Friday, October 23, 2015

Education Is Not The Filling Of A Pail, But The Lighting Of A Fire

One can never be “finished” learning.

    The learning process begins very early; formally with the start of an organised education regime, informally simply by existing. It is impossible to go a single day without learning; why, even in attempting that, you will learn something: that it is, in fact, impossible not to learn from trying not to learn.

    I bring up this topic because I’ve noticed among acquaintances a tendency to limit high school education to only having read a certain number of books, taken a certain number of classes, earned however many credits, etc. This is an odd idea, but nevertheless widespread and widely practised. Being myself a voracious reader, I cannot imagine limiting myself to only a narrow list of books for my entire high school existence. Why, then, do teachers (and yes, parents, I am afraid, are also some of the very worst offenders) feel the need to put a hold on learning after the student has finished whatever class they are taking? It is as if the “pail” referenced in the opening quote has been filled, and no more learning needs to be put into it.

That explains what education should most decidedly not be. Limiting education is detrimental to the formation of an active mind. There is no valid reason to stop a student from learning.

Here is what learning should be; the lighting of a fire. This means nurturing, from the early years, the innate wish in all of us to know more of the world, people, and places around us. This begins in the home with parents reading aloud to the children, with fairy tales, with classics such as the Little House books, and, most importantly, with parents displaying a positive attitude to reading, writing, and learning in general. Reading is seen by many as a necessary, but somewhat laborious task, and it is seen by still others as a joy, and something to be looked forward to instead of dreaded.

The pail of education will be filled, but for those who burn with the flame of learning, the fire will never be quenched. Despite all the proclamations of kids being “finished” with their schooling, this can never be fully true. Learning cannot be made to stop, no matter how hard we try.

Maura Tuffy

Information is Not Knowledge, and Knowledge is Not Wisdom

Information is not knowledge, and knowledge is not wisdom.
--Russell Kirk

This is a very striking quote; it is striking in its profound truth. Many people today are misinformed, and at the heart of their misinformation lies the staunch belief that they are, in fact, very informed indeed, thank you very much, and that their “information” is actually knowledge. And most of these persons will not accept that they are misinformed; they have a kind of closed-minded obstinacy, bred from years of studying just to take another few tests, from learning only the facts needed to get through life with success--and success means having a high-paying job.

  I am certain that Mr. Gradgrind from Hard Times would be simply chuffed at the state of the American educational system; one can picture him beaming (if such a sour personage can even be imagined to beam) and rubbing his hands as he earnestly exhorts all the young to learn facts, and only facts. There is no room for stories, no room for fairy tales.

  There is no room for stories, fairy tales, epic adventures of heroes such as Beowulf, etc., because they encourage intellectual individualism (e.g., knowledge). There is absolutely no room for that sort of nonsense in the ultra-diverse times we live in; good heavens, if we had a few young people standing up for virtue and heroism there might be some kind of terrifying revolution! People who think differently, including and especially the young, are a threat to the dull sameness of society. The conservative way of thinking is a detrimental factor to the formation of modern America.

  As has been observed by many, misinformation, starting in schools nationwide and continuing throughout life, is one of the main reasons America is the way it is. Classic works of literature need to make a comeback; logic must be taught to enable people to understand the fallacies of the world; and above all, we must make the important distinction between information, knowledge, and wisdom as three very separate (but also closely related) ideas.

Maura Tuffy

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Islanders

Beyond the waves, long gone by now, there once was an island, quite small, 

Yet it was our home. We lived there, all of us, and it was all ours. 

Invaders came, and sacked the town, quietly lying on the coast. 

Their dragon ships, flat, long, upon the waves of the blue-green Irish Sea. 

Approaching the bay, in the deep darkness of an autumnal night, 

We did not see them, until they, everywhere, raised such a wild cry 

That we all started up; too late, the damage long done, and all wrecked. 

And now we, desolate, are left, living here, in the northern lands. 

Maura Tuffy

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Way of Beauty Programme at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts


At the beginning of this week, I was fortunate enough to attend the Fall Open House at the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, New Hampshire. I’ve been to Open House before (more times than I care to admit!), but this time there was the addition of a class to the visitors’ schedule; the Way of Beauty programme.

  Held in the newly updated Art Room under the Library building, the Way of Beauty introduces students to perceiving truth, goodness, and beauty through art in a way that is profoundly Catholic in its presentation and content. It recognises the need for sanctity and truth in art, and presents that through classical masterpieces and writings.

   While we visitors were there in the Art Room, we read an essay by Josef Pieper, entitled ‘Only the Lover Sings: Art and Contemplation.’ This essay expresses in a clear and concise manner one of the most prevalent issues of our time; namely, the inability to notice and appreciate the details of everyday life.

   The writer of the essay notes that “man’s ability to see is in decline.” He does not mean, however, that our sight is becoming increasingly poorer (although that may also be true, noted one of the teachers wryly) but that there is too much to be seen for us to actually perceive even a half of it.

   Most average people are far too caught up in the ever-updating world of technology to see the glory of creation, and in that the sub-creation of art. The Way of Beauty brings students on a journey of discovery, not only of self, but of the wonder of the natural world. Only by being introduced to truth by literature, art, and philosophy can we hope to have even a slight grasp of the awe-inspiring gifts that God has granted us.

Read more about Thomas More College at:

Maura Tuffy

Friday, October 9, 2015

Gollum as a Mirror to Man

Any of us who have either read Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit or watched the movie adaptations (a poor substitute for the brilliant books, most especially in the latter case) are familiar with the small, crouching, creeping, and somewhat pathetic figure of Gollum--Gollum, who once led a happy life on the banks of a river, who had friends, and enjoyed fishing. We, like Gollum, all have special things we enjoy doing, whether it be reading, sports, or painting; but, also like Gollum, none of our lives are perfect, and many lives, like his, may spiral all too swiftly into a perilous depression and ruination.

  Gollum was once known as Smeagol. He lived by the water with his family, but one day while boating with his friend Deagol, a Ring came into his possession. Came into his possession? Not quite. Rather, when Smeagol saw Deagol with the Ring his friend had found on the lakebottom, Smeagol was enslaved, body and soul, causing him to kill his friend for the Ring, afterwards isolating himself from his family and running off to hide in the caves under the Misty Mountains. A violent beginning, but nonetheless true. As writer Joseph Pearce says, “The thing possessed possesses the possessor.” Gollum, the possessor of the Ring, was in turn possessed by the Ring. He was no longer the owner, but the owned.

  This scenario of losing control over a possession in this way presents itself in many other areas besides Lord of the Rings. A very obvious case is addiction, which is as much a disease of the soul as it is of the body. Like Gollum, the addict knows he is in some way afflicted, longs to get away from it, even denies it; but deep in his mind, is still conscious of there being a deeply-rooted problem. Hate and rejection of self begins to set in, and also rejection of offers of help from family and friends. This is exactly what happened to Gollum. Hidden away, curled up in his little dark cave under the Mountain, he slowly withered under the burden of the knowledge that the Ring had enslaved him, and that he could do absolutely nothing to help himself. When the Ring was found by the most unlikely of people, (a hobbit by the name of Baggins) and taken from him, he pursued it through his life, right to Mount Doom, where he gained it back--thinking that his dearest wish. But even there, when he had the Ring safe in his hand and all seemed right, his desire for the evil of the Ring was shown to be so bad as to be punishable by death. And so Gollum, clutching his evil lovingly close, went with it into the burning flames of Mount Doom.

  It does not always have to be this way. As seen in the case of Bilbo, it is possible to escape from the evil and in the end, sail away into the Undying Lands, or, in our case, die happily. Remember the story of Gollum next time you see yourself forming a bad habit. Remember where that habit can take you. Don’t fall into Mount Doom with sin!

Maura Tuffy