Jewish World Review July 19, 2011 / 17 Tamuz, 5771
By Paul Greenberg
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Dear Professor,
It was wholly a pleasure to get your email seconding the motion that we permit the study of the Bible in the public schools. It gives me an opportunity to write a few words in defense of what used to be called First Things.
But we will always have with us those who argue that teaching the Word, right out in public and all, as in public schools, would violate the separation of church and state. I'm rather attached to that wall myself. As a Jewish kid, I grew up under its protection.
But those who say separating church from state means ignoring anything to do with religion in the public schools have forgotten there's a difference between teaching and preaching. Leave it you, a teacher, to know the difference. And to explain it so well:
"If in the schools I teach Homer or Aeschylus, whose works feature references to ancient Greek gods and whose works are based on ancient Greek religious sensibilities, am I teaching the children to be pagans? If I teach the Vedic scriptures to our children as part of their education in Indian civilization, shall I similarly be accused of trying to turn them into Hindus?
"The Greeks used the term 'barbarians' to refer to other peoples who did not understand the Greek language and, by extension, did not understand or value the unique aspects of Greek civilization. In the context of Western civilization, I believe the appellation of barbarian would apply well to all those in our society who would deny instruction in the Bible to our children."
The Bible is still a powerful book, even in this biblically illiterate age. It must be to arouse such intense opposition to its study, lest the young fall under its spell. That's not education; it's fear.
Yours for words and the Word,
Dear English Teacher,
It was wholly a pleasure to get your note agreeing with a column of mine about writing -- as opposed to Creative Writing. And opposed they are, to judge by all the attempts I've seen to reduce writing to a fill-in-the-blank, color-by-the-numbers, follow-the-steps, capital-P Process.
There are few things an inky wretch finds more assuring than agreement from someone who actually knows what she's talking about. And you clearly do, having been there. To quote from your note:
"I was a teacher for many years and was at constant odds with my principal over teaching 'creative' writing. Strange course. No one can teach a child to be creative. I taught one summer in a special program for promising kids, and every kid there agreed with me. I loved what they wrote -- I didn't instruct, just appreciated."
There is an art and discipline to appreciation, too, as the best critics demonstrate. There can be more talent in a work of criticism than in the work of art being appreciated/dissected. See the literary criticism of
The last line of your note was particularly assuring: "I hated workshops, too." They say common tastes unite people, but surely there's no stronger bond than a common distaste. A distaste for the way writing is now taught, for example.
To quote Editor Fitzhugh, "the writing sought is almost inconceivably superficial, formulaic, sentimental, solipsistic and bland. It is hard for anyone concerned about writing to understand how these and other groups concerned about 'Adolescent Literacy' keep their standards so very low...." It's a challenge but our educantists are up to it, or rather down to it.
It's my theory that no one civilized can pronounce the words
Be well and stay strong,
It was wholly a pleasure to receive your critique of my column titled "Critique of Pure Reason" in homage to Herr Kant.
From you I learn that my hero and guide
Oh, yes, and that
All that was news to me. (It still is.) But where would one begin to straighten out such misapprehensions, and why bother? Some claims refute themselves just by being made.
As for Ms. Rand's books being literary masterpieces, it would be more accurate to call them ideological manifestoes, as brittle as the Marxism they were reacting against. No wonder her books are still all the rage among adolescents of all ages. The best and shortest description of her novels I've ever run across is "comic books without the pictures."
Yep, Burke was a libertarian,
Whenever confronted by such interesting propositions, I think of the old copy editor who told the cub reporter: "Son, you done misspelled
A fellow can learn an awful lot by writing a newspaper column and waiting for the responses to roll in. And I mean an awful lot.
Wishing you a full and speedy recovery, though not holding out much hope,
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