A Teacher's Writes

One teacher's thoughts on life, literature, and learning

Writing a good memoir involves a battle with pride

Getting to the truth of oneself, though, requires more than just a good memory or even the maturity of self-awareness. The quest to truly know oneself, especially on the page, comes down to a battle with pride, the pride that always wants to see oneself as better or smarter or meaner or any other superlative than what reality has given.

“No matter how much you’re gunning for truth, the human ego is also a stealthy, low-crawling bastard, and for pretty much everybody, getting used to who you are is a lifelong spiritual struggle,” Karr writes. “Start trying to bring yourself to the page, and fear of how you’ll come off besets even the most forthright. The best you can hope for is to rip off each mask as you find it blotting out your vision.”

– Charity Singleton Craig at The Curator

I wish I’d bought that album on CD instead of on iTunes

I think my fascination with owning digital music has just about exhausted itself.

It happened officially when we got a new computer. The old one was eleven years old and I had long ago disconnected it from the Internet, using it mostly to organize some files and type Word documents. I packed it up and put it in the garage, thinking its life was through.

Then I activated iTunes on our new machine and attempted to download the songs I had purchased years ago, but it wouldn’t let me. I had reached the number of devices I was allowed to put my music on and would have to de-authorize a device in order to activate a new one. The devices I could de-authorize include the eleven year old almost non-functional computer I’d put in the garage, a laptop I once used at work but that has been removed from inventory, and my current work-issued laptop that gets wiped clean every summer (requiring me to re-authorize iTunes each time).

Surely my situation results from my own negligence and not considering Apple’s policies. Possibly if I spend an hour working on it I can clear it up. I don’t care. To my mind the only important thing is to realize if I had bought the CD of Yo-Yo Ma and Chris Thile playing the Goat Rodeo Sessions, I would be able to listen to it on my new computer.


Russell Moore describes a dynamic of More Community, Less Crime

If one lives in a community where people know one another, trust one another, and can call an neighbor (armed, if necessary) to help where needed, crime rates tend to be lower. This is not, I suspect, a case of “more guns, less crime” as much as it is “more community, less crime.” This is quite different from some of the big cities in this country, and increasingly our suburbs, where we do not know the people around us, and have no one to turn to but to the government to protect us from criminal enterprises that are often guarded with (usually illegal) guns.

We should listen, I think, to the rhetoric behind the rhetoric of the gun control debate. Both sides are often scared. They are scared of violence, often with good reason. The gun control advocate wants the government to protect him from gun-wielding criminals. The gun-rights supporter wants his gun to protect him from gun-wielding criminals. The gun control supporter trusts an armed government; the gun control opponent trusts an armed community.

Both sides of the debate are longing for the kind of civic community that is slipping away in a globalizing, urbanizing America.

Russell Moore, bringing up some ideas I had not considered regarding the conversations about gun control (though I admit I have mostly not monitored the various conversations about gun control, so perhaps Moore is not the first to suggest these things. . . . but I think they’re pertinent nonetheless).

The Counter-productivity of internal bickering in the church

“Do all things without grumblings and disputings.” Because so many of us are prone to such behavior, it is easy to dismiss this as a very “mundane” matter; but the very fact that Paul spends so much energy giving biblical and theological support to it suggests otherwise. This is spoken in the context of their–and our–being God’s children in a very fallen, twisted world. Our corporate behavior, especially as that is reflected in our attitudes toward one another, goes a long way in determining how effectively we “hold firm the word of life” in such a world. Thus, evangelism is the the bottom line, and internal bickering among the people of God is thoroughly counter-productive activity. (257-58)

– I’m thoroughly enjoying Gordon Fee’s commentary on Philippians.

The Awkwardness of Politicians Quoting the Bible

The trouble with politicians using biblical quotations is this: It’s hard, and most of them think it’s easy. The Bible-quoting politician usually ends up sounding self-important, disingenuous, ill-informed or all three at once. The quotation almost always sounds contrived, as if it’s been dropped into the speech because the audience expects something religious or spiritual, not because it clarifies or illustrates an important point. . . .

Presidential candidates speak every day in a vast array of forums and settings, and I’m sure I’ve missed some of their biblical references that aren’t available online. Even so, one generalization does suggest itself, namely, that the candidates who might be expected to drop the most biblical quotations into their speeches — Carson and Ted Cruz — generally don’t. Carson speaks mainly about his own biography and general cultural trends. The one reference I’ve found (above) was mentioned in response to a question; otherwise he’s not a prolific Bible quoter. And Cruz, for his part, spoke at the aforementioned Liberty University — indeed he announced his candidacy there — and didn’t quote the Bible at all.

You wouldn’t expect Chris Christie or Martin O’Malley to use biblical quotations, and they don’t, from what I’ve been able to find. You would expect Carson and Cruz to use them, and for the most part they don’t. Maybe these candidates know something that many of their competitors fail to grasp: that their listeners won’t be impressed by clumsy and superficial uses of sacred words.

Barton Swaim for The Washington Post

Something drove Marble Jones to an exceptional life

As she talked of the church, I thought of your grandfather, the one you know, and how his first intellectual adventures were found in the recitation of Bible passages. I thought of your mother, who did the same. And I thought of my own distance from an institution that has, so often, been the only support for our people. I often wonder if in that distance I’ve missed something, some notions of cosmic hope, some wisdom beyond my mean physical perception of the world, something beyond the body, that I might have transmitted to you. I wondered this, at that particular moment, because something beyond anything I have ever understood drove Marble Jones to an exceptional life. (139)

– Ta Nahisi Coates, Between the World and Me

“But persistent or not, the myth of the unemployed humanities major is just that: a myth, and an easily disproven one at that. Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce has been tracking differences in the employment of graduates from various disciplines for years, demonstrating that all graduates see spikes and troughs in their employment prospects with the changing economy. And AAC&U’s employer surveys confirm, year after year, that the skills employers value most in the new graduates they hire are not technical, job-specific skills, but written and oral communication, problem solving, and critical thinking—exactly the sort of “soft skills” humanities majors tend to excel in.”

Reblogged from Alan Jacobs. I’ve been telling people this for years, ever since I declared my English major as a college freshman. At no point have I felt unqualified or un-competitive in the work force. I’ve felt at times like I might need to move away from a small city that lies out in the middle of nowhere, but in that I’m far from alone, and that has little to do with my choice to major in English.


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