The Great Conversation

There are questions that we have asked and tried to answer throughout human history: Why are we here? How did we get here? Who are we? 

Our education should address these universal questions and examine how great thinkers have answered them. Classical education prepares students to engage in this Great Conversation by introducing them to great literature, often through unabridged stories and primary texts. These writings contain stories that are relevant to us even in modern day because they contain universal truths. 

However, we frequently acknowledge that books such as Crime and Punishment or Les Miserables are good intellectually, but do not undertake the task of reading them unless they are personally recommended to us. For this series of posts, we have asked CPLS faculty members, “What is one book that has been personally influential in your life which you think all Cair Paravel students should read?” 

Mr. Woolery, 7th grade teacher and soccer coach answered,

“The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. No surprise on this one, right?  Love this book, especially at the middle school level. The reason I love this book so much is because it tells the great story of a young person (in this case, a young boy), growing and maturing into a man.  Incidentally, he is the exact same age as the middle schoolers who read it. The book contains all of the elements of good literature…action, adventure, suspense, danger, friendship, love, anger, and sadness.  What’s not to like?”

“The best way to sum up the idea of the Jody (the main character) starting out as a squirrely young man and morphing into a man is to quote the closing lines of the book:  ‘In the beginning of his sleep, he cried out, ‘Flag!’ It was not his own voice that called. It was a boy’s voice. Somewhere beyond the sink-hole, past the magnolia, under the live oaks, a boy and a yearling rad side by side, and were gone forever.’”

Becky Greene, grammar school music teacher, recommends The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, especially the Whitaker House publication. She says

“When I first read “The Practice of the Presence of God,” Brother Lawrence’s words seemed too simple and the idea of his practice too unrealistic. When the practice moved from an idea to a practice of my own, I was surprised at the depth of spiritual growth in making every action for the love of God and training the soul to be aware of the presence of its creator.”

Mr. Mark Congdon, 7th-12th grade music teacher has two suggestions by C.S. Lewis which he admits are slightly cliche considering the school he teaches at: 

“Screwtape Letters: Lewis’ genius shows itself in authoring a book from the perspective of ‘the other side.’ In playing the devil’s advocate, literally in this case, he cuts deeply into the common faults and misperceptions of the common Christian. I’ve read this book at least 6 times, and I learn something new every time.”“Perelandra (the 2nd book from his Planet trilogy): Lewis’ fantastic imagination is put on display in his Space Trilogy. If you enjoyed the Narnia Chronicles as a kid, you will love this trilogy as an adult (or young adult). Perelandra is Venus, a planet visited by Ransom, our earth-dwelling protagonist. When he arrives, he realizes he has been dropped into a “Garden of Eden” situation. He meets the “Eve” character and soon realizes she is undergoing temptation from the “serpent” character. Ransom battles the serpent in an attempt to save Eve, and the whole planet, from falling into Sin. My entire spiritual worldview was rocked by this book and its depictions of both a sinless world and human nature before the Fall.”

Summer is a great time to read books that can impact wisdom, perspective and spiritual challenge. Find a great one today!

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