All posts by Herald Editor

Wisdom and Eloquence (Maddie Hoaglund)

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Aristotle once reasoned, “It is absurd to hold that any man should be ashamed of an inability to defend himself with his limbs, but not ashamed of an inability to defend himself with speech and reason; the use of rational speech is more distinctive of a human being than the use of his limbs.” Rational thought and speech is a defining characteristic of mankind. All creatures possess the basic instincts necessary for survival, but mankind possesses far more than instinct. They are able to think rationally, which in turn produces the beauty and complexity present in every human life. To retain this quality, we should be mindful of cultivating rational thought and its applications for our posterity. The education of our children should thus be primarily focused the mastery of the techniques and processes of learning.

Currently society has demonstrated a lack of desire and ability to teach in this manner. Instead of teaching students the methods of learning, many schools simply focus on rote memorization and surface level comprehension of material. Westminster must stand against this trend.

 

Westminster should be mindful of endowing its students through education with the ability to reason with eloquence and to encourage virtue and honor among them. Westminster should seek to cultivate students who have an understanding of the learning process. This skill creates a coveted perception of the world and cultivates the ability to reason rationally and independently.

In her essay “The Lost Tools of Learning,” Dorothy Sayers comments about the danger of lack of original thought: “They (students) do not know what the word mean…they are prey to the words and their emotions instead of being masters of them in their intellects. We have lost the tools of learning, and in their absence can only make a botched and piecemeal job of it.” When teachers or professors concentrate on the absorption of material, the student gleans no benefit. Instead, this practice subjects the student to the manipulation of the world around them. If a student is instructed only in the required content and discouraged to question the process, then most students will never ask the crucial question: Why?

The modern world was formed because many brilliant men and women defied convention. However, the world remains corrupt and hurling students into the world with no aptitude for original thought is irresponsible. They fall prey to those who seek to constrain those who pursue change. Therefore, it is imperative that Westminster be mindful of encouraging original thought and equipping students with the eloquence to convey these thoughts. Students, upon being released into the world, must be motivated by original thought and armed with eloquence to create lasting change.
Although Westminster must be ever vigilant that their students receive the gift of thought, they must also be conscious of the caliber of people that the university creates. The students must be able to think independently, but also should demonstrate virtue. Once again, Aristotle reasons, “Talent is given. Potential is realized. You are what you repeatedly do. Excellence is, therefore, not an act but a habit.” The rigor of the classroom favors those who strive for excellence. It is not accidental and is always well deserved. Therefore, those who pursue and achieve this quality of excellence are benefitted in more ways than one. Of course, there is the reward of the achievement, but there is also an unintended consequence. Perseverance and determination are produced. These will in turn produce men and women with the capability and desire to attain integrity. They will enter the world with the ability to substantially impact those around them through their virtue. The rigor of the study will create those who will impact society through actions of virtue and character.
Westminster must be mindful of the students they are producing. They must be equipped with the ability to think with originality and to effectively convey their thoughts to the rest of humanity. Although this is essential, the university must not neglect creating through a rigorous education the standard of character and honor for their students to uphold. These two ambitions will generate students who will be able to permanently impact society. They will be able to reason with eloquence and communicate with virtue. Endowed with reason and eloquence, the students of Westminster will be able to defend their ideas, beliefs, and higher quality of society and community.

The Gatsby Fix (Mackie Benson)

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I was mindlessly doodling in my freshman American Literature class when our teacher threw a little book at me. It was the first book we were going to be reading in that beloved class. I half-mindedly took the notes he was giving us: the background of the author, repetitive themes, everything we needed to know about the story. Though I tried to focus on the lesson, my thoughts were drawn to the colorful book that was looking back at me. I opened its pages and read, “In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.”
Immediately, I was engrossed by Nick Carraway’s words. With every sentence, I fell even deeper in love with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. I became very emotionally involved with every movement in the plot. To say the least, it was difficult not to read ahead. All that I wanted was to curl up in isolation and read all one hundred eighty pages in one sitting. I willingly and enthusiastically followed the famous the characters through the adventurous summer of 1922. I was intrigued by Daisy’s charming behavior and why she would have married a man such as Tom Buchanan. Jay Gatsby completely overwhelmed me. Each plot point seemed to paint a different picture of the characters than the one I thought I knew. I understood Nick’s curiosity because Fitzgerald created a story that fully captured my attention.
To this day, four year laters, that little blue book is one of my most prized possessions. It sits always within arm’s reach in case I need my Gatsby fix.

The Heavens (A poem by Katie Krulak)

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I turn my eyes up to the sky,
Painted grey and dusky rose,
And in my soul I heave a sigh,
As the golden daylight grows.

The misty blanket melts away,
As dawn lifts its flowing veil,
While birds take flight to sing and play,
Tumbling head over tail.

Journey forward, come and see,
The canopy’s cerulean hue.
Cotton clouds, like lambs run free,
As the sun shines warm and true.

Soft shadows reach and lengthen,
And the light turns orange and gold.
The cool breeze starts to strengthen,
For the day is growing old.

The moon’s rising brings its glow,
Shining ivory in the skies,
Silver starts whirl in the Milky Way’s flow
Reflected in my upturned eyes.

Real People, Real Government (Lauren Hoaglund)

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Over the past few months, I have been overwhelmed and a little annoyed by the amount of political opinions surrounding the new administration. Almost everyone has a complaint about the government and the way it is run. So this semester I decided that it was probably time to get some perspective. I spent three days paging for the Alabama Senate in Montgomery. I was able to see the way our state government runs and the people at the heart of it. I really enjoyed the opportunity to see and listen instead of making blind assumptions with no backing whatsoever. I learned that maybe some of our criticisms of state government are a little too harsh.

I would strongly suggest paging, going to observe some senate sessions, or even just visiting the state house. The few days I spent there opened my eyes to the real issues in our government and the real people trying to address those issues. Now I feel as if I can have an informed and educated conversation with people about the problems in our state government system without just complaining about it.

Taj India: A Culinary Expedition (Gracie Eddins)

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Walking into a little Indian place hidden away in a strip mall, I was not sure what to expect. Nonetheless, we opened the door which welcomed us with the chime of a small bell. As we chose a table and sat down, I was pleasantly surprised by how nice the table setting was: vibrant yellow napkins and copper dipped silverware. The table cloth was white, and there were copper cups that kept the water so cold that it kind of hurt your teeth when you drank it. Our table setting seemed simple compared to the art and colorful tapestries that hung all over the walls and ceiling.

Almost immediately after sitting down, a woman brought out a large cup of chai that smelled strongly of spices. Very confused, we assumed that this must come with our meal: however, this was not the case. A small, sweet, elderly lady in a pink sweater leaned over and whispered, “Did you order that?” to which I answered no and carried the warm tea cup over to her table. The saucer and tea cup clinked together as I walked and my unsteady hand caused a little to spill over the edge, spoiling the pristine saucer. However, the sweet lady was not bothered by this. She conversed with us a couple more times throughout the meal.

As we sipped on our freezing water, we noticed that there were no menus and the waiter asked us if we were here for the buffet. “Um, I guess so,” we responded. He pointed us to a dimly lit hallway that swirled with the aroma of curries and spices. We ventured into the hallway, grabbed white ceramic plates, and am enthusiastic man in line with us exclaimed,  “Everything is delicious! Try it all!” Though we had not said anything, our faces gave away the fact that we were very new to this, despite our efforts to fit in. We began filling our plates with unfamiliar foods much different than the simple southern cuisine that we were used to. There were about three different curries, multiple rice pilafs, variations of lentil dishes, extremely spicy soups, and little falafel looking foods, which we later deemed “deliciously fancy tatter tots.”

Walking out of the dark hallway we joked that our food changed colors with the change in lighting. Our waitress then blessed us with a basket of freshly baked na’an straight from the oven. This quickly became our favorite part of the meal, and we promptly asked for more.
We were delighted with new tastes from new cultures we had longed to experience, but never had. Our rainy Sunday lunch was filled with lots of laughter, the discussion of old memories, and the admiration of all the different types of people that this little restaurant had brought in. As we guessed the life story of the fancily dressed man eating alone in the corner, I found myself grateful for friends and new cultural experiences in the middle of our oh-so-familiar city.

Disney World: Behind the Scenes (Lauren Brannan)

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When most people hear “Disney World,” the first things that come to their minds are Mickey Mouse, a crowded park, and lots and lots of waiting in lines. While this is all accurate, I (being a Disney fanatic) have discovered that there is a lot more happening in the actual parks and behind the scenes than I ever could have imagined. So I have come up with a list of lesser known Disney facts; and even if it doesn’t make you love the parks like me, it will hopefully at least give you a greater appreciation for all the work that gets put into them.

  • First off, every character you see has been hand-picked and trained for weeks to become the perfect character. The process to be chosen for a character takes even longer, and the actors must pass several tests; including specific height requirements, facial similarities, and even acting and singing competitions. Even after the characters have been chosen, they have to follow a strict set of rules, to “keep the magic alive.” No actor is allowed to break character or reference anything outside of Disney. And even after they are done for the day, no one is allowed to talk about what character they are in public; if they do, they risk being fired.
  • Another amazing aspect of Disney: the Utilidor. This is a huge set of labyrinth-like tunnels running underneath all of Disneyworld, stretching over miles and miles of land. This was created by Walt Disney before the parks were even built, and the parks were built on top. This is where all the behind the scenes magic takes place; this is where characters get dressed; and even where all of the trash is dropped directly from the trash cans in the park to Disney’s garbage disposal so no guests have to see trash being carried in and out of the parks.

Disney truly thought of everything, and although the lines may sometimes be long and the parks crowded, you end up getting more than you could ever dream; truly earning Disney the name, “the most magical place on earth.”

Popsicle Bridge Destruction (Pierce Moffett)

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Junior year comes with many ups and downs. It comes with long nights writing the thesis and longer days worrying about the finished product. But despite all the stress and worry, there are some surprising high points to junior year. One of those is the bridge project for physics class. My classmates and I were each tasked with building a bridge out of popsicle sticks that could hold some weight (emphasis on some). At first this task seemed daunting. After all, my engineering skills had barely gotten me through my Lego stage as a kid, and popsicle sticks were a whole new ball game. How does one even start building a bridge? Much less one out of popsicle sticks. Multitudes of questions went through my head. Like what design to use or how to get it to stand. The different options were endless. At a time like this, lord Google may seem like your friend, but do not let him deceive you. There are thousands upon thousands of ways to build a bridge that come up when you search for instructions. So I left Google feeling more confused than when I had started.

But once you finally make a decision on what to do, the bridge starts coming together. The hard part was designing, but the fun was the actual building. It took many hours to finish it. I would try to glue the sticks together, but many times they would just fall apart. Despite the obstacles, the finished product finally began to come together. It began to actually look like a bridge instead of just a pile of sticks. After finishing, the day eventually came for me to try and break it. I felt a tinge of sadness in watching it break. All those hours of work just going down the drain. But when I thought of the hours of pain and frustration it gave me, I must admit, I felt a little joy at its destruction.

Short-term Mission Trips: Why They’re Worth It (Will Green)

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When I was in the third grade, my family decided we would take our first mission trip together to the South American country of Peru. This was a very exciting time for my family and me. My dad encouraged us all to keep a journal while we were overseas, and years later I still have that journal documenting my first mission experience. This is a verbatim quote (misspellings and all) of what I wrote on December 27, 2008:

“When we get their I will be so tired that I will fall in the bed and not even change.”

My little eight-year-old brain thought that not changing out of day clothes to pajamas was living life on the edge. After a week in Peru, we returned and two years later found ourselves on an airplane headed to Honduras. This was a very similar trip with regards to culture, yet my own personal growth with Christ had changed, and I found myself sharing the gospel with others for the very first time. I remember being so excited to finally commit and do what Jesus calls us to do. Once again, three years later I found myself on another plane. Yet, this time it was a much bigger plane as my family and I were traveling to the Middle East. Being such a hostile environment to the gospel, this was a very different and eye opening mission trip. Though we were not able to simply share the gospel, strong relationships were made with people whom we could connect to the long-term missionaries. Finally, I have been able to travel with my church to Nicaragua the past two spring breaks. Those two trips have been the most in depth and challenging trips. Our leaders really pushed the students to take charge sharing the gospel, which dramatically changed the way I live here in Birmingham. My point in writing this is to emphasize and challenge families of all ages to take a mission trip together and see what our God will do. I promise it will be amazing and worth the time and resources.

Maximizing Happiness through Minimalism (Ann Marie Godfrey)

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Perhaps you have seen the popular television show on HGTV “Mighty Tiny Houses” or pictures on social media of stark white rooms with little furniture. Whatever the case may be, we have all seen examples of what the world calls minimalism. Too often people perceive minimalism as some weird hippie movement of which they would never partake. However, a new type of minimalist movement has recently come into light, or perhaps we should say the correct definition of minimalism has finally been found.

Being a minimalist does not mean that you must give away all your belongings, quit your job, and travel in an R.V. for the rest of your life. Nor does it mean you cannot own a book collection or drawers of makeup. A minimalist does what gives him/her happiness while still enjoying a life of simplicity. The concept behind minimalism is that if you own and buy less, you will only have what you need and what makes you happy. To quote Emily Gilmore, “If it brings you joy, you keep it; and if it doesn’t, you throw it out.” While this may seem ruthless and even wasteful, it truly creates simplicity and freedom. We may not realize it, but the mounds of junk that pile up in drawers and closets do weigh on our mind. To own less and to own what you love is freeing mentally as well as physically. Though minimalism may still seem to you an absolutely absurd idea, consider trying it out. Start small. Minimize a closet, a room, or just a drawer. Trust me, it’s addicting.

A 26.2 Mile Fun Run (Rachel Faulk)

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Every February thousands of runners with wide-ranging ability take to the streets of Birmingham for the Mercedes Marathon. Some run hoping to qualify for the Boston Marathon, while some just walk most of the way. Some choose to compete in the half-marathon. And for others, there is a third option: a five-person relay.

This year I ran in the Mercedes Marathon relay for the first time. The two-loop, 26.2-mile course is divided into five legs: a 10k, then a 5k, another 10k, another 5k, and lastly an 8.1-mile leg to the finish. Not quite ambitious enough to attempt the half-marathon like several of my friends, I volunteered to run the eight-mile leg of a relay.

Sunday, February 12 was a cool, humid morning with rain forecasted. A little over an hour after watching the first handoff, I was in my place, waiting for Courtney Callahan to hand off the timing belt to me—not without anxiety, as I’d never competed in anything longer than a 5k before. At last I spied her coming around the bend, sprinting valiantly up the final hill toward me. She handed me the belt, and I struggled to fasten it around my waist as I started running. Not too fast, I cautioned myself—I have eight miles to go.

But the air was cool, and I felt strong, so I set a moderate pace. Despite several hills, the miles passed quickly beneath my pounding feet. The wind blew against my face as a passed through scenic streets I had never seen before. This, I realized, is why I love to run. My strength started to fade about five miles in, but I pressed on, even forgetting that I had been running for over an hour by the time I reached the twenty-six mile mark. Then my relay team met me and ran the final stretch with me to the finish line! Our combined time was three hours and 45 minutes. But, honestly, I didn’t run for the time or the place. I ran for my team, and I ran because I love to run.

Who knows? Maybe next year I’ll move up to the half-marathon!