Posts Tagged ‘Georgetown’

Keeping the Classics Alive: Jesuit Father James Schall

The Georgetown Voice, a student-run newsmagazine of Georgetown University, recently featured  Jesuit Father James Schall, the noted author, philosopher and professor of Political Philosophy at Georgetown University. Fr. Schall, who entered the Society in 1948, started at Georgetown as a member of the faculty in 1977. A prolific writer, Schall has authored more than 30 books, including Idylls and Rambles, which was recently added to the Ignatius Press E-Book Collection. The full feature about Fr. Schall is below:

In the moments before his Elements of Political Theory class, Jesuit Father James Schall stood in the hall, chatting with early-comers about the weather, the readings, and other courses. Fr. Schall not only knew all of his current students by name, but also recalled almost all of his recent students. He made introductions among the students standing in front of him, and a large, comfortable conversation started.

This conversation seemed to carry over into class. The period involved little group discussion, but was rather a series of conversations between Schall and individual students.

To Schall, this conversational teaching style fosters students’ intellectual engagement.

“College students learn most from talking to each other. You have to have ways for students to converse,” he said. “That’s why education is fostered by a good campus.”

When class began, Schall asked if he had failed to call on anyone during the course so far. “I don’t want anyone to feel left out,” he said. With 100 students crowded into a large White-Gravenor classroom, it would seem easy to be left out during a 50 minute class period.

However, Schall’s custom of pacing the aisles—addressing questions and comments to students at random—makes it difficult to shirk participation. Despite his sniper-like questioning style, his students appeared calm, seemingly unfazed by the possibility of being called on at his whim. Although his quiet voice could easily be drowned out by coughing, his students remained attentive and prepared to be called on. The conversations ranged from Plato, to the etymology of names of the months, to Shakespeare.

Schall teaches exclusively from the Western canon, classic texts that have been a cornerstone of Jesuit education from its beginnings. Some see these texts as providing a critical perspective on the legacy of human thought.

Professor Patrick Deneen, a government professor who also teaches Elements of Political Theory, speculated that Schall’s traditional perspective attracts students to his popular class.

“A paramount reason why students flock to Father Schall is because he reveals to them the profound depth of their ignorance,” he said. “But more than that, he allows them to experience that magnificent feeling that is the beginning of philosophy—the hunger for knowledge.”

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Jesuit-in-Residence: Georgetown Jesuit Ministers with an Open Door

Jesuit Father David CollinsJesuit Father David Collins has ministered to students in various ways during his time as a Jesuit-in-Residence at Georgetown University, but on this given day, it is as a master cookie baker.

From his room on the eighth floor of Village C West student residence hall, Fr. Collins hosts an open-door night, where students come in and out; some have circled up chairs in the living room. Many have tasted Collins’ cookie of the week: Portuguese Love Knots.

“The goal is never to repeat a cookie recipe,” Collins said, dressed in a red short-sleeved button-down shirt and jeans.

Conversation among the students shifts from the “Dora the Explorer” cartoon to excommunication. Collins says the approachable atmosphere is part of the learning experience for students.

In his role as Jesuit-in-Residence, he ministers to students, but also showcases the modern roles of a Jesuit at Georgetown: professor, researcher, chaplain and priest.

As part of his workload, he is organizing a panel for a conference on superstition, writing a book on Albert the Great, constructing a chapter on the late medieval church, editing a chapter of an anthology and analyzing a 15th-century text that has never been studied, all while mentoring several graduate students also pursuing their own projects.

Yet, the fusion of professor and priest can best be seen however during his homily in Mass to the mostly student congregation. Reminiscent of his classroom demeanor, Collins makes constant use of his hands, explaining the significance of sight as seen through Jesus’ healing of a blind man in the Bible.

“I can bring up heavy issues that cause people to question things, but [I] always end on a hopeful note,” he said. “Sometimes I do it better than others.”

For more about a Day in the Life of a Jesuit, visit The Hoya.