Witches, Essays, Agriculture and More

I was thinking of writing a lengthy piece over lunch, when I wrote up my task list and realized that “lunch” needed to be no more than twenty minutes long. So instead, I present a number of pieces that struck me as interesting lately, but which I don’t have a whole post worth of things to say about.

InsideCatholic just reprinted a lengthy piece by medievalist Sandra Miesel discussing the realities of witch burning in the Middle Ages through “Age of Reason”. It’s an article well worth the time to read, avoiding both the slanders of anti-Catholics and the overly rosy rebuttals used by some apologists.

Entrepreneur Paul Graham has an interesting essay on what an essay should be, why people ought to write them, and how high school English classes do a pretty poor job of teaching people this skill. I’ve always thought it would be really cool to develop a 1-2 year high school course on the essay when our kids get closer to that age, and I find Graham’s thinking on the topic fairly sound. He has quite a few online essays himself, and several others are interesting in the extreme. I’m hoping I get the chance to write about some of them later.

One a somewhat related note, the book editor of the LA Times writes about how the tempo of modern life trains one out of the habits necessary to immerse oneself in a book.

Farmer Blake Hurst has a response to the “agri-intellectuals” such as Michael Pollan, Rod Dreher and Mathew Scully. I follow some of the agri-intellectuals as far as the “one should eat real food most of the time” point, but have often found their economic views rather frustrating. Hurst expresses frustration that many of their practical views on farming are not all that based in experience either — and also takes some affront at city-living non-farmers telling farmers how to be more “in touch” with the land.

The White House is apparently in a tug-of-war with a concerned physicians group pushing for vegan and vegetarian options in the National School Lunch Program. The group has put posters up in Union Station featuring the eight-year-old daughter of one of the activist with the line, “President Obama’s daughters get healthy school lunches. Why don’t I?” The White House (probably understandably) doesn’t think using the president’s daughters to score political points is acceptable. Clearly, I’m a heartless conservative, because my first thought was: A vegetarian lunch could be as simple as a peanut butter sandwich, an apple or banana, and carrot or celery sticks. Indeed, that’s exactly what I used to carry in my lunch bag every day when I was going to school as an eight year old. Plus all those items are covered by WIC if you’re low income. So while I get the “healthy lunch” push, how about pushing for parents to take five minutes to pack their kids some food?

6 Responses to Witches, Essays, Agriculture and More

  • Cross-post of the same comment I left at Darwin’s site.
    ——–
    Instathoughts provided without the benefit of actually reading linked-to articles.

    Re: essays. I don’t think I could tell you what an essay is or what it should be. I’m not sure what is distinctive about an “essay” compared to lengthy article in the New Yorker or First Things. And I went to a college with good core curriculum. Looking forward to reading the piece.

    Re: “agri-intellectuals”. Really looking forward to this one. I remember explaining this concept to my mother once. She replied simply by saying that her (now long deceased) grandparents who lived in rural Louisiana believed that, and I quote, “farming is a cursed life.” I’m not even sure I believe that “one should eat real food most of the time” given that such a view usually connotates, 1) a rejection of the benefit of pesticides and genetic engineering; and 2) a rejection of the great good that industrialized farming has had on improving worldwide life span by making things like famine far less of a threat.

    Re: vegan and vegetarian school lunches. This brought to mind something I have often thought to myself. Conservatives are at a real disadvantage politically on some issues b/c the real conservative response is that “we can’t help you.” But you can’t say that. So when we look at failing schools we have to talk about “free market” solutions like charter schools and vouchers. I believe these do make a difference, at least in the margins. But what we really should say, indeed what our principles should lead us to conclude, is, “There isn’t any structural change we can make – better curriculum, merit pay, competition – that can change the fact that these kids are coming to school each day from homes where the parent can’t even be bothered to pack a peanut butter sandwich and some carrot sticks. And until that changes, little can be done to improve educational outcomes.”

  • Entrepreneur Paul Graham has an interesting essay on what an essay should be, why people ought to write them, and how high school English classes do a pretty poor job of teaching people this skill. I’m hoping I get the chance to write about some of them later.

    So Darwin is going to write an essay about an essay that itself is essentially an essay in how to write an essay?

    Remarkable. Really.

  • I can’t wait to write an essay about whatever Darwin writes.

  • Well, here, I can’t wait to write an essay about an essay written by S.B. that’s about an essay written by Darwin about an essay written by Graham which subject was about how to write an essay!

  • Thanks for posting some very thought-provoking links, Darwin.

    I’ve just skimmed quickly through the Graham essay on essays and found it pretty compelling, and as a side benefit, it gives lots of historical details about the development of the modern university and legal systems!

    Also read through the entire post by Hurst responding to agri-intellectuals. I own and have read both Pollan’s and Scully’s books, and I found them quite compelling. But the laws of physics also seem to work in literature, and there is an equally valid and opposite “reaction”, provided by Hurst, to the interesting original “actions” of Scully, Pollan and Dreher. It really boggles the mind when we learn about the incredibly intricate and complex systems behind mass-scale farming in the modern world.

    So my concern then turns to something even vastly more complex than large-scale farming: health care reform in one of the largest developed countries in the world! I don’t even want to consider how badly Uncle Sam’s bureaucratic armies could botch up that system in the future–YIKES!

  • *grin* The one from the farmer sounds exactly like my parents. (Dad’s been ranching and farming for roughly 40 years and has an AA; mom has been doing family-sized farming and ranching for about 30, and has a BS in animal husbandry with a minor in education. I sent her the article in hopes that she’ll write something I can blog. ^.^)

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