For the last several years, I have argued that most of the literature curriculum should be read aloud in class by the teacher. As the book is read aloud, the teacher should explain it, interpret it, preach it, question himself, and question his students. Nearly two decades in the classroom has taught me that the quality of student reading at home is generally very low. Students read in a hurry, they read in the car on the way to school while the radio plays, they read in thirty second bursts between sending and receiving texts.
If anyone who comes [to join the monastery] shall have persevered in knocking for admission and after four or five days shall have been found patiently to bear all the injuries inflicted upon him… let entrance be granted him.
-from The Rule of St. St. Benedict
Parent: I am very interested in having my child attend this school.
St. Benedict: No, you’re not.
Parent: I’m sorry, what?
St. Benedict: You seem very kind, and we are all busy people, so I don’t want to waste your time. This school isn’t for you.
Nearly every modern edition of a classic text opens with a short biography of the author. Consequently, most literature teachers feel it is their duty to cover this biography with their class, or else to lecture through the life of the author, before beginning to read the text at hand. The importance of an author’s biography to an author’s work is so deeply assumed, most teachers have never had to explain it.
A rather common scene in the life of a first-year humanities teacher involves the receipt of an extensive document—an instruction manual, really—which purports to be a nuanced description of “how to teach this class.”
In an early chapter of Pride & Prejudice, Elizabeth speaks with her friend Charlotte Lucas about how to win a man, and Charlotte makes a number of odd claims about romance. She says people rarely fall in love all on their own. A man may like a woman, but he will not love her unless she does more than a little pushing and prompting. It is also best, claims Charlotte, for a woman to show more affection for a man than she actually feels.
About a month ago, I asked for readers to submit science and math catechisms which they used in class. Today, I am happy to share a few of the many responses I received. I am happy to say that math and science teachers submitted their catechisms, but it seems coaches are employing catechisms, as well.
I hope the following collection of catechisms is helpful to math and science teachers looking for ideas.
Antiquities Algebra Catechism by Amanda Norton, Liberty Classical Academy
Why should we seek virtue?
Welcome to your sophomore humanities class.
This year, we will be reading early modern literature, which is roughly the seventeenth century through the nineteenth century. I have some fairly lofty goals for this class and I hope you do, as well. To be honest, when this class finishes nine months from now, I won’t know if I have accomplished any of those goals. I will need more time. Perhaps when you are forty or so, which is how old I am, we will both know whether this class has done you any good.
In the last thirty years, Americans have gone from believing it is important to show others respect to believing it is necessary to make others feel respected. On a purely grammatical level, “showing others respect” and “making others feel respected,” certainly sound very similar, although assuming that someone who is shown respect will feel respected assumes their feelings align with reality. It also assumes people are obligated to acknowledge conventional signs of respect as actual respect.
The modern man assigns profound value on asking questions, especially “tough questions.” Asking tough questions requires real courage, so we claim, and educators in particular tout the tough questions they ask their students about history, ethics, and religion as proof that their classrooms are mature and productive. If a man does not ask tough questions of others (and himself), his life will not be deep and satisfying, for grappling with tough questions is what gives life meaning.
After testing positive for COVID last week, I entirely lost my sense of smell and my sense of taste. The symptoms which prompted me to get tested were too mild to even mention, but when I tasted my coffee the following morning and found it as odorless and tasteless as tap water, my first thought was, “Please, God, not that,” although I suspect my guardian angel’s first thought was, “Oh, he’s needed something like this for quite a while.” As usual, my guardian angel was right.