Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Benedict Option: Chapter 7 (Education as Christian Formation)

Y'know, there are times when I feel a little bad about tearing into The Benedict Option, even in my own comparatively mild fashion. Fortunately, I'm never more than a few pages away from a reminder that Rod Dreher is the smuggest man on the planet who not only thinks that he's a million times better than me, but earlier called me a "barbarian" because I like science and don't hate the same people he hates.

Case in point: Dreher opens this chapter by not only likening himself yet again to dissidents in Communist countries, but explaining how they were doing dissent wrong:
As a Christian, [Vaclav] Benda wanted to create a counterculture that would defend and restore authentic moral and religious values to Czech society and to reknit the bonds between Czechs and their past severed by the Communists. As a university professor, he believed that education was the most important means of doing that.
Why had they failed? Their efforts had been too exclusive, and the forms too flawed.
Luckily, Rod Dreher - survivor of the queer menace - is here to explain how it's really done.

This chapter is, naturally, about education, and it's here that Dreher's ideal communities start to look less like monasteries and more like hothouses. Dreher - much like those evangelicals he claims to admire even as he takes potshots at them - doesn't have much confidence in the durability of his philosophy. Without realizing that he's saying it, he obviously thinks that "orthodox Christianity" (which he calls "traditional Christianity" in this chapter because continuity is sinful) is too fragile to endure contact with the modern world, which will tear it to shreds. Thus, people need to spend a lot of years in an isolated substrate to ensure that they'll be strong enough to survive contact with the ecosystem at large.

Education is obviously a bigger step than some of Dreher's other recommendations. Changing the education system, even on a local level, requires a plan, and money, and time. This is hardly the kind of thing you can do while enjoying decent-quality wine five nights a week...except Dreher apparently found the perfect school for his kids within spitting distance of where he lives. So what does that school look like?
Classical Christian education takes a Great Books approach to the curriculum. It presents the canonical Western texts and works of art to students, using a medieval structure called the Trivium...
...Typically, a student's classical school career begins with the Grammar school, in which she learns and commits to memory basic facts about the world. The second part of a child's experience is the Logic school, which corresponds to the middle school years. This is when students learn how to use reason to analyze facts and discern meaning from them. The third and final stage is the Rhetoric school, which focuses on abstract thinking, on poetry, and on clear self-expression.
That does, indeed, sound classical - or, to be precise, Classical. That kind of threw me for a loop, because I didn't think Dreher was up on Classical ideas. Remember Chapter 2? The greatest infusion of Classical ideas back into European society was the Renaissance, and Dreher sneered at the very name. He also had a real problem with the development of the American government, in no small part because of its use of Classical thought. Obviously I'm missing something, because before I saw words like "Logic" and "Rhetoric" pop up I figured Dreher for an opponent of the filthy heathen Greeks.

I don't know anything about the schools Dreher is describing. A better writer might go into detail, but this is Rod Dreher, who never writes a thousand words when fifty words and a nine hundred-word pull quote will do. Regardless of the exact principles at work, Dreher believes that there are benefits to be drawn from these schools, some of which might not surprise you so much:
 Existing under the umbrella of a church offers legal protection not available to other Christian schools. Legal experts say that Christian schools facing antidiscrimination challenges in court have greater protection if the can demonstrate that they are clearly and meaningfully guided by established doctrines of a particular church and can demonstrate that they enforce these doctrines.
That's right - the Classical Christian school has added queer resistance. Indeed, it may not shock you to learn that Dreher's chief argument to withdraw kids from those secular brainwashing factories is that they have too much open contact with LGBT youths. That means it's time for another trip to the Rod Dreher totally not made up mailbag to learn of the horrifying consequences of exposure to rainbow radiation:
Anecdotally confirming what seems to be a trend, a woman in suburban Baltimore said to me, "All those people who say you are alarmist about the Benedict Option must not be raising children." She went on to say that her daughter's bhigh school, a shocking number of teenagers were going to their parents telling them that they think they are transgender and asking to be put on hormones...
...Three months after our conversation, that woman's daughter came home from high school with the news that she is really a boy, and demanding that her family treat her as such.
"There's nothing like having your twelve-year-old come home from school and start ticking off which of her classmates are bi," the reader said...
...The reader called a friend with a daughter in the same class and asked her what was going on. "Where have you been?" she laughed. "At least a third of these girls are calling themselves bi." 
I absolutely believe that these accounts are accurate! Why would I doubt the good word of a man with a history of posting outrageous gay-baiting stories from anonymous people over the web?

To be fair, it isn't just the dreaded gay-trans alliance that threatens the faithful offspring of...whatever he's calling his fellows at the moment. It's also a failure to properly appreciate Western civilization or, as Dreher puts it, "the civilization that is the father and mother of every citizen of the West, whether their ancestors immigrated from Africa or Asia, and even if, like me, their Christian confession is Byzantine" - This guy's writing style, I swear. And of course, good ol' fashioned fornication comes into play, although he seems to consider that more of a collegiate problem.

Even so, it really feels like it is the presence of sexual minorities that really sets off Dreher's dread - and if you want proof, wait until next time, when we finally discuss those goddamn gay wedding cakes.

1 comment:

  1. It's too bad Rod's schooling didn't encompass the Logic and Rhetoric schools. He might have become understanable