Conservative Commentary in Monty Python’s Life of Brian

How telling that common sense satire, so subversive 30 years ago, is now so contrary to political correctness that it may well now constitute a hate crime.  Here, we see the logical failure of sexual identity politics in the real world, and the juvenile futility of the anti-imperialism bandwagon.

 

 

Speaking of Aardvarks…

One of the hardest things to do naturally as a teacher is to transition smoothly and logically from one topic or activity to another.  Sometimes lessons are closely related; often they’re not.  Sometimes a useful transitioning device will present itself; usually they don’t.  I’ve been quite fortunate to discover some pretty clever ways of connecting disparate material at times (“So that’s how Romeo and Juliet ends.  Speaking of teenagers wanting to kill themselves, it’s time for you to write an essay!”)

However, at some point over the years, when the muse failed to bestow upon my mind any genuinely useful means of segueing from one portion of class time to the next, I started to simply say, “Speaking of aardvarks,” and would then launch into whatever was up on the agenda, freely ignoring any need for continuity. 

Most students respond to this fairly well, except for those few who a) have no idea what an aardvark is or b) are now honestly confused because they think they missed something important in class about aardvarks. 

I suppose I could go with the old Monty Python standard of, “And now for something completely different,” but I like how the aardvark line hints at the frustrated desperation we pedagogues feel, and how funny it can be to give up on something. 

Oh, and speaking of aardvarks, you should like this blog on Facebook, recommend it to all of your friends, enemies, and in-laws, and patronize the nascent swag shop.

Real Multiculturalism

The fatal flaw with our society’s obsession with “multiculturalism” is that it is really nothing of the sort–there’s no anthropological searching for the best of various cultures so we can integrate them into each other’s, there’s no melding of multiple heritages to create a new and stronger fusion, and there’s certainly no understanding that these activities exist with awareness of some cultural values being more productive than others, more in line with the greater, general traditions of civilization than others. 

Allan Bloom, in his spiel against relativism in The Closing of the American Mind, makes this point when he notes that only Western European civilization has ever shown any interest in exploring and investigating other cultures.  What politically correct history calls colonialism, we might better call sharing and learning.  Remember the scene from Monty Python’s Life of Brian when the zealots indignantly ask, “What have the Romans ever done for us?” only to find themselves rattling off an ever-growing list of benefits of their unequal cultural interaction.  Bloom also laments that we no longer learn foreign history or languages as well as we used to–for all the bewailed closed-mindedness of previous generations, no one can deny that they took the rest of the world far more seriously than we do now.  Now, as Bloom further and incisively recognizes, all that is required is to feel good about other cultures. 

This is the thorn in the side of any rational multiculturalism: this refusal to admit that not every facet of every culture is equal and deserves to be celebrated.  Continue reading

Quotes, Pics, and Clips VI

I’m resurrecting an installment I used to do, a bite-sized anthology of things I had recently seen or been thinking about in the various areas that interest me.  Here are the first five parts of this series: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V.

ARTS

Like him or not, it’s fun watching Jackson Pollock work:

EDUCATION

“The more computers we have, the more we need shared fairy tales, Greek myths, historical images, and so on….The more specialized and technical our civilization becomes, the harder it is for nonspecialists to participate in the decisions that deeply affect our lives.”  –E.D. Hirsch, Cultural Literacy, 1987.  (I highly recommend this great article about Hirsch’s new book.)

HUMOR

I’ve used this clip in Forensics and English 102 classes to make a point about the nature of debate and persuasion:

LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE

Something I’ve been impressed by as I pick my way through this masterpiece is how Tolstoy dwells at intervals on both the honor and heroics of conflict as well as the strain and loss.  His vision is truly majestic.

“What’s this? Am I falling? My legs are giving way,” thought he, and

fell on his back. He opened his eyes, hoping to see how the struggle of

the Frenchmen with the gunners ended, whether the red-haired gunner had

been killed or not and whether the cannon had been captured or saved.

But he saw nothing. Above him there was now nothing but the sky–the

lofty sky, not clear yet still immeasurably lofty, with gray clouds

gliding slowly across it. “How quiet, peaceful, and solemn; not at all

as I ran,” thought Prince Andrew–“not as we ran, shouting and fighting,

not at all as the gunner and the Frenchman with frightened and angry

faces struggled for the mop: how differently do those clouds glide

across that lofty infinite sky! How was it I did not see that lofty sky

before? And how happy I am to have found it at last! Yes! All is vanity,

all falsehood, except that infinite sky. There is nothing, nothing, but

that. But even it does not exist, there is nothing but quiet and peace.

Thank God!…”

–Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace, Part III, chapter XVI

LIVING WELL

The older I get, the more I enjoy sports.  I’ve watched a lot of clips like this:

POLITICS AND SOCIETY

 “The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If `Thou shalt not covet’ and `Thou shalt not steal’ were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society before it can be civilized or made free.”

–John Adams, “A Defense of the American Constitutions,” 1787

RELIGION

I love this story, which I call “the parable of the kite.”  I’ve used it in teaching struggling disciples and my own children:

The second thing that has helped me receive these blessings is the principle of courageous obedience. I am so grateful for God’s gift of laws and commandments. Peace, hope, and direction are outcomes of striving to live the teachings of Jesus and obeying His laws and commandments. The scriptures teach, “Great peace have they which love thy law” (Ps. 119:165). They also teach that “he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come” (D&C 59:23).

While Brother Pinegar served as president of the Provo Missionary Training Center, as you can imagine, we often talked to the missionaries about the feelings of happiness and peace that accompany courageous obedience to true principles. We talked of the influence of the Holy Ghost that comes to those who are obedient. We encouraged the missionaries to make obedience their quest. I enjoyed telling them the story of the little boy who went to the park with his father to fly a kite.

The boy was very young. It was his first experience with kite flying. His father helped him, and after several attempts the kite was in the air. The boy ran and let out more string, and soon the kite was flying high. The little boy was so excited; the kite was beautiful. Eventually there was no more string left to allow the kite to go higher. The boy said to his father, “Daddy, let’s cut the string and let the kite go; I want to see it go higher and higher.”

His father said, “Son, the kite won’t go higher if we cut the string.”

“Yes, it will,” responded the little boy. “The string is holding the kite down; I can feel it.” The father handed a pocketknife to his son. The boy cut the string. In a matter of seconds the kite was out of control. It darted here and there and finally landed in a broken heap. That was difficult for the boy to understand. He felt certain the string was holding the kite down.

The commandments and laws of God are like the kite string. They lead us and guide us upward. Obedience to these laws gives us peace, hope, and direction.

–Patricia P. Pinegar, “Peace, Hope, and Direction,” October 1999 General Conference