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The Ph.D. in the Gym

            I have a Ph.D. in theology and religion and have had the privilege to teach in leading colleges, universities and seminaries in the United States, Latin America, India and Russia.  This week I was in charge of “crowd control” of kindergartners through sixth graders in the gym of a small school in Topeka, Kansas, and I’m glad I was.  Let me tell you why.

            I teach at Cair Paravel Latin School, a classical Christian school.  We high school teachers are assigned a week each semester to monitor the small children who arrive before classes start.  It’s a help to the elementary school teachers, but I admit that I don’t look forward to it and often think about how I could be getting ready for my classes.

            This week God opened my eyes so that I could see what was really happening for those twenty minutes each morning.  Before I arrived, some of the children were already seated around the basketball court like they are supposed to be.  A few were reading.  When the crowd charges in, I mostly have to encourage energetic children not to be too rambunctious and not to interfere with the teachers trying to place the banners around the gym for Narnia Days.

            Thursday I try to settle down three giggling little girls who playfully tell me their names are Yes, No, and Maybe.  Friday morning Yes and No run up to me and gleefully greet me while repeating their play names.  I ask where Maybe is, and they point to Victoria with whom I had had a conversation in which I found out that she was named after her grandmother.

            A minute later a little girl hugs one of our basketball players around the legs as he walks by.  He affectionately returns the hug.  Another basketball player brings his little sister into the gym and helps her with her school bag.  She is so shy that I can’t speak with her too much, but I recognize her as the sister of a brilliant student whom I had taught the day before about Nietzsche and the death of God.

            Nietzsche and the death of God at a Christian school?  Yes.  Our students read and discuss the great thinkers the last two years of their studies here in order that they can understand what the good life is.  We do not shelter them from contrary opinions but help them to engage the Nietzsches and Sartres as well as study writers from the Christian tradition.   

            Such exposure to the classics of Western Civilization, even the ones we don’t agree with, prepares our students to face the challenges of living the good life in an often hostile and unhealthy world, but I like to think that those early years at Cair Paravel also help.  Yes, we have our problems, but these young children will have experienced the good life of love and joy and friendship long before they read Nietzsche.  God is not dead to them.  They have seen him in the faces of their families and their friends and teachers of Cair Paravel.  They know happiness.

            Oh, and by the way, it would seem that the good life for an old Ph.D. involves occasionally spending time with and learning from the little children of Cair Paravel.


4 thoughts on “The Ph.D. in the Gym

  1. Thanks Bill,
    Glad to see the humble service of an exalted PhD! Also, delighted that a Kansas Christian school reads and discusses Nietsche! One hears such worrying tales about Kansas folk rejecting challenging material for their students; your story is encouraging.

    1. Thank you, Terry. I’m so busy trying to keep up with my teaching that I don’t hear what you have about Kansas schools rejecting challenging materials for students. I do know that we struggle with the general non-reading nature of our culture and its effects on learning at all levels and in all disciplines.

  2. Dear old friend, what a pleasure was reading about your time at gym!!!! Greetings from Costa Rica! By the way I’m happy to have the link to your blog. Now I can drink from your wisdon!



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