Plotinus in the Jungle

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Dear friends and family,

The rumble is over.  Thank-you very much for your comments, e-mails, prayers, and phone calls.  All the third-year students are now back in class and seem to be enjoying it.  The students had a rather lively exchange on Wednesday about whether human labor is the main source of value for the things we buy and sell.  They seemed to be split rather equally on whether human nature or labor is the main source.

This past Wednesday there was a reconciliation mass, celebrated by the archbishop, and then a dinner.  At the dinner we all apologized to each other for the incident, hugged, and ate cake and ice cream.  So hopeful there will be peace, harmony, and learning for the rest of the semester.

While seven of my students were on strike, one student Christopher Marup faithfully attended class.  We had five good classes together, discussing Aristotle and Aquinas on the natural and unnatural acquisition of wealth, the structure of feudalism, and mercantilism.  Christopher has an interesting story.  He went through the program at GSS over ten years ago, dropped out, and then returned to his village, in part to help take care of his younger siblings.  But he wasn’t interested in finding a wife.  Once his family responsibilities were over, he started thinking about going to university, asked his bishop about getting his seminary transcripts, and the bishop invited him to try out being a priest again.  So Christopher re-did the discernment program last year and came back to Good Shepherd at the beginning of this term to do some refresher studies.  He is by far the most emotionally mature of the students and has been the most engaged student in the three courses I’ve had the pleasure of teaching him.  In PNG, it takes courage to stand up to the group and Christopher was against the boycott from the start.  I think that he has a bright future ahead of him.

Christopher is on the right.

Christopher is on the right.

On the whole, I also feel more confident about my own abilities as a teacher.  I still have far to go in figuring out how best to reach my weakest students and how to transition my students into reading and evaluating primary sources on their own, but on the whole I have renewed faith in that my goals for my students are the right ones.  I also feel more comfortable here at Good Shepherd.  My administration and eventually the bishops themselves supported me, which makes me feel that my decision to continue on at Good Shepherd for another year or three is the right one.

Now to settle down and write chapter two of the dissertation . . . (I’m 8 pages in!)


  1. Doug Hanson says:



  2. phillipcary says:

    Glad tohear you’re sticking to the Socratic thing. I’ve talked to philosophers who’ve taught in Africa, and it seems the challenges are similar. Critical thinking is not part of most educational programs there, which means the graduates are not really ready to lead modern institutions or government. Which is why much of the governance, infrastructure and economy of African countries is effectively in the hands of foreigners.

    In the modern world, if you don’t have a little Socrates in your culture, you end up being under the control of foreigners. So the foreigners who come in and play Socrates are doing the most fundamentally liberating work needed by cultures that once lived in isolation from the rest of the globe but no longer have that option.



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