Joshua Gibbs

Joshua Gibbs teaches great books to high school students at Veritas School in Richmond, Virginia. He is the editor of FilmFisher and has two daughters, both of whom have seven names. You can find him on Twitter @joshgibbs. 

Joshua Gibbs Feb 15, 2017

Consider the following: 

“…will God incense his ire/For such a petty Trespass, and not praise/ Rather your dauntless virtue…?”

-Satan speaks to Eve in Book IX of Paradise Lost

"The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful."

-Lord Henry to Dorian Gray in Wilde's novel

Joshua Gibbs Feb 10, 2017

“Did I miss anything?” asks the student who was absent yesterday. Many teachers are apt to sigh at such a question and respond with sarcasm, “No. We did absolutely nothing of value yesterday.” Especially snarky teachers might reply, “No, and neither did we.”

However, “Did I miss anything?” is an entirely fair question. While teachers often take the question for an insult, it is actually very polite. “Did I miss anything?” is an abbreviation. The full version of the question is, “Did I miss anything I couldn’t figure out on my own?”

Joshua Gibbs Feb 9, 2017

On occasion, students (or the teacher) simply hate a classic text. Despite noble efforts to the contrary, the teacher cannot bring them around to it. The last page is finished with a groan, the book slammed shut with disdain, and the class declares the work a waste of time. In such moments, the teacher must act and speak decisively. He cannot say, “Win some, lose some,” and go on to the next book. He must defend the value of reading the book.  

When the class hates a text, the teacher ought to say something like this:

Joshua Gibbs Feb 6, 2017

I. A student once asked me if I thought it was okay for high schoolers to fall in love. I replied, “As long as the love isn’t requited and the student tells no one about it, I don’t see a problem with a high schooler falling in love.” I may have added some other caveat about the love slowly tearing the lover apart on the inside. I was only half-joking.

Joshua Gibbs Jan 31, 2017

The good teacher tells his students what they must do. You must pray. You must repent. You must go to Church. You must give to the poor. You must be honest with yourself. Given rather common theological convictions of our day, the claim, “You must give to the poor” or “You must pray” can be confusing. When the teacher says, “You must give to the poor,” some students are apt to assume there is a silent “in order to be saved” attached to the end of the command. In conversations about Christian duties, students often assume teachers are teaching them how to be saved.

Joshua Gibbs Jan 26, 2017

While I maintain a massive library of 20th century music, and a modest library of 20th century films, when I stand behind a lectern, I generally advocate for old things. New things are rather easy for us to enjoy, for they are made for us and by us and “no man ever hated his own body.” But old things are much harder to like because they are made by strangers. The past is another country, and we are always struggling to learn the language.

Joshua Gibbs Jan 21, 2017

What does it mean to give a student a book?

When the teacher hands the student the Book, this is the sacrament of education. While the school exists to teach virtue, the most fundamental act of the school is putting Books into student’s hands. Books are the icons of virtue. The handing down of Books is the beginning of teaching virtue.

When the teacher of virtue puts the Book into the hand of the student, the teacher necessarily says:

Joshua Gibbs Jan 19, 2017

I often write “Dig deeper” in the margins of student essays. What does it mean to “dig deeper”?

“Dig deeper” means:

Do not be satisfied with the first thesis which comes to mind. Whatever thesis you first arrive at, assume such a thesis, if well defended, will earn you a C. Take your first thesis and ask yourself, “How can I make this better?” When I write "Dig deeper" in the margins, it means you probably wrote the first thing which came to mind. 

What makes a thesis better? Particularity, certainty, distinction, deceptive simplicity. 

Joshua Gibbs Jan 17, 2017

The good teacher is similar enough with his students to scare them. The good teacher is dissimilar enough with his students to scare them. The good teacher understands how delicate the balance is between similarity and dissimilarity.

Joshua Gibbs Jan 11, 2017

Many classical Christian schools have literature programs which progress chronologically, and so as students progress through high school, they are taught evermore lately written books. By the time senior year rolls around, the student is often reading books written within the lifetime of his grandparents.

While I am not opposed to teaching 20th century literature to seniors, I would offer a series of cautions about doing so. If your school has a 20th century lit curriculum for seniors, I commend the following cautions: