Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Recommendation: Waiting for Superman

This documentary addresses an uncomfortable subject: the difficulty (or, at times, the impossibility) of poor Americans to give their children a good education. This movie looks at several families where the parents or guardians, who love and desire the best for their children, wish to obtain a quality education. It shows that public education is not reliable for many Americans because individual student needs are easily dismissed in the bureaucratic structures that manage our schools.

It also captures the strength of the national teachers union which has changed public education from something that benefits children to something that provides guaranteed income to tenured teachers no matter how poorly they do their jobs. While the Church defends unions and teachers should have job and income security, these benefits cannot endanger the educative process or eliminate the possibility of the poor to get a good education. I am strongly in favor of unions (especially in our era where preventing labor from organizing has made it impossible for most workers to earn a living wage {where they can support a family with one income}), but unions exist to serve the common good. While the teachers union has not succeeded in gaining greater wages, it has succeeded in keeping poor educators in the classroom and working to end efforts to improve education opportunities for the poor. This documentary shows the tragic consequences for families who desire to give their children an education and the overwhelming and sometimes impossible challenges they must confront on this path.

The cultural problems in education are deeper than those presented in this film. Nonetheless, this film offers a valuable contribution in exposing the reality of American public education today.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Polish Composer: Henryk Gorecki

The Polish contribution to Western culture and civilization is underestimated and little known. Few know the story of the the Lublin University school of philosophy where an ontological critique of Marxism originated that provided a tool to discredit communism at the cultural level. The human encounter with repressive socialist ideology led to many artistic works that point to something deeper that could not be explained with the dominant materialist ideology. Poland’s thought is valuable today because our culture is adopting a new form of materialism that has a more subtle and comprehensive grasp on our culture.

This is the first of several posts that will examine the cultural contribution of Poland that can help us address the reality we face in the West today.

Henryk Gorecki was a Polish composer that provided a response to the oppressive ideology by provided musical works that pointed toward another reality. His second symphony was commissioned by Cardinal Karol Wojtyla and he dedicated two works to Pope John Paul II: Beautis Vir (Opus 38 ) and Totus Tuus (Op 60). He also quit his university teaching post in 1979 to protest the government’s refusal to allow Pope John Paul II to visit. His most famous work is his third symphony, the Symphony of the Sorrowful Songs (Op 36).