What are we working for?

by Andrea Elizabeth

I’m pleasantly surprised that both of my eleventh graders made straight A’s last 9 weeks. I really liked their essays. However, I’ve been relying on verbal feedback too much for my 5th grader, and some things have slipped. I need to get more engaged with her schooling.

Speaking of engaged, I just learned about Alex the Parrot last night, whose trainer, Dr. Irene Pepperberg, spent up to 8 facetime hours a day  homeschooling him. I couldn’t tell from the hour long posthumous PBS documentary, which I can’t find a link to, much about their relationship except that she seemed very calm when talking to him. His voice was calm too, but I wonder how much of a strain it was for him to keep one upping himself. He died young at 31 of “natural causes”. The linked youtube video has him repeatedly asking to “go back” into his cage. Part of the problem is having a caged parrot in the first place. They are very social animals and like lots of interaction. Humans can’t really provide the type of interaction they need. Alex is famous for communicating, but I don’t know how much he was really listened to.

Mark Bittner in this promo for The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill in San Francisco communicated better with them, I think.

Our wild or tamed world doesn’t really provide the types of interaction any of us were made for. The predator/prey relationship is fallen too. It will be nice when the lion can lay down with the lamb in the next life. Meanwhile we study and work out our salvation.

I think my 11th graders’ essay answer to an Abeka literature test fits in with failed attempts at being intensely engaged.

“Explain the premise of the A.C. in “The Experiences of the A.C.” Why did it fail? Explain your answer from a Christian perspective.”

Son’s answer: In the story “The Experiences of the A.C.” the main character, Enis Billings, explains to his friend his experience of being in the A.C. A.C. stands for Arcadian Club; it was an attempt (or at least an experiment) of a small group of people to create the ‘perfect’ society. It was a quick failure. The main problem with the club was that people disagreed with one another’s opinions or ideas. Some did not want to abstain from the foods that others wanted to abstain from, and most disliked the idea of openly telling another his faults. As Christians, we understand that creating a perfect society without God as its center is impossible.

Daughter’s answer: The A.C. was formed because the group believed that if they followed the ways of Transcendentalism they would find the perfect way of life. It failed because they cast God away and lived by themselves for themselves. They tried to practice “candor” by telling each other what they really thought of each other in order to “enlighten” the other person. This failed because the other person didn’t believe what was said of him and only caused him to get offended. This plus the influence of alcohol also caused the A.C. to fail.”

Even though one can see some of the Puritan influence in this curriculum (my children usually answer according to what their teacher teaches, even if they disagree on smaller points), I mostly agree with them in this case. I can only compare such efforts to failed atheist Communist states or to how a monastery is supposed to be run. In a monastery a spiritual father is the only one allowed such candor. We aren’t supposed to trust each other so much because we are not mature enough nor close enough to God to do so. And monasteries are segregated. When a person is married, I believe their family has to come first and not the “community”. There is all sorts of fine print that goes with that to keep a family from being too selfish or dysfunctional, but family is the priority. I’ve been thinking a bit about the idea of ownership, but that needs to stew a bit more, and probably be its own post.