Thursday, December 28, 2006

A Novel-ty

It truly is a novelty for me to read a novel. It's not that don't enjoy novels. I do enjoy them and often read them aloud to my children. And, I am a firm believer in poetic knowledge and the power of a story to shape our lives. It's just that when I'm finished with all the reading that I need to do to keep up with my children's educational pursuits I find my little leftover reading time tends to take me to two of my main areas of interst: educational philosophy and theology. So, I figured that it was high time for me to read a novel, "just for fun"...sort of.

I became acquainted withThe Rector of Justin through one of my favorite books on education, Norms and Nobility. David Hicks, the author of Norms and Nobility, begins his treatise on education by telling of a college professor he knows who keeps three books on his night table: "the Bible, the Iliad, and Louis Auchincloss' 1964 novel, The Rector of Justin," the story Dr. Frank Prescott, the ambitious and idealistic founder, schoolmaster, and rector of Justin Martyr, a church school for boys and young men.

As an educational idealist who is overseeing the education of two high school children, one rapidly (so it seems to me) nearing graduation (2008) I took to heart the question that the author raises, quite pointedly, at the end of the book: Why did Prescott fail to raise up the kind of men he set out to; men of virtue, men who would have gone into public service, into government, the army, and the church? I feel a nagging in my own soul as I read:

"'When I urged the boys to go into politics or the ministry, they accepted it as Prescottism, so many lines of a lesson to be learned that had no relation to the real world at home. They learned their lines, yes. Some of them even enjoyed learning them. They had been told by their parents that to be a graduate of Justin would be a material aid in the real world. Ah, yes, reality.' He grunted here and paused. 'Reality was the brokerage house, the corporation law firm, the place on Long Island, the yacht, the right people.'" (p.324)

In other words, in the end, a Justin Martyr education was simply a commodity which enabled the students to graduate to an aristocracy of business and finance. And so Hicks poses the question, "What is the solution to the paradox between educating for the world's fight and for the salvation of the soul." Hicks treatise is his attempt to answer that question. As for me, I find that having his question continually before me focuses and unifies all my educational efforts. And now, joining this question in my mind will be the the image of Dr. Frank Prescott, at the end of his life, humbled by his failure to achieve all that he hoped to in the lives of so many young men.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

"It's just like I dreamed it would be!"

The youngers have been asking to make a gingerbread house for a couple of years now. I'm not sure why we haven't done it for so many years but it probably has something to do with my activity level around the holidays. This year we planned ahead, bringing peppermints and other candies in our carry-ons when we returned from the States in September. I helped very little--with a recipe and pattern from All the kids did most of the work and all of the decorating themselves.

The exclamation of my dear daughter, quoted above, made what little work it was for me all worth it.

I think the plan is to break into it on New Year's Eve.
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