A Little Help From My Friends

Readers, if you teach at a private Christian school where seniors are required to write a thesis, I am curious to know what sort of subjects your seniors are presenting on. If you are willing to share them, I would love to look over a list of senior thesis statements/subjects from the last several years. Feel free to redact all the names before sending them.

For what it’s worth, I am trying to get a sense of what level of sophistication the seniors at most classical schools are capable of arguing. You can email me personally or email me through Gibbs Classical.

Oat Milk, Goat Milk, Boat Milk

Tom: What do you take in your coffee?

Harry: I’m allergic to cow’s milk. What else do you have?

Tom: I’ve got oat milk.

Harry: I don’t like the taste.

Tom: I’ve got goat milk.

Harry: It’s so expensive.

Tom: I’ve got boat milk.

Harry: Boat milk? What’s that?

Tom: It’s part of Lockheed Martin’s new line of mecha-milks. They take old boats, planes, and cars, grind them up very fine, add water and some other stuff, and presto! Boat milk is available in regular, vanilla, and extra creamy. I’ve also got some plane milk, if you’d like to try it.

Harry: Wow, what’s it taste like?

Tom: It’s got a delicious metallic flavor I can’t get enough of. Besides it’s good for the planet. Recycling old forms of transportation is about as eco-friendly as it gets!

The American Version Of Submission

Michel Houellebecq’s Submission (2015) is the story of a secularist college professor named François who must figure out what he actually stands for after France is (mostly) peacefully, democratically overtaken by Islamists and something like Sharia law is imposed. His university gives him a generous severance package, but offers him even more money if he will convert and come back to teach. Most of his colleagues convert. François becomes more amenable to the idea of conversion when he discovers that he can keep drinking and smoking after he converts, and that the new university provost might even help him find a wife or two.

Someone really needs to write the American version of this story. Everything is the same, except it’s a Christian at a Christian college that is becoming increasingly woke.

Cultivate Virtue, But Get Real

Student: I’m worried that our class just isn’t moving fast enough through the material. We’re not getting much done.

Teacher: Well, a classical education isn’t about covering material. It’s about cultivating virtue.

Student: No one is cultivating virtue in your class. That’s the problem. You spend so much time every day lecturing the boys on why they shouldn’t talk out of turn, why they shouldn’t distract you, shouldn’t distract each other… We never accomplish anything. It’s just a lot of pointless scolding.

Teacher: Well, your class can be quite unruly.

Student: Actually, your class is unruly. Those boys don’t mess around in our other classes.

Teacher: Really?

Student: No. They sit quietly and listen for Mr. Boone and Mrs. Sanders.

Teacher: Why do you think that is?

Student: Because they’re sort of afraid of Mr. Boone.

Teacher: Well, I don’t want students to be afraid of me. As someone who cares about the cultivation of virtue, I am going after the hearts of my students.

Student: That’s not working either. The boys in my class despise you. They call you “Mr. Twinkie Talk” behind your back. They love Mr. Boone, though.

-from my latest for CiRCE

Adult Slang: “Adjacent” Is The New “Pivot”

Remember back in 2020 when everybody wanted to use the word “pivot”? Journalists, critiques, commentators, everyone really, loved an excuse to use the word “pivot.” It was so modern, so edgy, and sounded so informed and zeitgeisty.

Now everyone wants to say “adjacent.”

“This coffee isn’t fruity, but it’s fruit-adjacent.”

“This movie isn’t horror, but it’s horror-adjacent.”

“You don’t sound like an idiot, you’re just idiot-adjacent.”

Were adults always so much like teenagers?

I am surrounded by teenagers all day, every day, and they similarly cycle through words which make them feel important, words by which they identify themselves as being sophisticated, contemporary, and in-the-know.

With teenagers, it’s amusing. With adults, it’s pathetic.

Is Classical Education Sustainable?

“Yet many school leaders misunderstand the basis of culture, seeing it as something produced more by a shared vision than by shared behavior. In other words, they emphasize the ends while giving insufficient attention to the means. In the classical sphere, many leaders commit this error because they are more comfortable in the world of ideas than in the world of people. People are messy and complicated and require structures and disciplines. They require organizing principles and accountability. To lead and manage them is difficult work that often feels removed from the transcendental beauty classical education is meant to seek.”

-from Erik Twist’s Classical Education Needs Discipline and Vision, an absolute must read

Skipping School

“In the last several years, your school may have developed a “vacation problem,” as a colleague of mine recently put it. A “vacation problem” is a tendency among school families to take long vacations in the middle of the school year. Your school may have had vacation issues prior to 2020, but pandemic policies inevitably led many families to take a much looser stance toward school attendance. For the last two years, many in-person classes were also available online, which meant a time share in Florida was just as likely as a positive COVID test to make a student absent for a week. While online options have ended, many families are still willing to take extended vacations in the middle of the school year and assume students can just get makeup work upon their return. The truth is quite a bit more complicated, though.  

If a student misses five days of class to go to the Bahamas, why should a teacher give up several hours of their own time to help that student upon their return?”

-from The Vacation Problem, my latest for CiRCE

10 Favorite Music Videos Of All Time

10. Across the Universe, Fiona Apple (Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson)

9. Gosh, Jamie XX (Directed by Romain Gavras)

8. Lost Cause, Beck

7. Let Forever Be, The Chemical Brothers (Directed by Michel Gondry)

6. Virtual Insanity, Jamiroquai (Directed by Jonathan Glazer)

5. Bachelorette, Bjork (Directed by Michel Gondry)

4. Just, Radiohead (Directed by Jamie Thraves)

3. Wrong, Depeche Mode (Directed by Patrick Daughters)

2. Live With Me, Massive Attack (Directed by Jonathan Glazer)

1. Rabbit In Your Headlights, UNKLE featuring Thom Yorke (Directed by Jonathan Glazer)