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ILLA Blogs

Commentary and reviews by classical Lutheran education commentators.

Huck Finn vs. Aunt Sally

Aunt SallyAlthough the United States was born in the Enlightenment, it was bred in Romanticism. The conflict in American culture between the two traditions is wonderfully memorialized in Huckleberry Finn in the standoff between Aunt Sally, who belongs to the school of Plato and St. Augustine, and Huck Finn, who is a Wordsworthian:

. . . if I'd'a' knowed what a trouble it was to make a book, I wouldn't'a' tackled it, and ain't a-going to no more. But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can't stand it. I been there before.

   Huck is confident that he will maintain his happiness and virtue better out in the Territoy, close to nature,than he will in town, near civilization and Aunt Sally. But there is little in human history to justify this Romantic faith.

    The conflict between our Enlightenment and our Romantic views of human nature continues unabated in American culture today. Lately, there has perhaps occurred a tempering of our optimism about the beneficence of things natural and the innate goodness of human nature -- the tragedy of the Vietnam War, the halt in continually rising prosperity, the omnipresent television scenes of genocidal conflict throughout the world, the violence among children in our schools -- this drumbeat of tragic experience has tended to qualify our anti-tragic Romantic faith in the inherent goodness and dependability of the human child when allowed to follow its own development. Increasingly, there has been a questioning of the belief that all will be well if the child is encouraged to grow naturally like a tree, and there has been a renewed interest in the idea of moral education -- a kind of symbolic reinstatement of Aunt Sally.

-- From The Schools We Need by E.D. Hirsch, pp. 77-78.

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Teaching Music Without Compromise

"How would I teach music if I didn't have to compromise?"  This question is pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking for some people, but it's not an unimportant question.

David Vandewalker, assistant band director at Georgia State University, as part of a presentation to the Smith Walbridge Directors Clinics, lamented that when he started teaching music, he didn't know the definition of a "music educator:" a "Special events administrative manager for a community-oriented small business with a serious music problem."  This is a hard pill to swallow for students in music education preparatory programs who think they are going to spend more of their professional lives "doing music."  I would estimate that in most cases, only 10-30% of the "job" involves music.

Does it have to be this way?  How would you teach music classically if you did not have to compromise?  Please comment below.

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The Catechetical Service

Catechetical ServiceSince the publication of The Lutheran Hymnal (TLH), no hymnal produced by The LCMS has contained "A Form for the Opening and Closing of Christian Schools." We, however, follow this delightful little order (found on pages 50-52) as a signifcant part of our worship life each week.

Besides containing two of the Six Chief Parts (The Apostles' Creed and The Lord's Prayer), the order explicitly has a place for "The Catechism" at which point the pastor turns to the gathered student body and faculty asking, "What is the Second Commandment? and "What does this mean?" hearing in reply what the students have been practicing in their Weekly Catechesis recitations.

Following that recitation, all join in singing the corresponding hymn or stanza from Luther's catechetical hymns -- but we don't always sing the entire hymn. So, for example, in the week for The Second Commandment, we sing stanzas 1, 3, and 12 of TLH 287, That Man A Godly Life Might Live, or again, in the week when The Fourth Petition is assigned, we sing only stanza 5 of TLH 458 Our Father, Who in Heav'n Above.

Then comes the sermonic instruction based on an appointed Bible memory verse which is included in our Weekly Catechesis booklet.

After the sermon, treated as a "proper" of the service, we sing TLH 288, Lord, Help Us Ever to Retain the Catechism's Doctrine Plain. In just three stanzas, this delightful little hymn includes a simple poetic reference to each of the Six Chief Parts.

One further interesting detail: for the psalmody, the portions of Psalm 119 are assigned. This psalm has much to say about godly instruction and the number of its sections match up with the number of the portions of the first three chief parts. It is only at the point of "What is meant by 'Amen'?" that we have to draw upon other psalms to finish the second half of the year. These psalms are selected from the recommendations in TLH, pages 166-168 based on the church year.

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Motivate . . . or Enliven?

Some teachers like to put up motivational posters to dress up their classroom and inspire their students. While good quotes from various authors can be thought-provoking, their words don't bear the promise of the Holy Spirit. We like to enliven our students with God's living Word by which He upholds all things (Hebrews 1:3).

Phil 4 8Philippians 4:8 is a passage which we take to heart in classical Lutheran education: "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things. " These are the adjectives we prefer to use regarding schoolwork instead of cool, fun, exciting, and awesome.  Using foam board, a circle cutter, some paperclips, mini Christmas ornaments and ceiling clips from FFR, Inc, (ffr.com, Cleveland, OH), I made these medallions for my classroom to serve as touchstones throughout the year. When going over student work, I might ask them, "Which of those adjectives best describes your work?"


PosterThen, I also found a website which would let me design my own "motivational" posters. I used the adjectives from Philippians 4 and associated other Bible passages with them (see below). I added pictures from Luther's Wittenberg with the anniversary of the Reformation in mind. (This triangular ceiling clip is also from FFI.) Lastly, as you might be able to see on the bulletin board in the background, I used a program to enlarge a photo I took in our sanctuary. This program simply enlarges the photo automatically so that it can be printed on 8.5 x 11 sheets of paper and then stitched together.




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Amusing Children?

In her 1953 survey and critique of Canadian progressive education entitled So Little for the Mind, Hilda Neatby wrote (in a style that might seem tongue-in-cheek):

"The crowning virtue of the modern school, the secret of all its success is that the children do what they want to do, or they want to do what they are doing. 'They have such a good time.' In music, they learn no theory: it is such hard work. They play on a tonette by numbers.

"In art, the object of the programme from Grade I to VIII is 'to give the child confidence in his own ability and to instill a sense of achievement and satisfaction in what he is doing,' an art supervisor is reported as saying.And, in answer to the natural inquiry about the child with little or no ability, 'I have never seen a child's picture yet that hasn't something good in it.' As the child alone knows what he means, 'he is right in the way he draws it' and he gets a sense of continued achievement, a feeling of 'I am really good.'

"But should it be a 'major aim' of the school either to amuse the children or to make them feel that they are 'really good'? Would it not be better to avoid complacency as well as frustration by providiing healthy and vigorous occupations for the mind?" (pp 203-204).

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