Welcome to a New Subscriber

uk-us-shooping-0211We don’t often recognize new subscribers here, but occasionally we do. And one joined us the other day that is about as rare around here as hen’s teeth, but still has ticked some boxes that I like (a lot).

Our new subscriber is a blogger, a new one, I think, although quite good, and works in-depth as well, a young Brit female (three of my favorite categories right there), from Basildon, in Essex, and rarest of all a Labourite. I suspect she’ll disagree with much of what is written here, but perhaps we can learn from her, and her from us. Many of us know that while we have become curmudgeonly conservative types, we started out much more liberal, until life taught us some lessons. Winston Churchill famously said, “If you’re not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart.  If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 35, you have no brain.” Actually he didn’t, according to the Churchill Centre:

There is no record of anyone hearing Churchill say this. Paul Addison of Edinburgh University makes this comment: “Surely Churchill can’t have used the words attributed to him. He’d been a Conservative at 15 and a Liberal at 35!  And would he have talked so disrespectfully of Clemmie, who is generally thought to have been a lifelong Liberal?”

But still there is a ground truth there.

In any case, she is Melissa D’lima, who blogs at Historyxpolitics. She also says she likes modern British history a lot, and so I can’t help but give a plug to a friend of mine, Professor John Charmley at the University of East Anglia because he has done an extraordinary amount to increase my understanding of that subject, especially with his Chamberlain and the Lost Peace and his History of the Conservative Party both of which are available at Amazon. He’s a bit of a maverick in British history, and we’re much the better for his insight, I think. I should also likely say that following him on Twitter at @ProfJCharmley has opened an entire world of British historians to me and I’m much better for it. If I were younger (well, much younger) I would be looking for a way to study under him.

Interestingly, he also epitomizes one of the paradoxes of British political life. like so many of the great Tories, he is a self-made man, who came up from the working class, all the way through an Oxford doctorate.

One of the people whose work he (and Jess) introduced me to is Dr. Suzannah Lipscomb. From her website, “In October 2011, she took up her post as Head of the Faculty of History and Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History at New College of the Humanities (NCH), where she lectures and tutors on British History 1450-1649 and European history 1500-1800. As Head of the Faculty of History, she is a member of the Academic Board, responsible for the academic governance of NCH.” As that indicates, she is far more than a pretty face on TV, and part of why I value her is that I’m convinced one can not understand modern British History (or American, for that matter) without understanding the Tudors, who started modern history for us, and later the world.

If anybody cares, what I’m reading at the moment is Adam Smith: both Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments, David Hume: The Understanding, and John Locke’s First and Second Treatises of Government, as well as some lighter stuff.

Something else Suzi did that I really like, and something the American left often has trouble with, is realizing that we must not look at the past through our twenty-first-century eyes. It truly is a foreign land.

So welcome, Melissa. I hope you enjoy it here, and I’m quite sure I’ll enjoy your blog as well, and watching as you, dare I say, continue to grow up. I’m impressed now, who knows what the future holds, so ‘Good Luck and a fair breeze”.

What is America?

It’s late and getting later.

Enjoy, but more to the point,

Learn and employ!

Pin the Tale on the Donkey

Bill Whittle on the Democratic Party

 

It’s a bit of a polemic, but it is not inaccurate.

Religion in Foreign Policy

A protester at a rally against ISIS organised by Muslims in Edinburgh (PA)

A protester at a rally against ISIS organised by Muslims in Edinburgh (PA)

It is undeniable that we are suffering a failure of education, including education in our faiths, especially Christianity. This is evidenced not only by our lack of knowledge of our history of our society but also of our church history, and our churches’ teaching. A large proportion of our populations, even those that will admit to Christianity, claim to be spiritual but not religious. Nor is this new, it’s been going on in the US since the sixties, perhaps longer in the UK.

Professor John Charmley, writing in the Catholic Herald posits that:

Education in “spirituality”, while a useful corrective to a tendency towards utilitarianism verging on the Gradgrindian, does not fill the gap left by the ebb of faith in our society.

What Benedict XVI called the “dictatorship of relativism” is relativistic about everything except itself. It seeks to dissolve the organic fabric of established order and replace it with its own, appropriating Orwell’s insight that you cannot express things you do not have words for – which is why it tries so hard to change the language. A world in which a man can be a “mother” and priests can wonder whether the Holy Spirit is feminine, without asking what it then means to say that Our Lord was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, is one in which Christian anthropology has vanished from the public square.

The effects of this go wider than the Church. A state department or a Foreign Office full of political science graduates will tend to analyse things through certain lenses, which is why they will advise politicians to say of ISIS that it is not “Islamic”, and instead, use the language of terrorism and national security. This plays well to an agenda of not upsetting an abstraction called “Muslim opinion”, but is it true? We deal with terrorists, in part, by isolating their political demands and seeing what deal can be struck.

But if, as history suggests, ISIS shares many characteristics which inspired the initial Islamic conquests, its demands are not likely to be ones to which we can agree. If we do not understand this, and if we insist on a reductionist approach to religion, which sees it as an adjunct to secularist definitions of quality and inclusion, then, unable even to ask the right questions, we are unlikely to get close to the right answers.

True, isn’t it? How many times have we groaned in frustration when the State Department made some pronouncement about ISIS, that betrayed a lack of understanding, not only of ISIS but even Christianity, perhaps even American patriotism? It’s rather like sending the Chicago Bears to play cricket, about the only thing they have in common is that there is a contest and some sort of ball. They are not only not on the same page, they are not in the same library.

He comments here that our newspapers no longer have specialist religious reporters, which is true, but given the appalling job they do reporting anything these days, I’m not entirely sure that it’s a bad thing.

Does the Church have a part to play here? Blessed John Henry Newman wrote that “the Gospel requires the reception of definite and positive Articles” and the reverent acceptance of the “doctrinal Truths which have come down to us”. It is even more the fashion of our age than it was of his to ignore this wisdom in favour of a vague belief in personal spirituality; recovery of his ideal is essential both to good catechesis and a wider religious literacy. The idea of a received truth, which cannot be changed at the whim of fashion or a majority, is at the heart of the faith once received – and of other faiths too. As Newman wrote: “Faith is a state of mind, it is a particular mode of thinking and acting, which is exercised, always indeed towards God, in very various ways.” This non-reductionist way of thinking about faith is one way in which the Church could help fill the gaps in our public discourse.

Perhaps even more to our point, they might actually have some inkling of understanding what motivates people like ISIS, or Iran and Saudi Arabia, and what also de-motivates them. Realpolitik was, perhaps, a useful club for beating godless communists, who already understood that Marx and Lenin were false gods, and bringing them to heel. It is much less likely to work on people who actually do believe in their God, no matter how false we may believe them to be.

In truth, many of these people appear to have gone so far done this Gradgrindian road that they no longer even understand what Conservatives speak of when we talk of the meaning of the Constitution, or the effects of Manga Charta, all has become political, that is to say, in flux and subject to change at the drop of a poll number, with the change itself instantly disappearing into the ‘memory hole’. “We’ve always been at war with Oceania”. don’t you know?

None of this is to say that only people of faith can understand other religious people, but it is to suggest that they can bring to the study of such things a language, and an understanding, not readily available from an education system which studies the many epiphenomena of religion without understanding the phenomenon itself.

Professor John Charmley is head of the Interdisciplinary Institute at the University of East Anglia, Norwich

From the CatholicHerald.co.uk » How religious is ISIS?.

There is also a podcast that Professor Charmley did with the Catholic Herald, link below, which extends his points very well. I know some of my readers find the British somewhat hard to understand but, I think you’ll find him to be quite easy to comprehend.

http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/?powerpress_embed=84223-podcast&powerpress_player=mediaelement-audio

Stupid Selfies and Kitteh Videos

Klavan and Whittle on culture.

Enough said.

Why Conservatives Dislike What Passes For The Liberal Arts

JAdamsStuart

JAdamsStuart (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

John Adams famously wrote to his wife, Abigail in 1780, saying, “I must study Politics and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematics and Philosophy.” And that is the glory of a civilization, that it makes the time to study.

You, who know me, know that there are few stronger proponents of a liberal education than me. You also know that I think it is nearly impossible to obtain one in the University system. One cannot learn when one is subject only to one side of an issue. There must be (at least) two sides argued effectively of every issue.

Arguing does not consist of personal attacks and telling people to “sit down and shut up”. But invariably that is what is happening today, in our ‘elite’ institutions, and so I submit, they no longer have any utility, whatsoever to someone who wishes to obtain an education. They exist simply to credential those, who mistakenly think themselves fit to rule their betters.

David Patten writing in The Federalist has some things to say recently on this.

Christopher Scalia has a product to sell, and he’s wondering why conservatives aren’t buying it. As an English professor at an elite university, he’s troubled that so many high-profile conservatives have been speaking dismissively about the liberal arts.

His sales pitch is reasonable enough: the liberal arts can make an important contribution to producing the sort of well-informed and critically engaged public that democracies need to thrive. A liberal-arts education exposes students to a wide range of facts, ideas, and experiences, making it harder for the government to control the minds of its citizens. Likewise, the critical-thinking skills students develop from wrestling with complex and sophisticated ideas enable them to ask better questions and challenge authority more effectively.

Actually, he’s right about the liberal arts, but that’s not what they are teaching these days. Continuing:

Perhaps the best example of the problem with how the liberal arts are being taught at today’s universities occurred last year at Marquette University. In an ethics class, a young teacher’s assistant (TA) was confronted by a student who wanted to debate the ethics of gay marriage. The TA told the student this issue was not up for debate. She asked the student to stop talking about the possibility that there could be an ethical argument against gay marriage. This line of thought made him a homophobe, and a gay student in the class might feel hurt if he discovered one of his classmates harbored doubts about the legitimacy of his choices.

Sadly, the consensus in the academy seems to be that this young TA got it right. Meanwhile, her colleague who exposed the incident to the public—thinking people would be horrified by what was going on in Marquette’s classrooms—was stripped of tenure and fired.

This is disheartening, for multiple reasons. The TA seems oblivious to the fact that if everyone else were as closed-minded as she, no one would have questioned the former consensus that homosexuality is a form of deviancy. But someone, quite possibly in an ethics class, challenged the prevailing point of view. This person asked how someone’s rights could be denied on the basis of a moral code he did not subscribe to. This started a debate. The objector was not told to shut up and stop making everyone feel uncomfortable.

Another reason this incident was so ironic is that it occurred in a philosophy classroom. If there is one discipline that cannot survive in an atmosphere of political correctness, it is philosophy. Philosophy critically evaluates ideas. It does not remove some from discussion just because someone might find them offensive.

John Adams also said, “There are two types of education… One should teach us how to make a living, and the other how to live.” When one trains as an electrician, and sometimes alas as an engineer, one doesn’t take many courses in English, let alone philosophy, that is unfortunate, but perhaps necessary. perhaps we do need electricians more than philosophers, but I think it in large part a false dichotomy. A goodly part of philosophy can be understood as simple common sense, and mechanical skills should never be denigrated either,

As a philosopher myself, I too balked when Sen. Marco Rubio discouraged an audience from pursuing a degree in Greek philosophy. While he accurately cited the lousy job market for Greek philosophers, a bad job market is an insufficient reason to discourage the study of philosophy. Ideally, a liberal-arts education would help produce the sort of citizen that can contribute meaningfully to our nation’s political discourse. That is more important in the long run than a steady paycheck straight out of college.

But the price is only worth it if liberal-arts universities remain committed to fostering open-minded, free-thinking individuals. Increasingly, conservatives are coming to doubt this commitment, so they are left wondering whether students might not be better served spending their college years preparing themselves for the job market.

Why Conservatives Dislike What Passes For The Liberal Arts.

Remember most of us are not attacking the liberal arts, we are attacking the way the are (not) taught any longer. When they are again taught, we will again support them, because we agree with the Adam’s quote that opened this article.

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