St. Abe's Journal

Veterans Day Talk 2018

Veterans Day Talk 2018

Monday this week marks the commemoration of our veterans who have served our country and have given of themselves in some capacity to keep us safe, to guard us, and to ultimately to keep watch over our social liberty as a sovereign nation. When our country was founded, it was assumed that a social order, regardless of party politics or democratic structure, was a contract, an agreement held among members of that society. (Our students read about this in Jean Jacques Rousseau and others.) In that political contract men and women agree to give up certain rights in order to receive other benefits, such as protection, common goods, and the opportunity to economically thrive and live a flourishing life.

In our country today, it’s been said that we still value the ability to govern ourselves in order to protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But it originally was understood that those values were not at odds. It was understood that life was actually a precious gift, that liberty was not just a choice to do whatever one wants whenever one wants to do it, and that the pursuit of happiness was not for one’s own individual pleasure but was for the sake of others as well. As we all ought to know, our pursuit of happiness, even the experience of pleasure or pain, affects the lives of others for good or ill.

This Veterans Day let us contemplate the subject of “Liberty.” Liberty is obviously something we value care about in our society. I don’t think you would find NPR openly denouncing liberty. Who doesn’t love liberty? Who doesn’t want to live in a country that doesn’t value freedom? Who doesn’t want freedom? But I think we are profoundly confused and misguided about the nature of freedom. Most people define freedom as nothing but sheer choice. For most people, freedom simply means the act of choosing. Liberty, therefore, is the right to choose for oneself what one wants. But if we reflect on that for a moment, we’ll see that choice is not enough. If freedom is divorced from the object of that choice (and its attendant consequences) then what are we to do with the addict who continually chooses opioids? Is she free? What are we to do with the man who continually chooses to look at pornography? Is he free? What are we to do with those who choose the lesser good or those who choose to do evil? No. Freedom is not found in exercising choice alone. Freedom is found in the ends of our choices. Our choices simply make us more or less free. Freedom, liberty, is a gift. Our freedom, our liberty, exists not simply to make a choice, but so that we may make the right choice, not simply that we might choose but so that we might choose what is good.

And that teaching has always been part of a traditional and biblical understanding of the world. This is called wisdom. And here at St Abrahams we do not teach just facts and data and surveys and studies. Rather, we teach wisdom. If a society does not have wisdom, if it has no vision of the good and the true and the beautiful, then that society is doomed. This is what the Scriptures tell us. If everyone does what is right in their own eyes, then things get really really bad. No matter how private we think they are, our choices always affect other people. And if we think freedom is just about choice, then we end up with the society that we have now. We end up with a society that thanks freedom is not attached to responsibility. We end up with a society that is selfish, but thinks it does not have to give anything in order to get anything. But this is not how it works. This is not how the social contract works.

Remember our society is based on a contract. And when our country was founded, it was understood that the contract we form with the members of our society was not a contract amongst the living only, but as Edmund Burke says, it is a contract amongst those dead, those living, and those yet to be born. That means that when we consider making changes to the institutions of good that support our society, we need to consider carefully how it affects our children and how it might destroy the gifts we have received from previous generations.

Today people take for granted the fact that we have a military, the fact that we are safe, the fact that we have people who are willing to sacrifice themselves. People take for granted the fact that there is a cost to freedom. But that’s not what the Bible teaches. That’s not what classical wisdom teaches. And that’s not what we at St. Abraham’s teach. At St Abrahams we teach that freedom, that liberty, it’s not a claim one makes on the world, but a byproduct of doing what is right. At St Abrahams we teach that virtue is its own reward. And at St Abrahams we teach that it is honorable to give of oneself to serve one’s country.

In light of this, we honor those men and women who have served our country and are in positions of public service in our communities.

    Devin O’Donnell
    Headmaster

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What is CCE? (Part II)

Sometimes the best way to explain something is to compare it to something else, some image that gives greater shape and contour. Jesus asks, for instance, “To what shall I liken the kingdom of heaven?” In this session of Classical Clips, we answer the question, “What is Classical Christian Education?” through analogy and metaphor.

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Restoring Language

One of the objectives of education is to restore language. At St. Abraham’s, students are learning how to give things their right names, how to tell the truth about what is real and what is true.

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Aims of Education

The other day I was talking with a teacher about the aims of education. She reflected on how we should be preparing our students for more than just getting into college. I remarked that one the goals of education is to raise the pupil above the level of just being a consumer, above a materialistic existence of buying and getting and consuming. It reminded me of a few old posts I wrote that speak to these ideas. Hope you enjoy!

Devin O’Donnell
Headmaster

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Donuts With Dads

Who doesn’t love donuts? And bacon? (Well, there may be a few non-bacon lovers out there, but…) We would love to spend a morning with the St. Abe’s dads on Labor Day morning. Dads, you’re invited to come see your kiddos in their classrooms, meet one another, have some yummy donuts and bacon, and pray together! Don’t forget to check the newsletter for the link to place your order TODAY!

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Education is Hearing

“Listen up!” “Pay attention!” “Tune in.” How often do you catch yourself saying that to your children? You’re not in bad company if you repeat this command often. This is one of the most repeated directions in the book of Proverbs as well. In just the first 8 chapters there are over fifteen instances of some form of this command. Jesus was also fond of saying his own version of this: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Why such a big emphasis on hearing? My hunch is that it is because hearing is one of the only, if not the only, entrances to gaining knowledge. There is no other way to get in. Hearing is the doorway you have to go through if we’re going to grow in wisdom. If we can’t hear God, we can’t learn about him. If we can’t listen to instruction from Him, or from our pastors, parents, friends and teachers, we’re stuck. We need the input and advice from all those places, and to receive that instruction, we need to be able to hear.
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Education is Draining

You don’t have to look hard to find people giving in the St. Abe’s community. For this I’m extremely grateful. A group of moms sit in the office, busily planning for the upcoming Barn Party, investing time and energy to ensure it is a success. Parents and grandparents gather weekly, praying over all aspects of our school. Teachers briskly walk from class to office to playground over and over again prepping and planning for how they will craft upcoming lessons. Students pour over math and Latin texts in the courtyard with rays of sun watching over their shoulder. Friends and family members send anonymous donations to ensure our mission will continue for many years to come. This is not to mention all that happens at home in preparation for each day at school – endless cycles of laundry, lunch packing, homework checking, praying for classmates and teachers, more laundry, more homework checking, and be sure to get to bed early enough so there is not a homicide the next morning as everyone runs around getting ready for school.

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