Saturday, 30 July 2011

Good old Dr Arnold ... and the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ

The person of Jesus and the truth of his resurrection are two giant megaliths that stand in the path of every atheist; megaliths so big that, though he walk around them, our atheist has only to look up from contemplating his own affairs and he will see them shining in the distance, every step of his way. Here is what Dr Arnold, the famous Head Master of Rugby, wrote on the subject:

 “I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God has given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead.”

Dr Anold, shown here on the exterior of the old buildings of the College of Preceptors (of which I'm a Fellow, incidentally).  Dr Arnold was Head Master of Rugby from 1828 to 1842, then Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford. 

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Buckingham University and Chavagnes

Mr McDermott writes:

I was recently asked a question about the University of Buckingham and the College's relationship with the School of Education of that university. For general information, here is a brief summary of our links with them:

Every year, for the last five years or so, we have been sending staff to Buckingham for teacher training. So far, five Chavagnes Masters have obtained a PGCE from Buckingham, including myself. I am currently in the final stages of a M.Ed. degree (Masters in Educational Leadership) from the same department. The structure of these courses involves periods of residence at Buckingham (with lectures and workshops), visits of university mentors to Chavagnes and finally the production of various pieces of written work which deal with theoretical and practical themes of direct relevance to our work as teachers (essays and theses from 3,000 to 15,000 words).

From the outset, I struck up a personal admiration and friendship for Professor Anthony O'Hear and Professor Chris Woodhead. Both men have been outspoken in their defence of standards in education (the latter as Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools, inter alia) and also in the defence of education as transmitting a definite canon of worthwhile culture to our young people. Our continuing support for Buckingham is in part a tribute to the academic work of the Department at Buckingham.

The leadership of the M. Ed. programme, and now of the Department of Education, is in the hands of Peter Ireland, a formidable former headmaster from Lancashire with a similar back-to-basics, 'no-nonsense' style to Chris Woodhead.

The Education programmes at Buckingham were developed by the University in response to demand from the Headmasters' Conference (HMC and also from COGNITA (, Chris Woodhead's own group of private schools.

Buckingham has an excellent academic standing, and we are proud to have started sending pupils there. Amongst other things, Buckingham is a champion of the idea that apart from ensuring high standards, education is really none of the government's business, except in a totalitarian state ....

Here is what wikipedia has about Buckingham's academic ranking:

General Overall Ranking
The University is ranked 21st out of the 115 universities in the UK in The Times Good University Guide 2012.[23]

In 2010 it was ranked 27th in Times Higher Education's "Table of Tables" 2010.[24] In 2010, The Independent, in association with its Complete University Guide 2010-11, ranked Buckingham as the 20th best university out of 115 institutions in the UK.[25] The Sunday Times University guide for 2010 included Buckingham in its league tables in 48th position out of 122 UK higher education institutes[26] stating that: "we rank the private University of Buckingham for the first time in our main league table this year. Top for student satisfaction, with the lowest level of graduate unemployment, the best student/staff ratio and the lowest drop-out rate compared to benchmark. Buckingham makes quite an entrance ..."[27] Confusingly, at that point the same publisher did not include Buckingham in its Good University Guide because Buckingham receives no state funding and therefore does not participate in the government's Research Assessment Exercise, which forms part of the Times ranking criteria (but not the Sunday Times).[28] This changed in 2012, when Buckingham was ranked 21st.
Times Higher Education reported that the University's 2008 graduates had the highest employment rate after six months.[29]

In recent years the University has consistently ranked highly in student satisfaction surveys. For example, Times Higher Education reported that Buckingham was ranked first in 2006,[30] 2007[31] and 2008[32] in the NSS or National Student Survey of student satisfaction. This is a census, albeit controversial, of final-year undergraduates conducted by IposMori, the polling organisation, to determine satisfaction levels at UK universities.[33] The survey relates to the whole student experience, from the experience of classes, and lecturer feedback, to the quality of pastoral care. In 2009, the University of Buckingham dropped to second place and in 2010 returned to first place.[34][35]

Department rankings

The most recent league tables of individual university departments in The Guardian University Guide 2012, produced by The Guardian newspaper, ranked the Business department as 15th (out of 116) in the country, English as 7th (out of 106), and Law as 27th (out of 95).[36]

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian mass-killer

Ja, vi elsker dette landet. "Yes, we love this land!", so goes the Nowegian national anthem. But nationalism can turn sour. Anders Behring Breivik, the young man who has just killed nearly a hundred of his countrymen, was a disturbing example of something we have associated recently with young Asian males from Bradford; but not so much with young white males from Oslo.  They all have the same problem: the feeling of alienation and a desperate need to belong to something, to fight for a cause. Of course, it seems obvious that Breivik must have serious psycholgical problems, but it is still interesting to think about what a man like this says to justify himself.

Today on Facebook a 1500 page manifesto was published giving a day by day account of Breivik's preparations for his killing spree. And on youtube, there was a film (now removed) where Breivik poses as a Knight Templar, in some kind of got-up dress uniform. I have been reading the Oslo evening papers today. It seems that Breivik was into just about everything exclusive: freemasonry, born-again evangelicalism, far-right politics, bogus knights templar ...

His 12-minute youtube film is divided into 4 sections: "The rise of Marxist multiculturalism", "Islamic colonisation", "Hope" and then "A new beginning".

We get the picture ... half-baked, deranged, murderous, no doubt. But do we have the answers the questions he was asking any more than we have answers for the deracinated Islamic youths of Europe?

There are no easy answers. This week France is tearing itself apart over whether or not it is a good idea to have public military parades on the French national day, whether soldiers who die in combat should be given public honours. Public displays of religious belief have become controversial in the USA and England as well as in anti-clerical France. Children are given easy access to abortion and contraception at school, and now (in France, in Year 12) are taught that our gender has nothing to do with our biological make-up .. It would seem that Anders Breivik and the Islamic extremists he considered his enemies  have a point about something. Western culture is in free-fall and needs a miracle to save it.

But that miracle is not coming by the sword. It is interesting that Breivik looks to the middle ages for inspiration. What the west needs is not medieval-style war, but medieval-style conversion. We need saints. And we need to start asking God to send them quickly; there is the rather unsettling, but quite possible issue that we might be the first candidates He has in mind  ... Now there's a passionate cause for young men in search of meaning. And it's harder than making bombs out of fertiliser.

We could make a start by acting on Benedict XV's message to the Norwegians today: pray for the dead, comfort the dying and stand united against hatred and violence.

I am reminded of a little song that inspired me when I was at primary school; it inspires me still:

When a knight won his spurs, in the stories of old,
He was gentle and brave, he was gallant and bold;
With a shield on his arm and a lance in his hand,
For God and for valour he rode through the land.

No charger have I, and no sword by my side,
Yet still to adventure and battle I ride,
Though back into storyland giants have fled,
And the knights are no more and the dragons are dead.

Let faith be my shield and let joy be my steed
'Gainst the dragons of anger, the ogres of greed;
And let me set free with the sword of my youth,
From the castle of darkness, the power of the truth.

Jan Struther

An afterthought: what are the Norwegians doing in Oslo now? Praying outside their medieval Cathedral. That's a way forward.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Getting to know our new chaplain

Father Rowe (pictured left, chatting with Mr Colin) is taking over as chaplain at Chavagnes in September. He has started up a blog which chronicles his news and views:

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Ministry meddling?

I received a letter yesterday from the local office of the French education ministry. It announced to me that from now on all new teachers at Chavagnes would need to apply for an authorisation to teach. OK, fair enough. But it went on to specify that they would not get it unless they had a Master's degree. For Sports teachers they had to have a bachelor's degree in Physical Education Science and a Master's degree.

I was worried. We have recruited a few new teachers, with UK qualified teacher status, and bachelor's degrees, but no Master's degrees. And we often have, in the past, recruited teachers straight from university and put them through their PGCE part-time. This new requirement seemed to rule this out; I rang the man from the ministry and he confirmed it.

Subsequent researches have confirmed, however, that the man from the ministry is wrong. The only qualification required of teachers in independent schools is the baccalaureat (A-levels). It appears that the over-zealous civil servants were applying to us the rules intended for private schools aided with government funding. He who pays the piper (or the teacher) calls the tune, which seems fair enough.

So, then there came a sense of relief that I would not have to spend hours of my time making the legal case for my new teachers (who are all experienced professionals) and for young recruits in the future, bringing their energy and idealism with them fresh from university. But now a sinking feeling is beginning to take hold. Once I have convinced our local men from the ministry of their mistake, they are bound to want their revenge ... I have a feeling that this is not the last we will hear from them.

Vive l'enseignement libre ...

Friday, 15 July 2011

God rest one of the last great Europeans, and let's thank God for men like him

I met Archduke Otto von Habsburg when I was 18 and he made a deep impression on me. His death should serve as wake-up call to young Europeans: we must rally to the defence of all Otto held dear.

At Chavagnes we will be asking Blessed Charles, Otto's father, to intercede for us all as we strive to play our part in reclaiming our culture for Christ.