Category: Notes (page 1 of 2)

Classical Christian Education is teleological

This series explores part of what I recently shared during teacher training at Providence Preparatory Academy in Wilmington, NC. It presents five principles that guide classical Christian education. You can view the rest of the series here.

A couple of caveats are in order before we begin.

  • First, these principles can be adopted by more than just those teaching in a Classical Christian context. Teachers in other contexts can operate out of them; I know several who do so. (Though it is often far more difficult for them, since the system they work in does not embrace or encourage this approach.)
  • Second, these principles can be adopted by more than just teachers, in the strictest sense of that word. These principles apply to parents, pastors, managers, trainers, pastors, bosses, and more. If you teach anything, consider doing so from this perspective.

Principle 1: Classical Christian education is teleological. It works towards an end: Christ-like wisdom and virtue.

Telos is the Greek word for “end” as in “the end towards which one works.” A teleological education is an education that is going somewhere because it is working towards a specific end-goal.

There was a movement in the mid-late 20th century that advocated for a “value-free” education, one in which students were free from any exposure to particular value systems. This movement has largely been officially abandoned, though most of its notions remain in many school contexts. There are those who still think that you can educate a child without passing along a system of values – that there exists a way to teach something meaningful without declaring certain things good, true, and beautiful.

They are mistaken. A teacher who does not teach students to perceive truth in the midst of lies, goodness in the midst of evil, and beauty in the midst of chaos is not worth their salt.

Classical Christian education has a value system. It declares a telos, and “end-goal” of education: the cultivation of Christ-like wisdom and virtue. An education that does not recognize this as its telos will fall short of the purpose of an education. It may do a really good job of preparing people for careers, or the next stage of learning. But it will not create fully-alive human beings. It can’t, because it doesn’t even try to.

Wilmington, NC

In a one week span during my time as a hospital chaplain I met two families who each had a loved one die on the day of their wedding. Both were unexpected. Much of that week was spent helping those families begin to deal with the grief of death and the grief of changed plans. It was a bizarre week, one that I forgot about until I found myself laying on my side at an urgent care clinic in Wilmington, NC last Saturday.

The fine folks of Providence Preparatory Academy flew me and the family out for a week so that I could speak at their annual teacher training and meet with several of their faculty and board members. Viv and I have been counting down to this trip; it was our first chance to go to the beach with our kids.

The first day of our trip involved two painful flights, a two hour drive, and leading a three hour talk and Q&A session. As I walked to the car to drive home late that night, the pain caught up with me. The next morning I had a very minor procedure done in a very uncomfortable part of my body. (Let’s just say that recovery involved not sitting for the next few days…)

As the doctor shared that this procedure meant that I won’t be able to get near water, I immediately thought of those two families from the hospital. Immediately, there was a change in perspective. It was disappointing news for us to hear, but I don’t think it was as devastating as it could have been if I had never spent time as a chaplain.

Viv was a champion, taking care of essentially three kids that week. We had the time of our life. The teachers responded really well to our time together, and our kids still ate up their time at the beach.

Next time I hope to have a chance to get in the ocean past my knees…

Quitting Google

I have toyed with it in the past, but tonight I finally pulled the plug on my Google account.

I am not naive to how much information other companies (predominantly Apple in my case) know about me. But Google and Facebook are different. They aren’t trying to sell me a product; they are selling me as their product. The data they collect and store is sold to God-knows-who for a number of purposes. (Seriously, sometimes Facebook and Google don’t even know who they are selling to.)

Gmail was great. It streamlined the email process, and provided virtually unlimited storage. Searching for old emails was a breeze. But it also processed every single one of your emails and targeted super-specific ads based on what you read and wrote. And then it started suggesting specific responses to emails. I don’t know why, but that was the last straw for me.

I might live to regret this. I have tried quitting Google once before. Let’s see if it doesn’t stick this time.

You are what you schedule?

Every Spring I conduct an experiment with a group of students. I did this once with a group of teachers and, to many of the students’s surprise, the results were nearly identical.

I ask the students to respond to what I am about to say with a simple facial reaction. They are to smile if their response to my words is generally positive, and frown if their response to them is generally negative.

Then I ask them to give me a blank facial expression before I utter those words every student longs to hear: “Summer break.”

As you can imagine, the room was full of smiles.

Everyone in the room, whether teacher or student, has spent a good amount of their life following the school calendar. By following this calendar year and year, they have actually learned to love summer.

To an accountant, or an engineer, or a doctor, “summer” is simply the time of year that you go to work when it is hot outside. To those of us in the world of education—even for those of us who work through the summer—there is a sense of freedom, flexibility, and bliss when summer arrives.

The School Calendar has taught us what to love.

This is actually a big deal: calendars have the power to shape what we love. Whether we are paying attention to them or not, the various calendars we follow are shaping our desires. And most of the calendars we follow are teaching us to love things that aren’t always worthy of our love.

an excerpt from a forthcoming book on the Church Calendar

On Writing and Facebook

I spend the vast majority of my time doing what I love with people I love. This is rare, and I am grateful.

I have been dreaming of married life and being a dad since I can remember. I get to teach what I love and help lead a school that I love. I am also in the process of training for the priesthood, and the end is, God-willing, in sight. Life is not perfect, and has its fair share of challenges. But I am really pleased with what I get to do day in and day out.

Several years ago I started thinking through what it would look like to translate some of what I have taught in the classroom and in churches into short, enjoyable, and informative books.

My first book, From Law to Logos, was an attempt to do just that. I taught a class on Galatians to a group of eager young adults at Church of the Incarnation, and I absolutely loved our time together. We discovered the power of re-reading Galatians over and over as we studied it together. It was harder to turn lecture notes and off-the-cuff conversations into a book than I thought it would be, but I really enjoyed the process.

Since that book was published, I have begun working on (at least) two more books. All of my writing is done in small bursts while the world’s most adorable monsters pretend to be asleep, since I have a day job and plans to add another one. But doing this sort of work gives me energy, Viv supports it, and I think it is helpful.

While this has been happening, I have also become more weary of social media in general, and Facebook in particular.

For now, I am trying something new: getting rid of my Facebook profile, and occasionally posting short excerpts of what I am writing here and on my Facebook author page.

So no pressure to follow along, but I’d love to have you stick around and engage while I write on Scripture, the history of the church, classical education, and doughnuts.

If you miss adorable pictures of my family, shoot me a text and I will be happy to share.

Ten Years

Vivien and I celebrated our ten year wedding anniversary this week. It was a classic “Jon and Viv” trip, full of surprises, hanger, feasting, too much coffee, and the rush of exploring a new city together. Then we took a day to try to organize our garage. This is not a classic “Jon and Viv” move. But as we pass our ten year mark, we are starting to be more eager to change when we need to.

If I had to characterize the struggles and joys of the last few years of our marriage in a single Wendell Berry poem, this would be it.

In the bright-eyed early years of our marriage, it was easy to say yes to each other’s endeavors, to sing the praises of our mate. Most of our new ideas were met with encouragement, at least on the surface. I wanted to plant a church (but shouldn’t have) and Viv was right there to support me. Viv wanted to pursue design, and then eventually leave her work to pursue design, and I was right there to support her. We moved apartments and churches. I changed careers and started seminary. We paid off debt. We traveled. (Not enough, if you ask Viv. Too much, if you ask me!) We had kids. No matter what we were doing, the other one was there to sing our praises. It was wonderful.

But it didn’t last. Somewhere along the way the cost of supporting one another in all our endeavors caught up. Having children, owning a house, advancing in our careers, and our inability to say no all surely had a role to play in this shift. We still said yes to each other most of the time, but we didn’t always mean it. We secretly, and not so secretly, wanted to say no. Those who know us best can fill in most of the details, but we were far from singing praises of our mate. While we still loved each other deeply, and liked each other deeply, we were finding it difficult to find joy in what the other person was doing.

But fortunately that didn’t last, either. We were both too bothered by this reality to stay quiet about it. Through tears, silence, talks with mentors, and at least one awkward conversation at Pei Wei, we have turned a bit of a corner, I think. We aren’t where we want to be, but I think we both recognize that. Which is where you have to start. (So they say.)

I think at ten years we are still learning (or re-learning) to sign the praises of our mate. It came naturally when life was more carefree. It doesn’t now. It will mean taking seriously what we ask of each other, and how we answer. But I have found, much to my surprise, that there is a real joy in confronting things like this, and being willing to work together to fix them.

That Pei Wei conversation looked, from the outside, like I was breaking up with Vivien. She was crying, and I wasn’t happy. But part way through the conversation she revealed that she was crying happy tears. For (maybe) the first time, I was completely honest with her about how her lack of excitement felt. She has felt this same hurt many times from me. But over some brown rice and caramel chicken, we finally felt it together. (And then I left her for a month in Wisconsin. Husband of the year!) That moment was surprisingly healing.

But it shouldn’t surprise us, since we serve a God who tends to bring dead things to life and turn sorrow into joy. As we look to the next ten years of our marriage, God is continuing to bind us together as we learn again how to live out our wedding vows.

He is teaching us to fail to know whose song it is, hers or his.

This is a second test using the Standard post type to see if I like the way it displays links.

how to stop loving your phone

Becoming detached from my phone and off-hours email access started over a year ago, and has progressed like this:

  1. Disable all push notifications (except Phone and Messages)
  2. Remove native Mail app plus Gmail and Outlook apps
  3. Install Moment App (tracks screen-time as motivation to use phone less)
  4. Remove Social Apps (I add these back from time to time, but generally keep them off. Instagram is the most-likely exception here.)
  5. Disable Safari access (via Restrictions)
  6. Disable App Store access (via Restrictions)
  7. Remove all apps from first screen.
  8. Black and White screen (via Accessibility options. Thanks Billie.)
  9. Permanent Do-Not-Disturb mode; allowing phone calls and messages from a very short list of people to buzz my phone.
  10. Remain committed to redoing many of these as they creep back in over time.

You should try it. I can help if you ask.

More wow, please.

Kids are refreshingly honest.

Today Rowan was in awe of this wind-up robot. When it started to walk, Rowan let out a precious “Wooooow!”

Every time.

But then came the best Rowan line of the evening: “More wow, please.”

“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world. … These things — the beauty, the memory of our own past — are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.” [CSL]

Yes, Rowan. More wow, please.

Common Prayer

Common as in communal, not ordinary or humdrum or boring. Prayers of the community. Prayers of “the great cloud of witnesses” who have gone before us and, by God’s grace, who will come after us. Borrowed words from Scripture and from Saints long gone spoken in moments when our own words fail us.

Tonight was one of many chaplain shifts that relied heavily on these rites. The Holy Spirit works instantaneously in a thousand different ways. But the Holy Spirit also works slowly and steadily over the course of many centuries to give the church gifts like these prayers.