“Do you have a minute, Dr. Wilson?”

tumblr_m9dqe50JY11rekgalo1_400To commemorate the end of the semester and the beginning of finals, I thought I would revisit a few glimmering moments I have had with my students for anyone who has ever taken a class, taught a class, or even heard of a class.  Trust me, I cannot make this stuff up.

1.  “Our final is comprehensive.  Does that mean that it covers everything we have read?”

2.  “Dr. XYZ  is letting us do these really creative dialogues and just footnote our sources instead of doing a research paper like you are making us do.  Could I do this for this class too?  I mean I am a fiction writer and that would be an assignment where I would actually learn something.Continue reading

The Liberal Arts: An Education in Cattle Raiding

Cuchulain in Battle

A few days ago, I was trying to convince the freshmen and sophomores in my Western-Civilization survey to sign up for my upper-level class in the fall. The upper-level class will cover the history of Late Antiquity, roughly the years 250 to 750. We’ll talk about the fall of Rome, the rise of the church, and the formation of the medieval kingdoms of Europe. It’s going to be awesome.

In order to pique their interest, I told the class that we would be reading the Táin Bó Cúailnge. The book recounts an epic cattle raid in Ireland. That’s right, a cattle raid. I like to think of the Táin as the Iliad of the north. The queen of Connacht steals the Brown Bull of Cooley (he’s an exceptionally fine bull), and the men of Ulster have to get him back. It’s epic; it’s heroic, it’s awesome.

I was passionately explaining to these freshmen and sophomores that the History of Late Antiquity would probably be the best class of their entire college career because no other class would give them the chance to read about the world’s most famous cattle raid. To my surprise, some of the students in the class did not actually know what a “cattle raid” is. As I was explaining the mechanics of raiding cattle (it’s a pretty simple concept), one girl on the front row leaned over to her friend and in a stage whisper announced, “I’m a math major; what do I need that for?”

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You Should Take Latin

Image“You should take Latin.” I have bombarded every student on every campus I have ever taught at with this phrase. So much so that normally students see me coming and instead of running away turn to meet me and see how long it takes for me to turn any conversation into an apologia for the Latin language. They think they are impervious to my wiles. They think they wont be the ones to give in. But they are wrong. Eventually many relent. Ultimately it’s the one who put up the biggest fight up front that tap out first. But what is my secret? How do I persuade? What follows is a written form of my most common tactics to the common accusations that Latin is useless because it is a dead language.

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How Picking a College is like Choosing Coffee

1313940580228-728458844 I often get asked by friends with college-age students advice on how to go about picking the right college.  It can be an overwhelming process.  For a more relaxed and refreshing view, I’ve asked my friend James Steen at Houston Baptist University to give some advice to all those parents and high-schoolers faced with difficult choices.  James can be reached at jsteen@hbu.edu.   He’s a really nice guy to speak with, and if you come to visit he’s likely to offer you a cup of coffee as well.

From James:

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