In the spirit of starting somewhere, I finally followed up on this post. Instead of Standard I decided to go with Sun, because it has obvious metaphorical value AND because it seems like a playful acknowledgment that in Marysville’s geographical/meteorological condition, we really would like more sun.
I now own the digital property at marysvillesun.com but there’s no building there yet.
And actually, I decided to try Substack for a 1.0 version. A weekly newsletter seems right, and Substack makes subscribing and eventual paid subscriptions easy. There’s just a Coming soon there now, but nothing is stopping you from subscribing today. 🙂
I’ve been thinking again about starting a newspaper (or a newsapp) for Marysville.
It’s an idea and conversation I’ve had before, but at that time there was the “Marysville Globe.” According to Wikipedia the paper was established in 1891. That was even before the internet. For the two decades I’ve lived in Marysville it was the only local paper I knew about. It’s also the local paper I rarely read due to the less than scintillating copy. It might have been bad, but at least it was ours.
Which means we’ve got a real opportunity and zero current competition.
There’s a fantastic book called, Rules for Reformers. It focuses on place rather than media, but one of the principles is finding a city that is both strategic and feasible. It is a place that matters and is also a place that can be taken. A “paper,” so-called,” isn’t a city, but it is a source of information and perspective that could really start a fire.
So what if we started a paper that was Local first, State second, Nation next?
What if we loved our city in a way that brought out more of its loveliness?
What if we celebrated our local businesses – where you could enjoy coffee and beer and more – and promoted entrepreneurial opportunities?
What if we highlighted the ridiculousness of some of the official positions in our public schools, and also highlighted some of the other educational movements that are actually awake to the deadly dreams of the woke?
What if we connected churches, not to be under the same roof, but to build a better culture on behalf of the same Lord?
What if we acknowledged that Jesus is the Lord (Romans 10:9), that He is before all things and in Him all things hold together (Colossians 17), that in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28), and that we will give an account for everything to Him (Hebrews 4:13)?
So what if we called this venture The Marysville Standard? A friend of mine started working with this name a couple years ago. That name might remind us that we are under a (transcendent, eternal) standard, it could urge us to set a new standard for local news and editorials, and it respectfully recalls the name of the paper Abraham Kuyper started in Holland, De Standaard, the same guy who said that Jesus claims lordship over every thumb’s-width in the domain of human existence. That includes Marysville.
Let me know what you think, if the juice would be worth the squeeze, how you could help.
Maybe you’ve been waiting for the nine-weeks of word study to begin. There are nine attributes of the fruit of the Spirit, and they could all get individual attention, but I don’t plan to go one-by-one, week-by-week. Keep them all in mind: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Peeling back the fruit metaphor is constructive, and some of the contrasts are as helpful as anything. Unlike physical fruit, we look for continual harvest from Spirit. Consider, though, an ironic resemblance: like physical fruit we should look for physical Spirit-fruit. Let the fruit of the Spirit be embodied and earthy.
It’s ironic, right? The Spirit’s work affects our internals and our externals. The Spirit starts in the heart, but what’s in the heart always eventually comes out. In Galatians 5, the fleshly bite and devour one another. Immorality and strife and anger and envy and drunkenness are not only personal, they are relational, cultural.
So love isn’t just for me. Self-control is of self for the benefit of more than one-self. Patience, kindness, gentleness are only as good as they are not private. The fruit of the Spirit isn’t limited like a little plant in a terra-cotta pot on the kitchen window shelf.
This series of exhortations isn’t only so that you will think about being spiritual, but so that you will think about being spiritual in Marysville, and her Snohomish suburbs, being a destination for others to see a spiritual field. I get that red states have an appeal, but we are committed to a spiritual community. Such a spiritual state is embodied by families, businesses, schools. The fruit of the Spirit is local, tangible, jealousable. Let us double-down on living by the Spirit, not relocating.
I don’t remember the first time I thought about the possibility of starting a college in Marysville, but as the years passed and conversations happened and then a committee was formed, the question of what to name a college became more pressing. I mean, how could we have a Facebook page without a name?
We talked a lot about it at home. I didn’t doodle a bunch of names on the back of a notebook, but I do have a text file with over a dozen options. Once the committee was called to decide if we should start something, and that decision was affirmed, we spent a few months brainstorming and collecting and criticizing our ideas.
Something with “Kuyper” certainly seemed appropriate. The work of Abraham Kuyper has been especially helpful in knocking down dualism for our church and K-12 school community. Christ claims every college course just as much as every square inch in the universe. But, there’s already a Kuyper College.
We thought about something like the (New) Free College, since Kuyper started the Free University of Amsterdam. But in our day “free” refers to cost, not free from State control as it meant to Kuyper. How about a synonym for free, without the socialistic baggage? What about Liberty? Ah, right, I already went there.
We also love Marysville. We’re devoted to our city and want it to be a destination of sorts, which is part of the reason for starting a college. But, Marysville College or, The College of Marysville seemed like just about the least creative effort we could make. So then what about things Marysville is known for? Other than the homely fact of not having anything our own, the only historical highpoint is our water tower, and geographically we are near Mt. Pilchuck. “Water Tower College” was a dry run, and how many Pilchucks do we need? I suppose there is always “Premium Outlets College.”
Then one of our board members did some digging into Marysville’s origin story. The founder of our city arrived in 1872, established the first hotel, the first store, the first post office, and started the first school. The best accounts say that he named the city after his wife, Maria. And his name was James P. Comeford.
That was it: Comeford College. We do have a local park called Comeford, and the water tower stands next to the park. But the name connects us to the city, to the city’s start, and to a man who started a number of things in the city.
Thus far we haven’t found any reason not to name the college after him; he apparently didn’t start the first brothel, or vape store, or casino. But again, we’re loving on where we’re from, and praying that this new institution will make Marysville even more lovely, more Kuyperian, and more educated.
Maybe Robert Frost’s most popularly known poem is “The Road Less Taken,” but the title of my talk plays off a line from the poem, “Mending Wall.” A stone wall separating two farms in New England needs mending, and while they work one of the farmers questions if the work is really necessary. Twice the neighbor farmer says, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Among other layers of meaning, we’re reminded that boundaries are a blessing. I know where myself and where my stuff belong, and so do you. A good wall, rather than create tension, enables neighborly trust, and trust enables fellowship.
When it comes to so much that poses as education today, the primary passion seems to be to break down every wall, to tear down all the fences, to demolish every boundary line, especially if it looks like someone is hiding their privilege. Modern education is a bulldozer in Prius clothing, driven by suspicion and doubt and envy.
Just last week WA State Democrats introduced House Bill 2184 to provide “comprehensive sexual health education” starting in 2022, which includes compulsory sex education for Kindergartners. A Comprehensive Sexual Health Education work group (CSHE) argues for starting so soon because the “social emotional needs of our youngest students must be addressed for prevention of future challenges.” On one hand there have always been sex assumptions for Kindergartners; Bill was a boy and Jill was a girl. Bill had the pocketknife, Jill had the butcher knife. No one had to teach students that there were two sexes, and it certainly wasn’t controversial. That was education with good fences, with the God-given (and naturally observed) distinctions: male and female. This is a truth, one of many truths in God’s creation, that are a blessing to those who leave the fence alone, or at least have two separate bathrooms.
The denials of male and female by many modern “educators” causes the opposite of education. That kind of curriculum isn’t transferring a body of knowledge, it questions knowledge about the body. It causes confusion, it raises doubts, and it grows fruitlessness. It is built on tearing down walls. The unwillingness to distinguish and celebrate and train toward strengths of the differences between male and female is just one example, but it is the sort that has other faces. How many politicians have recently said that “Abortion equals healthcare.” That is like saying “War is peace,” which George Orwell wrote in 1984. It’s how the Ministry of Truth trashed truth and rewrote history.
The only way for there to be liberty and justice is by acknowledging the fences of objective and fixed truth. For Christians, we have these walls because God made the world, and He made it knowable (not exhaustively but dependably), and He blesses those who receive His gifts, including the boundaries. What God has joined together let no man separate, and what God has separated (light from dark, day from night, male from female) let no man muddle up.
At ECS we see His gifts and we utilize the tools of classical education to help our students appreciate the fences and enjoy the gifts.
In the earlier stages, K-elementary school, we teach the facts about the alphabet and phonograms, about how letters make words (with proper spelling), about how words make sentences (with proper syntax). We still teach that 2 + 2 = 4, that triangles have three sides, that addition and multiplication share the associative property, that long division can be checked because it is not a guessing game. In classical education jargon this part of the Trivium is referred to as the Grammar stage, with grammar referring to the ABCs of each subject. Each piece of truth is like a brick in the wall. Gravity only works one way on earth, and that’s helpful to know and changes what you expect when you walk out the front door.
We aren’t creating robots, though there is a lot of repetition and reminders through songs and chants and catechisms and sound-offs. They may sound like parrots, but it’s fun, and it’s not filling their minds with the false.
As students mature, as they begin to see even more things for themselves than what their parents and teachers put in front of them, they start asking questions about how? things work together, or don’t. They start asking a lot of why? things are the way they are or aren’t, should or shouldn’t be. Our emphasis around the time of Junior High is in Logic, the second part of the Trivium, which includes training in formal logic and validity of argumentation. It also includes putting questions of worldview to Homer and Plato, to Beowulf and The Divine Comedy, and many other great books.
There are two problems with teaching students logic. One is that they can get critical of those who are sloppy or those who cheat when they argue; ideally, though, they are learning to sort out their own faulty thinking first. The biggest actual problem is that so many people today, including the talking heads on television and YouTube and Instagram, only care about how something makes them feel. Our students should be able to say that’s the Snowflake Fallacy. Or, narcissism.
Already at the Logic stage, but encouraged even more as they near the latter years of High School, we emphasize Rhetoric, presentation, beauty in art and artful writing and speaking and singing. It is possible to adorn a pig, but the truth can be adorned, too. Persuading others is not pummeling them, nor is it propaganda. It is the art of showing that the walls we live by are attractive.
We want to help make Marysville great again (#MMGA). We want to play a part in making Marysville a destination for Christians to worship and work and raise the next generation to carry and advance Christ honoring culture. That means that we need walls, and teachers, working beside parents, who maintain those walls. Good fences make good students.
I love this illustration by G. K. Chesterton near the end of his book, Orthodoxy:
We might fancy some children playing on the flat grassy top of some tall island in the sea. So long as there was a wall round the cliff’s edge they could fling themselves into every frantic game and make the place the noisiest of nurseries. But the walls were knocked down, leaving the naked peril of the precipice. They did not fall over; but when their friends returned to them they were all huddled in terror in the centre of the island; and their song had ceased. (p. 143)
It’s no wonder that so many students are having no fun; they have no safe place to play.
We live in a wild world, but not an imaginary one, and the walls of truth enable us to laugh and to learn; if you visit on a school day, you will hear how loud it is; our song has not ceased. Ironically, in our context, living with such walls makes our school offensive, not just as an annoyance but on the assault. Because we believe that Jesus is Lord over it all, we are outrageous. More than outrageous, we want you to consider ECS as a place that helps your students become outcourageous.
My wife and I moved to Marysville, WA, in the summer of 2001 as I took a job as a youth pastor. I loved almost everything about that job: the church body, the elders, the youth staff, and the junior high and high schoolers themselves. In the youth ministry I had freedom to study and teach whatever book of the Bible or theological subject that interested me. I got to lead, and to grow alongside, the other leaders as well as plan and lead events with them. Most of the parents were very supportive, and most of the students were very responsive. I thank God for His grace to me during those years.
The one thing that became a growing frustration was the expectation that students who could, should get out of Marysville. If they had enough academic or financial ability, or just the gumption, they should find somewhere to go that wasn’t here. Maybe it would be temporary, or maybe we would just see them when they visited for the holidays. This expectation was sometimes spoken and always felt.
Marysville is a small-ish city, and, I’m not sure that it’s ever had a stellar reputation. Even our outlet mall is named “Seattle Premium Outlets,” though Seattle is 35 miles south. Before we moved from the Los Angeles area, Mo was talking to someone familiar with Marysville who called it “the hell of Washington.” I still recall being driven down the main drag in Marysville for the first time and wondering how there could possibly be the need for so many auto parts stores.
But God puts us, He plants us, in the place He wants. If that place is lovely, He wants us to give thanks and be good stewards. If that place is less lovely, He still wants us to give thanks and then love the unlovely to greater loveliness.
In the 18+ years that we’ve lived in Marysville a lot has happened, to our family, our people, and our city. By His grace we are even more tied to them than ever.
The soil of these loyalties has been worked up by the tiller of Kuyperianism, which has also weeded out a lot of dualism. I’ve posted about Kuyper numerous times here, and have also been working on a site promoting the odd (for now), theological mutt of Kuyperian Dispensationalism. All that applies here because in our growing love for our people and our place, including our desire to see our children’s children be faithful disciples until Christ returns, we are trying to educate them to do all that they do in His name.
We started a K-12 school in 2012, and even before those doors were opened (in the basement of a farmhouse) I’ve had questions about what we would expect (and provide) for those students next. Were we really going to pour ourselves into sacrificial labors for 13 years to hand them a diploma and say, “Good job. That’s all we’ve got for you. Buh-bye!”?
There are some colleges that we like, but none that meet all our criteria. A precious few are Kuyperian, but I know of none that are Kuyperian (and understand it) and Premillenial. The higher education institutions that lean Dispy also lean dualist, lauding theology over the work of one’s hands instead of having theology about the work of one’s hands. To the degree that they educate about history and literature and math and econmics, it is inconsistent with the undergirding belief that it’s all just going to burn. Plus, even if there was a KuyperDispy college somewhere in the world, we live in (and love) Marysville. We at least want to provide an option for our students to stay and learn more and serve the church and possibly plant their families here. We want to make Marysville a destination, a place people love to be.
To that end we aim to start a college in the fall of 2020. It’s a nice round number, easy to remember in years to come. It also happens to be the year my oldest graduates from high school, as part of the largest class of seniors (a whopping seven) in our school’s existence.
The name is Comeford College, which I’ll need to explain more about another time. We’ve established a Board and a President, we’re investigating the long path toward possible accreditation, and we’ve started working through the scope and sequence of our courses.
A Christian college with a liberal arts flavor driven by Kuyperian weltanschauung is only one piece of loving our families and our city. We also need more local business owners/employers and vocational opportunities for our young people to be able to raise their own KuyperDispies. For today we’ve got no less work to do than we can imagine, and we’re trusting the Lord to take our small offering and bless the socks off our city.
Some of us are reading Dante’s Inferno again, the first third of his epic poem, in which a poet leads a Christian pilgrim through hell. As Virgil and Dante enter and then prepare to cross the first river of the underworld, the Acheron, Dante sees thousands of the wicked packed along the shore waiting to cross the darkened waters.
“They were cursing God, cursing their own parents, the human race, the time, the place, the seed of their beginning, and their day of birth.” (Canto III, lines 101-103)
The souls are eager for their judgment, while also refusing to take responsibility for their souls. They rage against reality, against all the good gifts God gave them in family, in the fellowship of other men, of their very birth and breath and existence.
Mankind are rebels; sin is rebellion against the Maker of man. As rebels we prefer to imagine that we can reject what God gives and create life as we want it to be. Our current culture is willing to lie (in rage) about reality at insane levels. Mrs. Warren states that people will have jobs if we shut down sectors of business. Mr. Sanders (and his envious offspring) says that we can pay for everything and it will be free. Judges accept that boys are the best female athletes. It’s extreme, and extremely stupid.
But our job is not to point out the foolishness of others who lie if we still lie about less obvious things. Christians, in the grip of learning to obey all things Christ’ commanded, are still tempted to deny reality, to deny their own responsibility.
If we want Marysville to be a destination, with a reputation as those who love and honor Jesus as Lord, then we must continue to confess our own sins, whatever they are, as hard as that may seem, and not merely complain about the sins of others, as obvious and easy as that is. We must not become a destination for sin-pointers, sin-coverers, or sin-complainers. We must make repentance look good.
I sent an email yesterday that represented a lot of thoughts and prayers. I actually began the email on that note, while clarifying that the prayers have been made in the name of the LORD who made heaven and earth, not in the name of humanistic empathy theater.
Anyway, the email was an invite for sake of forming a committee to consider starting a Christian liberal arts college in Marysville in the fall of 2020.
It’s exciting. And exhausting. And even more exciting than I said just a moment ago.
The first order of business for said committee is to decide if we have enough good reasons to even try to do this. Of course, if I didn’t already have some reasons of some sort then nobody needs another meeting. If we agree that such an institution of higher ed is called for, and I think we will, and if we agree that the call includes an opening day somewhere around fifteen months from now, then we have even more thoughts and prayers to go.
There aren’t as many written records from those who first came to America because they were busy accomplishing the things that needed to be done. Yet sometimes the writing about things is part of what needs to be done, and hopefully there will be progress to share along the way. Also, we’re not trying to form a(nother) more perfect union, but we are thinking about an alternative to those humanistic empathy theaters called college campuses.
In the meantime, there are a number of articles that lament the current state of college/university education, especially in the government schools, such as this one about poo emoji, I mean, educational BS. The pony in the poop, as my father-in-law might frame it, is that the time is ripe for some “visionary traditionalism and organizational radicalism,” you know, like a new college.
The following notes are for a talk I gave at our school’s Information Night.
Our school board recently finished reading through and discussing the Chronicles of Narnia together. I’m also part of another group of adults, many of whom are parents of current school students, working through the Chronicles as secondary reading for something we call Omnibus Tenebras. Then we have our annual Fiction Festival coming in March and the theme is going to be all things Narnian and Lewisian. So I reentered Aslan’s orbit seven months ago and have been spinning since.
Reading through the series again I noticed a question asked by Professor Kirke near the start of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (which he asks in a similar form two more times in The Lion) and which he asks again near the end of The Last Battle. Sort of aloof, as he is, and exasperated, he wonders out loud, “Bless me, what do they teach them at these schools?” The first time he was lamenting Peter and Susan’s lack of logic. The last time, when his beard was golden, he was wondering why they hadn’t read Plato. Well, in our school, we teach Logic, and Plato. And we teach the Chronicles of Narnia!
One of Lewis’ literary contemporaries and friends was Dorothy Sayers. You may have heard her name before associated with classical education due to a paper she read at Oxford in 1947, that she then published as a journal article, titled “The Lost Tools of Learning.” Along with Lewis, she was concerned about what was and what wasn’t being taught to students. If Sayers or Lewis or both of them could see what’s happening in our government education system some seventy years later, I can’t imagine what narrative tirade might have been unleashed (though That Hideous Strength would cover a lot). Although Edmond didn’t want to recognize that the White Witch was no good, at least he could recognize that the White Witch was a girl. The fight between good and evil didn’t get all the way down to gender pronouns. “Bless ze, what do they teach at these schools?”
It was Sayers who reintroduced the Trivium, the three ways of education, which are 1) Grammar, 2) Logic (or Dialectic), and 3) Rhetoric. These are the first three of the seven liberal arts, liberal in reference to men who are free, and she in particular had the insight to connect each method of learning to each phase of a student’s development.
The youngest students are like parrots. Play them a catchy song and they will sing it until parents quickly pass from the stage of thinking it’s cute to the stage of being amazed at what their student is capable of memorizing and into the stage of being annoyed that their student doesn’t get tired of it. There is a grammar to every subject, facts that are ripe for harvest in very field of study. Nouns and verbs are language grammar, addition and subtraction are math grammar, colors are for art and notes are for music grammar, Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 is history grammar.
As students mature toward junior high they hit a stage that is harder to call cute, and it’s also hard to call mature. They’re in the process of figuring out where all the things go. They are building mental shelves to sort and categorize all the grammar they’ve collected. They start start asking more questions and seeing more connections. They also start their arguing engines, and, as Sayers acknowledged their extremely high “nuisance value,” why not at least show them how to argue logically?
The third stage is not just gravy on the cake or icing on the meat. There is really cake and meat; icing on cotton balls offers no nutrition, and gravy on cardboard might trick you for a moment, but there’s no satisfaction. So truth cake and good meat are necessary underneath and then rhetoric tops them off. Rhetoric skills enable a young man or woman in mid to late high school to take substance and polish it. The polish might come via poem or prose, painting or presentation, but it’s taking what’s already valuable and making it shine.
ECS teaches all the subjects, be it Bible/theology, Music, Math, Science, English, Logic, Latin, Literature, Writing, Rhetoric, and History with the Trivium methods in mind, and we do it in Jesus’ name because He holds all the ends together.
I’ve been struck in recent months by what makes the Trivium so fruitful. I’ve been reading about and trying to share a vision of the Trivium since before we had a school, since my wife informed me that my participation in homeschooling our 2nd grader at the time was not optional. I’ve believed that students plus the Trivium adds up to great things for over a decade now. But it is multiplied by teachers.
If you want to know why you should register your kids for ECS before you leave the building tonight, what you really need to do is get to know the teachers. They are the multiplying function. We’re not making them present their resumes as part of the program, but that wouldn’t do any of them justice anyway.
Jesus said: every disciple, that is, every learner, every student, will be just like his teacher.
When my wife and I were trying to homeschool, we realized that we wanted our daughter and her younger siblings to be more than us. This wasn’t a cop out, as if we could merely sit back and trust our kids’ enculturation to others. It meant we had even more to do, which included trying to convince some other parents to join us in this crazy hard, crazy great, crazy blessed work.
The Trivium is not better than I thought; the Trivium is fantastic. But when the Trivium methods are practiced by those who care, the outcomes are way better than I thought. This is a mathematical operation, a factor function. Take a number, add another number, get a higher total. But take a number and put a multiplier between it and another number, and watch out.
ECS is more than the sum of its parts. I was reminded of it again while reading the following in a book titled, Anitfragile:
Collaboration has explosive upside, what is mathematically called a superadditive function, i.e., one plus one equals more than two, and one plus one plus one equals much, much more than three….since you cannot forecast collaborations and cannot direct them, you cannot see where the world is going. All you can do is create an environment that facilitates these collaborations, and lay the foundation for prosperity.
John Milton Gregory wrote in The Seven Laws of a Teacher that the ideal teacher is “an incarnate assemblage of impossible excellencies.” We have an excellent assemblage for collaboration.
We have teachers who have lived in tents while remodeling their houses, who muck horse stalls before sunrise, who knit hats and dolls and sew scaled down ECS uniforms for American Girl Dolls, who scrounge through the woods for sticks to make bows and read multi-volume bower bibles about how to do it. Our teachers exercise, slow cook and crock pot, read for pleasure, write for pleasure, and most importantly, they worship faithfully on the Lord’s Day. They invest in more than the students in their classes, and that’s why they have something for their students. They aren’t finished, but they are learning to learn, and that’s exactly what we want for our students.
Christian and classical education has some great ideas behind it and before it, but the ideas themselves could not make ECS great. The Trivium plus students multiple by teachers make it great in ways that couldn’t be scripted.
Our school mission starts by saying that “We commend the works of the Lord to another generation….” And I am commending the works of the Lord to you now. At ECS we are looking at and learning the grammar of His works, and the logic of how His works fit together, and how to adorn His works at image bearers through rhetoric. And I am also blessed to say, ECS is is itself a work of the Lord, and our teachers are a multiplying factor in making Marysville great again. #mmga
We want to bless you, both by what we teach at this school, and by those who teach at it.