I. Pharisee or Tax Collector? In the days after the Pulse shooting, the Orlando Sentinel published “The sermon on Pulse you didn’t hear in church,” by Eddie Kaufholz.
The good literature teacher knows what questions to ask, and when to ask them. However, in the same way that there are only a few original plots, there are only a few original questions. These questions are protean, assume different incarnations, although I believe most of the great questions a lit teacher needs emerge from a rather simple catechism:
1. What does the author want me to feel?
2. How does the author actually make me feel?
3. Why am I failing to feel the way the author wants me to feel?
Let us assume a scale which runs from 1 to 10. A 10 means "very conservative" and a 1 means "very liberal."
There are many who enroll their children in classical schools under the mistaken impression that a young man who comes from, say, a household which registers at 6.5 will ultimately become a 6.5 graduate. The value of a classical education is merely to give a 6.5 young man a bunch of quotes from Augustine and Edmund Burke which can be used to support his 6.5 opinions, his 6.5 presuppositions, his 6.5 prejudices.
Saturday afternoon, just as sunlight began to slant through the stained glass, I listened to a joyful bride pledging her solemn, ancient vows: for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish until death parts. And, answering her pledge, the pronouncement—man and wife.
Often dinner parties are arranged to create a happy atmosphere, with foods and entertainment intended to make the guests happy. But usually it comes out just the opposite way, and only seldom does a good party result. Either there are gloomy and solemn faces present, or something else upsets all the arrangements, especially when there is such deliberation and planning about how much fun it will be.
-Martin Luther, commentary on Ecclesiastes (Quoted in Blackwell's remarkable Ecclesiastes Through the Centuries)
I answered a question very badly today so I'm going to try to answer it better here. I was asked, given the nefarious effect of moralizing, how is teaching mimetically different from that.
Briefly, here's mimetic teaching:
Christ is the form of truth because He is Truth. Among other things, that means that He is the Incarnate Word, or the embodied Logos. This is, as I said, the form of truth.
“Only time will tell
if we stand the test of time.”
-Van Halen, “Why Can’t This Be Love?”
1. Homework is not “reading time,” and class time is not “lecture time.” No more than twenty percent of a book should be assigned for homework. If possible, try to assign the boring and unimportant chapters for homework. If there are no boring or unimportant chapters, read as much of the book in class as possible.
The first year lit teacher often goes off the skids because he is intimidated by the sight of blank lesson plans. The first year lit teacher is commonly given to reinventing the wheel, stressing himself out, staying up until all hours of the morning inventing little projects, finding obscure commentaries, compiling quotes for handouts and so forth. The first year teacher thinks the lesson plans need to look interesting in and of themselves. They don't. Lesson plans should be boring and vague.