1. Thanks to Carl for saying something about the fine Douthat column on Princeton. I appreciate his Austenish correction to the advice that a woman should go to Princeton to find a husband worthy of herself. Now more than ever, college women need older men. There’s no way most Princeton guys are ready to marry. You could argue they should be. But they haven’t been “raised right,” and it’s not like Princeton is going to make them more mature.
2. On the pro-life front: It turns out Roger Ebert was pretty darn anti-abortion, saying that even kids conceived through rape and incest are innocents who deserve a chance. And it turns out that Jimmy Carter (who recently switched from being Baptist to Episcopalian in the name of the equality of women) still believes that Jesus would not approve of abortion. So he’s advised the Democrats to at least become more pro-choice about being pro-choice to attract the votes of those egalitarian Christians who believe that true egalitarianism is inclusive enough to include the unborn. He reports his advice, so far, hasn’t worked any better with the Democrats than it did with the Southern Baptists.
3. One reason I’ve been negligent on blogging is that I just hosted a conference at Berry on liberal education and higher education. There were a huge number of good moments. America’s leading Socratic these days–Nalin Ranasinghe–eloquently objected to the elitism that equated full liberal education with the rare courage for full self-examination. He reminded us that liberal education is not just or mainly contemplation (a word that Aristotle uses with ironic exaggeration) but a kind of activity that is within the reach of all of us–or at least most of us.
4. Nalin reminded me of the thought of St. Augustine: As a Platonist, Augustine is fine with the thought that contemplation and action are two different modes of living. But no one should be so devoted to contemplation that he disdains the work of charity. And no one should be so busy with work that there’s no time to reflect on who you are as a relational person made in the image of the personal, Trinitarian God. So every human life should include both contemplation and action.
5. I also learned that we shouldn’t forget, especially in higher education, that ASSESSMENT begins with ASS. One participant suggested that we should go along with some assessment so as not to be overwhelmed by more of it. We can adjust our way of life so as not to have it utterly destroyed. I was reminded, as a resident of northwest Georgia, of the Cherokees. They were told by Congregational missionaries to take on many of the ways of the white man so that their community might remain in place and rule itself. So they took up farming, got themselves their own written language, their own constitution, and even their own slaves. But the greedy redneck Jacksonian democrats ran them out anyway. Adjustment didn’t do them any good.