem to be not legalism but antinomianism, not intellectualism but sentimentalism, not scrupulosity but laxity, not despair but presumption, not all-out retreat but all-out assimilation, not pharisaic ritualism but anti-liturgical iconoclasm, not missionary timidity but evangelical over-hastiness, not self-referentialism but self-forgetfulness (and not the good kind), not stifling uniformity but disjointed miscellany, not clericalism but, for lack of a better word, laicism.

Unfortunately, the New Evangelization here in the United States is often presented in contrast only to the first half of each of these dichotomies, set off against those errors that I am arguing are least relevant to our own cultural circumstances. We hear that the Church is not just some monolithic administration but is rather a home for loving personal relationships. That is absolutely true, and no doubt we sometimes need the reminder. But from where I’m standing, it looks like the Church in America is actually doing pretty well when it comes to individual relationships of love and care. Where we seem far less secure is in tending to our common institutional foundations. Our characteristic error is not that of idolizing structure, but of overstressing emotion....

In the same vein, it seems to me that we are doing far better at apologetics right now than at catechesis. Strikingly, our catechists these days often just use apologetics tracts as their textbooks for catechism class, giving the faithful mere leftovers of what was actually prepared for others who do not yet share our faith. It is as if we contemporary American Catholics take the patrimony for granted, forgetting that it must be constantly shored up against the erosion of history. Leaving the ninety-nine to search for the one is Biblical and laudable. But spending a lifetime playing hide-and-go-seek with the one while leaving the ninety-nine to their own devices? Not so much.

This pretty much nails most of my frustrations with the Church in America (there are a few others which are not unrelated). And no, we cannot say that this is all Pope Francis' fault, even if at times (not always) he seems to bring a perspective which suggests that he is responding more to the Church in Latin American than the Church in the US (and Europe, for that matter). Note also that this is not to say that the New Evangelization is a bad thing, or is doomed to fail. It does, however, have a tendency to focus on the wrong set of problems, that is on problems that the Church in America largely does not have. More importantly, this means that it has a tendency of not addressing (and even at times of worsening) those problems which we do have.

Gaining new converts is good, and evangelization will do that; so, on the other hand, will proselytism, which is unfortunately one tendency of the New Evangelization as practiced here. We need good catechesis as a part of good evangelism, and vice versa. The New Evangelization gets the latter right, but not always the former. And we also need good apologetics (so Saint Peter tells us in his first letter), but this is a supplement to and not a substitute for either evnagelization or catechesis.

The dark side of the Super Bowl--aside from the propaganda both subliminal and liminal in the ads and the halftime shows--is the sex trafficking. There is often an uptick in this surrounding the event. The good news is that a sting operation rescued 50 women and 16 minors (teenaged girls) from sex trafficking; the bad news is that they couldn't catch everybody.

More financial ruin is wrought by buying into Keynesian economics than any other system--unless you count outright Marxism. Here are five examples of Keynesian failure. This is the theory which is overwhelming supported in the halls of the academy, and of most governments. And it has a lot of simple appeal, since it appears to "do something" as opposed to "doing nothing." However, sometimes doing nothing really is the best approach.

I began with an article that I agreed partially with, and so I will end with the same. Matt Walsh has a very good post which falls just short of great. It is very good, because it rightly identifies divorce as being a death knell to the institution of marriage. No-fault divorce is killing marriage as a civil institution, and that harm spills over into the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. However, just because one disease is killing an organism does not mean that another can't speed up that death; euthanasia is still wrong even in the face of chronic illness. Similarly, the so-called "gay marriage" campaign is an attempt to euthanize marriage, a seemingly dying institution. While Mr Walsh commendably focuses on the cure, he does seem to brush aside the problem of "gay marriage," which will at best retard any ability of actually fixing the institution of marriage, and (more likely) will become a club with which to beat any individuals and institution(such as the Church) which might hope to affect a real cure of what ails marriage in our society. Strengthening the permanence of marriage while removing its foundation will not fix the institution.


Seven Quick Takes Friday is hosted by Mrs Jennifer Fulwiler at her Conversion Diary blog.

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