Many unicorns band together to form a blessing for your Saturday. In a nod to the conclusion of Current’s two-week forum on higher education, there are more recommendations on this topic than usual. But first, Homeric deodorant…
Giving every translator new goals to dream about, not only did A.E. Stallings give this magnificent endorsement for Emily Wilson’s new translation of Homer’s Iliad, but also Wilson learned this week that a deodorant inspired by her Homeric translations is in the works. Naturally, I had to poll public opinion: what does deodorant inspired by the Homeric epics smell like? A smattering of responses:
“Smells like football season in a small town where the field used to be a cow pasture (all that sweat, all that mud, all that manure) with notes of iron and wine-dark sea (ie, the Puget Sound)”
“The wine dark sea”
“Achilles’s dirty armor”
“A feast for dogs and birds”
“Blood, sweat, and tears”
“An old University of Dallas lecture hall”
“An extended metaphor”
Moving on, Current editors Eric Miller and Jay Green recommend this NYT podcast interview with Paul Tough on the question: “Is College Worth It?” The answer is mostly yes, but it’s complicated. Here’s a taste of Tough’s argument from the transcript:
I think about this earlier moment in American history, about 100 years ago. It’s this period called the high school movement. So in about 1910, only about 10 percent of young Americans were graduating from high school.
And then there was this shift in the economy where suddenly there weren’t so many jobs on farms and in simple factories, and people needed more education. And the way that communities and the country as a whole responded to that shift in the economy was by saying, all right, sixth grade education isn’t enough; we need to create these institutions in our towns in our cities that will educate people up to age 18, and we’re going to build them together. We’re going to pay for them together. We’re going to raise our taxes in order to do this.
And what was created was this incredibly well-educated, for the time, American middle class that became the most powerful economy in the world. Now the country is getting the same sorts of signals where actually 100 years later, no surprise, education up to 18 is no longer enough. You do need more education in order to succeed in this technological economy.
And instead of saying, OK, let’s get together and create a free public education system that’s going to get people another few years of education so that they can compete in this economy, we have decided to just, as you put it, throw young people to the wolves and say it’s up to you to figure out how you’re going to get to the right kind of education and how you’re going to pay for it.
Chris Gehrz, who contributed to Day 1 of Current’s Roundtable on higher education this week, expanded on his reflections on his Substack—a place where he writes regularly on education and other topics.
John Hawthorne, a sociologist who studies Christian higher education, has done a fascinating analysis of CCCU college presidents. Worth reading in full, plus there are pretty graphics summing things up. You should read John’s analysis, but here’s a taste of his recommendations:
If the Christian University is to survive the demographic cliff, the rise of the nones, and “program prioritization”, it must do so on the basis of solid academic value. Not the kind that gets reported by US News, or even potential gains in earning potential. It is the value of asking hard questions and confronting our past assumptions because our students require (and will put up with) nothing less.
And then there is the teacher/professor burnout rate… LuElla D’Amico reflects on this topic in her essay “Can Catholic Education Counteract Teacher Burnout?” A taste:
As a literature professor—someone who studies how humans make meaning of their lives through story, and as a Catholic—someone whose existence is shaped by belief in Jesus’s sacrifice—the meaning behind what I do is founded in redemptive love. That is, it is not the easy times that form us and make us better, although experiencing those moments is lovely. No. It is the burnout, the depression, the late nights when I wonder why I am teaching and if any of it matters.
By willingly enduring suffering and death, Jesus demonstrated the depth of God’s love for humanity. His sacrificial offering reconciled humanity with God and opened the way for salvation. The suffering of Jesus is understood as demonstrative of the selfless love that Christians are called to emulate.
In the context of the common good and human progress, the Christian story of love through suffering holds profound implications. This perspective encourages Christians to work toward positive change on individual and social levels, believing progress is possible even in the face of extreme challenges.
Focusing specifically on history education, over at Public Discourse Jonathan Den Hartog considers “Civic Education for Two Cities.” A taste:
The City of Man and the City of God are not the same. They have different compositions, different loves, and different ends. Yet, as communities of humans, they share some characteristics in parallel. In particular, each is shaped by its memories. Memory is tied up with identity—a point Augustine made in his Confessions. The great evil of amnesia is the loss of a sense of self, formed by situating one’s individual consciousness in relation to others and in the memories of interactions with others. Cultural amnesia can be just as dangerous. Memory must be nurtured and renewed. The challenge to keep the flame of memory bright was captured by the observation of Czech novelist Milan Kundera—that the struggle for liberty and against tyranny is “the struggle of memory against forgetting.” Shaping the two cities in which faithful believers find themselves thus requires attention to a history that supports memory.
Another historian and (former) homeschool dad, David Head, presents a parent’s perspective on “How to Fix Florida’s Scholarship Program for Homeschoolers.” A taste:
Recently, however, a new Florida scholarship that offers educational savings accounts to homeschooling families, the Personalized Education Program (PEP), has come under attack as critics call it a waste of taxpayer dollars and a threat to public education because, supposedly, it encourages homeschoolers to splurge on luxury goods and experiences of dubious educational value…
I have some familiarity with the program: My children do not receive a PEP scholarship, since it is new this year and we no longer homeschool, but their scholarship is also an educational savings account, and the rules for spending are the same as for PEP. I’m in charge of all things scholarship-related in my house, and far from the free-for-all implied by critics, the process is intricate and time-consuming. If you’ve ever used a medical savings account, you’d recognize the steps as pretty similar. If I expect to have an expense, I can check ahead of time to see if it falls into categories of approved expenses. I then save all relevant receipts and submit them to Step Up for Students, one of two private agencies that administer school choice programs on behalf of the state. I am asked to justify each expense with an explanation of why it serves the specific educational needs of the child. About half the time, an email comes in that makes me groan: I’m asked to submit additional documentation.
Okay, enough education talk. Alexander Saeedy’s WSJ article this week, “Hard-Core Sleepers Obsess Over their Snoozing Stats” is an eye-opening look into the crazy world where some people treat sleep as… competition. A taste:
…for millions, chasing winks with the latest sleep-measuring technology has become a nighttime sport, complete with sleep scores and strategies on how to best sack the competition. Some people are even, well, losing sleep about whether they are sleeping up to their full potential.
Mike Skerrett, a 27-year-old television writer in Los Angeles, wears a Whoop band to track his biometrics constantly. (“I take it off sometimes in the shower,” he clarifies.) The device, popular for measuring workouts, says it can track rest cycles when worn at night, helping to “optimize your sleep performance.”
He has deployed tactics including blackout curtains and taping his mouth shut to max out his sleep score on Whoop’s app.
“I can see that on days when I tape my mouth during sleep, I have a 7% higher recovery score in the morning than on days when I don’t,” he says. “I implemented these changes partially to chase the higher score on the app, and, it also does change the feel of the night’s sleep, for the better.”
One interesting absence: not one of the crazy competitive sleepers profiled in this piece appears to be a parent. As a mom, I can attest that simply living my daily life leads to the best sleep. Not to brag, but usually I’m asleep by the time my head hits the pillow. It’s quite impressive and competition-worthy, if I dare say so myself.
To end on a more encouraging note, Elizabeth Stice has an essay worth reading in full at Front Porch Republic, “An Empty Room of One’s Own.” The briefest of brief tastes to lure you in—for lured into this one you should be:
Clutter can conceal the truth. Sometimes we need an uncrowded space to see anything at all.