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.”

There are problems.  Like I mentioned in my other reading list, I live in perpetual fear of a Dominican finding out what I have done to blessed St. Thomas.  It’s a messy field hospital, a gum-and-shoelaces operation, an idiot’s guide to an idiot’s guide.  I have to hand-wave a lot of De Anima stuff for them, or explain in super-condensed fashion.  Most alarmingly, I don’t read I-II Q1-5 on happiness.  This is no proper Dominican formation.

But enough excuses.  The list:

===Part I===

The first thing I ever have the students do is write an in-class essay elaborating on their own personal views on how happiness, freedom, and law relate to each other, intersect, limit, etc.  Then it’s on to the learnin’ at roughly one week per reading.

Servais Pinckaers, Morality: The Catholic View, chapter 6.  (This is the warm-up, and a general way to replace Q1-5.  I used to teach chapters 6-8 but MOAR AQUINAS.)

Summa Theologiae I-II Q6 a1 (on the nature of voluntariness)

I-II Q6 a3-5 (a host of useful distinctions on internal/external, acting by not acting, compulsion and violence)

I-II Q6 a6-8 (ways to break or stress-test the model built so far: Fear, Desire, Ignorance.  Students get 2 class periods to do short-notice presentations on these articles.)

===Part II===

I-II Q8 a1-3 (good as the object of the will.  Refresher on transcendentals of being from 9th grade.  I do a lot of priming for this year in my 9th grade class.)

I-II Q11-16 (means and end.  Project time!  Students break into groups and teach a question to the class for 20 minutes: Enjoyment, Intention, Choice, Counsel, Consent, Use)

I-II Q18 (evaluating the action as good or evil–“real” ethics)

I-II Q19 a1-6 (evaluating the internal act of the will as good or evil–CONSCIENCE)

St. Augustine’s commentary on St. Matthew’s Beatitudes (a change of pace for the end of the semester, but a number of surprising and cool connections back to the Aquinas material)

===Part III===

I-II Q22-48 Passions (Just kidding!  I lecture this for 3 days and then they take a quiz)

Pieper, 4CV Prudence 1-2

Prudence 3-4

Justice 1-5 (even the most elementary lessons on justice are a revelation to my students.  It’s pretty alarming but also neat to see them learn.)

Justice 6-7 (some years I split Justice into 3 weeks but this year I went with time-saving)

Major project time: students create their own groups and teach an entire 40-minute period on the remaining chapters of 4CV (Fort 1-2, Fort 3-4, Temp 1-2, Temp 5-6, Temp 7-8, Temp 9-10).  I encourage them to, among other things, take a look at the source material in the Summa that Pieper is drawing on and maybe teach some of that, or round out the material with it.  I went to this project about 5 years ago and have been pretty happy with the results.

===Part IV===

This is where things get fuzzy as the amount of time remaining varies.  There are only two constants:

Pieper, 4CV Temp 3-4 (Chastity.  I reserve this to myself because it is a long block of text and it directly sets up my final work)

Humanae Vitae 1-18 (yep, I go to the firing line on this one.  It goes surprisingly well)

What goes before (and long ago, instead of) is a mixed bag:

Benedict XVI Deus Caritas Est (early articles)

Summa Theologiae on one or some of: Lying (cool connections to sexuality), Capital Vices (really excellent stuff), Parts of Lust (most common of these, since it sets up HV so well), Supplementum on Matrimony (same reasons, often paired with parts of lust).

Familiaris Consortio (only once, long ago, and not as well-connected with the material anymore)

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