A Love of Learning Lifelong Learning The Classics

The Teaching of Citizenship

“Every man is called upon to be a statesman seeing that every man and woman, too, has a share in the government of the country; but statesmanship requires imaginative conceptions, formed upon pretty wide reading and some familiarity with historical precedents.”

Thus wrote Charlotte Mason, a turn-of-the-20th-century British educator, in her seminal work, “Towards a Philosophy of Education.” What truth these words still contain for us today!

As American citizens, we must understand that with rights come responsibilities, and we personally have a role to play in the proper functioning of our society. In the United States, some of our specific obligations include understanding how our system of government works, as well as educating ourselves during elections to vote for people we believe will best uphold the principles that our nation was founded upon and the system of government that our Founding Fathers established.

We must have respect and gratitude for the wisdom of the past, which in today’s culture can serve as an important tonic against the all too prevalent idea that we are the first enlightened people to populate the earth. C.S. Lewis refers to this as “chronological snobbery,” and it is endemic in America today. This attitude tends to destroy and erase the past, rather than to learn and grow from it.

One aspect of citizenship is to conduct an honest assessment of what has gone before us, and to learn from it. How do we impress this upon today’s youth? A study of Plutarch fits the bill. By presenting the virtues and vices of men, and holding them up for you to see and to judge, Plutarch encourages us to continue the same process, and to learn from history, so as not to make the same mistakes.

Our Founding Fathers were so strongly influenced by Plutarch, and so well-acquainted with his “Lives,” that they wanted sets of this work to be bought and placed in every library in our new nation! They knew that the noble ideas and heroic actions contained within the pages of Plutarch’s “Lives” were mind-fodder for our citizenry, and they wanted us to keep these models at the forefront of our minds. But you ask, is Plutarch still relevant today? Why, yes. Yes, he is.

But first, who was Plutarch? Born in A.D. 50 in the Greek region of Boetia, at a time of great decadence in Greece, as well as military despotism in Rome, he was a philosopher most famous for his work, “Parallel Lives.” Written in pairs of one Greek and one Roman life, this work includes details of the greatest men of these two great nations.

Plutarch is referred to as the “prince of biographers,” and was also an educationalist, with many thoughts on the responsibilities of parents and the training of children—in particular, character formation and citizenship. He wrote to warn his contemporaries what would result if the culture continued to decline morally, and that this “loss of moral sanity must sooner or later cause national decay.” This objective remains relevant in today’s cultural moment, does it not?

Charlotte Mason incorporated the study of Plutarch into her schools, but not under the category of history; rather, students studied Plutarch under the banner of citizenship. This does not imply that children merely studied what it meant to be a citizen of their nation (although they also did that). Instead, a study of citizenship fostered the ability to discriminate between a man’s actions as right or wrong, and it inspired ideas of what makes a person a valuable citizen.

In Plutarch’s day, history was written in the form of biography. Plutarch himself, in his “Life of Alexander,” writes:

“For it is not Histories that I am writing, but Lives; and in the most illustrious deeds there is not always a manifestation of virtue or vice, nay, a slight thing like a phrase or a jest often makes a greater revelation of character than battles where thousands fall, or the greatest armaments, or sieges of cities.”

Good character is the foundation of citizenship, and highlighting this makes Plutarch ideal for modern study. Plutarch provides the fodder by which our children’s minds begin to clearly differentiate between right and wrong, good and evil. It inspires children to emulate the valor they find in the readings, while avoiding the poor decisions made by men in the past. Plutarch’s “Lives” furnishes our children’s minds with real-life examples of the formation of character that remains the great desire of parents for their children today.

What is it about Plutarch that makes him such a good choice for this subject? “Parallel Lives” inspires our moral imagination by placing before us the life of a real man who made decisions, good or bad, which had consequences, for better or worse. Reading about the repercussions of these choices encourages our students to ask questions: Should he have done that? Was it right or wrong? What would I have done in this situation? Plutarch is masterful in his ability to bring out character strengths and flaws, without moralizing or pointing to the message he wants you to take from your reading. Thus, he is excellent food for our modern scholars’ minds.

We must all be serious students of history in order to understand the influence of the past upon our lives today. At a time when the concept of personal responsibility has been abandoned for a culture of passing the buck, Plutarch can fill the gap by offering an education in civic virtue. His “Lives” is replete with ideas, such as that of individual responsibility and the consequences of ideas. It inspires us to patriotism and provides living examples of honor and valor.

Turn to the wisdom of the past to successfully navigate the present. You will find yourself surprised by how relevant the words of this ancient biographer prove to be.

A Love of Learning Lifelong Learning

The Legacy of Laoshu: Youtuber and Polyglot

Self-taught language enthusiast Moses McCormick, known to the online language world as laoshu505000 fluently mastered around 20 languages during his lifetime and possessed basic speaking knowledge of 40 to 50 others, including regional dialects. An avid learner, described by his family as dedicated and an inspiration to a lot of people, including his over 1 million YouTube subscribers, Moses found learning languages as one of his life’s primary passions.

It all began after graduating from high school in 1999. “He was staying with our uncle up in Patterson Park here in Akron, Ohio,” said his sister, Susan McCormick. “He used to always have this tape recorder, with a headphone set. And he would be listening,” she told me. “I think he started out with Mandarin Chinese.” This was the beginning of his prolific deep-dive into languages. Susan said she didn’t even know he knew as many languages as he did.

After moving to Columbus, Moses began taking learning languages more seriously, launching his YouTube channel laoshu505000 in 2006, with the help of his best friend, Marcell. He used his channel as a way to document his language learning progress but also as a learning platform for his viewers and subscribers, teaching languages from Chinese, Japanese, Zulu, Swahili, Hindi, Arabic, Tibetan, Tamil, and more. As of 2021, he had uploaded more than 3,000 videos.

Leveling Up Language Learning

In 2010, Moses devised a unique language-learning method called the FLR technique (Foreign Language Roadrunning). Composed of six steps, its aim was to get you speaking the target language from day one. The purpose was to teach students real-world conversation proficiency in any language of their choosing. This method would lead learners to achieve full conversational fluency in just a couple of months. It is this same technique that helped Moses on his own language learning journey. 

During this time, Moses would also upload almost daily to his YouTube channel, one of his famous ones being his “Level Up” videos. These would involve him going out in public and speaking to strangers in their native tongue. Sometimes it would be Chinese, other times Somali, or even Russian. 

“And they’d be like, oh my gosh! Because he’d know exactly what they were talking about,” said Susan. A lot of the reactions were funny as people didn’t expect an American to speak their language, Susan told me.

Many of his videos became viral, attracting millions of views from fans all over the world. They served as a source of inspiration for all.

Susan said her brother never bragged about his knowledge. He didn’t think about how many YouTube followers he had, he was simply focused on helping people who really wanted to learn a language.

‘He was an inspiration to a lot of people’

Moses enjoyed learning languages so much that he never viewed it as work. 

Susan said that her brother served as a source of inspiration for her eldest son. He looked up to him and would always say he wanted to learn to speak different languages like his uncle. 

Moses entertained, taught, and touched hundreds of thousands of people, both online and in-person through his charismatic personality and love of different cultures and traditions.  

Unfortunately, Moses McCormick passed away just a week before his 40th birthday on March 4 in Phoenix, Arizona. 

“He was on this earth and did all these things. He touched all these people. He really lived up to the name Moses,” said Susan.

Fellow language-learner Anthony Quezada stumbled upon Moses’s YouTube channel 12 years ago, in 2009. Quezada said that Moses was his trigger to start learning languages. He helped him become more open-minded, curious, and accepting of other perspectives. 

“Thanks to him, I have since picked up other languages like French and currently Mandarin Chinese. I have even gotten back to improving my family language (Spanish).”

When asked about the importance of learning languages, Quezada said that it is especially important right now. “If we could all do our share and make an effort to understand even one other culture besides our own, I think the world would be that much closer to peace and collective mutual understanding,” he commented.

Susan believes her brother served as an inspiration for different cultures, especially African-Americans but also young people. She mentioned that some of the people who personally messaged her regarding her brother were only high-school students themselves. “He inspired them to work hard at it and achieve it, and do it,” she said. 

“The most important legacy that he left behind is that you can achieve your goal. You just have to be disciplined.”

‘Moses gave the world his heart and soul’

Robert Nguyen, known by the name “Fugee,” was Moses’ best friend, and knew him for 22 years. “When I first met him, he only knew three languages. Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese, and Japanese, with Mandarin being his strongest.”

He had the ability to affect everyone around him through his calm personality and compassionate nature. Fugee said he used to have an arrogant, competitive nature when it came to fighting games but Moses made him realize how important it was to be humble. 

Many people, both young and old, whether online or in-person were touched by Moses’ compassionate and persevering personality. These are the same people who are continuing his important message of spreading love, positivity, and respect to all.

A Love of Learning Lifelong Learning

Life After Facebook

Timing is a funny thing. It’s good to be aware of it. As my young adult children left home, I took up new interests; joined a new magazine blog, took art and design courses, and since it was the new way college kids were communicating, joined Facebook to keep up with mine. In light of my empty nest, visiting online was uplifting and fun. I loved connecting with friends, sharing photos and ideas, giving and receiving inspiration. It was refreshing. There’s no doubt that Facebook helped me through that tough adjustment.

But, as the Bible reminds us, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” What worked for yesterday doesn’t always work for today. My season with Facebook was over. My children had left it years earlier … they’re parents now. But I’d been checking in habitually for something no longer there. Overall, the tone of Facebook had changed radically, in a way that didn’t suit my temperament. Online manners were appalling, and thus affected my mood and well-being. I wasn’t living my best life.

One morning I found myself talking with my brother-in-law’s twin, Matt, on an unrelated issue, but the subject came up. “I deactivated,” he said. “I didn’t delete; I want my pictures one day. I use the time for audiobooks and other things. I’ve found it therapeutic to remove myself from social media. Facebook makes money manipulating feeds and emotions, and it’s not healthy.”

Having experienced it, I couldn’t disagree. When I asked if he missed the connection with his friends, he said, “It’s much better to pick up the phone or go see people.”

So simple—so like it used to be when I felt happier. My time on Facebook was over; so without regret, I deactivated and deleted the app. A calm silence took its place initially, until I experienced my first withdrawal symptom—going back with embarrassing frequency to the app’s old site on my iPad, as if it were still there. Sure, that was to be expected, old habits die hard.

But old habits can be used to develop new habits. By the second day, I knew I needed to replace Facebook’s vacant spot with something I wanted to pursue … Bible reading. As long as I was going to repeatedly return to the same spot, it was helpful to have a new behavior to engage in. So I relocated my bible app to the newly vacated location, and instead of coming up empty in each ‘seeking’ journey, I found something substantial and helpful instead. My outlook and sense of self brightened—that was a good move. I highly suspect it was not really my idea and most likely divine intervention, a call to something better. In addition to the time I had reclaimed, I regained energy.

Soon I experienced a popcorn effect of change. The Bible app was the first ‘pop,’ and a day or two later, I started listening to more audiobooks. ‘Pop, pop, pop,’ more ideas awakened. It was time to learn to make banana cream pie—which, it turns out, wasn’t hard. Why had I waited so long?

Inspiration greeted me as I emerged from my stupor, and pretty soon the popcorn was at full pop. Possibilities abounded. I rediscovered the joy in practicing my instruments and in my needlework. My kitchen beckoned. I was taking new joy in the simple pleasures of cooking and baking. Soon my increased cooking drew my recent-bachelor neighbor over, and my husband and I would sit outside with him at the patio table to share a meal. That began a ripple effect: His children and our grandchildren would gather around us, and soon they became friends.

Tactile activities gave me new pleasure. I loved the sounds involved in playing ping-pong, loved the sound of my knitting needles in action, cooking sounds, and just silence. My husband, Michael, and I started using our outdoor fire pit at unusual times, like at morning coffee.

As a byproduct of enjoying more peace, I sleep better. Sleeping works wonders on your nervous system and cognitive function. My concentration increased, as did my ability to become engrossed in an activity. After a few weeks of being more rested, I conquered a very difficult passage in a piano piece that used to frustrate me, and began learning new songs.

At lunch, my daughter-in-law, Rebekah, talked about exiting Facebook. “At first, I felt guilty,” she said, “like I was keeping secrets. But then it felt wonderful to not put my business out there for everyone to know.” Sweet privacy. We need connection, but we don’t need to share our current lives with everyone we’ve ever known.

Friends and family members have, at times, been triggered into anxiety by being misunderstood or by something hurtful somebody said online. Try as they might, overcoming quickly enough to enjoy their evening or to sleep well was easier said than done. I don’t miss the triggers. Once an emotional fire is put out, sufferers vow to stop playing with matches, but somehow fires will always flare up.

My friend, Carla, often thinks of quitting. “I don’t like ‘quickly checking into my account’ and then realizing two hours have gone by and I have nothing to show for them. I hate wasting my time like that. Before bed, I regret how I spent my day. There was so much I could have done instead.”

Karthi, a friend who helped me realize the vast difference in my post-Facebook life said, “The real value in your quitting is that you’ve discovered newfound peace and freedom. You’re knitting, sewing, reading, learning the cello, cooking, sleeping better. You’re doing what you want. Social media can be so addictive, and we don’t realize what we’re missing out on. Please write an article about it!”

Matt’s sage words he spoke the day I quit are still with me. “Don’t be a victim of social media manipulation; it’s way more powerful than you realize.”

Chicago-born, Boston University-educated, first-generation American, and freelance writer Evelyn Glover has traveled the world with her college-sweetheart husband of 34 years. They live near their grandchildren in Franklin, Tennessee, where they pursue and teach many varied arts: writing, cooking, painting, needlework, piano, and cello.