Sunday, January 9, 2011

Great Grace for Granted

We had an eventful day Friday at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy. We had an applicant for position of academic dean show up. (In the interest of privacy and process I won't give his name.) I met him one-on-one first thing in the morning to ask a few questions. I'm not on the hiring committee, but as a member of the Academic Senate I can vote on their recommendation, so I wanted to check out a few things about the candidate. I am interested in how he can promote our mission to provide true Catholic education in Canada and our drive toward governmental accreditation. Suffice it to say he exceeded all my markers. He (and his wife!) was very personable, truly Catholic and passionate about the mission - all those things need to be in place.

I was happy to have him teach my Thomistic Thought class as well. My happiness proceeded from a few things, but to be honest my main interest lay in having my students see that teachers cannot supply for the work that is incumbent upon the student. Sounds funny, but all students are by nature lazy, and some come to believe that their lack of success and comprehension are due of necessity to poor pedagogy. Sure, sometimes that is the case, but if a student does not put in the effort, no amount of good teaching will make up the difference, unless, that is, you are studying something trivial and simplistic. Not so Thomas. As is appropriate, the candidate asked the students some initial questions on the assigned readings. A number of them admitted that they had not read them. How typical! It's difficult to do what an instructor wants to do when the initial plan of expanding a student's first-glance understanding of the reading falls apart. They just want you to serve up something yummy and to passively receive it. Part of my happiness at a guest lecturer was from a more benign source, however: I want to learn from him, and I want my students to learn from him. He did a good job. More than one perspective is great, not that we fundamentally differed in our views. He did touch on some of the fundamentals that I would probably pass over, thinking that they already knew them.

Even better than this was the open lecture he gave on the subject of despair in Aquinas. An important topic, and one for which we can look to St. Thomas for guidance.

In an interview with the Board and the Senate as a whole the couple spoke passionately about the mission of Catholic education. That was the grace moment for me - being confirmed in the importance of the mission we have undertaken here at OLSWA. Every once in a while you need someone to articulate clearly and vehemently what you have allowed to pass into your subconscious: Catholic education is truly important.

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