Three 20-something women trying to figure out what it means to be lay, Catholic, and modern all at once.

August 30, 2009

A Teacher Always Learns

I have had the joy of teaching two classes of American politics at my university, and I am already so excited for the time I will spend with them in the classroom. I have mostly freshmen and sophomores, and they are still so -- not jaded or lazy -- that I just love their enthusiasm. I had one very interesting moment on the first day of class. I asked my class of 40 what the first thing they thought of was when they thought of American politics. The class consensus was 'corruption.' Wow, I was blown away. I would have said "the Constitution" or "republicanism," but it seems that today's young people (okay, well younger people) are so disillusioned with their own government. When I asked why, they said it was because they had no idea what was going in the government, and you know, they might be right. I guess maybe I should learn from them and be a little more skeptical too.

Anyway, it got me thinking and reflecting. These kids have no faith in their own country and that's a pretty scary sign. Now, I teach at a secular institution in a very Catholic state. I know that many (but not all) of my students are Catholic -- but to bring Catholicism into the classroom is in some ways inappropriate. (BTW, I freaked myself out when I made a comment in front of my class that made me seem like a raging feminist and a relativist....I turned so red and kind of tripped up my words. I could not believe I did, especially since every day before I teach, I pray to the Lord to help my words in small way lead them to Him. Any advice on how to find the balance between faith and reason in the classroom of a public and secular institution??)

I decided that even if I cannot always bring up the faith in the classroom, I can do it here. So, I think I will start a new column about the history and the future of the Catholic Church in our country. It will debut next week (probably Friday, as I am so ill and really need to get some rest!) Let's give our young people something they can have faith in -- and learn how to hope again!


Margaret Perry said...

I love this idea, Edith. I can't even imagine teaching at a secular school, because I know I'd get into all sort sof trouble because I'd always bring in my faith. I don't know how NOT to bring in my faith...

Aaron said...

Working at a large land-grant university, I sometimes wonder about the same question of faith in the classroom. But I find that having the truth on your side really helps: it's not like you're trying to introduce faith in places where it doesn't belong (unlike folks with wacky agendas they've made up themselves, which never really fit in with anything).

Last semester I was leading discussion on several very anti-Catholic histories that the professor had assigned. In many ways it was frustrating, but the great joy was just how bad these histories were. The authors were clumsy and committed all kinds of faults that even a junior in college wouldn't make. "If you turned this in, would you expect an A?" I would ask of endnotes containing only secondary sources. "Then why should he get away with it?!?"

Life is, of course, not always that easy. But the general principle holds. And most undergraduates actually have enough sense to see what's wrong with the materialists, feminists, Marxists and other sillies that inhabit academia, if only you will frame the question for them.

(One of my favorite moments with students involved demolishing the implicit Marxist feminist claim that every woman's highest aspiration is having a job in the board room like a man. Really? How many of you ladies aspire to high office positions? Between my sweetheart and me, whether or not she gets to have a career is not a point of contention; what role I get in naming the children is of considerably more interest. See, there's much more to life than the economy.)

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