Curriculum Problems are Faculty Problems

In the midst of discussions over curricular developments at Notre Dame, I am mindful of a remark made by Otto Bird, the founder of the Program of Liberal Studies: “In the 1950s I was a member of the Faculty Hiring Committee, a body appointed by the administration to put pressure upon the department heads to seek for and hire the best candidates they could find for positions that became open. As it turned out, I became the one member of the committee who asked the candidate, when he was not a Catholic, about his ability and willingness to live and function in a Catholic university.”

These remarks came out in his 1990 memoir “Seeking a Center: My Life as a Great Bookie,” in which he noted that Notre Dame is a better university than it was in 1950 “measured by the secular standards of non-Catholic universities … Yet it certainly is not as manifestly Catholic as it was.” One might argue over the merits of a less manifest Catholicism — like arguing over the merits of a less incarnate God — but he also writes of PLS: “I do not think that the program today is as good as it was in its first years. In theology and philosophy it has been watered down … There is … less in the way of discipline and rigor … As a whole the program is less ‘intellectualistic’ than it was in the beginning.” I suspect that these remarks could also be applied to the “core curriculum” offered at Notre Dame as a whole.  Continue reading “Curriculum Problems are Faculty Problems”

Studying Death

The following column was published in The Observer on Thursday, September 4, 2014.

When students first read how Athens put Socrates to death they either balk at the injustice of the Athenians or at the uncalculating stubbornness of Socrates. Socrates was charged with corrupting Athens’ youth and refused to yield when faced with death. I myself sided with Socrates as my PLS Great Books seminar grappled with the story. My professor helped me to understand the other side: “If your children were abandoning their jobs and educations to follow an old man around, asking bothersome questions to strangers, what would you do? What would Notre Dame do if a professor convinced a bunch of students to stop attending class and, instead, sit out on the quad and talk about being all day?”  Continue reading “Studying Death”

Book Recommendations for Undergrads Considering Law School

Coming to law school has made me particularly glad that I decided to major in philosophy. In many ways, I’ve found many of the ideas I encountered as an undergraduate to be foundational to the way I approach the law. I could make a pretty long list of books that I think every student should study (not just “read,” but “study”) before coming to law school, but here are some texts that I think are particularly important:  Continue reading “Book Recommendations for Undergrads Considering Law School”

Idylls and Rambles, by Fr. Schall

Fr. James Schall is a member of the “old school.” He teaches at a very old school, but he is somewhat of an anomaly. He is an incredibly educated man who resists the fads that drive much of the university corporation machine today. He thinks that education has something to do with virtue, that college is about more than a career, and that being interesting is of upmost importance for a professor. He has been hailed by some Catholics as one of the ten greatest American Catholic intellectuals of all time. He has written more than 30 books and 350 essays. I have never read anything by him that I did not immediately recommend to others. Continue reading “Idylls and Rambles, by Fr. Schall”

My Senior Thesis

The following was a sample column submitted with my application to be a columnist for Notre Dame’s student newspaper, The Observer. 

In the Spring of 2011, if one were to wander to the 13th floor of the library in the middle of the night, one might have found a pretentious-looking sophomore, crammed into a desk with thirty books, a 6-inch spicy Italian, and a Starbucks double shot. One might come across post-it notes on the back of his desk, bearing a correspondence between this student and the library’s cleaning staff. One note would say something like, “Don’t worry about leaving the books here. Good luck on finals!” It was a lovely correspondence—something characteristic of much of the staff of the University of Notre Dame. She agreed to not re-shelve the books until he was done with his paper. Continue reading “My Senior Thesis”

The Great Books at Notre Dame

In November 2010, I presented a paper for the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture’s annual Fall Conference. After several requests, I have reproduced this paper below, with some minimal edits and revisions. Regarding discussions of my experiences in the Program, it must be noted that I only took three of the required classes. My personal experience in the Program was quite minimal. Continue reading “The Great Books at Notre Dame”