Learning To Type in Colemak

I made a half-hearted attempt to learn to type with Dvorak last year, but it didn’t take. When I saw that Ian was learning Colemak, I decided to dive in as well. I first made a Mac-style Colemak layout so that I’d have something better-looking to reference. It also meant I had a bit more vested interest in seeing it through.

But why learn a different keyboard layout? The two main reasons would be reduced risk of RSI and because I enjoy technical challenges. The particular appeal of Colemak is that it changes less keys around than Dvorak, meaning I would hopefully pick it up more quickly. Notably, the z,x, and c keys are identical, keeping cut, copy, and paste keyboard shortcuts in the same place.

I started this past Monday and have been plowing though drills in Master Key 3–4 times per day. I’m quite happy with my progress:

Ian went on to detail his Colemak learning strategy, and I especially liked that he was importing text from a great speech to augment his drills with real text that was simultaneously useful and edifying. Instead of a speech, I decided to go with a classic: St. Augustine’s City of God. This way I can double-down on completely frying my brain.

Some observations:

  • Muscle memory fights very hard to not change things. My jaw and shoulders have started to clench up as I’ve moved into higher speed and broader keyboard coverage.
  • Somewhere around 25 wpm requires some unconscious typing, triggering the above feelings. I’m trying really hard to stay relaxed while typing.
  • It’s much easier to type in the drills because you can focus on the letters, while “real-world” typing operates on more of a words level.
  • The City of God starts with Augustine talking smack against the Pagans.
  • I wrote this whole post in Colemak. It was slow and I had to use the backspace key a lot.

Do Schools Kill Creativity?

If you went to a “normal” school, chances are you’ll answer yes without hesitation. I know that I would. In this 20 minute talk, Ken Robinson helps us to understand why this is the case and how tragic it is.

[youtube]http://youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY[/youtube]

There’s a lot I could say, but it would be much better to let this brilliant video speak for itself. I will say this though: I am strongly attracted to the idea of home schooling or other alternative forms of education. This isn’t because I’m afraid of the big bad secular schools, but rather because our children are getting a crap education there.

The Tension in Christian Learning

So, if you haven’t gathered by my recent quotes and by the books in my sidebar, I’m heavily researching the integration of faith and learning. Since end-of-term crunch time does not leave me much time for posting, I will instead subject you all to quotes I find interesting. The following quote is from Arthur F. Holme’s The Idea of a Christian College. It persuasively argues that a Christian college is not about indoctrination.

A frequent idea people have of the Christian college has been captured in the label “defender of the faith.” Though defending the faith was certainly an apostolic responsibility, it is hard to extend it to all of the educational task, all of art and science or all of campus life. Yet a defensive mentality is still common among pastors and parents; many suppose that the Christian college exists to protect young people against sin and heresy in other institutions. The idea therefore is not so much to educate as to indoctrinate, to provide a safe environment plus all the answers to all the problems posed by all the critics of orthodoxy and virtue.

This is an idea, I say–more a caricature than a reality. The trouble with it is that there often are no ready-made answers, new problems arise constantly, and the critics are perplexingly creative. The student who is simply conditioned to respond in certain ways to certain stimuli is at a loss when he confronts novel situations, as he will in a changing society undergoing a knowledge explosion. He needs a disciplined understanding of his heritage plus creativity, logical rigor and self-critical honesty, far more than he needs prepackaged sets of questions and answers. The mistake in cloistering young people to keep them from sin and heresy, as evangelicals—of all people—should realize, is that these things come ultimately not from the environment but out of the heart And while every parent feels protective toward her youngsters, overprotectiveness can stifle faith and hope and love, and trigger opposite excesses of thought and conduct. (4-5)

I think that especially the part about the need to think critically in a rapidly changing society is right on the money. Our pat answers will not answer the new questions that tomorrow will bring.

Open and Closed (Minded, That Is)

“You’re so open-minded”

“You sure are closed-minded”

“Don’t be so open-minded that your brain falls out”

Open- and closed-minded have very simple definitions in common usage. Open-minded means “you agree with me,” while closed-minded means “you disagree with me.”

However, some people use these terms with a little more thought behind them. I’m doing a lot of research on the topic of the integration (or lack thereof) of faith and learning, and this notion of being open- or closed-minded keeps coming up. This is especially the case in the slow process that led North American universities away from their explicitly Protestant roots and towards secular pluralism. The liberal Protestants who controlled the universities were victims of their own teaching: equality and open-mindedness. The universities took this seriously and saw that Christianity was far too privileged a view for there to actually be open-mindedness and equality on campus. So, in the name of “open-mindedness,” the universities closed their mind to explicitly Christian perspectives.

Now, I see the pragmatic reasons for this: we live in a pluralist society where the privileging of one view over all others simply does not work. Not only this, but Christianity has a pretty poor record when it has any kind of cultural hegemony, so I consider this a mostly helpful development.

What I do not consider helpful, however, is that although Christianity has been sufficiently de-priviliged in order to allow for pluralism, there is still a predominant bias against explicitly religious approaches in academics. The received wisdom is that we must “check our faith at the door” in order to do serious scholarship, but the historical reason why this was believed is now irrelevant.

Also, the promised pluralism never happened. One privileged viewpoint was simply replaced with another: scientific naturalism. Although some of the postmodern critique is making a dent in this hegemony, science is surely what predominantly drives and thrives in universities. Scientific naturalism is the new orthodoxy, as is easy to discover when Christians attempt to be explicitly Christian in their academic work.

For me, loving God includes loving him with my mind. I say that it is time for Christian intellectuals to throw down the false boundary between their faith and their scholarship. Many are doing so already, but many more are still buying the lie that faith must be put aside to do scholarship. All that is is exchanging your true faith in Jesus for faith in scientific naturalism. And that’s a bad trade.

Postmodernism’s Perilous Opportunity

Here’s a quote from Harry Lee Poe’s Christianity in the Academy:

The philosophy of postmodernism is not simply a philosophical issue. It is also a sociological and a psychological issue, and it has implications for anthropology, economics, marketing, language study, political science, and education. The rejection of ideology and authority is not a characteristic of a culture so much as it is a symptom of a vacuum. Something will arise to fill the void. People will find something to believe in that will bind them together. It happened in the cultural chaos of Germany in the 1920s and 1930s. In that case, a dark and sinister force arose that bound the people together. Something will always arise to fill the void, but it need not be dark and sinister. In this context of confusion and searching for an idea to make sense of the world, what is the responsibility of a Christian in higher education? In the marketplace of ideas, is it ethical to withhold an idea that has had such a profound impact on the world for two thousand years? (88-89)

Conversing in the Real World

I’ve been reconnecting with friends and family here in the real world, going for coffee and having conversations. I must say, talking to real people is good. Probably healthy too. I’m also reading books that I really want to read, particularly relating to my current quest for understanding the inter-relationship of faith and learning, as alluded to in a previous post.

I had a conversation with my bro-in-law regarding a statement I made in that previous post, asking, “how can Christians negotiate the tension between faithfulness to Christ and the pursuit of academic excellence?” He thought that my saying that a tension exists was wrong, that there was no tension. I was happy for the challenge, because I really want to refine my thought in this area and that will not come easily.

As I started to think things through further in our conversation, what I came up with this: the skepticism necessary to promote academic learning has its place, but it is not a long term strategy for healthy living. Skepticism is not a whole-life strategy. Skepticism as a whole-life strategy produces cynicism and inaction, which are not exactly the fruit of the spirit. So, I think that skepticism has a role to play in particularly the life of the mind, but not in the life of the whole person. How to slice and dice that—if that’s even possible—is a whole other issue.

So, the quest continues, and the reading that I am currently doing is in that vein. I’m reading All Truth is God’s Truth by Arthur Holmes, and at the risk of putting way too much information in this post, I’ll close with this quote:

…learning, like anything else brings temptations. One temptation is to intellectual pride. But the cure for intellectual pride is not ignorance, any more than the cure for sexual license is celibacy. To prize ignorance, when God gives us the capacity and opportunity for understanding, is a sin, just as requiring celibacy is wrong I view of God’s call to make marriage something holy. The ultimate cure for sin is the grace of God which can overcome both sexual license and intellectual pride. Moreover, I regard to pride, it is a little knowledge and not a lot that is a dangerous thing. The person who has worked for years to acquire extensive learning usually recognizes how little he knows. The horizons of his knowledge are also the frontiers of his ignorance. But the undisciplined mind that has not learned its own limitations more easily takes selfish pride in the little it knows. (p. 29)