Friday, August 30, 2013

Art and the Noble Idea by Marilyn Arnold for THIS PEOPLE 1981

(This article is not available that I can see anywhere on the internet and because of its unique point of view, I think it's important that is is accessible. I have typed this article from a copy of a copy. Any errors in spelling, grammar or other are mine.)

Art and the Noble Idea
by Marilyn Arnold, THIS PEOPLE volume 2, pages 24-27, 1981

At the invitation of THIS People, Dr. Marilyn Arnold, director of the Center for the study of Christian Values in Literature, discusses the value of quality literature that achieves a meaningful blend of artistic form and moral content. THIS PEOPLE applauds the Center's efforts to encourage and foster both the reading and writing of such literature.

One of the goals of the new Center for the Study of Christian Values in Literature is, of course, to encourage the writing and reading of wholesome literature. Another is to help readers and writers realize that wholesome content alone, does not make good literature. Good literature is also art. Putting an inspirational thought into verse form, simply making it rhyme, in other words, does not create art, And instead of enhancing the thought, a rhyme for its own sake demeans the thought by consigning it to a form that is not worthy of its content. Giving artistic expression to a noble idea, particularly one central in religious faith, requires more than the accomplishment of rhythm and rhyme. It requires the discovery of a form equally noble.

In our efforts to promote what is decent and uplifting as opposed to what is lewd and degrading, we sometimes tend to judge a piece of writing or a film solely on its surface content. Conversely, critics and reviewers who praise gifted but sometimes morally irresponsible writers tend to judge their work solely on the basis of its form. We find, then, some Mormon readers who demand nothing more of writers than inoffensive content, and some literary critics who demand nothing more of writers than technical dexterity.

Truly great literature, on the other hand, is produced only in the integration of significant content with significant art. Readers have a right to demand that the literature they read tells the truth and at the same time moves them by the power of its thought and art. The morality of art lies in its capacity for telling the truth and upholding worthy values in a form that is also true and value-centered.

Some writers in the Mormon culture, for example, rightly want to affirm Church practices and beliefs. So they construct a story or a verse in which the characters or the narrators rather mechanically recite the cliches that we have all read or heard dozens of times in talks and lessons and conversations. Even the rebels in these pieces sound like all the rebels we have ever heard or ever heard described. Thus, our society has adopted a set of acceptable attitudes and aphorisms which writers simply rehearse over and over again. when this moralistic but artless writing is accepted as the model for Mormon literature, it perpetuates itself and the gifted Mormon writer has a difficult time finding an audience. Too many readers would rather have their back scratched than their minds engaged.

The Mormon writer who is truly an artist will search out the core of his or her religious belief and will try to convey the nature and importance of that search in a fresh way, vital way. The artist will labor to discover the literary forms that enhance and illuminate belief. To see how important it is that religious truth be conveyed in a vehicle worthy of it, we need only compare the highly poetic King James Version of the Bible with other versions which try to simplify and clarify the King James Language and in so doing erase its poetry. As uplifting as the content may still be in these versions, it loses most of its power and much of its meaning when it is translated into supposedly simple language, into a form that is unworthy of its content.

A comparison of the King James version with other version of the 1 Corinthians 13:1-2 makes it obvious why most of us prefer the King James Bible over other translations. The King James Bible seems to have an inherent "religious" quality, and not solely because we are accustomed to its scriptural language. It "sounds" the way we think religious doctrine ought to sound. The language is elevated. we sometimes forget that the delivery of the content, words in combination to make sense, are only part of the communication process. A reader can know what words say without exercising either intellect or heart. Paul's famous discourse on charity begins in this way in the King James Bibles: "Though I speak with the tongue of men and of angels, and have no charity, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could removes mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing."

This is the Living Bible Paraphrased version: "If I had the gift of being able to speak in other languages without learning them, and could speak in every language there is in all of heaven and earth, but didn't love others, I would only be making a noise. If I had the gift of prophecy and knew all about what is going to happen in the future, knew everything about everything, but didn't love others, what good would it do? Even if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, I would still be worth nothing at all without love."

The Living Bible Paraphrased whose language is anything but moving, removes every poetic feature from this passage and renders it lengthy and dull. In so doing it intimates that the doctrine of charity is common and dull.  Poetry simply cannot be paraphrased successfully. How can anyone suppose that a statement like "If I had the gift of being able to speak in other languages without learning them and could speak in every language there is in all of heaven and earth" is more comprehensible than "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels'? The King James language is concrete, condensed, and full of images that suggest a great deal more than they say. The Living Bible is abstract, vague, wordy and totally without the power of suggestion. Its rendering of "have not charity" as "didn't love other" dilutes the meaning and the force of the phrase. And its transformation of "I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal" to I would only be making noise" totally enervates the line. the similes lost in the process had carried 90% of the meaning. Just as evident are the differences between the two versions of the second verse where understand "all mysteries, all knowledge, " becomes knowing "everything about everything." Generalities like this rarely clarify. Not only is the effect of the abandoned parallel structures lost in the Living Bible version, but simple, clean statements are needlessly amplified. For example, "I am nothing" becomes "would still be worth nothing at all." Does the latter do anything to explain the former? Of course not. It only obscures the meaning and depletes the impact of the original statement.

The point is, lofty idea, religious truths, must be carried in a form that does not detract from them, that does not make them appear ordinary, that carries a sense of mystery that is itself something of a marvel. John Donne's (1572-1631) fourteenth of the Holy Sonnets is an example of a poem that skillfully integrates form and content to create a unified piece of art:

Batter my heart, three-person'd God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town to another due,
Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov'd fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

Obviously, the poem is written in the poetic language of an earlier era, but its power registers in our mind and hearts nevertheless. It is also written in sonnet form, which means that it has fourteen lines and a special stanzaic and rhyming requirement. We see that the thought takes a turn after each group of four lines, and that the final couplet states a paradox that is the climax of the poem.

This sonnet expresses the mixes anguish and hope of Donne's belief, and emphasizes his awareness of his insufficient faith. His language is sometimes stark and his images shocking. He purposely strains both language and image as he constructs startling contrasts. He does not grow sentimental over himself as a sinner. Instead, he recognizes that his willful heart does not always see God of its own accord. And so he pleads, "Batter my heart, three-personed God," knowing that only through broken-hearted submission can he triumph, only through humility can he find spiritual greatness. (And the failure of paraphrase is obvious when we not how weak my paraphrases are in comparison with Donne's poem. Paraphrase is useful, but it is no substitute for poetry.) The incremental force of "break, blow, burn" is enhanced by the alliterating b's as the poet begs God to "o'erthrow" him and thus "make {him}new."

The poet expresses his love for God and his desire to be loved in turn, but then confesses that he is "betrothed" to God's enemy and begs God to "divorce" him, to "break that knot" that binds him to the Evil One. He begs God to imprison him, for he believes that unless he is God's prisoner he can never be free, "nor ever chaste" unless ravished by God.

Most of us do not pray to God to batter us, to break us, to imprison, us and to ravish us. We can hardly conceive of either prayer or salvation in those terms. But through such language Donne forces us to confront our own spiritual natures and needs. He reminds us that , like him, we may have gone so long in our own ways and in the company of Satan that we will not find the way of faith to be simple and easy. We may have to be wrenched into purity and shocked violently into belief. Donne's strong, active verbs may not be what we expect in a religious poem – batter, knock, breathe, shine, seek - o'erthrow, bend, break, blow, burn, usurped, labor, divorce, untie, take, imprison, enthrall, ravish. But, then, turning from sin to God may not be something accomplished passively. We should note, too, that Donne sets the conditions for his spiritual recovery, in his final couplet, in balanced and transposed rhetoric; except this is done that, that shall never happen except this is done.

Compare the sincerity and intellectual power of Donne's poem with the absence of those qualities in a rather typical piece of "religious verse" on a similar subject, "Prayer" by Gail Brook Burket:

I do not ask to walk smooth paths
Nor bear an easy load.
I pray for strength and fortitude
To climb the rock strewn road.
Give me such courage I can scale
The hardest peaks alone
And transform every stumbling block
Into a stepping stone.

Reading this verse we find ourselves aware mainly of its rhyme and rhythm. In fact, they are about all we notice. A glance back at Donne's poem confirms that is does indeed rhyme and does indeed have a distinct rhythmic pattern. But in Donne's poem the rhyme and rhythm are integral to the poem; they work with the language and the idea. We never sense that Donne is tacking on a word or a phrase for the sake of mechanics, whereas in Burket every word is chosen primarily for the sake of the rhythm and the rhyme.

Like Donne, Burket says that a life of faith is not easy, but for all the high-mindedness of Burket's prayer, it does little more than acknowledge abstractly that we should ask for difficulties to make us strong. And the poem implies that for god people like us, it will surely be no trick at all to turn "every stumbling block into a stepping stone." The Burket verse expresses a nice bit of sentiment, but it presents to fresh insights and no challenges, either in  its poetic form or its idea. It does not make us think; hence, it cannot lead us to any discoveries. It threatens none of our preconceived notions; it is unremarkable and unmemorable. Not only is its rhythm sing-songy and its rhymes contrived, but its language is full of abstractions and cliches. The verse is typified by abstract terms like strength, fortitude, and courage, and by over-worked expressions like "smooth paths," "bear and easy load," "scale... peaks," "stumbling block," and "stepping stone."

Perhaps, worse still, the verse purports to be a prayer– we assume to deity– but it suggests nothing of what might be required of the supplicant. It merely asks some undefined essence to award its speaker certain valuable traits of character. There is no sense of God, much less of his awesome stature, in the verse, more any sense of the gap our sins create between us and our Maker.

Discussion of the two pieces could go on and on, but I think the point has been made. Making a prayer to God for any reason, is not a mundane act especially when what is sought is of great importance to the seeker. It deserves poetic treatment of the highest order rather than mere versification.

We who are directly associated with the Center for the Study of Christian Values in Literature are optimistic (some might say "naive") enough to believe that eventually we can make a difference in what is written and read . We can encourage religious artists and cultivate an appreciative audience for them, we can write literary criticism that insists on morality in both form and content, we can provide a forum for the expression of Christian values in literature, and we can join forces with others across the country who have similar concerns. Who knows, we may create a taste where there was none before for the poetry of John Donne and John Milton and for the King James Bible. And we may even discover a John Donne among us, which discovery we will celebrate in artistic songs of praise.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Dumbing Kids to Green: Getting an Indoctrination

“Current lifestyles and consumption patterns of the affluent middle class – involving high meat intake, use of fossil fuels, appliances, home and work air conditioning, and suburban housing are not sustainable.” (Maurice Strong, Secretary General of the UN’s Earth Summit, 1992)
“We must make this place an insecure and inhospitable place for Capitalists and their projects – we must reclaim the roads and plowed lands, halt dam construction, tear down existing dams, free shackled rivers and return to wilderness millions of tens of millions of acres of presently settled land.” (Dave Foreman, Earth First)

“Generally, more highly educated people, who have higher incomes, consume more resources than poorly educated people, who tend to have lower incomes. In this case, more education increases the threat to sustainability.”
Unfortunately, the most educated nations leave the deepest ecological footprints, 
meaning they have the highest per-capita rates of consumption. This consumption drives 
resource extraction and manufacturing around the world.

Reorienting education also requires 
teaching and learning knowledge, skills, perspectives, and values that will guide and 
motivate people to pursue sustainable livelihoods, to participate in a democratic society, and 

to live in a sustainable manner.
(the above quotes are from UNESCO's Education for Sustainable Development Toolkit)

Historically, the Department of Education hasn't been doing enough in the sustainability movement. Today, I promise you that we will be a committed partner in the national effort to build a more environmentally literate and responsible society.
Several agencies across the federal government already have made important contributions linking education and sustainability.

We at the Education Department are energized about joining these leaders in their commitment to preparing today's students to participate in the green economy, and to be well-educated about the science of sustainability. We must advance the sustainability movement through education."

The Case for Good Taste in Children's Books

The Case for Good Taste in Children's Books

MEGHAN COX GURDON has been the children's book reviewer for the Wall Street Journal since 2005. Her work has also appeared in numerous other publications, including the Washington Post, the Washington Examiner, the San Francisco Chronicle, National Review, and the Weekly Standard. In the 1990s, she worked as an overseas correspondent in Hong Kong, Tokyo, and London, and traveled and reported from Cambodia, Somalia, China, Israel, South Korea, and Northern Ireland. She graduated magna cum laude from Bowdoin College in 1986 and lives near Washington, D.C., with her husband and their five children.

The following is adapted from a speech delivered at Hillsdale College on March 12, 2013, sponsored by the College's Dow Journalism Program.

ON JUNE 4, 2011, the number one trending topic on Twitter was the Anthony Weiner scandal. I happen to remember that, because the number two topic on Twitter that day—almost as frenzied, though a lot less humorous—had to do with an outrageous, intolerable attack on Young Adult literature . . . by me. Entitled "Darkness Too Visible," my article discussed the increasingly dark current that runs through books classified as YA, for Young Adult—books aimed at readers between 12 and 18 years of age—a subset that has, in the four decades since Young Adult became a distinct category in fiction, become increasingly lurid, grotesque, profane, sexual, and ugly.

Books show us the world, and in that sense, too many books for adolescents act like funhouse mirrors, reflecting hideously distorted portrayals of life. Those of us who have grown up understand that the teen years can be fraught and turbulent—and for some kids, very unhappy—but at the same time we know that in the arc of human life, these years are brief. Today, too many novels for teenagers are long on the turbulence and short on a sense of perspective. Nor does it help that the narrative style that dominates Young Adult books is the first person present tense—

"I, I, I," and "now, now, now." Writers use this device to create a feeling of urgency, to show solidarity with the reader and to make the reader feel that he or she is occupying the persona of the narrator. The trouble is that the first person present tense also erects a kind of verbal prison, keeping young readers in the turmoil of the moment just as their hormones tend to do. This narrative style reinforces the blinkers teenagers often seem to be wearing, rather than drawing them out and into the open.

Bringing Judgment

The late critic Hilton Kramer was seated once at a dinner next to film director Woody Allen. Allen asked him if he felt embarrassed when he met people socially whom he'd savaged in print. "No," Kramer said, "they're the ones who made the bad art. I just described it." As the story goes, Allen fell gloomily silent, having once made a film that had received the Kramer treatment.

I don't presume to have a nose as sensitive as Hilton Kramer's—but I do know that criticism is pointless if it's only boosterism. To evaluate anything, including children's books, is to engage the faculty of judgment, which requires that great bugbear of the politically correct, "discrimination." Thus, in responding to my article, YA book writers Judy Blume and Libba Bray charged that I was giving comfort to book-banners, andPublisher's Weekly warned of a "danger" that my arguments "encourage a culture of fear around YA literature." But I do not, in fact, wish to ban any books or frighten any authors. What I do wish is that people in the book business would exercise better taste; that adult authors would not simply validate every spasm of the teen experience; and that our culture was not marching toward ever-greater explicitness in depictions of sex and violence.

Books for children and teenagers are written, packaged, and sold by adults. It follows from this that the emotional depictions they contain come to young people with a kind of adult imprimatur. As a school librarian in Idaho wrote to her colleagues in my defense: "You are naïve if you think young people can read a dark and violent book that sits on the library shelves and not believe that that behavior must be condoned by the adults in their school lives."

What kind of books are we talking about? Let me give you three examples—but with a warning that some of what you're about to hear is not appropriate for younger listeners.

A teenaged boy is kidnapped, drugged, and nearly raped by a male captor. After escaping, he comes across a pair of weird glasses that transport him to a world of almost impossible cruelty. Moments later, he finds himself facing a wall of horrors, "covered with impaled heads and other dripping, black-rot body parts: hands, hearts, feet, ears, penises. Where the f— was this?"

That's from Andrew Smith's 2010 Young Adult novel, The Marbury Lens.

A girl struggles with self-hatred and self-injury. She cuts herself with razors secretly, but her secret gets out when she's the victim of a sadistic sexual prank. Kids at school jeer at her, calling her "cutterslut." In response, "she had sliced her arms to ribbons, but the badness remained, staining her insides like cancer. She had gouged her belly until it was a mess of meat and blood, but she still couldn't breathe."

That's from Jackie Morse Kessler's 2011 Young Adult novel, Rage.

I won't read you the most offensive excerpts from my third example, which consist of explicit and obscene descriptions by a 17-year-old female narrator of sexual petting, of oral sex, and of rushing to a bathroom to defecate following a breakup. Yet School Library Journal praised Daria Snadowsky's 2008 Young Adult novel, Anatomy of a Boyfriend, for dealing "in modern terms with the real issues of discovering sex for the first time." And Random House, its publisher, gushed about the narrator's "heartbreakingly honest voice" as she recounts the "exquisite ups and dramatic downs of teenage love and heartbreak."

The book industry, broadly speaking, says: Kids have a right to read whatever they want. And if you follow the argument through it becomes: Adults should not discriminate between good and bad books or stand as gatekeepers, deciding what young people should read. In other words, the faculty of judgment and taste that we apply in every other area of life involving children should somehow vaporize when it comes in contact with the printed word.

I appeared on National Public Radio to discuss these issues with the Young Adult book author Lauren Myracle, who has been hailed as a person "on the front lines in the fight for freedom of expression"—as if any controversy over whether a book is appropriate for children turns on the question of the author's freedom to express herself. Myracle made clear that she doesn't believe there should be any line between adult literature and literature for young people. In saying this, she was echoing the view that prevails in many progressive, secular circles—that young people should encounter material that jolts them out of their comfort zone; that the world is a tough place; and that there's no point shielding children from reality. I took the less progressive, less secular view that parents should take a more interventionist approach, steering their children away from books about sex and horror and degradation, and towards books that make aesthetic and moral claims.

Now, although it may seem that our culture is split between Left and Right on the question of permissiveness regarding children's reading material, in fact there is not so much division on the core issue as might appear. Secular progressives, despite their reaction to my article, have their own list of books they think young people shouldn't read—for instance, books they claim are tinged with racism or jingoism or that depict traditional gender roles. Regarding the latter, you would not believe the extent to which children's picture books today go out of the way to show father in an apron and mother tinkering with machinery. It's pretty funny. But my larger point here is that the self-proclaimed anti-book-banners on the Left agree that books influence children and prefer some books to others.

Indeed, in the early years of the Cold War, many left-wing creative people in America gravitated toward children's literature. Philip Nel, a professor at Kansas State University, has written that Red-hunters, "seeing children's books as a field dominated by women . . . deemed it less important and so did not watch it closely." Among the authors I am referring to are Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) and Ruth Krauss, author of the 1952 classic A Hole is to Dig, illustrated by a young Maurice Sendak. Krauss was quite open in her belief that children's literature was an excellent means of putting left-wing ideas into young minds. Or so she hoped.

When I was a little girl I read The Cat in the Hat, and I took from it an understanding of the sanctity of private property—it outraged me when the Cat and Thing One and Thing Two rampaged through the children's house while their mother was away. Dr. Seuss was probably not intending to inculcate capitalist ideas—quite the contrary. But it happened in my case, and the point is instructive.

Taste and Beauty

A recent study conducted at Virginia Tech found that college women who read "chick lit"—light novels that deal with the angst of being a modern woman—reported feeling more insecure about themselves and their bodies after reading novels in which the heroines feel insecure about themselves and their bodies. Similarly, federal researchers were puzzled for years by a seeming paradox when it came to educating children about the dangers of drugs and tobacco. There seemed to be a correlation between anti-drug and anti-tobacco programs in elementary and middle schools and subsequent drug and tobacco use at those schools. It turned out that at the same time children were learning that drugs and tobacco were bad, they were taking in the meta-message that adults expected them to use drugs and tobacco.

This is why good taste matters so much when it comes to books for children and young adults. Books tell children what to expect, what life is, what culture is, how we are expected to behave—what the spectrum is. Books don't just cater to tastes. They form tastes. They create norms—and as the examples above show, the norms young people take away are not necessarily the norms adults intend. This is why I am skeptical of the social utility of so-called "problem novels"—books that have a troubled main character, such as a girl with a father who started raping her when she was a toddler and anonymously provides her with knives when she is a teenager hoping that she will cut herself to death. (This scenario is from Cheryl Rainfield's 2010 Young Adult novel, Scars, which School Library Journal hailed as "one heck of a good book.") The argument in favor of such books is that they validate the real and terrible experiences of teenagers who have been abused, addicted, or raped—among other things. The problem is that the very act of detailing these pathologies, not just in one book but in many, normalizes them. And teenagers are all about identifying norms and adhering to them.

In journalist Emily Bazelon's recent book about bullying, she describes how schools are using a method called "social norming" to discourage drinking and driving. "The idea," she writes, "is that students often overestimate how much other kids drink and drive, and when they find out that it's less prevalent than they think—outlier behavior rather than the norm—they're less likely to do it themselves." The same goes for bullying: "When kids understand that cruelty isn't the norm," Bazelon says, "they're less likely to be cruel themselves."

Now isn't that interesting?

Ok, you say, but books for kids have always been dark. What about Hansel and Gretel? What about the scene in Beowulf where the monster sneaks into the Danish camp and starts eating people?

Beowulf is admittedly gruesome in parts—and fairy tales are often scary. Yet we approach them at a kind of arm's length, almost as allegory. In the case of Beowulf, furthermore, children reading it—or having it read to them—are absorbing the rhythms of one of mankind's great heroic epics, one that explicitly reminds us that our talents come from God and that we act under God's eye and guidance. Even with the gore, Beowulf won't make a child callous. It will help to civilize him.

English philosopher Roger Scruton has written at length about what he calls the modern "flight from beauty," which he sees in every aspect of our contemporary culture. "It is not merely," he writes, "that artists, directors, musicians and others connected with the arts"—here we might include authors of Young Adult literature—"are in a flight from beauty . . . . There is a desire to spoil beauty . . . . For beauty makes a claim on us; it is a call to renounce our narcisissm and look with reverence on the world."

We can go to the Palazzo Borghese in Rome and stand before Caravaggio's painting of David with the head of Goliath, and though we are looking at horror we are not seeing ugliness. The light that plays across David's face and chest, and that slants across Goliath's half-open eyes and mouth, transforms the scene into something beautiful. The problem with the darker offerings in Young Adult literature is that they lack this transforming and uplifting quality. They take difficult subjects and wallow in them in a gluttonous way; they show an orgiastic lack of restraint that is the mark of bad taste.

Young Adult book author Sherman Alexie wrote a rebuttal to my article entitled, "Why the Best Kids Books are Written in Blood." In it, he asks how I could honestly believe that a sexually explicit Young Adult novel might traumatize a teenaged mother. "Does she believe that a YA novel about murder and rape will somehow shock a teenager whose life has been damaged by murder and rape? Does she believe a dystopian novel will frighten a kid who already lives in hell?"

Well of course I don't. But I also don't believe that the vast majority of 12-to-18-year-olds are living in hell. And as for those who are, does it really serve them to give them more torment and sulphur in the stories they read?

The body of children's literature is a little like the Library of Babel in the Jorge Luis Borges story—shelf after shelf of books, many almost gibberish, but a rare few filled with wisdom and beauty and answers to important questions. These are the books that have lasted because generation after generation has seen in them something transcendent, and has passed them on. Maria Tatar, who teaches children's literature at Harvard, describes books like The Chronicles of Narnia, The Wind in the Willows,The Jungle Books, and Pinocchio as "setting minds into motion, renewing senses, and almost rewiring brains."

Or as William Wordsworth wrote: "What we have loved/others will love, and we will teach them how."

* * *

The good news is that just like the lousy books of the past, the lousy books of the present will blow away like chaff. The bad news is that they will leave their mark. As in so many aspects of culture, the damage they do can't easily be measured. It is more a thing to be felt—a coarseness, an emptiness, a sorrow.

"Beauty is vanishing from our world because we live as if it does not matter." That's Roger Scruton again. But he doesn't want us to despair. He also writes:

It is one mark of rational beings that they do not live only—or even at all—in the present. They have the freedom to despise the world that surrounds them and live another way. The art, literature, and music of our civilization remind them of this, and also point to the path that lies always before them: the path out of desecration towards the sacred and the sacrificial.

Let me close with Saint Paul the Apostle in Philippians 4:8:

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

And let us think about these words when we go shopping for books for our children.

Why Teach & Study English from The New Yorker

"To have turned the habits of reading and obsessing over books from a practice mostly for those rich enough to have the time to do it into one that welcomes, for a time anyway, anyone who can is momentous. English departments democratize the practice of reading. When they do, they make the books of the past available to all. It’s a simple but potent act...

Why should English majors exist? Well, there really are no whys to such things, anymore than there are to why we wear clothes or paint good pictures or live in more than hovels and huts or send flowers to our beloved on their birthday. No sane person proposes or has ever proposed an entirely utilitarian, production-oriented view of human purpose. We cannot merely produce goods and services as efficiently as we can, sell them to each other as cheaply as possible, and die. 

Some idea of symbolic purpose, of pleasure-seeking rather than rent seeking, of Doing Something Else, is essential to human existence. That’s why we pass out tax breaks to churches, zoning remissions to parks, subsidize new ballparks and point to the density of theatres and galleries as signs of urban life, to be encouraged if at all possible. 

When a man makes a few billion dollars, he still starts looking around for a museum to build a gallery for or a newspaper to buy. No civilization we think worth studying, or whose relics we think worth visiting, existed without what amounts to an English department—texts that mattered, people who argued about them as if they mattered, and a sense of shame among the wealthy if they couldn't talk about them, at least a little, too. It’s what we call civilization."

Read the entire article here:  The New Yorker 

Orson Pratt quote on Population

"And what will he do when this is filled up? Why, he will make more worlds, and swarm out like bees from the old hive, and prepare new locations. And when a farmer has cultivated his farm, and raised numerous children, so that the space is beginning to be too strait for them, he will say, “My sons, yonder is plenty of matter, go and organize a world, and people it; and you shall have laws to govern you, and you shall understand and comprehend through your experience the same things that we know.” And thus it will be one eternal round, and one continual increase; and the government will be placed under those that are crowned as kings and Priests in the presence of God." 

~Orson Pratt “A General Funeral Sermon of All Saints and Sinners;
Also, of the Heavens and the Earth,” Sermon Delivered on 25 July 1852

Monday, August 5, 2013

Utah's REAL Investment in Education Goes Unmeasured

Did you know that per student spending is about the dumbest way possible to measure anything about education? It is. Look, I'll prove it. Try taking what you make in Utah and living on it in San Francisco. See. Another example: New York spends the most per student at $19,000+ and Utah spends the least at $7,000+. However, I have family who live in New York where it costs more than three times as much for the housing, goods and services we have here (more than 4X more in the cities). So, is our spending proportional to top per-pupil spending states? Yes.
If you take education spending in Utah rather as a portion of the average household income, we rate near the top. If you determine education spending as a percentage of our state budget, we are near the top.
Did you also know that if you consider the percentage of household income Utah spends on it's students we rank THIRD (that's #3 in the nation). And, did you also know that Utah spends 100% of state income taxes on education and 64% of taxes collected overall. This does not include the portion of property taxes allotted to education or what is even more valuable the time donated by so many (often highly educated) volunteers. There is also something called Purchasing Power Parity.. basically what you can actually purchase for your dollar compared with what someone else can get for theirs... No state compares to Utah. 

Don't let anyone ever tell you that Utah doesn't invest in education. I would hold Utah up against ANYWHERE in the world.

If you consider something called Purchasing Power Parity.. basically what you can actually buy with your dollar... No state compares to Utah. 

*** Notes

  • HERE Utah spent more of its money on public education than most other states. In terms of spending as a percentage of all state and local government spending, it ranked 3rd in the nation, while in terms of spending as a percentage of personal income, it ranked 2nd.
  • Utah spent less money on each child’s education than any other state in the nation. Also, Utah’s average class size has been larger than any other state’s.
  • This article shows a few ways of cooking the books. .. like not including the money spent on higher ed. Also the national ranking on per pupil spending does not include building construction. "Utah ranks at the top in education spending when you include money spent for higher education," Jerman said. "Utah has made a decision to spend a higher proportion of its education money on higher education than other states do."

    More information will be added...

Sunday, August 4, 2013

LDS Prophets Quotes & References on Education

What Every Freshman Should Know by President Boyd K. Packer
I have found it general true that a professor who ridicules faith and religious beliefs and downgrades patriotism, who continually presses for the loosening of the standards of campus discipline for both faculty and for students, is a very interesting subject for study. A student would do well to look him over. 

Prominent Educators vs. Religious Leaders

And also trust no one to be your teacher nor your minister, except he be a man of God, walking in his ways and keeping his commandments.  Mosiah 23:14

BYU Collection of talks and quotes on Education

LDS Scriptures on Education

He that walketh with wise men shall be wise; but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.
~Proverbs 13:20

Quotes About Education from LDS Church Leaders