Monday 22nd January 2018

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Schools And Universities Remain The Best Refuge

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By SHAUN KENNEY

One of my complaints about the so-called Benedict Option is that it isn’t much of an option at all. Lived to its fullest extent, the Catholic Church is the Benedict Option — what one might charitably call a more communitarian lifestyle versus what others would perhaps rightly call a ghettoized Christianity.
For myself, I have no stomach for retreat. Nor did the presupposed genesis of the Benedict Option idea — Alasdair MacIntyre. That the concept of the Benedict Option is lifted from the very last sentence of MacIntyre’s After Virtue doesn’t seem to bother its proponents. That MacIntyre himself rejects the entire project ought to.
What is MacIntyre’s grand solution to resist what he terms as a coming dark age? Not ghettos, but schools and universities.
To this end, matching good Catholics with either the life experience or education to teach within these true citadels of Western Civilization with good Catholic students has previously been a near impossible task.That is, until very recently with the advent of a project of the Cardinal Newman Society called CatholicEdJobs.com
Thus far, the listings appear to be from all the best Catholic schools in the country — Ave Maria, Franciscan University, Wyoming College, Belmont Abbey, and even the world famous St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic High School in Vancouver, Washington (yes, world famous).
It’s a long way of saying that Catholic schools deserve good Catholic teachers and professors. More to the point, if education is the transmission of culture, then those of us with the wherewithal to teach the next generation have a moral duty to do so.
One of the great myths of the modern day is that every classroom is unruly, unmanageable, and unwilling to listen to individuals who might have learned a thing or two in the past. Truth of the matter is that most youths are starving for higher standards — teachers who have done something with their lives.
This isn’t to say that those who have devoted themselves to the profession of teaching are somehow less. Far from it. Rather, there are those who have seen education turn from vocation to racket over the course of time who simply need a chance to be reintroduced to a first love.
To that end, there is typically no better place to get started than a cash-strapped Catholic elementary, middle, or high school. Not only would they welcome the opportunity in most cases, some even come with a small stipend attached.
For those interested in small stipends, adjunct teaching at a Catholic college or university is not a bad opportunity either. Despite the glut in today’s market, for those who aren’t looking to teach at Harvard or Yale? Even a local community college could use a humanities teacher that has actually read Dante, or an English teacher who appreciates Chaucer. Even in the harder sciences or trades, there’s something to be said for a good Catholic who can explain Planck’s constant.
Hopefully this project from Cardinal Newman Society is met with some enthusiasm from Catholics doubtlessly looking either to offer their own talents — or help find those who will best fit the need. Needless to say, if the laity is to have any voice in rebuilding what we have lost, it will be in an effort to educate the young on their inheritance. Burying it in an option not truly Benedictine is a lamp within a basket; not a shining city on a hill.

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It has been a veritable cornucopia of letters this month, some of whom I am remiss in attending to while others have sent veritable tomes! All of them are wonderful, and I look forward to responding to all of them at length.
Briefly, Mrs. B — from Kent, Conn. wonders aloud about our present state of affairs over the course of the 20th and now early 21st century. Of course, for some this decline is memory; for many who are my age it is history. My children, for instance, will grow up in a time where state-enforced norms regarding homosexual marriages will wildly diverge with their own Catholic faith. We live in a time of martyrs, which to some degree is an exciting time to live.
Then there is Mr. K— from Ave Maria, Fla. asks whether or not these societal and cultural changes permit one to be a good Catholic and a good American at the same time. One might humbly suggest that what it means to be a good American has been wildly distorted over the last few decades, and as pleasant as it might be to withdraw from the polis, politics does not necessarily flow downstream from culture. Oftentimes, politics backwashes onto culture itself, and it is to this end that we must remind ourselves constantly … in the world, and not of it.
Mr. M — from Elk River, Minn. writes about his extensive Catholic library and shares a few articles of note specifically from Cardinal Newman and St. Thomas Aquinas’ bedrock of wisdom regarding the laity and our operations in the world. Two things stand out, Newman’s admonishment that “ignorance is the root of bitterness” and Aquinas’ advice “desire to keep to yourself if you wish to reach intimacy with God.” Both of these come from high school level Catholic education manuals… which demonstrates a glimpse of what we have lost.
Finally, Mr. J — from Fort Meyers, Fla. offers some helpful and quick insight on why some individuals succeed while others do not — a method he identifies as Q4+3. Four personalities; three skills. Tremendous insight from a gentleman who knows his trade.

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Of course, I am succeeding (but not replacing) the inestimable Mr. James K. Fitzpatrick for the First Teachers column. Please feel free to send any correspondence for First Teachers to Shaun Kenney, c/o First Teachers, 5289 Venable Road, Kents Store, VA 23084 — or if it is easier, simply send me an e-mail with First Teachers in the subject line to: svk2cr@virginia.edu

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