Sep 24, 2016

Off-site Highlights: Reading Books and Chasing Heroes

(Compiled by Anna)

The internet may be helping us all to lose our attention spans, and so on,--(squirrel!)--but without it, I'd miss out on a lot of fascinatingly thought-provoking writing. Here our your semi-weekly reading recommendations. As always, I don't necessarily agree with every author in entirety, but I appreciate what they have to say.

1. I love this piece about learning to slow down and to read in a more human way.

Where Her Whimsy Took Me: Learning to Read with Dorothy Sayers by Veery Huleatt
"I had trained myself to gallop through books and journals, armed with multicolored hi-liter pens and a stack of Post-its. Technology had only accelerated my slide. Thanks to Google Books, I could ditch the hi-liters and give the impression of having painstakingly combed through Fear and Trembling—“impressive reading and research,” one professor commented—with only a few minutes of scrolling. I had perfected the skill of tweaking, recasting, challenging, interpreting—a skill that had saved my life more than once in the over-caffeinated hours of early morning. But I had sold the soul of the literature for it." More.

2. Looking for a reading list? This blogger suggests that these are the books C.S. Lewis may have considered most important.

3. I suppose this article can be summarized as a defense of the idea that children need books about things that are excitingly mundane. Or perhaps mundanely exciting. 

Not Duffers, Won't Drown by Sally Thomas
"To my mind that’s a potent revelation: that a child’s pretending both develops from and stokes the desire for real action and experience. I wonder, actually, whether a child can know what it is that he desires without imaginative time and space, predicated on a certain amount of benign parental neglect, in which to enact, through his play, some private vision. Though he might not ultimately want to be the precise thing he has pretended to be—a sailor or, as in the case of my own son, a Star Wars commando—he needs to play these things as a way of laying down, in his mind, sections of a road that will take him to what he does want." More.

4. Earlier this week I posted an article about romance novels and teen girls. My piece focused on choosing the right books, but Suzannah's thought-provoking post is about looking for the right way to read.  

"Reading in the House of Busirane" by Suzannah Rowntree
"Even better, readers should live active lives grounded in the real world. They should know something about life. They should cultivate relationships with real people, and if they are girls, they should certainly cultivate relationships with real men. They should get used to thinking of others before themselves, and seeing both their faults and their strengths through the eyes of others. Fiction can tell us the truth about the world, but it can also tell us a lie about the world. And so the best way to distinguish which is which is to live discerningly in the real world. Books, of course, are a part of the real world, and so being widely-read is another help in the battle to know the truth." More.

5. I appreciated this piece by Gracy Olmstead of The Federalist about the need for classic literature in the classroom.

6. Are you the parent of a high school student? You might be interested in this new standardized test. The creators hope that it will become a viable alternative to the SAT and the ACT (it's already accepted by a number of smaller universities). A full-ride scholarship is currently being offered to the first student to get a perfect score.
"Classic Learning Initiatives exists as a small component of a much larger contemporary endeavor to repair the rupture between intellectual pursuit and virtue.  The ancient Greek philosophers stressed the same basic ideas about education that home-school parents and classical school educators affirm today.  How someone learns to think, what they read, and how they live, are all intricately connected.  Mainstream education in America is failing because the pursuit of virtue, as classically understood, has been lost.   
"Ironically, even the best classical schools and Christian colleges defer to the big 'value neutral' standardized tests when looking for a measure of an applicant’s intellectual capacity. Historically, colleges have had to defer to these tests because they were the only tests available.  Now, however, the Classic Learning Test (CLT) offers students, colleges, and parents a third option.  Students can take a shorter exam at a local testing center, receive their score in less than a week, and have their score sent directly to any of the colleges listed on our site."  More.

7. On the one hand, the right stories help us to learn about each other in a way no recitation of facts could ever provide. Yet on the other, we have a tendency to use emotionally-charged narratives to "prove" a point or to rally others to a cause. This can be dangerous. 

"The Treachery of Narratives" by Alastair Roberts
"Images and narratives don’t merely personalize issues, they also tend to blind us to a vast array of complicating factors that come into view when we approach issue from a more global and objective vantage point. Not only do such narratives and icons typically greatly distort our perspective of the larger phenomena they purport to provide a window upon, they also have a peculiar propensity to fall apart under examination or over time." More

8. The ever-insightful Rachel Lu points out the uneasy connection between the desire for heroes and the danger of populism.

"Our Republic Doesn’t Need Imaginary Flight 93 Heroes" by Rachel Lu
"Conservatives especially have a yearning for heroism. We yearn for bold, chivalrous figures the way that liberals crave activism. It grows out of an inchoate sense that the age of miracles is behind us, and that it was better and more meaningful than our own era. Liberals imitate Dorothy Day or Martin Luther King Jr., but we miss Lancelot. Squinting back through the mists, we try to catch glimpses of times when brave men did unambiguously noble things without first applying to a bureaucratic office for a license." More.

On-topic from the archives:

- Anna talks about the way stories shape beliefs and can make it either harder or easier for someone to understand the Gospel: Infiltrating the Arts: A Subtler Form of Apologetics and The Conflict Between "Art" and "Message"

- Katie Schuermann talks about the bad theology she absorbed as a teenager from "wholesome," "Christian" fiction and the crisis of faith it provoked in She's On Her Last Breath.

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