Persuasion (2022)

The Netflix adaptation of Persuasion is a hot algorithmic mess which helplessly bites half a dozen better sources (a more appropriate title for the film would have been Jane Austen’s Fleabag), and yet I was pleased to find the zeitgeist has moved on from “self-care,” which is now a punchline subject to open mockery and scorn.

The Downside Of Luxury

If a man does not have enough real problems, he will invent fake ones. Fake problems are even more destructive than real problems. Why? Real problems can prompt people to seek real solutions, but fake problems only prompt fake solutions. The man with fake problems is not only stuck with a certain level of fakeness, he is actively seeking out even more fakeness.

How To Show A Video In The Classroom

“Many teachers defend showing videos in class on the grounds they’re “educational,” but this proves far too little. You can teach children data with a screen, but data isn’t formational. Screens are formational, though. A little child who uses videos to learn the alphabet may learn his subject much faster than a little child learning the alphabet with books, but he also learns to depend on screens and, years later, lacks a compelling reason to read Pride & Prejudice when watching the miniseries is faster and more fun. If your goal is to raise readers, using videos to teach them to read will get them literate faster, but that won’t mean they want to read books. The same is true of videos which teach history, science, or philosophy. Videos make everything faster and more fun. Within a classical framework, though, this is a compelling reason to not use them in the classroom.”

-from my latest for CiRCE

Is Classical Christian Education Necessarily Racist?

“One of the first objections skeptics raise to classical Christian education is the insistence that slavery is old and so classical Christian education must be racist given it vindicates everything old; however, classicism does not vindicate everything old. It assumes the goodness of things which last, and slavery is a human institution which has been defeated many, many times by Christian people. It is not a tradition which has been faithfully handed down from one generation to another across the centuries, as have been the works of Homer or the sacrament of confession. As with prostitution, slavery is an evil which Christian people battle over and over again. Classical Christians believe the most persuasive arguments against racist ideologies are found not in the fashionable beliefs of our day, which come and go, but in the writings and sermons of St. Augustine and St. John Chrysostom.”

-from “A Short Introduction to Classical Christian Education,” coming soon through GibbsClassical.com

Schedule For The 2023 Gibbs Classical Online Conference

FRIDAY, JUNE 23

Session No. 1 | 10:30 am

How to Test, How to Grade

What does a fair test over Augustine’s Confessions look like for an eighth grader? How about a sophomore? What about a fourth grader? And what’s the difference between an essay that earns an 87% as opposed to an 88%?  

This lecture offers practical answers and solutions to some of the most commonly asked questions about assessment and grades. In this lecture, I also outline a simple five question test that can be given to any grade level over any classic text which will assess student knowledge in a conversational and common-sense manner, and which can be completed in less than an hour. 

Session No. 2 | 12:30 pm

How to Teach (Political) Philosophy

Many students at classical Christian schools claim they are conservatives, but don’t really understand the difference between political conservativism and liberalism. They know what the conservative position is on a handful of hot button issues, but they don’t know what philosophical beliefs bind conservative positions together. Similarly, they know what positions liberals support and oppose, but they don’t know why. This lecture looks at Rousseau’s Social Contract and Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, explains significant quotes and concepts, and enables teachers to explain the historical differences between the two great rival modern political philosophies.   

Session No. 3 | 2:30 pm

How to Teach Pride and Prejudice

 Unlike the works of Dante or Augustine, Pride and Prejudice is a bona fide classic which most high school students can understand on their own, which means the novel presents a unique challenge to teachers. How does the teacher not become extraneous to the book? Many teachers are tempted to turn this book into nothing more than a history lesson on Great Britain, or to overstuff their discussions of the book with references to Austen’s biography. This lecture offers help on teaching Pride and Prejudice in a way that helps high school students take stock of their own souls, confess their sins, and contemplate their future as parents and spouses.

Session No. 4 | 4:30 pm

How to Teach the Divine Comedy

 If you read the Comedy twenty times, you’re not going to fully grasp all it has to teach. So what do you say about the poem to students reading it for the first time, most of whom will only ever read it once? I‘ve taught the Comedy more than twenty times over the last decade, and in this lecture, I offer teachers a practical strategy for teaching the Comedy to high school students. Which themes should teachers zero in on? Which themes should be saved for second or third readings? Which cantos are key? What are the best commentaries on the poem? This lecture covers all the basics for teaching one of the most complex classic texts of all time.   

Q&A session No. 1 | 7:30 pm

SATURDAY, JUNE 24

Session No. 5 | 10:30 am

Before You Teach a Classic Book: Knowing Your Own Limits

 If a good teacher knows his limits and the limits of his students. What is the most you can expect from a single reading of Plato’s Republic? What is the most a junior can get from Paradise Lost? Many teachers are frustrated because they either ask too much of their students or do not ask enough. Classical theorists often speak of giving students “mastery” over their texts, which sounds great, but who in their right mind would claim to have mastered Paradise Lost or the City of God on a first read at the age of seventeen? If good teachers are not training their students to master Plato and Augustine, what are they training them to do? This lecture tackles these tough questions and helps teachers properly gauge what their students can do.

Session No. 6 | 12:30 pm

Tips for Teaching History / Tips for Teaching Rhetoric

At many classical schools, literature teachers are given huge stacks of classics to teach every year, but also told to “teach history,” as though the two subjects easily, obviously went together. This lecture explores how to teach history while teaching classics—and how to teach history in a way that coincides with teaching virtue.   

Too often, rhetoric classes are just writing classes or philosophy classes by a different name. Students may read aloud a few things they’ve composed over the course of the year, but they don’t get enough practice speaking in public to get good at it. This lecture proposes ways of conducting rhetoric classes which give students substantial practice in public speaking, but which do not entail massive amounts of homework. 

Session No. 7 | 2:30 pm

How to Teach Frankenstein

 Most discussion guides for Frankenstein now center on modern science, bioethics, and pointless debates about whether Frankenstein’s monster is “a real person.” In fact, Frankenstein is a book about parenting and the perils of privacy, issues that every teenager is considering in earnest, often without real direction from adults. This lecture offers instruction on how to teach Frankenstein such that students have solid leverage with which to consider their burgeoning private lives and the role their parents (ought to) play in their maturation.

Session No. 8 | 4:30 pm

How to Teach Paradise Lost

John Milton was an interesting fellow, although it isn’t necessary to know much about his life to appreciate his greatest work. Nonetheless, Paradise Lost is a classic wherein the biography of the author is often overtaught, especially in high schools. But if Paradise Lost isn’t taught as British history, social commentary, or a rogue theological treatise, how is it taught? How can teachers present Paradise Lost to high school students in a way that helps them understand temptation, fight temptation, and love God more deeply? This lecture answers these pressing questions about the greatest English poem.   

Q&A Session No. 2 | 7:30 pm