Orlando Furioso Canto XI: Looney Tunes Orlando

The week before Easter vacation, my ERC nerds gathered without me under the able guidance of a colleague.  They had the treat–heu, heu mihi!–of reading Orlando’s insanely muscular exploit with the maid-devouring Orc of Ebuda.

As summarized by my friend: like a good Catholic Italian, Orlando serves up fish for Friday and then beats the holy hell out of a bunch of Irishmen. Continue reading Orlando Furioso Canto XI: Looney Tunes Orlando

Doctor Doom, The Walking Dead, and the Common Good

This post contains spoilers for Seasons 3 and 4 of the Walking Dead (and a 50 year-old Marvel comic)

Let’s talk about sympathetic super-villains and ethics.

The likable villain is such an important commodity in modern story-telling.  The successful villains all make us wish they were heroes (Darth Vader), or spend time being heroes (Magneto), or are fallen heroes (Sephiroth).  We like understanding why they do what they do, sympathizing to a dangerous degree.  This heightens the drama for us.  Flat villains like silver-screen Dracula are just as uninteresting to us as Superman.  This is why we update classics to be more tragic (see: Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula) or repeatedly fail to reinvigorate them (see: endless string of bad Superman adaptations). Continue reading Doctor Doom, The Walking Dead, and the Common Good

Mystery of Holy Saturday

I’ve long had the conceit that the Blessed Virgin Mary could hear the preaching of her Son in her immaculate heart–that the Gospel was like her heartbeat.  What mother does not carry her children in her heart?  What mother and Son lived in closer unity?

And so I have long believed that today, Holy Saturday, was the day that Mary knew her Son was not finished.  For a time, at the foot of the Cross and before the Sepulcher, all was silent.  While she wept and prayed and waited to understand on Saturday, her heart heard the Gospel being preached once more.

Quiet, distant, as from another plane…or far beneath the earth.  And she smiled, and wept, and prayed, and waited.

Christus resurrexerit.

Rule of St. Benedict: Knowledge/Authority

What is the basis of authority?

It’s a pretty famous question with a ton of ink spilled through the ages.  Let’s hand-wave all that for now.  In “my” school of Benedictinism–I guess I should get used to thinking of myself as one–authority has its basis in the more fundamental concept of obedience.

That’s a bit weird.  I normally think of obedience as the derivative of authority.  I’m a red-blooded American with some German ancestry, after all!  The word obedience feels incomplete to me, open-ended.  Obedient to what?  We’re practically substantializing accidents here! (That’s a reeeeally funny Aristotelian joke.  Sorry.) Continue reading Rule of St. Benedict: Knowledge/Authority

Surprise Rest

I like to control things a lot.  Luckily the world makes that impossible every now and then.

Thanks to a surprise-decision by WMATA’s new chief Paul Wiedefeld, I can’t get to work today.  It was supposed to be my last day before paternity leave, my final stand to make sure my students were ready to do a week of work without me.  I hate ceding control of my classroom!  How will they ever learn anything without me?  Doesn’t the world realize how indispensable I am!

With my apple cart overturned, I have to choose between anxiety over a lost day of production and…not.  My students will do something today (hopefully my sub plans).  Things will go wrong.  I won’t be able to fix it.

Same as every other day.  No one needs that much control over anything in life.  Take your unexpected loss of control as the gift that it is.  As my mother likes to say, often irritating, “Control is an illusion.”

It may not be an illusion, but it is definitely bad for the soul.  Time to relax, clean the house, and get ready for Benedict’s arrival tomorrow.

Work is not the end of human existence.

Disconcerting Things

Students reject worship.  It is an evil to them.  Nothing is to be worshiped.  Nothing is worthy of it.

Students are indifferent to worth or dignity.  They are free-marketeers in the extreme.  Humans have exactly as much worth as DLC on Steam–whatever someone is willing to pay for it.

Students reject logic despite being completely under the spell of our country’s obsession with math education.  The conclusion of a valid syllogism is just a matter of opinion to them, as easily shrugged off as a preference for Key Lime over Pecan.

When asked to work backward from the conclusion they reject, they cannot show which premise or connection is faulty.  Worse, they simply don’t care to. Continue reading Disconcerting Things

Teaching Badly: 11th Grade Reading List

Post a reading list, get a spike in views and comments.  Message received!  Also I need an easy post or two to pad my schedule as the baby is nearly arrived.

For the juniors I teach ethics, which is the “flagship class” I was hired to teach.  I made my best teaching decision ever in the first year; after a few months of floundering eclecticism I broke out Josef Pieper’s Four Cardinal Virtues and had them read a bit from it.  In the process I had to explain some Aquinas to them and so began a love affair that burns brightly to this day.

The majority of my juniors loved Aquinas.  When the next academic year rolled around, I tossed out most of what I had done and plopped the Summa down in front of the new batch of juniors.  For the spring, they read the entirety of Pieper’s 4CV.  Over the next few years I tweaked some things, with the consistent feedback being “MOAR AQUINAS.” Continue reading Teaching Badly: 11th Grade Reading List

Teaching Badly: A 9th Grade Reading List

I share this with some embarrassment, since it is so very eclectic and I fear not as thought-out as it should be.  I’ve slowly fumbled my way to this list through trial and error: how much can they read, how much will they read, does it set up the topic, can I make an easy quiz or test out of it.  All I know for sure is that it beats every textbook hands down.

For my 11th grade ethics class, I live in perpetual fear that a Thomist will learn what I have done to Aquinas.  Here, with 9th grade doctrine, it’s more a matter of the CDF, and while they have changed the name they are still the Holy Office of the Inquisition.  Gulp.

Without further ado: Continue reading Teaching Badly: A 9th Grade Reading List