Reading the Unwoke

Since I have it on good authority that I should be made to live up to my own rules in order that the Glorious Worker’s Revolution can take place, I got some reading to do. If I have one rule about reading/research, it’s go to the source first. Then, once you’ve taken a respectable crack at understanding what writers have to say for themselves, read commentaries and summaries if necessary or desirable.

gramsci
Antonio Gramsci. His father was a bureaucrat from a well-off family who did time for embezzlement, and his mother the daughter of landowners. Definitely not a prol – they were poor because daddy was an incompetent crook – and definitely had daddy issues – the classic Red profile. 

Thus, recognizing that I’ve never seriously read anything but summaries and excerpts from Gramsci and Alinsky, I cruised the ever-helpful if hegemonically managed internets, and downloaded some – stuff. Knuckle up. 

Also skimmed some Gramsci online. Based on a few of his many journalistic articles I looked over, my enthusiasm for the task of working through his prose is well contained. Starting with Kant, who in his defense can be said to be merely an innocent victim of the lack of writing talent (maybe), subsequent philosophers have discovered the value in being as verbose and obscure as possible. This puts the writer in the position of always being able to accuse critics of not understanding him, and allows him to stand figuratively with Newton and Einstein – geniuses whose thoughts are legitimately hard for almost everyone to understand. Newton and Einstein are hard to understand, see, yet have proven foundational to scientific understanding – just like me and philosophy! Woohoo!

That it’s perfectly possible, in fact more likely, that hard to understand writing is the product of muddled thinking and bad ideas, is a notion not allowed standing. Nope, when I say stuff like “Dasein’s experiential-bodying-forth as being-in-the-world with-Others” I’m showing, not an inability to use English or, more fundamentally, to think my way out of wet paper bag, (1) but that I’m *deep*. Right. 

Gramsci, based on the slight fairly random sample of his newspaper editorials I just read, can in fact form perfectly straight-forward sentences and even string a few together. (2) This is not nothing, far from it, and I am grateful. However, he will then turn around and write: \

Understanding and knowing how to accurately assess one’s enemy, means possessing a necessary condition for victory. Understanding and knowing how to assess one’s own forces, and their position on the battlefield, means possessing another very important condition for victory.

You mean, maybe, “To win, you must know your enemy and know yourself, and where you stand.” That whole “possessing necessary conditions” is the tag that says “I’ve read Marx! And Hegel!” but otherwise adds nothing, or, since I’ve read them, too, can be said to be empty of concrete reality. But, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I am much more enlightened than Gramsci. He is so unenlightened that he fails to see his stage of enlightenment as merely a stagnant backwater, a stage long subsumed and suspended in a synthesis itself long subsumed. History, to continue to speak a language he would find familiar, has unfolded yet further stages of enlightenment far past his, until, finally, it unfolded me! 

It’s how the rules of wokeness work: the less woke simply cannot understand the more woke. Until you get woke, the mechanics of which make the mysteries of human participation in redemptive grace seem trivial, you Just Don’t Get It. Therefore, my standing as a World Historic Individual (to continue to use language familiar to the tragically less woke) will simply be invisible and incomprehensible to poor Gramsci and his ilk. Just the way it is.    

Moving along: as evidenced by the increase in blog post frequency, I’m feeling better these days. I’m now antsy to finish the shameful backlog of half-read books I’ve started and petered out on over the last, well, year or two? So a book-review-alanche may be in the offing. 

The list includes, among many others: 

  • School of Darkness, Bella Dodd
  • The Great Transformation, Polanyi (almost done, darn it!)
  • Parish Schools, Timothy Walsh (actually a reread of sorts. But I never really reviewed the book as a whole.)
  • That goofy book on r/K selection theory (actually finished, but did not review)
  • The Man Who Was Thursday (only have about 70 pages to go! Why did I stop?) 
  • Philosophy of Spirit, Hegel (reread. Stalled out after the Preface 2 years ago. Sheesh.)

And so on and so forth. 

And then I’ve got to find a job or otherwise figure out how to get to a financial place where we can retire. Suggested to the wife this morning that we simply move to Costa Rica. We could live like minor nobility down there! The picture look good, and they have internet!  And we’d be a 1,000+ miles from all our friends and family! 

Right. So look for a job it is. Plus – I’m not even brave enough to face this yet – there’s this small boatload of stories and 15,000 words of a novel and that book on the history of Catholic education I’m pretending to write by reading other books and creating mountains of notes… Soon, and very soon? 

  1. It dawns on me – I’m slow, sometimes – that I’ve used this expression a couple times without explanation, which may not be fair. If it’s clear, pardon my pedantry, if not: It’s a play on a possibly obscure boxing insult: “He couldn’t punch his way out of a wet paper bag.” I’ve loved this since I first heard it, because it captures the failure of a presumed expert to execute that upon which their expertise is predicated. A boxer who can’t punch even through damp paper isn’t even a boxer. Thus so-called intellectuals who can’t think their way out of a wet paper bag. Well, it amuses me.
  2. Or maybe his translator. The translators of Hegel, for example, have been accused on occasion of reading more coherence into the text than is actually there.  But I think not in this case. 
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Some Monday Links and Asides

In the too cool department: Some animated satellite orbits, with representations of speed, altitude, etc., all linked up so that if you click on anything, you get background information.  Looks like this: 

This is just a picture. The original is animated so that you can get a feel for the relative speeds involved, and has the links.  

I found it trying to research a sky-hook type element for a story, you know, to make it all sciency and stuff, and then of course burned an hour or two checking it out. (Not about to do pages of math to figure this out, but will google around a bit.) Did you know that there’s an  Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee ? I do now. If you go to the link and click on Graveyard Orbit, that’s the kind of stuff that will turn up. 

Not sure if I’m happy or sad there was no internet when I was a kid. 

David Warren is at it again, elegantly and wittily telling us we’re all so, so doomed. He pens such gems as: 

It is the policy of the High Doganate to discourage rioting, even in France.

and 

For many of the older citizens, this must bring 1968 to mind. I know that I felt a twinge (ah, to be fifteen again, and wiser than those passing through their “terrible twos”). Indeed, Paris — where I once learnt the cobbles are numbered on the bottom so they may be put back in place after they’ve been used for missiles — has been unusually peaceful this last half-century. There used to be a revolution every ten or twenty years, and lesser annual uprisings over this and that. I can understand nostalgia.

and

But, according at least to me, the French are not unrepresentative of humankind. 

I have not made it to France yet, although I have flown over it to get to Italy a couple times. Should try to make it before I die, or before Notre Dame is replaced with a victory mosque. Whichever comes first. 

The phrase “sans-culottes” is one of those many phrases or words I have to google every time I see it. Just won’t stick. So here’s an experiment: if I blog about forgetting it, will I remember it? 

If this works, you may be seeing a lot more words and phrases I can’t seem to remember. 

Life in the past is neither rosy nor relentlessly desperate, even if it did run more often than not a lot closer to the relentlessly desperate end of the scale. But just because we would panic and despair if we were forced to live as medieval peasants doesn’t mean they were panicking and despairing. Mostly, it seems their lives were pretty OK by them. They certainly had the time and energy to build a large number of very nice buildings, for example, something relentlessly starving, desperate people can’t really do. You don’t build things that take lifetimes to complete if you’ve despaired. 

Was thinking of the Battle of Towton, specifically the Towton grave. This was the bloodiest battle of the War of the Roses; the Towton grave contains a few dozen of the estimated 28,000 men who died that day. On the one hand, this battle reinforces the notion that the Middle Ages were barbarically violent. On the other hand, the 38 men who were buried in the Towton grave were, first of all, fit enough and far enough from starvation to fight. In an article I of course can’t find at the moment (my google-foo has failed me!) the writers described that the bones were of men age about 16 to 50, mostly sturdy individuals with, for example, their teeth largely intact – at least, intact right up until a broad axe to the face loosened them up a bit.

Even the healed wounds tell of a life somewhat short of total desperation. Most all the skeletons showed signs of healed over injury, many having taken – and recovered from! – blows to the head serious enough to leave evidence of trauma in the skull bones! Yikes! But this shows that wounds were not always fatal, that the Medievals knew enough to take care of them hygienically enough that the body could heal even serious wounds, at least some of the time. 

Life was hard, death was close, but not so hard or close that it was not well worth living to the people living it, it seems. These people were fighting to the death, but not killing themselves in any great numbers. Instead, they built churches. Hmmm.

Thanks to all for the suggestions for what my mother in law might want to watch next. Taking a break from watching shows where good-looking people with charming accents kill each other in beautiful locales, she has settled into watching Heartland, a multi-generational soap opera – with horses! Attractive people with, sadly, bland American accents galavant around beautiful countrysides riding, taking care of talking about horses. The horses are pretty.

The plot and subplots as far as I’ve made out walking through the living room while the show is on seem to involve a lot of dramatic confrontations and arguments. So far, nobody has killed anybody that I’ve noticed. This thing has been in production for 10 season, of which Helen has gotten through maybe 2 – so there’s plenty of time still. 

The few minutes of it I have watched in passing illustrate a plot device similar to the notorious Idiot Ball: drive the plot by having people wildly overreact to every challenge and situation. On my occasional forays through the living room, I’ve seen characters engaged in vein-throbbing confrontations over business ideas, whether somebody loves her horse enough, trespassing, and butting in. Like Idiot Ball, if the people would stay calm and ask and answer a few reasonable questions, life would go on – but the show would not. Every routine interaction must become an existential crisis or challenge to somebody’s manhood or something. 

I’ve not watched more than a few minutes of soap operas over a lifetime to this point. I imagine this craziness is of the nature of the beast? 

Holiday Baking Season Prep

 As mentioned on a number of occasions, my family likes to cook.  My wife and daughters (and my late son) specifically like to bake. Now, I can made bread or biscuits from scratch, and have made any number of pies over the years, but – it’s that whole Ricardian comparative advantage/best use thing – I  don’t usually do the Thanksgiving and Christmas baking, as I’m surrounded by better bakers. 

That being said, there is a lot of prep work in pie, tort, and Christmas pudding making. That role has fallen largely to me. 

Candied Orange Peel, simmering away. It’s what I’m working on at the moment. 

Prep starts at Halloween. We avoid the giant hollow orange pumpkins sold specifically to become decorations, and instead make our jack-o-lanterns out of more tasty varieties. My job is to help with the carving and then, as soon as the last trick-or-treater is off courting insulin shock, to bake the pumpkins until soft. The next morning, after they’ve cooled, I prep the pumpkin flesh for freezing, filling little baggies with ready-to-go pumpkin pie filling ingredient.

Pumpkin thawing in the sink. Two cups each, enough for one pie. Got 4 more in the freezer for Christmas.

My kids probably didn’t know pumpkin even came in cans until they left home. Which is as it should be.  

Today, I’m making candied orange peel, a key ingredient in my wife’s Christmas pudding (with brandy butter sauce. And she sets it on fire right before serving. It rocks.) Once, years ago, I was sent to the store to get baking supplies, and candied orange peels were on the list – and Safeway had none. I said to myself, I said: how hard can it be to just make some? Ya know? So I found a recipe or 90 on line, and tried one that didn’t sound too bad. I mixed it up – we had candied grapefruit peel (excellent – one wants to, and often does, eat it like candy), candied lemon peel, and lime peel (meh.) in addition to candied orange peel. 

Unfortunately, making candied citrus peel takes several hours, and you can’t really wander off, or you’ll get rock candy or orange peel soup. Make a few varieties, and you’ve burned much of a day, for one critical but minor ingredient. However, I’m now the candied peel guy in the house, it’s tradition, and far be it from me to buck tradition. 

Then there are the apple pies. One must first peel a boatload of apples. This task also largely entrusted to me. 

Apple pies in potentia, waiting to be most fully actualized. A couple of pies worth. 

A mere 3 hours later, I now have the orange (and a small batch of mineola) peel drying. 

Mineola peel. Because I had some lying around. They’re weird. I expected them to be pretty much indistinguishable from orange peel, but – no. Not sure I even like them. Probably be good in stuff, however.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll dust them with powdered sugar, pop them on ziplock bags and toss them in the freezer – good through next Easter’s pascha and kulich.  

Grand Seneschal of the Holy Accoutrements

Not wanting to consider on this fine morning all the writing and reading and blog post drafts, not to mention job hunting, that I have not much positive to report on, and yet, today entering my fifth (5th) day in a row of not feeling like crap, we instead offer this brief interlude for your possible amusement.

My best, highest use these day is evidently providing conversation and amusement to my 80-year old mother in law, who has been living with us for the past year or so. She has weathered a number of health issues and is really doing quite well, she’s just having to deal with no more driving and not being able to live on her own. So I, spending most of these past 4 months at home, have had more time to spend with here. I’m not really kidding about this being my best, highest use. Sometimes, it’s what falls unbidden into your lap that is what needs to be done.

My base mode of human interaction is to avoid it, but where that’s not possible or desirable, I default to joshing kidder mode. I can only hope other people take this well. They do tend to smile a lot, while backing slowly toward the door…

So: whenever we take grandma out (she’s grandma to the kids, mom to Mrs. Yardsale, and Helen to me. This can get confusing), we have to round up 1.) her sunglasses; 2) her reading glasses; and 3) her rosary. Can’t leave home without them.They usually reside on the table next to the recliner she often occupies in the living room, where she has spent many hours viewing British murder mysteries on Netflix.  We do something, usually daily Mass, just about every day, and then there’s doctor’s appointments and physical therapy, so she’s out and about quite a bit, which suits her fine.

Once Helen was feeling better and we fell into this routine, we also fell into the practice of assigning someone to wrangle the three items mentioned above every time we head out the door with her. A while ago, I both assumed this duty and decided that grandma’s stuff needed a name less cumbersome and more evocative than “grandma’s sunglasses, reading glasses and rosary.” Thus, the Holy Accoutrements. As we head out the door, one would hear “I’ve got the Holy Accoutrements!” or “Anybody seen the Holy Accoutrements?” This amuses me and Helen.

Grand Seneschal of the Royal Accoutrements, per original specifications

Holy Accoutrements cannot be entrusted to just *anyone*. So, after some consideration, I granted myself the title of Grand Seneschal of the Holy Accoutrements. This also seemed to amuse Helen. It certainly amuses me. I’m in the process of deciding on the exact title for official designate who is to handle the Holy Accoutrements if I for whatever reason are indisposed to the duty. Sub Grand Seneschal is the uncomfortable front-runner. There’s got to be something a little more delicious. I want to be able to say things like: “David, discharge your duties as Sub Grand Seneschal of the Holy Accoutrements!” Few are the households whose general tenor would not be improved with such florid verbal ornaments!

(Update: 14 year old son just suggested Seneschal Inferior of the Holy Accoutrements. Raising that boy right, I tells ya!)

The other running joke has to do with a Brit murder mystery series that evidently has been in production since the Clinton Administration: Midsomer Murders. 19 seasons are on Netflix, and another 2-3 have been produced. Each visually beautiful 90 minute episode involves at least one, and usually several murders. Why  anyone would continue to live in the blood-soaked

Related image
As delivered. More or less.

insanity that is Midsomer is a question the show does not address. Sure, attractive, well dressed people talk in charming accents amidst the gorgeous English countryside – but they seem unable to stop KILLING EACH OTHER.  This leads to routine exchanges such as “Good morning Helen. Anybody still alive in Midsomer?”  We’ve made it to the end of the available episodes, and so are now exploring other shows featuring attractive English people with charming accents galavanting around beautiful setting while they engage in KILLING EACH OTHER. It’s like its own genre, a need the BBC has gone all in to fulfill. There are variations, such as a gritter drama set in Wales where slightly less attractive people with somewhat more colorful accents spend time in less charming labs and libraries doing research into why the people in the area KEEP KILLING EACH OTHER. There’s even one where an attractive, well-dressed British detective with a charming accent is sent to the Caribbean, a different but no less visually stunning setting just dripping with yet more attractive people with yet more charming accents KILLING EACH OTHER. The twist seems to be that the detective, the nominal lead, get bumped off himself, I think twice now in like 3 seasons? I’m fuzzy on the details, since I never actually watch the shows.

I spent some time reviewing the shows Netflix suggests (“Because you watched Midsomer Murders…”), trying to pick out ones grandma would like. The cable/Nintendo/Netflix/TV interface is barely within my competence, and not something she’s going to figure out, so I am her research arm. She likes her gruesome murders largely off camera. and well-dressed characters who spend more time in manor houses and on fox hunts than in labs and libraries. I thought I’d found a winner, one with Kenneth Branagh as the attractive, well-dressed detective with a charming accent, who in the little sample I saw was driving through gorgeous English farm country and meeting with a craggy old farmer about a young woman who was wandering about his fields. Sir Kenneth plays it as an English Phillip Marlowe, world-weary and little bleary eyed. He tries to talk to the young woman out in the field, who then douses herself with gasoline and sets herself on fire…

That would be a ‘no’.

Home Improvement Projects as of 10/1

Thinking back, this whole brick insanity began maybe 5-6 years ago when I asked Cindy, our neighbor on the south, is she’d mind if I put in a little brick wall down the property line between our houses. She said sure, go for it. So, initially, I was thinking maybe a 40′ long, three brick high little wall, just to tidy up the transition from lawn to her white gravel around little low bushes look.

Then, I got to thinking. This is a bad as one might imagine. What if I put in a second little wall a foot from the first, and made a nice long planter? That would be cute.

Then, the old walnut tree in the front yard needed to be taken out – slowly dying, leaning slightly toward the house, was starting to get worrisome. So, out it went, and the truly hare-brained phase began: what if, instead of a worthless front lawn, we put in a little orchard? Hmmm…

IMG_5267
As of 10/1. Pomegranates in the still a mess front yard. 

Next, I’d long been annoyed with the inevitable tire tracks on the lawn where people pulling into the drive missed the driveway. So, what if I made a little maybe 3′ wide brick path along the driveway, throw a little concrete and steel right along the edge to support the inevitable errant car tires…

We started surfing Craig’s List for free bricks. They come up regularly. Soon, we had maybe a 2,000 bricks stacked in the front yard, most needing some clean up of old mortal. we’ve continued to collect more bricks, at least 4,000 by now. I’ve cleaned the mortar off of well over 2,000 bricks. We have a large unsightly pile of mortar chips that I’ve been using to fill in under concrete whenever we need to.

But we also had a couple little trees seriously outgrowing the barrel halves we’d stuck them in, a dwarf fig and a citrus tree andrew had grown from a seed when he was quite little. Why not build in a couple stylish planters out front, and put those trees there?

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Driveway walk & planters as of 2 years ago. 

THEN, looking at brickwork pictures, saw the adorable brick ovens people make. Well, I’ve got thousands of bricks up front, how hard could it be to build a brick oven? So add that to the list.

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Only took 16 months! 

Next next, looked like grandma was going to come live with us, which she did 2 years ago. The late walnut tree had made a mess out of the walk up to the front door, lifting and cracking it. A ramp would be better for grandma anyway, and I have all these bricks. So older son took a sledge to the walk, and younger son and I poured about 3/4 of a ton of concrete to bring the surface up enough so that the ramp would meet the porch slab…

IMG_3917
With ramp to front porch and little trees! About a year ago. 

And, what the heck, after I saw how nice the planters looked with the two little trees with a bench between them, why not just keep going, build a path and some planters along the front facing the street? Then somebody tsk tsk’d me, saying that the problem with the front yard orchard is that people are just going to steal your fruit. That had never occured to me, but, hey, a wrought iron style fence along the top of the front brick wall of the planters would look great. Of course, I’d need to build some columns on the ends to support the fence…

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Nearly finished north section of the walk, planter and fence along the street, looking south. 

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Little columns came out nice. Need to put a capping row of bricked beneath the fence, will need to layout and mark where the occasional through upright spike goes, and so some careful cutting. Front yard still a wreck. 

So, as we wrap up Year Three of the massive brick home improvement project, the one part I haven’t even started yet? The wall between our house and the neighbor to the south. But it looks OK! Maybe 2 more years, and I’ll wrap it up.

If I live that long.

 

Education Reading: 9/25 Update

Still working my way through Parish School by Timothy Walch (1997) and The Catholic School System in the United States,  by James A. Burns, C.S.C. (1908), with an equal or greater amount of effort spent tracking down references and googling background information. Very enlightening.

Because it is a much shorter work, I’m up to rereading sections covering the late 1800s/early 1900s in Walch while still back in colonial times with Burns. Walch covers the controversies and appeals to the Pope over disagreements in the Catholic hierarchy in America. Archbishop John Ireland, classified by Walch as a liberal, dreams of a day when Catholics can just send their kids to public schools and be done with it. After all, Ireland says, (here reflecting late Brownson) Americanism is fully compatible with Catholicism in its respect for the individual and freedom. Catholics should not fear immersion in Americanism just so long as the overt anti-Catholicism is purged. He seemed confident that it had been purged by 1890, when he was writing. Other archbishops threw their arms up in despair – Ireland was throwing the entire Parish School movement under the bus in order to make nice to non-Catholic Americans. If the public schools were acceptable, what was the point of having had thousands of parishes and millions of immigrants sacrifice to build and send their kids to parish schools?

A couple of issues are touched upon lightly that seem to need further expansion, and one critical point is ignored.  Walch repeats throughout the text the idea that Catholics in general were envious of the comparatively well-funded and appointed public schools, with their trained and certified teachers, and that everybody knew attending a public school gave kids a leg up on getting ahead. Haven’t tracked down or even read through all his notes – there are many – but the quotations in the text that might support these views have so far invariably been from partisans in the disagreement, or at least clerics. We don’t hear from Paddy the cop or Hanz the baker or Gianni the line worker in the shoe factory on their views of pubic versus parish schools. They were probably too busy. But based on their works, the churches and schools they did build with their own money and sweat, one might imagine they would beg to differ.

We do know that certain *clerics* envied the public schools. Fr. Pace, Fr. Shields, Fr. Burns, Archbishop Ireland and other priests and bishops thought ‘modern’ ‘scientific’ schooling embodying the latest advances in ‘scientific’ psychology and ‘scientific’ pedagogy were marvels, and that the dedicated but untrained and uncertified sisters doing most of the teaching in Catholic schools were a bit of an embarassment.

Walch also asserts that non-Catolic Americans were consistently baffled by the Church’s resistance to public schools. Hadn’t the schools (eventually, after some bloodshed) removed the Protestant King James Bible from the curriculum? Sure, there was some dispute over history, where the influence of the likes of Francis Parkman made the Catholics in the New World buffoons on a good day and evil, conniving anti-Americans on most days. But hey, the morality presented in the readers and copybooks was almost identical! So, come on, Catholics, we’ve met you more than half way!

In other words, there was nothing but acceptance, nay, affection among Protestants for American Catholics, who wouldn’t dream of ramming their views down the throats of Catholic kids via the public schools. Too bad Al Smith was not able to tap into all this good will.

I think there might be more to it than that.

A far greater and less excusable omission is Walch’s total failure to include any *reasons* why Catholics in 1890 might be suspicious of the good intentions of those then in charge of public education. It is implied that their fears were largely anachronistic, based on an earlier time. But as readers of this blog are aware, such contemporary luminaries in education as William Torey Harris were pushing Hegelianism as the official view of the US Office of Education – you know, that Modernism stuff the popes kept going on about. Harris, who was in office as US Commissioner of Education at the time Ireland address the (secular) National Education Association with his pro-public schooling remarks, said:

“Ninety-nine [students] out of a hundred are automata, careful to walk in prescribed paths, careful to follow the prescribed custom. This is not an accident but the result of substantial education, which, scientifically defined, is the subsumption of the individual.”

Anything there a Catholic might object to, in principle? Harris also sought to make schools sensory deprivation tanks (“The great purpose of school can be realized better in dark, airless, ugly places … It is to master the physical self, to transcend the beauty of nature. School should develop the power to withdraw from the external world.”). Maybe somebody attending Mass in any one of the thousands of beautiful churches built by immigrants might object to this approach as being fairly explicitly anti-Catholic? No catechism in stone, just abstract thought?

So while the public schools were being lead by people dedicated to turning them into factories producing docile robots immune to beauty, the ‘liberal’ leaders of the Catholic Church were desperate to send Catholic kids to those schools, in the name of Progress and being Good Americans, and to the obviation of parish schools. In Walch’s telling, the opposition of the bishops he calls ‘conservatives’ is just this mystery, or at most them being fuddy-duddies stuck in the past.

Trying to stop getting sidelined and just finish these two books. Instead, I pulled down a short biography of Barnard, a contemporary and co-conspirator with Mann, because something Walch or Burns said made me think of Barnard…

Next up:

IMG_5216

Seaton is an obvious choice. Thoroughly expect the book on the right is another cheerleading job, but true believers tend to slip up and say what they really mean from time to time. I’ve read and briefly reviewed the Holy See’s Teachings on Catholic Schoolsbut want to reread it now, as I suspect there was more than a little judicious cherry picking going on. I remember nothing in these writings that Archbishop Ireland wouldn’t be completely down with. (He wanted the State’s role in education to be on a par with the parents and the Church. No, really, he thought that was a good idea.)

I really need to get that Educational Resources page going here…

Thursday Update: Modernism & Education & Science!

A. Ran into some very interesting stuff around the whole excommunicate Catholics who refused to send their kids to Catholic schools even when such were available and affordable. Walch tells the story differently than I’d read it before (where, I can’t remember and didn’t take notes! Never again will I not take notes! No, really, this time – for sure! It’s got to be in either the books on the shelf in front of me or in one of the myriad of links I’ve collected…)

Image result for bullwinkle this time for sure

Walch ascribes the incident to the machinations of one layman, a James McMaster, a convert who, with typical convert zeal, thought Catholics should send their kids to parish schools no matter what, to keep them out of the evil clutches of the state schools. On his own, he sent damning articles showing the evil of public schools to Rome, along with a memorandum asking if Catholics could justifiably send their kids to such schools.

This got the attention of people in Rome, who responded by sending a questionnaire to the American bishops. They responded and, at least according to Walch, were a bit put out. The pope got involved, and issued the Instruction of 1875, which favored McMaster’s take, but left things vague enough to provide leeway in the bishop’s actions. The bishops chose to ignore the instructions.

Walch’s sympathies are clearly with Progress, and he repeatedly states in this section of the book how Catholics thought their schools were often inferior to the public schools and parents concerned for their children’s futures would choose them for that reason. Besides, many if not most parishes did not have a desk in the parish schools for anything like all the Catholic children in the area. The bishops’ disregard for the rulings of Rome is seen as an inevitable and good thing. He quotes, of all people, Orestes Brownson as someone favoring having Catholic students attend public schools.

(Aside: Can’t resist talking Brownson! There’s a somewhat famous Brownson quotation deriding the very idea that the state should control education – “Where the whole tendency of education is to create obedience, all teachers must be pliant tools of government. Such a system of education is not inconsistent with the theory of Prussian society but the thing is wholly inadmissible here… According to our theory the people are wiser than the government. Here the people do not look to the government for light, for instruction, but the government looks to the people. The people give law to the government….to entrust government with the power of determining education which our children shall receive is entrusting our servant with the power of the master. The fundamental difference between the United States and Prussia has been overlooked by the board of education and its supporters.” However, this quotation is from around 1840. By 1865, Brownson was championing the idea that the US would both become Catholic by nature and necessity, and that the rest of the Western Hemisphere would convert (if necessary) and petition to join the Union. If one thinks the nation will become Catholic, then one might stop objecting to state run schools.)

The other view I’d come across was rather that some of what would now be called conservative Catholic bishops wanted the power to withhold the sacraments from anyone who could send their kids to a Catholic school and didn’t, and were disappointed with the vague answers the pope gave in the Instruction of 1875, but, obedient as they were, they let it go. By either take, this ended up encouraging people like Shields, Pace and Barns to view the public schools as some sort of ideal that the Catholic schools were to strive to achieve.

Yikes.

B. I have mentioned in passing that Fr. Thomas Shields, a scientific psychologist and pedagogue and, according to the meager sources I’ve found so far, a somewhat obscure Catholic Progressive educator, and Fr.  James A. Burns, a prolific writer and fundraiser and one time president of Notre Dame, espouse and promote ideas concurrently being condemned by popes, namely, Modernism.

Here’s somebody’s summary of Pascendi dominici gregis subtitled on the Vatican website  “Encyclical of Pope Pius X on the doctrines of the Modernists.” It’s well worth reading. This summary seems about right.

Burns first published in 1908, the year after the encyclical was proclaimed; Shields was active both before and after.  One thing I read and didn’t makes notes on (a mistake I’m trying to avoid now!) quoted some late 19th century letters among American Catholic prelates on how backwards and hidebound the European Churches were, and how we Americans had to lead them into the glorious future. That attitude would seem congruent with the writings of Shields and Barns, and would explain their (so far – have lots more to read) silence on the teachings of this and previous encyclicals.

To take it point by point – modernist?:

  • Classic philosophy does not get discussed as a basis for education; the latest ‘advances’ are touted – yes;
  • Not directly, but see catechesis  below – push;
  • Not directly, but that we are surfing the leading edge of Progress is merely assumed, with regular comments about how we used to do it poorly in the past, but now we’re doing it obviously better and scientific mow – qualified yes;
  • So far, there’s both these writers are pretty firm on dogma – no;
  • They both want to reform catechesis. On one paper I read, Shields is commended for his opposition to the Baltimore Catechism and in trying to implement the ‘findings’ of ‘scientific’ psychology to make sure children are not taught stuff too hard for them and are taught in ways that appeal to their feelings. This same author thinks Shields was vindicated in the 1960s when we *finally* ditched the Baltimore Catechism and started doing catechesis right. So that would be a – yes;
  • Burns, at least, is big on sacramentals and devotions, so – no;
  • One way to weaken the Church’s power to discipline would be to always step a little over the line and dare the proper ecclesiastical authories to react. That’s pretty much Shield’s M.O., don’t know about Burns, so – qualified yes
  • Both lead by example: Shields ignored the bishops whenever he felt like it, pushed for the professionalization of Catholic school teachers and for them to run the schools as they saw fit – moving authority from bishops to clergy and lay people. Burns is big on the Catholic National Education Association, by which Shields’ goals were pursued. This isn’t even looking at Notre Dame. This would be a big – yes;
  • See above;
  • See above;
  • N/A
  • Burns:  “In the teaching of the purely secular branches she (the Church) has had no direct interest. She took the curriculum of secular studies such as she found it, and left its development to the operation of the ordinary laws of educational growth. Outside of the matter of religion, there has been no attempt to differentiate Catholic parish schools from other denominational schools or from the public schools.” This sounds OK on the surface, but what it means in practice, and what actually happened, was that Catholic schools accepted uncritically whatever methods and content is developed for the public schools provided it can be framed up as ‘secular’ knowledge. This is not good, when the public schools first goal is to promote control and a harmony, let us say, of ideas – modernist ideas. Think psychology, history and sociology. I’ll talk about this further in another post. So – yes. 
  • This, and the next two points, are quite evident in current ‘catholic’ schools, but not yet evident in the writings of Shields and Burns – Incomplete
  • Incomplete
  • Incomplete

I think it’s safe to tentatively conclude, while leaving room for counter evidence, that since the early 20th century at the latest, our Catholic parish schools have been steered toward exactly the modernism that Pope St. Pius X specifically condemned.

I know you’re shocked.

C. Then there’s this nonsense: Bad science! Bad!.When feminists and other anti-science, anti-reason, anti-reality loonies get to decide what it is permissible to find, Orwell’s dystopia is already upon us. What the paper says and how strong its arguments are is irreverent to this point – we won’t know, because it’s not published! – merely that it can be memory-holed because of bad think.

The time to be nice has long passed. We must make a stink whenever the opportunity arises.