Over at First Things I argue that the lecture is still the best way to educate a large group of learners.
The Atlantic ran an interview with David Thornburg, entitled “Lectures Didn’t Work in 1350—and They Still Don’t Work Today.” It’s full of the typical technology-will-save-education balderdash. I’ll skip any comments on that topic.
Let’s talk about this assertion that lectures don’t work. The interviewer asks why we keep using this lecture-based model that doesn’t suit every student’s needs. Thornburg answers:
“It’s a fascinating question. There’s a painting of a classroom by Laurentius de Voltolina from 1350 that shows it’s not working. Students are talking to each other or falling asleep while the teacher drones on. Why has this perpetuated? I don’t know.”
I can tell you why. It’s perpetuated because it works.
You can read the rest here.
Thousands of moviegoers left the 2012 blockbuster The Avengers demanding more of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, and Thor: the Dark World has not disappointed these fans. Loki steals every scene in which he appears. I think there’s a pun in that last sentence.
The family dynamic between Thor and Loki reminds me of another famous sibling rivalry, Jacob and Esau. Esau and Thor are the older brothers, Jacob and Loki the younger. Thor and Esau enjoy the love of their fathers, while their mothers favor Loki and Jacob. Thor is a hairy brute. Esau is a hairy brute. Loki is a trickster attempting to steal his brother’s birthright. Jacob is a trickster who steals his brother’s birthright. Esau marries a woman that his parents don’t approve of. Thor spends his time chasing a woman Odin disapproves of. Jacob impersonates his brother. Loki impersonates everyone.
Whom should we pull for as we watch Thor: the Dark World? The Bible endorses Jacob, so I guess that means that we ought to embrace Loki. But isn’t he a bad guy? Well, yeah, but even Thor admits that he’s got more of a head for governing than Thor does. Let everyone do what they’re good at.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love the Thor character. But when he’s at odds with his little brother, I can’t help but pull for Loki. Hiddleston’s portrayal of the trickster “fascinates” in the archaic sense of the word.
Loki’s appeal comes from his complexity. I spent the entire movie asking, “Is this the real Loki?” After the movie’s ending, I pondered the scene in which Thor visits Loki in prison. At first Loki projects composure, and he mocks his brother. Thor says, “Enough,” and the illusion disappears. We see the true Loki, disheveled and disconsolate, sitting on the floor. It was an excellent scene in which we see Loki devastated by the choices that he’d made.
But was he really devastated? Was that the real Loki? After the movie, I started to wonder. What if the scene contained a double illusion? What if Loki showed Thor what Thor wished to see, in order to get out of prison. Since Loki is the trickster, each and every one of his scenes is open to question. One might despair of ever seeing the real Loki.
I’ve settled on an alternate way to interpret Loki’s character. I’ve decided that Loki’s genius is that none of it is illusion. It’s all real. His disdain for Thor, real. His love for Thor, real. His desperate need for Odin’s approval, real. His disregard for his father, real. His self-sacrifice, real. His self-serving nature, real. His arrogance, his bravado, his penitence, his pain, it’s all real. Loki is the ultimate trickster because he believes every one of his own illusions. He’s not deceiving others so much as he lets his heart deceive himself. Loki’s the most complex character I’ve ever seen in a superhero film (although Robert Downey, Jr.’s Iron Man ranks an exceedingly close second).
I find it easier to relate to Loki than I do Thor. Thor’s a hero. I wish I were a hero. Loki wishes he were a hero too. Loki and I both realize that a gap exists between what we are and what we aspire to be. Sometimes we fake it. Sometimes the recognition of the gap causes destructive actions that actually widen the gap. Loki and I both have complex, wicked hearts. We both sometimes believe our own lies. Loki merely wants to be loved, but if he can’t get that, then he’ll settle for being feared. That pretty much sums up my relationship with my students.
So for the time being, I’m on Team Loki. I look forward to seeing what he does next, and I hope the next movie contains enough grace to free him from his own illusions. Neither Loki nor I can free ourselves from our own deceptive hearts.
That’s my Augustinian take on a superhero movie, for what it’s worth.
You can find my thoughts on this Thai Dunkin’ Donuts advertisement over at Reflection and Choice.
Candida Moss was on Bill O’Reilly this week, taking him to task over his new book, Killing Jesus. Toward the end of their interview she says, “I think in your book that you do not contribute a sustained historical methodology, and you misrepresent and cherry-pick the facts.” She’s probably correct, but I think it’s sort of ironic since that’s exactly what I think of her book.
Moss complains that O’Reilly neglects the social teachings of Jesus, and O’Reilly complains that Moss wants to turn Jesus into a socialist. It’s difficult to discuss anything profitably in a five-minute exchange on FoxNews, but I hesitantly give Moss the win on this one. O’Reilly doesn’t even seem familiar with his own book. (He probably didn’t write a single word of it.) Even so, I was disappointed in both sides.
Moss complains that O’Reilly overlooks Jesus’ teaching that the rich give away possessions in order to care for the poor. O’Reilly’s initial defense fails miserably. He says that his book is a history, not a theological text. Moss presses him, pointing out that the historical Jesus taught that the rich ought to sell their possessions and give to the poor.
I think this is the crucial part of the interview.
Moss: “Jesus says very clearly, Bill, and we have to agree on this that in order to go to Heaven you must give away your possessions.”
O’Reilly: “Then there’s nobody in Heaven. There’s nobody there. He’s all by himself.”
That exchange sums it up nicely. It sounds a lot like Jesus and his disciples in Matthew 19.
And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”
“Who then can be saved?” O’Reilly provides the only logical answer: “Then there’s nobody in Heaven.” That’s exactly Jesus’ point. As he tells his disciples, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” This truth of Jesus’ is what both Moss and O’Reilly seem to be missing. With man salvation is impossible. We just can’t do it. We can’t be good enough. We can’t sell enough stuff to get to Heaven. Only with difficulty will a rich man enter the kingdom. Thankfully, Jesus bore that difficulty himself as he hung on the cross in my place.
O’Reilly chastises Moss for portraying Jesus as a socialist. (On a side note, I think it’s very telling that O’Reilly doesn’t seem to know what the word “anachronistic” means, but this post isn’t about the intellectual rigor of FoxNews.) O’Reilly correctly notes that Jesus didn’t come to talk about our politics. He came to deal with souls. But he’s so wrong when he says that Jesus wanted to deal “with the goodness of people.” Jesus came to deal with the sin of people. He came to deal with their incapability of reaching Heaven.
Rich people can’t get to Heaven. That’s why God himself, who has infinite riches, gave up everything in the person of Jesus. He gave up everything for a destitute humanity. The story of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19 isn’t really about the rich young ruler. It’s about Jesus. Jesus did what that rich man was incapable of doing, and through faith in Jesus’ resurrection we appropriate his righteousness.
In this clip, Moss and O’Reilly both seem to be advocating Jesus as a good example, though they argue over what example he’s setting. Neither get to the heart of the gospel in this clip. Jesus did the good works that fallen humanity couldn’t do, suffered what fallen humanity should have suffered, and rose from the grave as evidence that fallen humanity can be redeemed through faith.
Nobody’s in Heaven because they gave up their possessions. Everyone in Heaven is there because Jesus gave up everything.
Sometimes you have to take education into your own hands.