CELTA, weeks one and two

I’m now at the halfway mark in the journey to earning my “CELTA,” which stands for “Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults.” The training is a rigorous as anything I’ve experienced; probably similar in intensity to the MTC (which explains the 2-week hiatus in blogging), but with a different focus. One of this generation’s wisest men said that “education is the key to opportunity,” and I think he would approve of such a course. It’s already changing how I teach and how I think about teaching. I recommend the course to anyone who would like to learn how to teach the English language. And while I won’t be able to go abroad to teach English until sometime next year due to a commitment to Big Brothers (which I also recommend), my plan is to teach free English classes locally so as to get some practice and not lose the valuable (and moderately pricey) skills I’m learning.

I’ll comment more on the CELTA experience later.

Note: I’m also reading A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-first Century by Oliver Van DeMille. You really should read this book, and think about what it means for you, your children, and anyone else whose education matters to you.

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The Best Books They Read in 2007…

If you’re looking for good books to read, here are a few suggestions from some folks whose taste I consider trustworthy (authors, editors, & staff of Ignatius Press):

The Best Books I Read in 2007…

Highlights from the article:

From Peter Kreeft‘s reviews:

Regarding Michael O’Brien’s new novel, Island of the World : “Michael’s book was predictably good, perhaps his best one yet, an intergenerational, long, yet exciting read about the Catholic heroes of Croatia. Michael is spinach.”

Anne Rice’s novel Jesus of Nazareth: Out of Egyptis a book supposedly written (or thought) by Jesus Himself as a kid! Yet it works, remarkably well. There is not an inauthentic note in it. I’d rank it third on the all-time list of Jesus fiction, only the third time anyone has successfully written a piece of fiction about Jesus (the first being Dostoyevski’s “The Grand Inquisitor” and the second being Lewis’s Narnia chronicles (they should be called the Aslan Chronicles).

(Note: the book’s title is actually Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt.)

From Dale Ahlquist, president and co-founder of the American Chesterton Society:

Jesus of Nazareth, by Pope Benedict XVI. A lifetime of learning comes together in the most important subject of all. I savored each page.

Religion and the Rise of Western Culture, by Christopher Dawson. A glorious study of Medieval civilization. A book that should be read by everyone even remotely connected to education.

The Offbeat Radicals: The British Tradition of Alternative Dissent, by Geoffrey Ashe. Shows how Chesterton influenced Gandhi.

Mark Brumley is President of the Board of Directors of Guadalupe Associates and Chief Executive Officer for Ignatius Press.

Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen. I had never read it before. Loved it. Would read it again at the drop of a hat.

The Jesus Legend, by Paul Rhodes Eddy and Gregory A. Boyd. Good rebuttal to the Jesus Seminar, and the other revisionists.

From journalist, author, and architect Moyra Doorly:

Story of a Soul, by St Therese of Lisieux. This was the first account of the spiritual life that had me laughing out loud with delight.

From Dr. Thomas Howard, a highly acclaimed writer and literary scholar noted for his studies of Inklings C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams:

The Lyttleton–Hart-David Letters. A 3-vol. collection of letters written between 1955 and 1962, between the publisher Rupert Hart-Davis, and his former Eton “beak” (master) George Lyttleton, of the gold-plated Lyttleton family. Gloriously literate, clever, urbane, flashing letters. The best sort of bedtime reading.

From Sandra Miesel, a Catholic journalist, medieval historian, and co-author of The Pied Piper of Atheism and the best-selling The Da Vinci Hoax:

An Experiment In Criticism, by C.S. Lewis. An admirable model for critics.

Preface to Paradise Lost, by C.S. Lewis. An excellent antidote to Philip Pullman.

Planet Narnia, by Michael Ward. An exciting and persuasive new interpretation of the Chronicles in terms of planetary symbolism.

Michael O’Brien, Canadian self-taught painter and writer, wrote:

The Bridge on the Drina, by Ivo Andric, a novel that chronicles the “life” of a bridge and a town in Bosnia, including its Serb, Croat, Muslim, Turkish, Jewish, and Austrian residents. First published in 1946, this book has become a classic, beloved by (amazingly) all peoples of former Yugoslavia–and throughout the world.

I wanted to include something from each of the article’s contributors, but this post is already quite long enough. So I opted for a few excerpts that I hope motivate you to read the article in its entirety – it doesn’t take as long as you might suspect, and you may find yourself planning to read nearly all of the books listed (as I did). My favorite comment is the reference to spinach (though I’m not sure what it means…).

Note: most of the descriptions above are taken directly from the article at Ignatius Insight.

The Importance (Urgency?) of Reading

From a blog entry by Andy Farmer of Covenant Fellowship Church Family Life Ministry :

Reading quality Christian books will never replace the reading of God’s word or the preaching of your pastor, but it will help you hear and understand with greater maturity. A good book will challenge your thinking and motivate your heart. It will dislodge error and give you an appetite for truth. Good books humble us by reminding us that, to paraphrase an old Irish proverb, ‘good ideas often aren’t new, and new ideas often aren’t good’.

This excellent quote, which I found while searching for a good blog on Family Life Education (FLE for short), gives a superb answer to the question, “Why read?” Of course I agree with his idea that “quality Christian books” can be a tremendous force for good in our lives, and would extend the claim to all good literature. While the above quote is my favorite part of the entry – particularly where it talks about good books dislodging error, which has more and more often been my grateful experience – the author also offers what I consider valuable insights on determining whether something is worth our time. Andy’s entry is a short, worthwhile one; I heartily recommend it to you. And of course it is no surprise that Scripture passes all his criteria with flying colors.

He ends with a quote from C. S. Lewis: “The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are. (C.S. Lewis, The Quotable Lewis p.233), which reminds me of one of Wayne Booth‘s most widely recognized contribution to the field of literary theory: the concept of “the company we keep.” From UC Press:

In The Company We Keep, Wayne C. Booth argues for the relocation of ethics to the center of our engagement with literature…While not ignoring the consequences for conduct of engaging with powerful stories, it will attend to that more immediate topic, What happens to us as we read? Who am I, during the hours of reading or listening? What is the quality of the life I lead in the company of these would-be friends?

The page also provides some comments by critics: “[An] almost indecently satisfying book,” from Anatole Broyard, New York Times Book Review. I’m somewhat familiar with Booth’s theory, and I like what I’ve learned about it, and by using it, so far. No matter how much teenagers (and those stuck in the teenager stage of life) protest, we are undoubtedly affected by “the company we keep,” whether speaking of individuals or groups, or of anything they may create.

So, we’ve gone full-circle: Andy Farmer reminds us of the primacy of Scripture, and Booth gives us another reason for that primacy – as we become more familiar with the life and teachings of Christ and those whom He has set apart to represent Him, we become more like Him. It has become clear to me (though nonetheless astounding) that this is by design.