Thought-Provoking

Here are three articles I think everyone interested in Catholic education and society should read:

1. John Jalsevac on Marriage – Controversial, yes. Disturbing, yes. Thought-provoking, yes.

In a provocative but carefully-argued article, Jalsevac seems to get to the heart of the matter about the marriage debate (often a topic of discussion and perplexity in my high school classroom):

After all, huge numbers of heterosexuals are sleeping with whomever they want, are divorcing and remarrying willy nilly, are avoiding children like the plague, or are bringing children into a single parent home or placing them in the unconscionable position of either choosing which parent they like best or being condemned to the permanent impermanence of being shuffled about from one parent to the next for the duration of their childhood. Nobody seems to be particularly bothered by all this, and so, many are beginning to wonder (quite rightly) why we should begrudge gays the right to do the same thing, and to honor it with the same name.

2. Stanley Fish on education, the law, and conscience. Controversial, disturbing, and thought-provoking – yes.

What methods are appropriate to use in the classroom to get our students to really engage with the material in more than a “theoretical” way? Although Fish is describing college education here, I think his thoughts are very helpful to the high school teacher as well:

[…] the brouhaha is not about “material” — books and essays — it’s about the appropriateness of asking students to do something that brings to the surface, out in the open, some of their deepest commitments and anxieties. Whereas in the theater-exercise case you are engaged in a performance that brings with it the distance that attends artifice, in the step-on-Jesus case there is no distance at all between what you are asked to do and who you are; discovering who you really, and not theatrically, are is both the point and goal.

The goal, no doubt, is a worthy one, but is it a pedagogical goal or does it belong more to the therapy session than to the classroom?

3. Dr. Susan Hanssen on religion in public life. Dr. Hanssen is one of the best professors I learned from at the University of Dallas, and her incisive inquiry into the real role of religion in public life is something I think about often as a teacher. I have the privilege of (somewhat) taking for granted the “public” nature of faith, at least in my classroom–but many other teachers in public and charter schools do not.

It takes some real intellectual labor for us in the third millennium to grasp the definition of religion as essentially one of the res-publica, the public things, that ought to concern patriotic men.

Pay close attention, as well, to what Hanssen says about rights and duties–that human rights are intrinsically connected to human duties and responsibilities: what we have a right to do is inseparable from what we ought to do.

It seems to me that all three of these articles suggest important implications for what Catholic teachers should do in the classroom. I thought about my kids a lot while reading them.

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Filed under Catholicism, Politics, Teaching

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