Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Christian Thought

Blogging has been on the back burner the last ten days.  I typically fit it into my schedule during one of the lulls that are not entirely uncommon in my line of work.  It is not as though there are times when there is nothing to do (there is always something to do, as my inbox attests).  But there are times when there is no impending deadline that has you scrambling to stay on top of things.  Unfortunately, such times have been rare the last few weeks.

Since after spring break, I've had another class added to my teaching load--one of those intensive six or seven week graduate classes that meets one night per week for four hours at a whack.  For some people who have never done it before, teaching (especially at the college level) seems like a pretty good gig.  This semester I'm only in the classroom ten hours per week.  But if you think that a pastor typically prepares most of the week to stand up and talk in front of people for 30 minutes, the prep time can be pretty intense--especially for a graduate level course.  (Sorry all you pastors out there, I know you do lots of other things beside preach. . . but come to think of it, so do I: grading, committees, assessment of programs, direct an honors program, mentor students...)

Now, you'd think that this graduate class would be a breeze to teach, because it is on the history of christian thought--a topic about which I've written a book.  And for the first time, I'm actually using my book as the textbook for the class.  But here's the interesting thing: I feel like I'm learning by reading through this book again.  I come upon some passages where I think, "That's a good point; I've never heard that before."  How quickly our knowledge fades!  This makes you think that if acquisition and retention of knowledge were the sole point of education, then we're probably not doing such a good job of it.  I'd be among the first to argue, though, that the central aim of education is something deeper than acquiring knowledge.  It is the process that does something to you.  Skills are learned, character is formed.  And you really do gain some knowledge--some of which sticks (it's not like I've forgotten everything in that book).

Anyway, IMHO I think this is a pretty good book.  You can still find it for a slight discount here.  Or I can make you an even better deal on one that is signed by both the authors.  The publishers will be releasing the 2011 sales figures next month, along with royalty checks.  The deal with the family is that when I get such a check, we go out to dinner.  I'm anxious to see if it will be at a dining establishment that doesn't have a drive-thru.


Socrates43 said...

In my view, teaching the topics that one has written on is often more difficult than teaching on other topics. My history and philosophy dissertation work is centered on J.S. Mill's moral philosophy, and I always have a terrible time trying to decide how I want to teach it since my worries and interests about the text are so very far away from how undergrads typically approach the text. Whenever I teach it (which I've had to do probably five times now for various classes) I always give my class full permission to interrupt me with a, "Take it easy..this isn't life or death for us," since I tend to get carried away. It doesn't help that I have an idiosyncratic interpretation of Mill (e.g. I think he is a sanction utilitarian rather than a rule- nor act-utilitarian), and its hard to get into that since they are usually just getting familiar with utilitarianism to begin with and don't much care about all the nice distinctions philosophers love so much.

I expect many similar things occur when you teach your book and want to take firm stands on things but have to hold back since the students aren't really tracking the same concerns that you have.

Anonymous said...

good stuff; thanks

J. B. Stump said...

That's an interesting point, Socrates43 (whoever you are??). Last time I taught this class, I used another standard text in the field, but then taught the material in the way that I had written it. This time, I don't really want to just teach through what they've already read, so that creates another kind of difficulty.