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    Wednesdays with Words

    August 28, 2013 by Brandy Vencel

    What if education was primarily concerned with shaping our hopes and passions–our visions of “the good life”–and not merely about the dissemination of data and information as inputs to our thinking? What if the primary work of education was the transforming of our imagination rather than the saturation of our intellect? And what if this had as much to do with our bodies as with our minds?

    What if education wasn’t first and foremost about what we know, but about what we love? {p. 18}

    The question is not,––how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education––but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him? {p. 170-171}

    Aristotle says that the aim of education is to make the pupil like and dislike what he ought.

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  • Reply Mystie August 29, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    Yes, book club on it in January! I think book clubs where we don’t all just agree 100% with everything are the best, so I’d still love to hear people’s thoughts even if there are sections that need some push back. I’ve only read the introduction so far, and listened to his lectures from SCL. His being from Calvin College does put up my caution-sensors, but I agree that this is similar to CM, packages and said in a more modern way (and without specific methodology attached), so it will be interesting to interact with and perhaps help us express the core of CM/historic-classical in a more relatable way.

  • Reply Cindy Rollins August 29, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    I have been having mixed reactions to Desiring the Kingdom. I am starting the last chapter today. I loved the first part of the book and vision he promotes. As has been said here it is not a new vision for us and I think it is interesting that my development of our Morning Time grew out of my reading of Charlotte Mason and it turned in to a liturgy quite organically.

    But in the second 3rd of the book I feel Smith is a bit sneering. As I listened to some Teaching Company lectures by Louis Markos on C.S. Lewis I was reminded of how unsneering Lewis was. In a way I felt Smith was tearing down things he didn’t quite understand. For instance, I don’t see a love of one’s own country as contrary to the a Biblical liturgy but rather an illustration of it in some ways. Sure we are flawed and we are pilgrims and strangers but I believe there is something GOOD, as Lewis would say, in loving one’s country and that GOOD points us to truth. To debunk that or sneer at that is tearing down the house while you are building it.

    I imagine I will like Smith’s final chapter now that I am past his sneering indictment of other cultural liturgies. I have been struggling with whether to promote this book or not because in a way I think his tearing down the strongholds is wrong.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 29, 2013 at 1:47 pm

      Thank you for saying this! I had been wondering why you did’t say more because I knew you were reading it. Now we know. 🙂

      I think what I’m liking so far is that it feels to me like a bridge to people who have rejected these ideas before. When I’ve quoted Charlotte saying that “habit is ten natures” I’ve had people roll their eyes or call me a legalistic or something. But Smith repackages this in modern language, making it more palatable to these people, if that makes sense.

      But I do want to watch out! In many ways, being anti-patriotism is very chic right now, as if those who love their country are so small. Smith is, unfortunately, not the only Christian out there making those sorts of points.

    • Reply Anna Ilona Mussmann August 29, 2013 at 2:34 pm

      That’s a good point that anti-patriotism is chic. It reminds me of a Jacques Barzun quote about the Turn Of the Century writers who hated the established culture and order, “but relied on its destroying itself. These were the Decadents…. The designation made them neither sad nor angry; there was even something chic—late Roman Empire—about being the last and the doomed.”

    • Reply Mystie August 29, 2013 at 4:23 pm

      To some degree I think this is a push-back against the Christian subculture of “America is God’s chosen people” & “Christianity is Republican.” The local Christian school here is Americana-Patriotism-Republicanism heavy, and I sympathize with American exceptionalism needing some push back (but maybe that’s me still rebelling against growing up on Rush Limbaugh – it was part of our school day; I can sing all his parodies). 🙂

      However, I haven’t gotten that far in the book, so I am unsure how far he’s taking it.

      But, as for our household, we don’t say the pledge of allegiance, piece of [effective] Reconstructionist propaganda that it is. 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 29, 2013 at 9:27 pm

      Good quote Anna!

      I could see the pushback, Mystie.

      I am aghast that you don’t say the Pledge. But I’m getting over it because I like you so much. I think this is the first time you have scandalized me. 😉 What else are you keeping back?? 🙂

    • Reply Julia August 30, 2013 at 3:34 am

      I may be speaking out of turn here as I am only a third of the way in the book so I don’t know about the sneering. But in listening to one of his talks at the SCL conference, I think Smith said that he was Canadian. I will have to listen to that again to make sure. That might play a part of what Cindy terms as sneering. Canadians (and I say this in the most general sense) are not as patriotic as Americans (I also say this as a Canadian.)

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 30, 2013 at 4:33 am

      Julia, that is really interesting to me! Is there a reason why Canadians are less patriotic? I’m very curious about this! I do not know many Canadians, so this is new information to me! Come to think of it, I did have a Canadian friend in college who found American patriotism annoying, but I always thought that was because it was *American* not because it was patriotism!

    • Reply Julia August 30, 2013 at 12:29 pm

      I read what I wrote last night and I should not have said ‘not as patriotic as Americans.’ I think Canadians have a more quiet patriotism than Americans do. We love our country and are very proud of our country (the last winter Olympics made that even more so) but we aren’t as vocal about it as Americans are vocal. You have just to watch an American coverage of the Olympics and a Canadian coverage and you can see the difference very clearly.

    • Reply Cindy Rollins August 30, 2013 at 12:34 pm

      Smith may be Canadian and I completely understand the pushback idea but there was something else that bothered me beyond the usual anti-patriotism thing. I think it really was just the tone. I was talking to a friend who was dropping her daughter off at Covenant last week and we were talking about how each college has a personality and view of its own. She mentioned some of her daughters choices and we started talking about this a bit. She agreed with me that there is a certain hip sneering on some Christian college campuses. I know that some things need to be changed but the danger comes when we tear down the ancient landmarks. I find it odd that Smith misses that he does this while proposing NOT to do it because he fails to make certain distinctions. I still like the book. But I really don’t like the debunking. Maybe he just hit my hot button. I am not wildly patriotic but I do believe we are called to pray for the peace of the country God has birthed us into. And I believe that love of country in its place is a good thing.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 30, 2013 at 3:06 pm

      Julia, THAT makes a lot more sense to me. Americans tend to be loud in general. 🙂 Unless, of course, we are speaking of my husband. Poor guy’s voice doesn’t carry at all. 😉

      Cindy, You are really making me curious to read the rest of this! Some of what you said here reminds me so much of Russell Kirk!

    • Reply Mystie August 30, 2013 at 3:16 pm

      Pushback should still be respectful, certainly. I look forward to talking more about debunking with a concrete example. 🙂

      This will be interesting to look for when I get there. Actually, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about personal blind spots and that how we perceive ourselves, our opinions, and our expressions can be different from how they really are, much less different from how they are perceived by others. How many inconsistencies do we all have that we just don’t see? How can we begin to see them?

      Our pastor’s oldest just left for Covenant last week; his brother is the philosophy dean. I wonder what the college scene will be like in 8 more years…getting a feel for each campus’ personality seems daunting!

  • Reply Pilgrim August 29, 2013 at 3:33 am

    Love the way you have pulled these together. Similarly from Stratford Caldecott’s Beauty in the Word, “A human person should be educated for relationship, attention, empathy and imagination.” Sound familiar?? He did read CM.

    I hope to get Desiring the Kingdom soon. I would be up for a book club! His idea of liturgy was a strong theme at the Society for Classical Learning conference this year (he was a primary speaker). You hear many people mention it in the sessions that they have available online. As usual, Andrew Kern’s were my favorite lectures though. Perrin’s 8 essentials was also good and he is expanding on those points in a series of you tube videos. His first point is to “make haste slowly”.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 29, 2013 at 1:50 pm

      I think Andrew Kern and John Hodges will always be my favorites, too, no matter what new thing comes along.

      Even in Smith so far I think he sometimes says things without realizing he’s not the first to say them. Kern and Hodges understand their historical heritage–whose shoulders they are standing on–and it’s refreshing!

  • Reply dawn August 29, 2013 at 2:34 am

    I thought that too, about CM, when I started it. I even looked in the Bibliography for her because I was certain she’d be there! (she wasn’t) I keep meaning to pick it back up. I haven’t gotten super far … Chapter 3ish I think …

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 29, 2013 at 2:38 am

      Glad to hear you own it, dawn. I believe Mystie is determined to make us read it sometime next year!

    • Reply dawn August 29, 2013 at 12:42 pm

      Maybe I should read it all the way first LOL I bought it a while ago.

      One of the reasons I stopped was that our Associate Pastor has some cautions about Smith’s theology … he knew fellows in seminary who read some of Smith’s other books who have left the faith, he has a charismatic streak, and his views on women in the church were troubling to him. I was a bit nervous to continue. But that pastor has since picked up Desiring the Kingdom and has said he didn’t mean to scare me off …. I should really get back to it 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 29, 2013 at 1:48 pm

      My pastor read DtK and loved it, so I felt free to read it, BUT–I *know* that he is unfamiliar with Smith’s other work. This is the first book by Smith he’s read. So I’m glad for the warning. My pastor is very wary of the charismatic movement, so my guess is that that part isn’t in this book?

    • Reply dawn August 29, 2013 at 4:03 pm

      I don’t think so. At least not so far. And I don’t hear others talking about it. Introducing Radical Orthodoxy is the book he was most concerned about.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 29, 2013 at 9:28 pm

      I haven’t even heard of his other books, but any book with “Radical” in the title automatically goes to the bottom of my stack {if there}, so that might explain it. 😉

  • Reply Mystie August 28, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    The threads begin coming together.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 28, 2013 at 11:38 pm

      No kidding! At first I was only going to post the first quote, but I just couldn’t resist.

  • Reply amy August 28, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    I have been wanting to read Desiring the Kingdom. How is it?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 28, 2013 at 11:38 pm

      Well, I’ve only read the Introduction and part of Chapter 1 so far. I’m supposed to be reading it with my husband, which means I need to stop before I race off on my own!

      With that said, so far the only thing that bothers me is how he quotes Charlotte Mason without giving her any credit at all. 😉

      Seriously, it is amazing how these ideas could have arisen for this man–they are oh so similar to CM, but there is no indication he read her. I think that some people who throw out CM because she believe in evolution or something might be able to come back to the table through a book like this–because so many of her ideas are good ones, and this guy doesn’t have the same flaws she does.

      So so far it is an excellent read. Definitely aimed more at college educators, though.

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