On 2016-17 Scholars Bowl

All Fightin’ Roundabouts, interested Roundabouts, and Roundabout enthusiasts, the Scholars Bowl season is coming soon!

We’re going to have a meeting for students interested in Scholars Bowl on Monday before school. This is for returning members AND students interested in the team. Tell your friends. All the smart kids are going to be there.

On the Value of the Liberal Arts degree

There’s a lot of pressure on college students to choose a major that will yield a quick return on their college investment. It’s important to pick a course of study that will get you hired and earning money fast enough to pay off your student loans.

I get that.

But I also disagree with it. Somewhat. I have a liberal arts degree– Political Science (B.G.S., University of Kansas, 2004), so be specific– and that makes me specifically qualified to do just about nothing. Most PolySci majors go on to Law School because it’s the logical next step. But despite being collegiately qualified for nothing, I’ve never had a hard time finding career work after college– and I’ve had a few major career changes into totally different industries since then. And my wife has a Fine Arts degree… and she out-earns me.

So what I’m saying is that you don’t need to go Business-Administration-or-nothing during college. It’s ok to study something that you enjoy or that will push you beyond yourself or that is simply awesome and/or beautiful. You probably won’t starve to death while clutching your ragged copy of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America and begging to work for food (and if you do, you’d probably starve with a Business Administration degree anyway).

The magazine Inside Higher Education had an article up this week on how Historians are in demand, but the number of History majors is declining. They write:

History is hot right now. In the midst of a traumatic and turmoil-filled year — weekly violence, racial tensions, political upheaval, a shifting world order and wars with no ends in sight — we are crying out for historical perspective. Publications from The Wall Street Journal to Foreign Affairs are asking historians to tell their readers if (a) yes, it’s really as bad as it seems or if (b) it has, at times, been worse and humanity has survived. Historians are the dispassionate voice amid the din that gets us to calmly sit down in our chairs and reflect.

A recent piece in Patheos asks what exactly historians think we contribute in these trying times. Do we have special insights? Do we know lessons from the past that others don’t? Are we the true conscience of the nation? After all, self-examination about the role of the historian is a time-honored custom in our profession.

The world needs people who have learned to think in centuries, not in soundbytes. That person could be you.

On Google Classroom

I’m learning how Google Classroom works. How exciting! The experiment begins with Economics class. 4th Hour Econ should join my google classroom with the following class code:


This is an experiment and I reserve the right to abandon this project at any time. But how exciting!

On being kind and loving

There is a rule in my classroom. It’s called the “kind and loving” rule. I implemented it 4 or 5 years ago because of a boy that didn’t realize how hurtful his jokes were. We’re not going to go into that here (or ever, really). I’m not sure whatever happened to that boy, but I hope he figured out how better to show his humor with the world.

But it is in the spirit of being kind and loving that I share this letter from a mother to her son, Chase. I’ve excerpted part below.


I think that God puts people in our lives as gifts to us. The children in your class this year, they are some of God’s gifts to you.

So please treat each one like a gift from God. Every single one.

Baby, if you see a child being left out, or hurt, or teased, a little part of your heart will hurt a little. Your daddy and I want you to trust that heart- ache. Your whole life, we want you to notice and trust your heart-ache. That heart ache is called compassion, and it is God’s signal to you to do something. It is God saying, Chase! Wake up! One of my babies is hurting! Do something to help! Whenever you feel compassion – be thrilled! It means God is speaking to you, and that is magic. It means He trusts you and needs you.

And later:

When God speaks to you by making your heart hurt for another, by giving you compassion, just do something. Please do not ignore God whispering to you. I so wish I had not ignored God when He spoke to me about Adam. I remember Him trying, I remember feeling compassion, but I chose fear over compassion. I wish I hadn’t. Adam could have used a friend and I could have, too.

Great words. Remember, God has made you for this exact moment in the history of the world. He could have made you for any moment in any age. Be His instrument of kindness and love in the world right now. There is no other plan for you.

On Dutch Schultz and 11th Hour Salvation

Today would be the 114th birthday of Dutch Schultz, a hugely violent NYC gangster of the 1920s and 30s before he was killed by a rival gang. At the height of his mob control, Schultz was bringing in $20,000,000 (in 1931 dollars!). It was said that he left behind a fortune– several million of which was buried in a secret safe in the New York Catskills Mountains which has never been found.

I normally don’t have much interest in either “so-and-so was born today” history or crime history, but this news today reminded me of one of the most stirring sermons that I’ve ever heard about Dutch Schultz and his conversion to Catholicism near the end of his life. The occasion for the sermon was the gospel that Sunday was the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, which if you need a refresher on that parable, go read over it.

Go ahead. We’ll wait.

Refreshed your memory now? Ah, good.

I had the great privilege of hearing the 2009 sermon live. I later learned that some members of the parish had been recording this priest’s sermons, but at the priest’s request, that his name not be connected to the recordings so that he could continue to serve Jesus without creating any celebrity for himself. A worthy goal!

The sermon is 0:11:24 and may actually change your life. I’ve thought about it for years. http://walbergschool.com/randoms/20090208-11th-Hour-Salvation-A-Reason-for-Supernatural-Hope.mp3

“Of course he didn’t deserve it. He didn’t deserve it at all. But neither do we!”

On Shepherds in Scripture

Two teacher friends of mine, Mr. D’Amico and Mr. Pick, introduced me to a podcast the other day called “Catholic Stuff You Should Know”. Each episode is 35-45 minutes long and contain a fair amount of rambling (it’s a very casual podcast), but each one is loosely structured around a theme. Two people cohost each podcast. I think they’re all priests, but one may be a seminarian– I’ve just started listening and haven’t figured out all the details yet.

A recent podcast titled “Shepherds in Pastorland” was inspired by a coffee barista’s question to one of the hosts when he went in for his morning cup of coffee. “Why are there so many shepherds in the Bible?”

It’s about 40 minutes long, so put it on when you’re out for a long run or have lawn-mowing duty.

On the St. Benedict Medal

Even before I came to St. James Academy and joined St. Benedict’s Community (BENE! DICT!), I had been a big fan of the Father of Western Monasticism. At first, I was inspired by his commitment to radically following Christ rather than getting caught up in the distractions of the world. But later, I found that I have a Benedictine spirituality, finding that a setting the rhythm of my day around prayer can bear great fruit in my life.

So I’m Benedict ’til I die.

Anyway, I thought it was great to run across this story today about the significance of the St. Benedict medal– undoubtedly one of the coolest medals in Catholicism.

The Protection and Significance of A St. Benedict Medal Explained!

The medal is a way to obtain God’s blessings and protection through the intercession of St. Benedict. Wearing it is a way to remind ourselves of our life in Christ and the promises of heaven. It is a form of prayer and yet another way we can incorporate God into our daily lives.

According to the Order of St. Benedict, “The medal is a prayer of exorcism against Satan, a prayer for strength in time of temptation, a prayer for peace among ourselves and among the nations of the world, a prayer that the Cross of Christ be our light and guide, a prayer of firm rejection of all that is evil, a prayer of petition that we may with Christian courage ‘walk in God’s ways, with the Gospel as our guide,’ as St. Benedict urges us.”

The article also includes a long YouTube video about St. Benedict. It’s 1:28:35, so I’m waiting to watch it some other time.

You can also enter to win a bracelet with medals on it. Neat. :)

On America’s unofficial independence day?

Most Americans know that the Declaration of Independence is dated July 4, 1776. But that date is somewhat arbitrary. The Continental Congress actually voted for independence two days earlier on July 2– it took 2 days to finalize the wording of the Declaration.

Here, the exact timeline of signatures is somewhat in dispute, but it’s generally accepted that John Hancock, as President of the Congress, signed immediately. Mostly likely Congress’s secretary, Charles Thompson, too.

A few weeks later, the Continental Congress ordered some new copies be made and distributed (no small task in days before photocopiers… to say nothing of Microsoft Word). One in particular was to be the official one that would be copied and sent to an engraver for publishing. That one was signed today, August 2, 1776.

Well, mostly. Signatories would continue to add their names over the next several days. Maybe weeks later! The final version didn’t actually make it to print until January of the next year.