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:

===Part 1===

Happy with my start:

Plato, Republic VII (anyone can guess what this is, even if they don’t know the citation)

St. Anselm, Proslogion 1 (to start talking about faith in ways that drag them away from the formulaic and the culturally stupid)

St. Anselm, Proslogion 2 (because everyone should know this argument)

St. Anselm, Proslogion 6-10 (to answer the Homer Simpson question about God and to learn some really cool moves Anselm makes)

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae I Q2 a3 resp para 1 (First Way–unbeatable for getting kids to buy in)

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae I Q3-5 (excerpts to get the basic idea of Simplicity and Convertibility of Transcendentals)

===Part 2===

Now things get a bit rocky:

CCC 50-73 (Revelation)

CCC 74-119 (Transmission of Revelation.  Some elements omitted.  I’ve tried Dei Verbum to replace these weeks, but it’s a streeeetch)

St. Augustine, de Trinitate I.iv-vi (nice quick survey of some heresies through the Creed plus a simple syllogism against Arius)

CCC 150-163 (Faith redux.  The one CCC selection that I think is pretty good, minus the blah part about Science.  Good synergy with Proslogion 1)

CCC 300ish (Creation–I stopped using a reading for this and just lecture it)

CCC 355-379 (Human Nature)

CCC (309-314) +Job 1 (Evil and Suffering)

Genesis 3 (Original Sin and Fall)

===Part 3===

Now things start to pick up again:

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (the Trilemma)

St. Athanasius, de Incarnatione 54 (7 paradoxes on the Incarnation–I have skipped this the last few years.  There’s also a short St. Gregory of Nyssa reading from OCM to go with)

St. Anselm, Cur Deus Homo (this is a 3+ week unit which involves the longest continuous reading we do, about half of Book I.  I lecture some of the missing sections for time and difficulty)

Mariology–no reading and I’d really like to have one.

Spe Salvi 45-46 (great purgatory reading for our 4 Last Things unit)

And then, at the end, Sermon on the Mount and selections from St. Paul.  It’s truly appalling how unfamiliar they are with the elementary teachings of Jesus.  Tell a kid that Jesus said to love our enemies and they freak out.  Poor in spirit?  Isn’t that like a character defect or something?  It’s a scary world for trying to teach the faith.

My biggest hindsight concern is how little we talk about virtues and grace.  That gets covered in the next two years but there is a sequencing issue with it.  To be continued.

[Get a word count on these for comparison?]



5 thoughts on “Teaching Badly: A 9th Grade Reading List

  1. For someone less that familiar these days with the timing of the school year, roughly how long are you spending on each part, and what does each week’s reading look like? I may shamelessly steal some of this for my ninth-grader next year.


    1. Each item on that list takes exactly “One” “Week” ™ and is read as listed. Plato’s allegory of the cave, to take the one off the top, prints to about 4 pages in a Word document. They read it over the weekend, we spend three days going over it in class, I make them write a paper about truth, opinion, and education.

      “One” “Week” ™ sometimes means a fourth day here or there. I would love to have 4 days a week with my students, but sadly that is not in the cards with our present scheduling system.

      I finish Part I, which I think works very well, in October. Part II spans over Christmas vacation into January. I normally try to get through Creation before we go on break but if anything goes wrong anywhere along the way it gets pushed to January. Part III picks up in later February and runs to the end of the year, but I have to adjust for snow quite often.


  2. I guess I would have a little leeway because my kids are pretty conversant with basic teachings of Jesus and the account of the Fall. (And with Job as well, since they were in play based pretty directly on the book of Job and spent all summer rehearsing and memorizing.)

    I would be very interested to hear more about what responses you’re looking for, the papers you make them write, ect. Would you call for as many papers if you were able to have more one on one discussion time with each student to make sure that they understand what’s being discussed? Oddly enough, making my own kids sit down to write has been a weak point of mine, mostly because we talk enough about what we’re learning that I don’t need them to submit papers in lieu of discussion. (As, I assume, you find the case with your discussions with your own children!) Still, I know I need to hone their writing skills. I wish I could send them to your class! Or just pay you directly. 😉


    1. I have scaled down the number of papers as the years go on, partially as a concession to my own weakness and partially to vary the assessment type. Nowadays it’s often just a quiz each week with a test after roughly four readings. I keep a “Well of Souls” file of past papers, some good and some bad, to guide the little ones.

      If I were to try to get my own son to write something, I would scale down the difficulty and have him write an in-class essay for about 30-40 minutes. For older kids, I would probably discuss, then have them write 1-2 pages with the hope that some new insights shake out in the writing process, then discuss those.

      By far the most popular paper is the one on human nature. I teach them Aristotle’s three souls, Gnostic dualism in broad terms, and materialism (once, in my ambitious days, I did stuff with Descartes as well but that’s a bridge too far). The paper is to pick a model they don’t agree with and explain why it is attractive and what it explains well.


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