Schedule For The 2023 Gibbs Classical Online Conference


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


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

Excerpt: From The Forthcoming “A Short Introduction To Classical Christian Education”

“If you are new to classical Christian education, greetings. Welcome. If you do a little digging into classical Christian education, you will find that the classical Christian schools in this country have a good deal in common, but that there are differences between them, as well. Some of the ways they differ are insignificant, but as classical Christian education continues to grow, some of the differences between schools are becoming significant—significant enough that two schools both claiming to be “classical Christian schools” might not really be doing the same thing. The aim of this pamphlet is to get everyone on the same page.”

-from the forthcoming “A Short Introduction To Classical Christian Education”

On Finding Missionally-Aligned Families

If a certain classical school was not skilled at discerning which prospective families were missionally-aligned and which families weren’t, who would be the first to know?

a. The administration

b. The admissions office

c. The faculty

d. The parents of missionally-aligned families

e. The children of missionally-aligned families

f. Someone else

What Does ChatGPT Mean For English Class?

“Writing teachers cannot assign the volume of writing homework necessary to turn bad writers into good ones. At worst, ChatGPT is going to get a few liars and scoundrels out of writing two or three papers a year, but writing those papers wasn’t going to do them much good anyway.

However, if teachers begin using ChatGPT, even good students will suffer, and it ought to be admitted that the average school is far more apt to police the use of ChatGPT among students than teachers. How so? Well, there are probably teachers in every school in the country who bust students for copying and pasting Wikipedia articles into their research papers, but who do not themselves credit the regular use of Wikipedia articles for their lectures (or sermons). Who can say how many literature classes are now nothing more than Spark Notes articles talking to themselves? In other words, ChatGPT creates banal work, but most student work is already banal. However, if teachers come to use ChatGPT, it will mean the further normalization of banality all around.”

-my latest for CiRCE

January Vibes Only

For a cold gray day or cold gray evening. Sort of jazz, sort of ambient, occasionally beautiful, completely German. Put it on and forget about it, or put it on and sort of enjoy it. Worth the sixty seconds it takes to preview.

Starting A Classical School? Here’s Five Things You Have To Get Right The First Time

“Every year, classical Christian schools open by the dozen. Many start with fewer than forty students, but it is not unusual to see a classical school go from forty students to one hundred in less than a decade, and that decade goes fast. Despite how common such growth is, many schools are not founded on practices and ideals which will serve the student body well once it triples or quadruples in size. Granted, there are certain issues a school can figure out as it goes. The student handbook doesn’t have to be perfect on day one. However, there are certain issues which a new school ought to have sorted out once and for all before they even open their doors.”

-from my latest for CiRCE

Cells. Interlinked.

There are Twitter accounts of mid-level Christian intellectuals I check in on occasionally so I remember what it looks like to be a functional intellectual who isn’t a slave to followers and fame.

There are Twitter accounts of mid-level Christian intellectuals I check in on occasionally so I remember what it looks like to be a non-functional intellectual who is trying to amass followers and fame.