History as “Living in the World” – Bartling Lecture Series 2013

The third presentation in the Bartling Lecture Series (Wednesday, October 16th, 10:30 – 11:25 a.m. Buenger Education Center, Concordia University, St. Paul ) focuses on topics that were of particular interest to me during my teaching career at Concordia University, such as human and civil rights, women’s issues, history and learning. This year’s lecture  will be presented by Dr.  Josie Johnson, long time civil-rights activist, a former Minneapolis Urban League Director and retired associate vice-president and Regent at University of Minnesota.

Of interest to me is how those attending the lecture, particularly the students, may have their lives enriched by their attendance.  Application of what is heard may become more meaningful by a practical stance of living in the world. This may involve using practical thinking about the past from the standpoint of the problems posed by the individual’s present. Our thinking, according to the standpoint of living in the world, rather than thinking about the world, may be an evaluation by the lecturer and those who listen regarding their particular contemporary situation. It may be an appraisal of the present compared with the past. It may even be a value judgment, paradoxically for myself as a historian who supposedly deals only with the past, placed upon the future when compared with the present or the past. Thinking about the past, in this view is practical thought:  evaluation based upon historical consciousness.

To confront the world as living it is to be aware of a definite past and an indefinite future. We live with a sense of continuity of our existence: with a vision of our life in mind about our past.  We make a valuation of our life in our mind about our past and make a valuation about our achievements, failures, and missed opportunities; we sense our situation here and now concerning our vocation or avocation; we sense where we are headed with all of the uncertainties that will be settled sooner or later in one way or another.  As we go on living our perspective continually changes and our evaluation of our past changes with the altered perspective.  Our reasoning raises questions of our past changes with the altered perspective.  Our reasoning raises questions of the past, the present, and the future.  This is practical reasoning that stresses the personal reference essential to questioning from the standpoint of living in the world.Experiences of practical thinking about the usable past may make application regarding value judgment to my life and that of the contemporary scene.   Adding this dimension of listening to a lecture or presentation with practical thinking  may enhance the hearers and students present with an enhanced understanding and awareness of the nature of their evaluation of their own lives and the larger context of their world.


Recently the Concordia University Retirees Faculty Book Club discussed John R. Hale’s,  LORDS OF THE SEA:  The Epic Story of the Athenian Navy and the Birth of Democracy. Hale develops the thesis that Athenian naval power was fundamental transforming Athens and  creating a Golden Age of unparalleled achievement, 480 BC – 404 BC, an epoch also referred to as The Age of Pericles. The book jacket outlines the story succinctly. “The vision of the soldier statesman Themistocles set his own small city – Athens – on a course of greatness when he persuaded his fellow citizens to build a fleet of warships known as triremes, the formidable dynamos at the heart of Athenian history . . . Athens played a key role in the Greek struggle for freedom against the invading Persians . . . Thanks to its navy Athens played a leading role  in the struggle for freedom against the invading Persians.”  The Golden Age commenced by the Athenian led coalition of city-states with triremes and their oarsmen defeating the Persian navy at Salamis in 480 BC.

Hale argues that Athenian “commitment to naval power sparked the revolution that brought into being the world’s first “radical democracy” (dependent upon) common citizens who pulled the oars in the fleet.”  Foreigners residing in Athens received citizenship for service as oarsmen on the triremes, slaves could earn their freedom with similar service. Free inquiry fostered creativity, naming a few areas, in art, architecture, sculpture, drama, athletics, and the highest philosophic expression with Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.  “Pericles was the architect of this new Golden Age, and under his  benign (fifteen year) guidance the Athenians were justified in believing that they were setting in motion a new cycle of human history.” (p. 125)

Drawing my attention was the Golden Age  placing emphasis on scientific inquiry and historical writing. There were geniuses in many fields but close to my particular interests is that the field of history was invented at this time by Herodotus. He came to understand that the Persian Wars “as an epic contest that led to the emergence of Athenian thalassocracy.”  (Greek: sea and rule). He came to view the Persian Wars and all of Hellenic history “as a series of conflicts between East and West, Asia and Europe.”  After him historia  came to be more than inquiry or research but “designated as a branch of human intellectual endeavor:  the quest to compile a record of events that would uncover root causes and recurring patterns.”

Macedonia under the leadership of Alexander the Great led to the final defeat of the Athenian thalassocracy in 404 BC. One can trace the fall of the Athenian Empire as caused by hubris, often typical causation for fall off empire. The Delian League formed in 478 BC under the leadership of Athens was an association of Greek maritime city-states  and 150 islands. Athens used their allies navies for their own purpose.  Supposed allies paying annual tribute to Athens alienation surfaced and the urge for independence grew.

Aristotle, representing an upper class view,  spoke negatively of “trireme democracy” as evil and as enemies of the “well-ordered state, were not merchantmen but triremes.” (pp.398-9). There is another view, namely, “The experiment in democracy ensured that the fruits of naval victories were shared by all Athenians, transforming the life of even the poorest citizen. The age of the common man had dawned. For the first time anywhere on earth, a mass of ordinary citizens, independent of monarchs or aristocrats or religious leaders, were guiding the destiny of a great state.” (p.121)

Following are remarks  made after my wife and I traveled to Turkey in 1998. Those remarks are relevant to the wider continuing struggle East and West the past 1600 years since the zenith of the Golden Age of Athens that, to considerable degree, depended on  naval supremacy. Current tension East and West today in the Near East is only the latest chapter in that struggle.

Personal Observation and Experience
“Schooled in theology and history, my passion for many years had been to visit Justinian’s church of the Hagia Sophia (532) in Istanbul (Constantinople) and also experience an excursion on the Golden Horn and Bosphorus, the key waterway between Europe and Asia connecting the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Both desires were met, exciting a historian’s mind in making historical connections that make more clear the shaping of western culture and values. Asian Anatolia and European Istanbul comprise modern Turkey. It is here that east and west interconnected over the centuries, creating much of the worldview we have inherited. From Central Asia advancing through the corridor between the Black Sea and the Caspian, in successive waves came the Hittites, Lycians, Phrygians, Seljuks, and Ottoman Turks. From the West in their turn came the Ionians, Greeks, Alexander the Great and Hellenization of the Near East, Romans, and, finally, the dominance for a millennium by the Byzantines in Constantinople until conquered by the Muslim Turks in 1453.

Out of all of this comes much of the synthesis shaping our Greco-Roman classical world view. It should be recalled that much of this worldview was not only preserved but enhanced, as well, by eastern philosophy and science that came packaged with the advance of Islam to the west in the Renaissance via the Islamic dominance in Spain and subsequent impact upon Italy and Christian Europe.

Today, Turkey is our trusted ally and fellow NATO member. Recall the Truman Doctrine of 1947. Britain had contained the Russian Bear throughout the nineteenth century. After World War II we took up the burden for the exhausted Brits and drew the line at the Bosphorus and Greece at the onset of the Cold War. The America Eagle frustrated the Russian Bear’s drive to warm water ports. Their dream, since Peter the Great was short-circuited.”

FRONT CRANK – REAR FEET: Finessing Septuagenarian Bullies

This spring on an initial bike jaunt my balance was not as stable as it had been. Not too surprising for an 85 year old octogenarian. My children noted I had referred to this and questioned whether it was safe in riding my upright long treasured bike. A fall is a particular danger with consequences for the elderly. For my 85th birthday my children presented me with an EZ 3-trike tricycle. Several weeks I ventured with this trike with growing frustration, slow and difficult negotiating hills. My children living along a bike path sold the tricycle on Craig’s List.

Finessing Bike Path Bullies

One morning ride I came upon a posse of septuagenarian cyclers.  Stopping together they suggested that I not pedal too fast. Obviously a cutting sarcastic bullying remark.  One bully caustically noted: “That man ahead there is 83 years old”.  Clearly implying why was I pedaling a tricycle. Tricycles, it was implied, are childhood starter bikes.  My reply: “Well, I’m 85”. My musing on this bullying reminded me of the bullies encountered on the school grounds as a youth. These septuagenarians had not learned that “agism” is a recent addition to social issues. Seems for some “once a bully always a bully-  leopards don’t change their spots”.

Searching about for  suitable wheels I purchased a TREK Front Crank – Rear Feet bike. This model is easy to mount, adequate speed, can manage most hills, seated close to the ground both feet are easily planted on “terra firma” . Balance question adjusted. So in spite of inevitable questions  that come with the aging process I can ride without harassment from Septuagenarian bullies.  Exercise biking still an option. As the adage has it: “use it or lose it”.


As a member of a group of American academicians sponsored by the Council On International Educational Exchange Seminar we met with Vietnamese colleagues at Hanoi University and University of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).  Seminar theme:  VIETNAM”S HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES (January, 1993).  Journal entries provided information for a course I had been teaching for some years, namely,  VIETNAM AND THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE.  The following journal entries have an interesting story to share and are indelibly held in memory.

“Wednesday, January 6
This day provided events I had wished to encounter for some years and insomnia the night before proved no detriment in savoring this fascinating day. We boarded our bus and traveled thru town and busy traffic to the square where Ho Chi Minh declared the independence of Vietnam on September 2, 1945. Dominating the area is the grey stone bulk of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. The entire complex suggests the apotheosis of Ho as the embodiment of the secularist Marxist state. Prior to visiting the mausoleum we gathered in a small building to view a video describing the Mausoleum as to architecture and symbolism. The Mausoleum is an abstract presentation of traditional Vietnamese architecture, built of marble and precious wood drawn from all parts of Vietnam. Begun in 1973 and finished in 1975 it contains the embalmed body of Ho encased in a glass casket on top of a platform in a cold room guarded by soldiers standing at attention at the four corners of the casket. The Mausoleum is closed for two months each year when Ho’s body is sent to Russia for preservational treatment. Streams of Vietnamese march in file two by two in a steady stream as they enter the monument. Noticeable are the many children marched in double ranked file for veneration of Uncle Ho. We were required to leave our cameras on the bus. Lining up two by two we proceeded into the tomb following a wreath with a ribbon emblazoned with the group’s CIEE initials and carried ceremoniously by a soldier to be placed at the entrance prior to our entering the tomb room. I found viewing Ho emotionally moving, especially in respect for his single-minded tenacity in achieving independence for his people through a brilliant combination of political and military strategy and tactics. The evening prior our group thought the laying of a wreath was appropriate for American academicians. Three of our group were of the military and there was question whether they would have exceptions. They did not. Emerging from the mausoleum I purchased a set of stamps commemorating the career of Ho and the battle of Dienbienphu.

After taking pictures of the Mausoleum we walked by the structure that had housed the French Governor General, now a government building. We proceeded to Ho’s home nearby., very Spartan two-roomed quarters on the second floor. There was an open to the outside conference below.  In Ho’s private rooms were an old windup clock and a radio of 190 vintage. Ho’s home is located near a large pond and an approach to the pond where Ho would come and clap his hands to attract the goldfish for feeding.  I recall a photo of Ho performing this ritual he enjoyed so much.  We did the same with success clapping our hands and feeding the fish. In the immediate vicinity is the symbol of Hanoi, the One Pillar Pagoda built in 1049 under the Ly Dynasty, resting on one stone pillar that rises out of a lotus pool. We toured the museum nearby dedicated to the career of Ho and completed for his centennial birthday celebration. Exhibits chart his career with artifacts, displays, documents, letters, etc.  Interesting for an American is that from he Vietnamese perspective, even with Ho’s career, American involvement is only one phase and in terms of the history of Vietnam our involvement is a footnote while for us it is an exclamation point. On leaving the museum I had made the prior comment to a military historian and she thought the comment apt.

After lunch we proceeded to Hanoi University for our first sessions with Our Vietnamese colleagues. Presentations dealt with the history of Vietnam  particularly focusing on “renovation”, their term for Gorbachev’s perestroika. Basically they are seeking an economic model to make Vietnam wealthy in a manner supposedly consonant with Marxism. (Shades of contemporary China). That evening we shared a banquet with our hosts at our hotel. Eating with chop sticks and sharing conversation proved stimulating. I had an extended chat with a student who had spent time in Australia and was majoring in philosophy. He seemed uncomfortable that Marxism was being taught as truth.  He was obviously skeptical.  Apprehending truth, I observed, might be a more tentative enterprise and, therefore, the communitarianism of Marxism and the individualism of the Anglo-American tradition might be pragmatically combined.  This student had never been to Ho’s tomb as, he stated, Ho wished to be cremated and, furthermore, Uncle Ho should not be deified.  Also noted at this banquet was the fact that Vietnamese men are heavy smokers much to the discomfort of many Americans.”

Several days later a colleague and I, both teaching American involvement in Vietnam courses, visited the War Museum.  The journal records the following fascinating experiences.

“Before visiting the War Museum we took pictures of a statue of Lenin across the street in an attractive small park.  Visiting the Army Museum was emotionally moving.  Tracing the military history of Vietnam spanning centuries confirmed the relatively minor role of America in this saga of people’s’ success in repelling invasion and foreign domination. The French presence and ultimate defeat at Dienbienphu and removal after the 195 Geneva Convention brooks largely in the story. Interestingly, however, in aiding historical perspective from the Vietnamese perspective  is the placement of a huge tank (American) at the main entrance – a tank used in the 1979 Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia.  An inner court has heaped in a gigantic pile the broken parts of B-52 American bombers with a Russian Mig fighter aircraft triumphantly displayed resting on top of the American junk pile. Various artillery pieces, missiles, American armoured carriers are displayed.  Touring buildings take the visitor through the French phase, 1946-1954, presenting photographs, documents, and artifacts. Dienbienphu is the key battle described and illustrated.  A room in another building treats the American phase commencing with 1955 but concentrating on the period after escalation in 1965.  Captions read:  THE UNITED STATES AND ITS PUPPETS.  Especially poignant is a heaped mound of Pilots’ helmets, flight jackets, various arm patches and insignia.  The famous photo of a depressed LBJ in the Oval Office after the Tet Offensive in 1968 hangs prominently on the wall. adjoining this display is another huge room again displaying artifact from the American phase dominated by a tank that crashed through the gates of the Presidential palace in Saigon at the final collapse of South Vietnam in April, 1975.”

See this Bartling Scholarship web site Home Page under Lectures (written works) for the course syllabus of The Vietnam Wars And The American Involvement. Introducing the syllabus to the Bartling Scholarship web page I wrote: “American Involvement was still uppermost in American consciousness in the decade of the eighties.  Consequently I felt the need to design and offer a course on the subject. The course was prepared on sabbatical in 1987 at the University of Wisconsin Madison.


On the cusp of my 85th birthday (6/3/1928) a retrospective musing on YEAR 84 may be in order. Ruth and I celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary on December 27th, 2013. Anniversary observance was shared with four Twin Cities families that included mates and several grandchildren. High point of a delightful family gathering was sharing with each a copy of the homily I read that my father delivered at our wedding.  The homily text based on Isaiah 43 read: “Fear not, for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. ”  Theme:  THOU ART MINE.  Subsequent to the family anniversary we shared a special evening with a daughter and mate  who were celebrating their twenty- fifth wedding anniversary on the same date as Ruth and myself.

Recently Concordia University observed the annual Employee Recognition Service. Recognized are years of service to Concordia University, St. Paul. Another category recognizes years of Service to the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.  The program notes in my behalf read:

Fred Bartling – 60 years

Fred came to Concordia in 1961 to teach at Concordia Academy and joined the College and  University faculty until his retirement in 1991. He treasures his years with the academy boys having experienced prep school at Concordia in Milwaukee, Wis. Fred’s tenure was most pleasurable and he thanks his colleagues, students and Lord or the privilege of his teaching vocation.

A footnote.  What appear above is the result of editing what I wrote. Dealing with teen age young men demands gentleness and understanding. I had experienced prep school and was familiar with the drill. I never had many problems with discipline. I simply responded to reality: “You can’t fight ’em – join, em”. We shared, in the main, personal regard and learned much socially and intellectually along the way. At the College and University level I taught a wide range of courses relating to American history. Especially meaningful for me was lecturing and sharing friendship with minority and South-East Asian students and developing new curriculum resulting from the Civil Rights 60’s. Matters of race, gender, and social equality had to be addressed.  This I did with passion.



Well advanced in age and well past the Biblical three-score and ten life has a new verve and satisfaction here at Becketwood – numerous new friends, couples, opportunities to serve in the cooperative. Ruth has committee assignments and so do I. Physical activity remains important and our individual choices in that regard are individual,  except in summer when the beach beckons. Relative good health has been a special blessing. But at heart – the attraction and love that bound us remain as always assured.  Most importantly the meaning and purpose of our marriage is our children, their mates, and grandchildren. The pleasure I had as father of six children enriched my life. Raised them in a shared playfulness and permissiveness, and, in my view, parenting without letting ethical value lose foothold is fundamental. Parenting discussed in my blog at this website regarding pygmy parenting sets the tone. I have little use for law unless it is informed by grace as bedrock for meaning in life. Law is the schoolmaster to draw us to the Gospel. I hope some of those values were reflected in dealing with family and marriage, and my relationship to my students over five decades.

My maternal forebears chose Psalm 103 as The Family Birthday Psalm. As a member of that lineage I claim Psalm 103 as My Birthday Psalm.  At age eighty-five with long life comes the reality that the day is far spent and the shadows of evening are lengthening. But Underneath are the Everlasting Arms. “Praise the Lord, my soul!” Psalm 103 is a hymn declaring the vastness of God’s love as supremely shown in love and compassion of his people as sinners and upholding them as frail mortals.  Indeed, “Praise the Lord, my soul!”


Recently Reflections, the Yale Divinity School’s biannually published magazine of theological and ethical inquiry,  crossed my desk. The spring theme of 2013 Reflections is: The Future of Race.   Gregory Sterling, Dean of Yale Divinity School, writing From the Dean’s Desk, observes that the last election season “virtually ignored race as an issue. It is naïve to think that we have moved beyond race . . . (race remains) a contentious field of resistance and hope”. Dean Sterling notes that the “dehumanizing history of slavery is still with us. A weary reluctance to face it remains with us too.” The dean points to tensions between black and whites, demographic shifts with the eclipse of the white majority and increase Latino and Asian-American numbers. Spring Reflections contains some thirty contributors with their take on contemporary issues regarding race.

On the home page of this website under FRED’S STORY is a piece I completed in January, 2008.   Shaped By History is introduced as: “Living in the deep South during the Civil Rights Revolution. Learning to distinguish between American Ideal and American Reality. A Historian’s reflections of personal experiences in developing and teaching African-American and Women’s  American History”.  The essay optimistically concluded: “The morning after the January 6, 2008 Democratic presidential caucus in Iowa the Minneapolis Star Tribune featured a political cartoon. Pictured is Martin Luther King, Jr. reading the paper headline Obama Wins with a background sign I HAVE A DREAM. King is musing Somebody Pinch Me! What a remarkable path America has journeyed . . . when the front running Democratic Party presidential candidates are an African-American male, Barack Obama, and a female, Hillary Clinton! Questions of race or gender no longer disqualify anyone for consideration for presidential candidacy. Without question the American ideal of freedom, justice, and equality is closer to reality today than it was forty-seven years ago. . . . Having lived through the Civil Rights Revolution and the struggle for political, economic, and social equality during the Sixties I am confident regarding the ultimate closer achievement of that struggle. Study of American history has shown the redemptive nature of American reform tradition urging American reality to reflect more clearly American idealism.”

Shortly after completing Shaped By History I came across an essay questioning overly optimistic assessments  of the Civil Rights Revolution. The article asserted: “It is a false idea that there is unity in progress and that things change in one big step'”. With progress, perhaps,  I noted,  comes,  backlash. 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, fifty years after the March on Washington, and the recent reelection of the first African-American president is it naïve writing in 2008 that American racial, gender, and equality “reflect more clearly American idealism”.  I concur with that view but have come to be more cautious in assessing progress. Results of the Civil Rights Sixties has resulted in American reality reflecting more clearly American idealism. Reform movements, however, urging racial, gender, and social justice do not change “in one big step”.  Constance vigilance in championing the American Reform tradition is essential.


cartoonblogRecently on Mother’s Day (5/12/13) the Star Tribune social/political cartoon on the Opinion Page  pictured a student graduate with sheepskin (diploma) clutched in hand and a vicious wolf (woolfskin) with threatening incisors clutching the graduate’s back side with student debt as a tattoo inscribed on its mangy fur.

Sheepskin immediately caught my attention reminding me of a rhetorical faux pas uttered from my pulpit some fifty-five years ago. My first charge after ordination was to develop a town-gown congregation and church at Washington State College (university today) in Pullman, Washington. Property had been purchased and a church built adjoining the WSU athletic facilities and football stadium. Students were to graduate that afternoon. In a rhetorical high note I observed: “When you get your pigskins this afternoon”.  Imagine the delight of students imagining literally hundreds of pigskins (footballs) being tossed about at the forthcoming commencement exercises. Rhetorical faux pas, indeed, but harmless.

On another occasion on a Mother’s Day observance in the prayers ending worship I read from a pamphlet of prayers prepared for the various Sundays of the church year. Trusting previous use of those prayers I failed to read the prayer or add my input  prior to reading that prayer.  Imagine my consternation when the line appeared and there was not chance to carefully edit my words. The clerical rhetorician could only forge forward stating: “Pray God to preserve us from CARD PLAYING, BEER DRINKING MOTHERS.”  Too late and mortified the rhetorical faux pas was counter to my feminist persuasion in that pre-feminist time. What can be more fun then playing cards and drinking beer with mothers!  I did  that with my six children’s mother and her women friends, all mothers, for sixty years. A colossal rhetorical faux pas and actually a law oriented counter grace theological take.

Which goes to prove: a speaker’s pulpit or classroom podium makes one vulnerable to the rhetorical faux pas! The preacher or professorial lecturer must be mindful of embarrassment or misunderstanding that awaits when uttering a too glib or poorly constructed statement.  Merriment or misunderstanding lie in wait.


Sunday (4/21/2013) was Good Shepherd Sunday  in the liturgical church year   Where we worship the theme Hope in Recovery Sunday  was joined to the Good Shepherd emphasis. Joining the themes “recovery” depends upon The Good Shepherd and the support of the Shepherd’s sheep. The congregation sponsors an Alcoholics Anonymous group with a 12 – step: Singing and Dancing Down the Road to Recovery.  Two women met at the congregation’s sponsored group. They became sponsor/sponsee as a relationship team.  Both are on a “recovery” journey. Faith shapes their relationship and their recovery and what a faith community can do to help those dealing with addictions and find hope in difficult times. They spoke to Adult Forums bracketing worship services. What was made clear in the homily was that addiction takes various forms and “recovery” demands similar care by the Shepherd and, as well,  the Shepherd’s sheep.

The homily stressed the difficulty and fruitlessness in reliance for “recovery” from addiction on our resources. In context with that observation the preacher stated:  STOP TRYING TO PLAY GOD!  Operation “pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps”  proves fruitless. “Christian holiness”, as one theologian has it:  is “motivated by the love of Christ and gratitude to God rather than motivated by obligation or fear.” Near the close of the homily the preacher stated: “The Good Shepherd will shortly welcome all of us to His Table”.  At that Eucharistic Table the Good Shepherd as the Lamb offers Himself for our redemption uniting us as forgiven sheep as members of the Body of Christ.  As “forgiven sheep” in the Good Shepherd’s sheepfold we respond with love for fellow sheep “dealing with addictions so they may find hope in difficult times”

The homily on Good Shepherd Sunday stimulated my memory back 65 years to seminary days reading The Quest For Holiness, a translation of German Luther scholar Adolph Koeberle’s 1928 doctoral dissertation at Tübingen University.  The Quest For Holiness  importantly helped shape my theologian stance. Sunday’s worship reminded me of my debt to Adolph Koeberle.  There is no more liberating basis for Christian ethics, Koeberle asserts, than the doctrine of justification of sinners.”  As a Luther scholar he places emphasis on Luther’s emphasis that Christian “vocation/calling” (Christian holiness/sanctification)is motivated by forgiveness of sins.  Attempts to sanctify ourselves in God’s sight, he avers,  follows three paths.  First, emphasis upon the Will –  sanctification of conduct (moralism).  Secondly, Emotions –   sanctification of the soul through (mysticism). Finally, the Mind  –  sanctification of thought or understanding (speculation/rationalism). Koeberle elaborates on Will, Emotions, and the Mind as three ways of erecting ladders to storm the gates of heaven and earn entrance. God’s judgment, however, rests on all self-justification. The homilist’s injunction:  STOP TRYING TO PLAY GOD!  Christian holiness is motivated by love for Christ (Shepherd/Lamb) and gratitude to God for forgiveness of our human frailty.

Teacher/Student – Intellectual Teeter-Totter

March 7, 2013

The following is a revision of remarks made at FREDSTOCK – the public introduction of ( fall of 2011) The Fred and Ruth Bartling Scholarship.

“The teacher, in the process relevant to the academic discipline or subject taught, must analyse educational aims and the methodological approach to learning. This process ought to occur in relationship to the teacher’s personal quest for knowledge, self-fulfillment, and meaningful relationship with the surrounding world context.  What applies to the teacher applies to the student as well.  In terms of the academic disciple being taught the teacher evaluates the student’s search for knowledge and meaning.  This appraisal, however, is consistent with the maturity and quality  of the student’s search for knowledge and self-fulfillment.

Formal education can be defined as the teacher “drawing out” a student’s internal powers and potential; as the supplying knowledge of the external universe; or fostering a meaningful relationship for the student between self and the physical social environment. Education, so defined, pertains to both teacher and student.

The instructor follows the guideposts of philosophy to shape his intellection, that is,  the analytic, evaluative, speculative, and integrative functions of philosophy. This is done to scrutinize the validity of answers the teacher propounds in response to the questions posed  by the teacher’s discipline. The educator-teacher must constantly evaluate beliefs by philosophic analysis.

The student, as well, should be involved in creating a coherent philosophy of life drawn, in part, from the teacher’s discipline. If the foregoing bears consistency it follows that the capable teacher is the kingpin of the educational task. On one end of the teeter-totter log will do for the artful teacher – the other end belongs to the student. The only relevant question the teacher poses in self-evaluation is whether a contribution has been made for self and student. A teacher’s aim will be to develop the best in each student  in terms of potential in achieving the apex of development. This is achieved applying philosophical method to the educator’s discipline and the teacher’s understanding of that discipline. Thus both student and teacher-educator are in perpetual dialogue of mutual evaluation as both together quest for knowledge that adds the dimension of meaning to their lives.”

Daughter Meets Izaak Walton Piscatorial

February 22, 2013

Vivid in memory is the particular fishing scene described by eldest daughter, Victoria, at my 80th birthday celebration.  Early in the mid-sixties my two eldest children, Victoria and Frederick, were my companions fishing at nearby Fish Lake.

 Remarks on the Occasion of Dad’s 80th Birthday

Victoria Bartling

When asked to talk about things my father taught me, I scan countless possibilities, but hone in one memory that captures it all.

The setting is on a sweet Minnesota lake on a sunny Sunday afternoon. You had taken your two oldest children fishing. Fred and I both have new Zebco Jr. fishing rods purchased from “Monkey Wards”, with money we had earned a unique Bartling way. Under your tutelage, Fred and I had an annual summer enterprise, “Prof Kid’s Shoeshine”, and our targets were nice Lutheran pastors gathering on the Concordia campus for the SE Missouri Synodical convention. hounding the pastors going to and coming from sessions with the refrain”prof kid’s shoeshine”, we polished shoes (and socks) for 25 cents.

Back to the lake…..Zebcos on board we motor across the lake to a perfect location just outside a cluster og lily pads. The ritual begins–you prepare my line, threading my hook with a worm, adjust the weights, setting the bobber and then a little instruction on casting (“it’s all in the wrist”).  Fred has taken to this like a fish in water–it’s clear this is his passion.  I’m a bit squeamish about touching the bait and fish, but try to act like a real fisherman in good company.

Through the afternoon the bobbers sink innumerable times, and we bring in sunnies, bluegills, perch, and an occasional dreaded bullhead.  You manage the catch, letting the little ones go with an encouraging word, regretting the fish that swallowed the hook, stringing the keepers.  Once in a while, when a newly hooked fish is lifted out of the water, you exclaim, “oh look!  It’s a huge Isaac Walton piscatorial.”  I wonder, what is that?–an Izaac Walton piscatorial–is my Dad naming a new species of fish, is a piscatorial some kind of Dad’s attempt at bathroom humor?

It’s beyond explanation at that time what this type of fish might be, but later, when my intellect catches up with Dad phrases in my head, I discover that Dad the teacher; the man in love with language and references, had injected a bit of history in the afternoon of fishing.  Izaac Walton’s book, The Complete Angler,  written im the sixteenth century, is the third most published book after the Bible, and Shakespeare’s works.  In it Walton writes, in his piscatorial, which is a meandering about fishing, “when fishing we possess ourselves in as much quietness as the silver streams which we now see glide so quietly by us.”

In that idyllic afternoon, with your patient instruction, sharing of your passion, love for your children, the creative use of language and symbol, you have taught me how to live an interesting life.  Thank you.


Some decades later after this fishing expedition, Eldest child Victoria, now well into middle age, sent me a Father’s Day gift: a 6 by 7 inches artistically enhanced picture frame presenting a BLUEGILL SUNFISH. The frame itself has notes taken from Walton’s The Complete Angler.  Example:  “What Angler of any considerable experience has not encountered that circumstance, always exciting, frequently disappointing, which he expresses in the words:  “I caught it!  But what is it?”

Inscribed on the back:  To Dad, Happy Father’s Day!  Here’s to great memories of catching the huge Isaac Walton piscatorial!  Now, not the fish, but precious times together. Thanks. love (signed)) Victoria.

“Precious times together”, indeed, I am a father singularly blessed with her love as well as that of all of my six children.