At first glance, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ bestselling, National Book Award-winning book Between the World and Me (2015) may not seem like a particularly valuable addition to a liberal-arts-based course in a Core Curriculum program. Written as a letter to his teenage son, Samori, Coates’ memoir traces the harsh historical realities of racism in order to provide a framework for meaningful action for his son, who is on the verge of living as an adult black male in the twenty-first century United States. Throughout the book, one of Coates’ frequent objects of critique is formal education Continue reading The (Liberal Arts) Education of Ta-Nehisi Coates
In Concordia University Irvine’s Enduring Questions and Ideas (Q&I) curriculum, students take coursework that seeks to engage with big questions: What is Truth? What Does It Mean to be Human? How Shall I Live? As a member of the music faculty, I am frequently called to engage with the question of Why Art?
In the spirit of this question, this essay examines a setting of Jubilate Deo (Psalm 100) by the seventeenth-century Lutheran composer Heinrich Schütz, which was composed and published in the midst of the near-apocalyptic warfare and social upheaval of the Thirty Years’ War. The perspectives of historical, musical, and theological inquiry provide a glimpse into the circumstances that Schütz faced while composing this piece, and offer many parallels to modern day experiences and anxieties. Continue reading Why Art? Music, History, and Faith through the Eyes of Heinrich Schütz
What is the point of a liberal arts education? This question is bandied about by politicians, parents, professors, employers, and students. Continue reading Enduring Questions & Ideas
This is the second installment of a three-part essay on liberal arts education, professional studies, and vocations. The essay was originally delivered at the 81st Annual Conference of Lutheran College Faculties.
With such long-standing tension between liberal and professional studies, is it worth trying to resolve the conflict? I’m sure that there are colleagues on both sides who would be happy with a divorce. Continue reading An Eloquent and Harmonious Education, Part II
This is the first post of a three-part essay on liberal arts education, professional studies, and vocations. The essay was originally delivered at the 81st Annual Conference of Lutheran College Faculties.
The theme of liberal arts education, professional training, and the Lutheran doctrine of vocations provides plenty of room for a speaker to wander and ponder. In this address, I will focus my thoughts on some of the conflicts, responses, solutions, and opportunities before Lutheran universities as they engage students in liberal and professional education. Continue reading An Eloquent and Harmonious Education, Part I
The importance of the visual arts to the western cultural project and thus to the liberal arts curriculum seems obvious. What is not so obvious is exactly how they are important. Continue reading Painting, the Liberal Arts, and the Great Conversation, Part I
This address was delivered by C.J. Armstrong at Concordia University Irvine’s graduation ceremony on May 7, 2016.
President Krueger, it is an honor to have been asked to deliver the commencement address this year. For this I thank you. And I repeat the welcome to our distinguished guests, our honorees, the regents of our university, my fellow faculty, the parents, family and friends of our graduates. But above all my hat is off to the Concordia University Irvine graduating class of 2016.
It’s a special honor for me because it wasn’t too long ago that my hat was on here, when I walked across this stage at the Bren Center, graduating from University of California, Irvine after a lengthy study of the greatest poet ever born on earth, Ovid, who died on this very day, give or take a month or two, one year shy of 2000 years ago. You know Ovid: he’s the poet who told all those wonderful mythological stories in the Metamorphoses about people turning to stone through divine retribution or bad luck, and even a couple who change from statues into real human people. You know, like the story of Pygmalion, who didn’t like any of the girls in his class so he made a statue of a woman and prayed to the gods that he might love someone like his ivory girl; he kissed the statue and it came to life. What a story!
I might ask, what does a classicist like me, someone who reads mythology and talks to dead guys like Ovid all day long, have to share with you graduates? Continue reading Turning Statues of Stone into Humans with Hearts
Reading Fahrenheit 451 sixty years after it was written affords some surprising affirmations of Bradbury’s futuristic vision. Televisions nearly engulf living rooms with 3-D vision and surround sound. Sports occupy center attention. Books are abridged in SparkNotes and WikiNotes. The talking heads of cable news channels prattle incessantly. Video games bombard viewers with a cacophony of colors, characters, and actions. People have earbuds stuffed in flooding them with sound and chatter.
Of all the prescient points of Bradbury’s book, one that stands out most today is the “comfortable people,” the depressed, suicidal people who shun and burn books that make them face excellence, ideas that contradict their positions, and complicated issues. Continue reading The Comfortable People
Why is a liberal arts education necessary for young people today and for humanity’s future? To answer this question, we might benefit from Ray Bradbury past analysis in Fahrenheit 451. Bradbury’s novel, published in 1953, warns that the death of books—as well as leisure, thinking, and happiness—is principally caused by the “comfortable people.” Who are these people? Would Bradbury see them among us today? If so, what remedy or hope might Bradbury offer? Continue reading Mr. Montag, You’re Nasty!