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A Phony Education

Feb 8, 2024

A Phony Education by Julian Kwasniewski at Crisis Magazine. Far from making us better members of our clan, the smartphone makes us serfs to surfing, bound more surely—in our case, to algorithmic feeds—than those Indo-European prisoners of war who were the opposite of *priHós so many thousands of years ago. Jon Haidt’s Substack After Babel has presented extensively researched articles on the effects of social media on the most recent generations, especially those now college-aged. The results are not good. Essentially, mental health declines in a direct proportion to how early in life someone starts using a phone and how much time they spend on it. The freedom of communication, of being able to “look up” anything at any time, or “link up” with anyone for any reason, is not freedom. Read


Social Media, Tweens, and Teens: Data, Consequences, Solutions by Sister Renée Mirkes at Catholic World Report. Behind tween/teen social media addiction are two chemicals produced in the brain: dopamine and oxytocin. Scientists have shown that dopamine actually creates want or desire, causing young social media users to seek, to desire, to search. What stimulates dopamine? Precisely the stuff of a social media ecosystem: unpredictability, small bits of info, and a variable reward system…. The human brain also releases oxytocin, sometimes called the “cuddle chemical,” when the person feels affection or connection. Studies show that within 10 mins of social media use, the tween/teen experiences a 13% rush of oxytocin, equivalent to the hormonal spike of people on their wedding day! …. Social media companies like Meta, hiring the best computer programmers and psychiatric specialists, optimize the science of addiction to keep young social media fans “hooked.” Read


Can ‘Catholic Joy’ Save Society? This Growing Network of Catholic Schools Says ‘Yes’ by Peter Pinedo at Catholic News Agency. Half of adult Americans who were raised Catholic no longer practice the faith, according to a study by the Pew Research Center. In addition, Pew has found the number of “nones” or people who do not identify themselves with a particular religion in the United States continues to climb. To Dale Ahlquist, a Catholic author, speaker, and president of the Gilbert Keith Chesterton Society, the root of the problem lies in a “crisis” in education. Yet, Ahlquist believes that a growing network of Catholic schools based on the thought and writings of G.K. Chesterton just might have the solution. Rooted in the “truth, goodness, and beauty” of thousands of years of Catholic tradition and buttressed by an ever-expanding network of high schools across the country — 59 and counting — more and more Catholic parents are opting to send their teens to a “Chesterton Academy.” Read


Much Not Many: The Pedagogical Principle of Going Deep by Christopher Perrin at Renewing Classical Education. “No one has time to do more than a very few things well before he is twenty, and when we force a boy to be a mediocrity in a dozen subjects we destroy his standards, perhaps for life.” …. Here [C.S.] Lewis notes that by trying to teach too much we risk destroying the standards of a student, perhaps for life. Teaching too much content (and too many courses at a time) actually impedes learning, reducing the chances that students will taste and see the beauty of Dostoyevsky, Augustine, algebra, physics, or Mozart. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and there is such a thing as a teacher who tries to teach too much. Could that be you? Read


A Guide to Parent-Teacher Conferences by Kyle Blackmer at The Heights Forum. Working toward this shared vision is the foundation for trust between parents and teachers. When both parties know that they are on the same team, with the same goal in mind, namely, the good of the child, an effective partnership can exist. This trust is an essential ingredient for successful parent-teacher conferences. Once we assume a shared vision, I believe the onus for strengthening this trust between parents and teachers then falls on the teachers, who need to communicate to the parents, through word and deed, a loving care for their children. Of course the parents love their child. They want to know, “Does his teacher love him?” Read


Catholic Schools That Teach Life Begins At Birth Aren’t Just Anti-Christian, They’re Anti-Science by Brooke Stanton at The Federalist. The alarming truth is that science education standards in the thousands of Catholic schools across the country are glossing over the scientific reality that a new human life begins at the start of the biological process of fertilization, or what most Catholics understand as “conception.” It’s a fact that students may hear in their theological studies (regarding pro-life issues), but not in the science classroom, which is bizarre because the humanity of a human embryo or fetus isn’t a theological proposition. It’s science. It belongs in life science and biology lessons, which is precisely where Catholic school students are not encountering it. Worse, in some Catholic schools, students are being introduced to the erroneous idea that organisms including human beings begin to exist at birth. Read 


The Secret to College Success by Mark Bauerlein at First Things. I kept waiting to hear of success, achievement, twenty-first-century skills, workplace readiness, global citizenship, diversity, inclusion . . . and none of it came up. I asked about the readings in Belmont courses—the abbot sits on the board of the school and serves as chancellor—and he noted that students read Marx, Nietzsche, and other irreligious voices. I bet they learn the arguments better than kids do at UNC-Chapel Hill. An important part of the curriculum, the abbot insists, is modern challenges to Catholic belief as launched by the smartest intellects. A cloistered virtue is not the goal. Read


Why Theology? by Randall Smith at The Catholic Thing. St. Peter bids us “always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope which is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15) Are we ready? With answers that help people understand their faith so they can live it more fully in a fallen, complicated world? If not, perhaps we should be reading more good theology and fewer angry blog posts…. There’s no getting around it.  People have questions.  And we better have good, well-thought-out answers, or we’ll lose them.  And sadly, too often, we do. Read


‘Trust Has Been Broken’: After Trans Policy Fallout, Controversy Still Simmers at St. Mary’s College by Jonathan Liedl at National Catholic Register. [I[n November the all-women’s Catholic college found itself uncomfortably in the spotlight after its plan to admit male students identifying as females became public…. Concerns about St. Mary’s fidelity to its Catholic identity aren’t necessarily new. But community members say the shock of the proposed policy has been a galvanizing force for raising wider awareness of the college’s current trajectory and for bringing like-minded individuals together to do something about it. “This was so far from Catholic teaching,” said Shannon Ferguson, a parent of a current student, who started the Facebook group. “I think it just alerted so many people.” Read


Mission-Oriented Institutions Should Learn from Catholic University by Jeremiah Poff at Washington Examiner. It’s not every day that you see a university fire a professor a week after teaching material in a class that violates the employment contract that the professor signed, and for this, Catholic University should be commended. But the episode should also be instructive. Universities and institutions with a very defined mission like Catholic University are all too often hesitant to respond to employees who actively undermine the mission of that institution. Goldberg is free to believe what she wishes, and there are any number of colleges and universities out there that have no qualms about hiring a professor who is perfectly fine with lectures describing a “seahorse birth.” But there should be no expectation that such beliefs should be promoted in the classroom at a place like Catholic University. Whether or not the mission of an institution is carried out successfully daily depends on its personnel. Read


Missouri AG Orders School District to Cease Teaching Radical Gender Ideology Without Parents’ OK by Elizabeth Troutman at The Daily Signal. Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey this week ordered a local school district to “cease and desist” teaching students about human sexuality, including gender ideology, without parental consent ahead of time…. “Failing to notify parents in advance, failing to provide parents with the content of the instruction and materials, failing to clearly offer an opportunity to opt out, or failing to uphold a parent’s opt-out decision violates Missouri law and represents a direct assault upon parents’ rights,” Bailey, a Republican, wrote to John Simpson, superintendent of schools for the Webster Groves district. Read


Throwback Thursday


The Universal Call to Hobbitness by Julian Kwasniewski at Crisis Magazine on December 19, 2022. When will we wean ourselves from the palantírs of smartphones and social media? …. “We are the mediocre; we are the half-givers; we are the half-lovers; we are the savorless salt,” Caryll Houselander wrote so piercingly in her poem “Afternoon in Westminster Cathedral.” Let us regain our savor. Let us become full-givers and all-lovers. But to whom, and of whom? We are most obliged to give to and love our family. The obligation to love neighbor as self finds its fullest extent in our spouse and children, whom we have both unique and frequent ways of loving and giving ourselves to. Recognizing the “universal call to hobbitness” should give us an even fuller appreciation of this as we remind ourselves of how the incarnation has transformed the ordinary things of this life. Read

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