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ILLA Blogs

Commentary and reviews by classical Lutheran education commentators.

Eratosthenes' Calculation of the Earth's Circumference

Today marks the autumnal equinox (also see the equinox pages at Earth and Sky) -- which is also known as the beginning of astronomical autumn (in distinction from the meteorlogical autumn).

There is a myth that the autumnal and vernal equinoxes have a special property which enables eggs and brooms to balance in a unique way. Today might be an opportunity to demonstrate how to debunk a myth. Students might also like to consider measuring a shadow (perpendicular to the ground), erecting a sun dial, or marking the point on the horizon where the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening - something which can also be done using an app like "The Photographer's Ephemeris," or viewing a simulation on a website.

However, it was on a summer soltice that Eratosthenes calculated the circumference of the earth using some "simple" geometry (n.b. geo = earth and metry = measure). Thinking ahead a few months . . .  I wonder if some classical Lutheran schools around the country (or the world?) might re-enact Eratosthenes' experiment on the next December solstice -- or perhaps the following June -- and communicate their findings via Skype . . .

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When Lutheran Schools Close

The statistics are alarming. Enrollment in Lutheran schools is declining sharply and Lutheran schools are closing in greater numbers over the past 25 years.

In his 2014 work entitled, When Lutheran Schools Close: A Study of Ministries Under Stress, Rev. Dr. Richard Zeile examines the decline of Lutheran Schools in Detroit, Michigan, during the 1990's. Ten Detroit Lutheran schools that closed during the decade 1990 to 1999 (The remaining ten closed by 2010) were examined by comparing statistical data, leader surveys, and the author's participant journal to compare the interplay of theory, fact, and assumption. The failure to acknowledge demographic trends, with an inadequate theology of church growth, led to dysfunctional responses on the part of congregations, staff, and district officials. Theoretical questions, so often neglected by participants in ministry, go to the heart of institutional integrity which requires shared vision and values, as well as a sober cognizance of circumstances. A theology of the cross, which recognizes that God is with His servants even (or especially) in failure, and thus prizes faithfulness rather than institutional success, is needed to provide an authentic basis for the ministry of Christian schools in times of stress.

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Give Your Websites A Widget

With a little knowledge of embedding code into a webpage or an HTML block, a fair number of tools and interactive time-spacers can be made available to students through WIDGETS.

I place widgets on our Moodle course pages for our students to spend their time engaging in some wordplay or history if they have completed their other assignments. These widgets have proven to be more beneficial than other things they might be doing. They could also be placed on a schoo;'s home web page.

Check out the examples for "This Day in History" or "Word of the Day" at The FreeDictionary by Farlex which makes the HTML/CSS code for widgets available here.

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Manly Singing

There may be adolescent boys who are opposed to singing because it doesn't seem manly enough.

These two video clips may be of some use -- even if they do nothing more than to give some courage to a music teacher who has to face the formidable opponents of such boys in a music class:

Non nobis, Domine is sung by the victorious troops after the Battle of Agincourt in which their opponents had been heavily favored.

Men of Harlech was sung in the Michael Caine film, Zulu, as a response to the Zulu war chant when the British were about to be overrun by the tribal warriors in the Battle of Roarke's Drift.

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How to Pronounce Latin

Sometimes, those brave teachers new to Latin (i.e. those having a go a teaching something they had not previously learned) are worried about how to pronounce the Latin. I try to tell them not to worry about it too much, even if "Mr. Chips" nearly lost his teaching position for objecting to the "modern" approach to Latin pronunciation (1939).

There are several different schools of thought about pronunciation, e.g. "classical," vis-a-vis "ecclesiastical." There is no shortage of material on the subject - one might even consult Quintilian's Institutio Oratoria, Book I.xi.4ff, (Loeb, p. 185) who took the matter quite seriously:

"What then is the duty of the teacher whom we have borrowed from the stage? In the first place, he must correct all faults of pronunciation, and see that the utterance is distinct, and that each letter has its proper sound. There is an unfortunate tendency in the case of some letters to pronounce them either too thinly or too fully, while some we find too harsh and fail to pronounce sufficiently, substituting others whose should is similar but somewhat duller. For instance, lambda is substituted for rho, a letter which was always a stumbling block for Demosthenes . . ."

There you have it. If Demosthenes had difficulty, we might also. We might, then, be attentive, but flexible so that the matter of pronunciation while learning does not altogether become an impediment to the progress which we hope to make.

To this end, some might appreciate this resource: Read it Right (though, if it ought to be "Read it Rightly" some things might be suspect from the outset).This comes to us from the Association for Latin Teaching, which I became aware of through the Classical Association. (When one applies for the free membership with the Association for Latin Teaching, one also get access to their Latin teachers' forum and back issues of The Journal for Classical Teaching.

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