School Is In

A week ago from yesterday, my last semester of MA classes at UD commenced. I am taking a class on Conrad with a crazy, lovable and neurotic woman named Dr. Baldwin, and I am also taking a course on the Trivium with one of my favorite professors, Dr. Crider (who I’ve mentioned before, seeing as he taught my Shakespeare course and will also be supervising my Thesis).

I planned this semester out carefully and have been anticipating it for a long time, so now that it’s finally here, I’m getting to see the “rubber meet the road”, in some sense. I met with my professor for the Conrad class at least 3 times during the summer, and already had much of the reading done, along with a paper topic and outline. After plotting out the syllabus, I think that Gregory’s due date comes at a good time in the semester– at least 3 weeks before the paper is due. Plus, I have the first two weeks of October (if he doesn’t come early!)when I am not teaching piano to really crank that out and have it finished.

There was no way for me to get a head start on the Trivium course, however, because of the way Dr. Crider structured it. I almost don’t even care, though. It already sounds like it’s going to be one of the best classes I’ve taken at UD. This last Saturday morning (yes, it’s on Sat. morning again…good for babysitting!) we spent 2 hours discussing the first sentence of the UD mission statement:

The University of Dallas is dedicated to the pursuit of wisdom, of truth, and of virtue as the proper and primary ends of education.

Different from the Good, True and Beautiful, of course, but very essential, nonetheless. We talked extensively about what it means to pursue these things, as opposed to obtain them. What does that presuppose about the nature of wisdom, truth and virtue? What does that say about us? I have to say, even after having gone through Torrey, much of what everyone was saying went way over my head at first, especially when the PhD students in the class turned on their engines. Even the small handful of Undergrads who were allowed to take the course were jumping in. Dr. Crider asked for a starting definition for truth, and a little Senior girl raised her hand and immediately said, “articulate reason that grasps the world and ideas around it”. Like she had that definition sitting on the top of her brain, ready to go. While it may not have been the best definition, I certainly didn’t have one to give.

The course itself promises to be very exciting, especially since almost everyone taking it will become a teacher at one point. We discussed one of our homework readings, Dorothy Sayers “Lost Tools of Learning”, and then finished with a discussion on what it would take to implement these things not in a Christian school (Dr. Crider says that there are enough of those out there), but instead in current public education. How do we convince our society that it has lost something valuable by getting rid of a liberal arts education? Likewise, what do classical schools lose by focusing so much of their attention on the Trivium?

As a result, the course is being structured in 3 parts– 3 weeks spent on Grammar, 3 weeks on Logic, and 3 weeks on Rhetoric (yes, Aristotle is part of the reading), with a paper and a test in each section. The remaining weeks of the semester will be spent discussing Newman’s Idea of a University, Nussbaum’s Not For Profit, and Brann’s Paradoxes of Education in a Republic.

I’m very excited and grateful that my last semester of courses is going to be one of my favorites, as far as I can tell. Yes, it is hard to be pregnant and sit through a 3 hour class, but both of my professors are very accommodating and understanding– the minute Dr. Baldwin heard me say it was uncomfortable to sit for 3 hours, she went and got me a more comfortable chair, plus one to prop my feet up on. UD is very family friendly as a whole, especially considering it’s Catholic roots. I almost always see someone’s wife playing on the front lawn with her children during the day. One of my professors even offered to let me bring Gregory to class if I couldn’t find a babysitter or couldn’t bear to part from him!

In other UD news, Jesse’s MA is underway completion as well. Things took a bit of a hiatus when he started his new job (s) and transitioned back into working full time, but just yesterday he met with the head of the Philosophy Dept. and got the reading list he will be needing to take his comp test in the winter. After that, all that stands in his way is his Thesis paper! Looks like there’s a very high chance of us graduating together in the Spring!

I’ll leave you with a little bit more of the UD Mission Statement:

The University of Dallas is dedicated to the pursuit of wisdom, of truth, and of virtue as the proper and primary ends of education. The University seeks to educate its students so they may develop the intellectual and moral virtues, prepare themselves for life and work in a problematic and changing world, and become leaders able to act responsibly for their own good and for the good of their family, community, country, and church.

The University understands human nature to be spiritual and physical, rational and free. It is guided by principles of learning that acknowledge transcendent standards of truth and excellence that are themselves the object of search in an education.

The University is especially dedicated to the pursuit of liberal education in both its undergraduate and graduate programs.In its liberal arts programs the University is committed to the recovery and renewal of the Westem heritage of liberal education. The University is equally committed to providing professional programs at the graduate level.Its professional programs, in a common spirit with the University’s liberal arts programs, are dedicated to reflecting critically upon the ends governing one’s own profession, to fostering principled, moral judgment, and to providing the knowledge and skills requisite for professional excellence. Whether professional or liberal, the University is “convinced of the priority of the ethical over the technical, of the primacy of persons over things, of the superiority of the spirit over matter.” The University seeks to offer those graduate and undergraduate programs that will address important needs of society, and that can be offered in a manner consistent with the University’s primary institutional commitments.

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