Mathematics is used as a hoop, a badge, a totem

Quote of the Day for Sunday, July 29th, 2012: Andrew Hacker, in today’s New York Times, asks: Is Algebra Necessary? Peter Braunfeld of the University of Illinois tells his students, “Our civilization would collapse without mathematics.” He’s absolutely right. Algebraic algorithms underpin animated movies, investment strategies and airline ticket prices. And we need people to understand how those things work and to advance our frontiers. Quantitative literacy clearly is useful in weighing all manner of public policies, from the Affordable Care Act, to th...

My biggest regret isn’t that I didn’t learn Fortran, but that I didn’t study Dante

Quote of the Day for Saturday, January 7th, 2012. Virginia Postrel, posting at Bloomberg yesterday in a piece called How Art History Majors Power the U.S. Economy, on the misguided but largely unexamined tendency of many critics of higher education to apply a supposed realpolitik of utility to the evaluation of programs and curricula, becoming in the process shadows of the smug, short-sighted central planners they typically scorn: The students who come out of school without jobs aren’t, for the most part, starry-eyed liberal arts majors but rather peopl...

The idea of the good is the highest knowledge

Quote of the Day for Saturday, April 2nd, 2011: Socrates on the knowledge of the good, in Plato’s Republic (Book VI, Jowett translation): When little things are elaborated with an infinity of pains, in order that they may appear in their full beauty and utmost clearness, how ridiculous is it that we should not think the highest truths worthy of attaining the highest accuracy! … [Y]ou have often been told that the idea of the good is the highest knowledge, and that all other things become useful and advantageous only by their use of this. . . [With...

The mind is dulled, not fed, by inordinate reading

Quote of the Day for Tuesday, March 8th, 2011: More from A. G. Sertillanges’ The Intellectual Life, from the section “Reading” in the chapter “Preparation for Work,” on “not reading much” as a prerequisite to intellectual vitality: What we are proscribing is the passion for reading, the uncontrolled habit, the poisoning of the mind by excess of mental food, the laziness in disguise which prefers easy familiarity with others’ thought to personal effort. The passion for reading which many pride themselves on as a precious intellectual quality, is in reali...

Sympathy is the Gift of Self

Quote of the Day for Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011: Another passage from A. G. Sertillanges’ The Intellectual Life (pg. 130): But there is something else still more important, namely, to submit not only to the discipline of work, but to the discipline of truth. This submission to truth is the binding condition for communion with it. Prompt obedience is what invites it to visit us. To this sacred meeting we must bring a respectful soul. Truth will not give itself to us unless we are first rid of self and resolved that it shall suffice us. The intelligence w...

Revitalizing Catholic Education?

On this feast day of Saint John Neuman, the great champion of Catholic education in America, I want to give a shout-out to St. Jerome’s Catholic Classical School in Hyattsville, Maryland. This school, like so many other modern Catholic parochial schools, was facing almost certain closing not long ago. A recent article from insidecatholic.com tells the story of what happened after the archdiocesan consultation at the parish in consideration of the school’s future: Multiple parishioners approached [school principal] Donoghue and [pastor] Father Stack, arg...

Mandating Two More Years of Vapid Futility?

Quote of the Day for Sunday, December 12th, 2010: Boston Globe staff writer James Vaznis reporting on the latest round of hand-wringing concerning the performance of urban public school districts in the state: Within Boston, the state identified 40 percent of eighth-graders at risk of not earning a high school diploma with their classmates in 2014. But that estimate may be low, Boston public school officials said. The district’s graduation-tracking system, which, unlike the state’s, examines several years of data and grades, indicated that just 19 perce...

A Vicious Conception of the Whole Purpose of Education

Quote of the Day for Tuesday, Nov 23, 2010: An encore: J. Gresham Machen, this time writing in The Presbyterian, February 7, 1918, on the waning of Greek & Hebrew knowledge within the (protestant) ministry of his day (quoted from Dr. Rod Decker’s NT Resources Blog): “The real trouble with the modern exaltation of practical studies at the expense of the humanities is that it is based upon a vicious conception of the whole purpose of education. The modern conception of the purpose of education is that education is merely intended to enable a ma...

One of the Deadliest Enemies to Liberty that Has Ever Been Devised

Quote of the Day for Monday, Nov. 22nd, 2010: A double-quote day. First, in honor of John F. Kennedy on the 47th anniversary of his assassination: A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people. Second, J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937) testifying before the joint Senate Committee on Education and Labor, and House Committee on Education, February 25, 1926, on the proposed establishment of a Department of Education, specifically here addressing the alleged benefits of nati...

Modern Scholar series (part IV)

Being “between courses” has afforded me the opportunity to dip back into Recorded Books’ Modern Scholar series of lectures on audio CD. I started listening to these a couple years ago, finding the entries by Thomas Madden to be especially worthwhile listening. Aside from Madden’s, I have to admit that I’ve found the rest of the series hit or miss, but I wanted to give a shout-out to Professor Fred E. Baumann for his entry, Visions of Utopia: Philosophy and the Perfect Society. This might come across as a backhanded compliment, but I was impressed by the...

Modern Scholar series (part III)

I’ve listened to a couple more volumes in the Modern Scholar series over the past month. The first was A History of Ancient Rome, by Utah State University professor Frances Titchener. This set of lectures was not among the best of those I’ve listened to in this series, though I’ve also heard worse. Covering 1,500 or so years of complex history in 14 half-hour lectures is not an easy task, and she certainly deserves some freedom to present it as she sees fit, but I found the presentation overly idiosyncratic, nonetheless. Professor Titch...

Adler on Liberal Education

I wanted to write a follow-up tonight to my last post, refuting the silly (if a bit scary) notion of celebrity gossip as a legitimate form of moral discourse, but I strained my neck last night, and have been unable to spend enough time in front of the computer. I’ll have to come back for that. Instead, I’ve been trying to get through a Mortimer J Adler book I started in late February but wasn’t able to do much with in March. I’m not prepared to get into too much detail about it yet, as I’ve only just begun part four of the ...