Chipotle and the power of a story

Justin Bariso explains how Chipotle's use of heartfelt stories helps "woo" customers back to the eatery (after a flurry of E. Coli cases). Bariso believes these refined animations touch the heart, producing an affection not just for the story told, but also for Chipotle.

"A Love Story" is not the only video Chipotle has produced. One of my favorites is Willie Nelson's distressed voice singing Coldplay's "The Scientist":

Chipotle's use of these animations highlights the power of a well-told story. My hope is that Mindhenge videos have a similar effect, piquing interest with prospective families as well as educating and reinforcing the commitment of current families.

When schools customize the video they are communicating that the story told in the video is not simply a story they like or aspire to, but it's their story.

Striving for a Chestertonian Spirit!

In one of my favorite moments of Toy Story 3, Mr. Pricklepants, a stuffed (and stuffy) porcupine asks Woody in a smug tone, “are you classically trained?” This lederhosen-wearing porcupine, while cute, has airs of superiority. I find it interesting that Mr. Pricklepants’ question seeks to learn whether Woody is classically trained, albeit of the thespian variety.

Classical Christian educators should keep in mind that it is indeed possible for classical schools and classically-trained minds to grow proud and aloof, taking themselves too seriously (like Woody’s friend, Mr. Picklepants). In order to mitigate the risk, classical Christian educators should heed the example of G.K. Chesterton, a man whose herculean intellect made its impact on the world because of his even greater imagination. Chesterton’s robust mind was coupled with a sense of playfulness and levity. This was, after all, the man who said angels fly because they take themselves lightly.

Before seeing Chesterton’s levity at work, some background is in order. During the 1950s (nearly two decades after Chesterton’s death), Dr. Alfred Kessler stumbled upon a gem. Kessler, a fan of Chesterton, found a used book in a San Francisco bookstore entitled Platitudes in the Making: Precepts and Advices for Gentryfolk by Holbrook Jackson. What made this book special is that it was a copy of the book given to Chesterton by Holbrook Jackson himself. Jackson and Chesterton, while friends, were worlds apart theologically and philosophically so the copy of Jackson’s book found by Kessler was laced with Chesterton’s witty remarks on the platitudes in Chesterton’s own handwriting. Chesterton’s handwritten comments provide a fascinating window into Chesterton’s playfulness and wit at work.

Some of my favorite Chesterton quips include the following:

         Jackson’s platitude: “No opinion matters finally: except your own.”

Chesterton’s handwritten comment: “…said the man who thought he was a rabbit.” 

Jackson’s platitude: “Things done on principle are things done wrong.”

Chesterton’s handwritten comment: “Only on the wrong principle. This last principle, for instance.” 

Jackson’s platitude: “A lie is that which you do not believe.”

Chesterton’s handwritten comment: “This is a lie: so perhaps you don’t believe it”

Jackson’s platitude: “Friendship is the only respectable form of human intimacy.”

Chesterton’s handwritten comment: “Puritan!”

Jackson’s platitude: “A man is a ship: his religion a harbour. Few men sail the high seas.”

Chesterton’s handwritten comment: “No, men do, except to find a harbour somewhere.”

Chesterton’s comments in Platitudes Undone refute Jackson’s maxims on life, but do so in a clever and playful way.

Like Chesterton, we live in an age at odds with the Christian vision of life. In such a setting, it is important that Christians cultivate the life of the mind. As Ken Myers says,

If ever there is a time when mindless Christianity is likely to produce menacing consequences, it is when the surrounding culture is embracing new conventions of thought, new institutional arrangements, new formative practices in the shape of everyday life.

Classical Christian educators would do well to cultivate the life of the mind and at the same time foster a creative, gracious, humble, and even playful spirit – a Chestertonian spirit! After all, in an age all too often marked by inflated, antagonistic discourse, the world could use more Chestertons, and fewer Mr. Pricklepantses. 

Is your school suited to serve your son?

American culture has grown increasingly hostile to boys. Recently, Allison Hull has wondered why Disney hates boys so much. But Disney's dearth of admirable male characters is part a larger problem for boys.  

Christina Hoff Sommers, writing in Timeargues that school has become hostile to boys. Albert Mohler summarizes the article and considers evidence that documents a growing gap between male and female academic performance, with boys performance suffering (click here; the discussion begins at the 8:00 mark). 

Classical Christian education takes seriously the differences between boys and girls, and seeks to cultivate the best of each sex. In my own involvement in classical Christian education, we spend considerable time discussing how we best serve boys in age increasingly hostile to them. 

Gregory the Great Academy in PA is giving attention to what a good education for boys looks like ("boys need adventure!"):

I'm curious, how does your school create an environment well-suited to boys? 

Christian education should look backward and forward

A Christian education must simultaneously look backward and forward. That is, Christian education must grapple with both the realities of the Fall (looking backward) and the realities of the New Creation (looking forward).

Without an awareness of the Fall and sin, a school's education can grow mushy, churning out students armed with sentimentality, not faithful compassion.

The schools who recognize the pinch of sin will best prepare students to "pollute the shadows," as N.D. Wilson puts it. The following video from Jonathan Edwards Classical Academy underscores the point:


But schools can't just look backwards, for students may grow crusty and cynical. In order to avoid the drift toward disillusionment, schools must look forward, to the hope of Christ's redemptive work. The Academy of Classical Christian Studies has developed a video that emphasizes the gaze forward, to the realities of the New Creation:


A balanced Christian education keeps both the Fall and redemption in view; teachers and administrators should bear in mind both Adam and Christ; students should have a keen memory of the Garden and at the same time expectant anticipation for the Garden-City, the New Jerusalem. When these bookends of Scripture frame the educational task - echoing in every class, hallway and cafeteria - students will be well-equipped to lovingly serve a world in need.   

The Little Mermaid and Parental Authority

Hans Christian Andersen’s 1837 classic, The Little Mermaid, tells the story of a young and beautiful (but melancholy) mermaid princess who longs for the love of a human prince. Only there is a problem, no matter how attractive a mermaid’s top half might be, humans consider fish tails “quite ugly,” the mermaid’s grandmother explains, making it unlikely any human prince would ever reciprocate the mermaid’s love. Ignoring grandma’s warning and “forsaking…kindred and home,” the little mermaid through the help of the sea witch becomes human but tragically fails to win the prince’s love. Having lost her beautiful voice, her loving family and home, and the prince she adores, the little mermaid turns to sea foam.

Disney’s The Little Mermaid diverges from Andersen’s in a number of telling ways. Read the rest here.

Classical Schools: Authorities on Education

Nicholas Kardaras, author of Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction is Hijacking Our Kids – and How to Break the Trance, warns of the problems associated with too much screen time. In a recent Time article, Kardaras notes how screen technologies have spawned a “seismic shift” in education. The underlying assumption in this shift is that technology always benefits schooling. “This,” says Kardaras, “is a lie.” As Karadaras claims, “[t]ech in the classroom not only leads to worse educational outcomes for kids…it can also clinically hurt them.”
As many of you know, the latest Mindhenge video takes up the technology and education topic. Like the other Mindhenge videos, this latest video addresses a topic I find myself having to regularly discuss in my role as headmaster. Classical Christian schools take a unique position on technology and education, setting them apart within the educational landscape.
My goal with these videos is to help classical schools become known as purveyors of education in their communities; professionals who offer a distinct approach to education - an approach that has stood the test of time. I believe these videos can help communities view their local classical school as an authority on education.
Next month, I plan to share why I believe your school’s use of these videos is an effective recruiting and educational tool.