Tag Archives: Plato

Follow Your Passion!

bad advice Soph“Follow your passion!” This aphorism of self-actualization is often given to college students searching for what work vocations they will do after graduation. This saying can be a well-intentioned antidote to the dull and dubious pragmatism that says, “Wealth (and the job that gains it) makes the man.”  But this aphorism can also be misleading and damaging. Its passion-propelled portrait of work can set people up for failure and disappointment instead of helping them find meaning and contentment in their labors. Continue reading Follow Your Passion!

From Peanuts to Plato: It’s Troglodytes All the Way Down

charliebrown“Education tries to redirect the psyche appropriately” (Plato)

Charles Schulz (d. 2000) is famous for his daily comic strip Peanuts. This strip follows the melancholy adventures of Charlie Brown, a boy growing up in a small town with a dog and a band of friends. A small, but recurring, character in the comic is a teacher. The iconic voice of the teacher, burned into the neurons of more than one generation weaned on Peanuts television specials, is an unintelligible, garbled mess of “Wah, wah, wah wah.” Whatever one thinks about Charles Schulz and his comic, he got the auditory reception of students to teachers, and therefore professors, correct. What is professed is received as unintelligible, garbled nonsense.

Turning from Schulz to Plato provides some philosophical gravitas to Schulz’s playful observation. Whether Schulz knew it or not, he was channeling one of the most well-known sections of Platonic dialogue, The “Allegory of the Cave.” Continue reading From Peanuts to Plato: It’s Troglodytes All the Way Down

Was Chief Beatty Right?

Book_burningThis is the second post of a two-part essay on the Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, core texts, and Truth.

The story-line of the Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is deceptively simple. Bradbury presents a dystopian society in which ubiquitous electronic media inoculate the masses from the emptiness of their, largely externally determined, lives. Most books are banned, but media immersion ensures that most people don’t care one way or the other. The relative few who do care are watched, controlled, eliminated if necessary, and subjected to having their beloved books burned by the so-called “firemen.” One such fireman is the protagonist, Guy Montag. Montag believes himself to be happy, but his unexpected realization that he isn’t drives him on a quest for true happiness. That quest takes him into the forbidden world of books and ultimately away from all that he knows in his sad little world. Continue reading Was Chief Beatty Right?

Core Texts and Truth in Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit451This is the first post of a two-part essay on the Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, core texts, and Truth.

I think it best to open with a disclaimer: I am not a classicist. I specialize in the history of Christianity, with an emphasis on Jacobean England. But in our very efficiently staffed history department, all faculty members teach in the Core Curriculum. I teach “America and the World,” a course that uses core texts to bring the students into engagement with modern history, especially modern Western history, and more particularly American history. We have chosen the course’s core texts mainly for their bearing on ideas of proper governance and societal justice.

In our module on the 20th century, we include Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. At first blush, it seems we’ve chosen this work for its commentary on government censorship, but it is better understood as an application of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave (and associated Diagram of the Line of Knowledge), and therefore as a commentary on justice. That is how I teach it. Continue reading Core Texts and Truth in Fahrenheit 451

Psalm 1 as Educational Pattern and Vision

This is the first in a series of four essays on core texts connected to the educational goal of developing wise, honorable, and cultivated citizens.

Psałterz_florianski1In 1524 the theological and educational reformer Martin Luther wrote a letter to the councilmen of Germany encouraging them to maintain and establish Christian schools. One snippet nicely summarizes Luther’s missive:

Now the welfare of a city does not consist solely in accumulating vast treasures, building mighty walls and magnificent buildings, and producing a goodly supply of guns and armor. Indeed, where such things are plentiful, and reckless fools get control of them, it is so much the worse and the city suffers even greater loss. A city’s best and greatest welfare, safety, and strength consist rather in its having many able, learned, wise, honorable, and cultivated citizens. They can then readily gather, protect, and properly use treasure and all manner of property.

In Luther’s view, which Concordia University Irvine has adopted and adapted in its Core Curriculum, all young men and women need a proper education so that they can use their gifts and callings in the best way possible to serve society and the church.

But what sort of education best suits this end?  Continue reading Psalm 1 as Educational Pattern and Vision