Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Education and government

Thinking about something I read yesterday:

No one will doubt that the legislator should direct his attention above all to the education of youth; for the neglect of education does harm to the constitution. The citizen should be moulded to suit the form of government under which he lives. For each government has a peculiar character which originally formed and which continues to preserve it. The character of democracy creates democracy, and the character of oligarchy creates oligarchy; and always the better the character, the better the government.

~Aristotle, Politics, Book VIII, 1
tr. Benjamin Jowett

"The citizen should be moulded to suit the form of government under which he lives."

"For each government has a peculiar character which originally formed and which continues to preserve it."

If this is true, then, looking at our government schools, what kind of citizen is our government trying to produce, and what does that say about the kind of government we have? Looking at it in that light the situation is a lot more grim than I'd been thinking.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The lesser of two evils

I'm reading The Imitation of Christ right now and last night I came across something very interesting. In the Third Book, "On Internal Consolation," Thomas à Kempis has this to say "On Patient Wrestling Against Carnal Desires":

1. O Lord God, I see that patience is very necessary for me, for many things in this life do not happn as we would like.
I see well that whatever plans I make for my own peace, my life cannot be without some battle and sorrow....

2. If you say you are not able to to suffer so much, how then will you be able to suffer the fire of purgatory?
Of two evils we should always choose the lesser. Strive, then, on God's behalf to endure the little pains of this world, so that you may escape eternal torments in the world to come.

Leaving aside the issue of purgatory, Thomas is saying that it's far better to choose the "evil" of a hard struggle against sin in this life, rather than to suffer the evil of punishment for your sins in the next life.

Or, for us moms, facing the difficulty of training a toddler can be overwhelming at times, but how much better it is to face that struggle, that "evil," now rather than to put it off until the child is six or twelve or fifteen years old when disciplining him will require far more work and will yield scantier results.

That's very good counsel, and I wonder if The Imitation is the origin of that phrase. If so, its original meaning was nothing like the way it's used in modern politics.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mummy Slept Late and Daddy Fixed Breakfast

~John Ciardi (1916-1986)

Daddy fixed the breakfast.
He made us each a waffle.
It looked like gravel pudding.
It tasted something awful.

“Ha, ha,” he said, “I’ll try again.
This time I’ll get it right.”
But what I got was in between
Bituminous and anthracite.

“A little too well done? Oh well,
I’ll have to start all over.”
That time what landed on my plate
Looked like a manhole cover.

I tried to cut it with a fork:
The fork gave off a spark.
I tried a knife and twisted it
Into a question mark.

I tried it with a hack-saw.
I tried it with a torch.
It didn’t even make a dent.
It didn’t even scorch.

The next time Dad gets breakfast
When Mommy’s sleeping late,
I think I’ll skip the waffles,
I’d sooner eat the plate!

I love this poem and woke up this morning thinking about it—but not because I woke up late and Daddy made awful waffles. Years ago we belonged to a church that had a Shrove Tuesday pancake supper cooked by the men, and we’ve carried that tradition into our family, so tonight Mike’ll make pancakes and eggs and sausages for us and they’ll be delicious because he’s a good cook.

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. Some time during the day I’ll take down the last of the Christmas lights in the house, which I keep up through the winter to brighten the short, dreary days, then in the evening we’ll go to our church’s service for the imposition of ashes. What Lenten traditions does your family keep?