I received notice Thursday from Professor Thomas Hughson, SJ, the Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Theology, and the Chair of my Doctoral Qualifying Examination Board last November, that I have been awarded one of the two Graduate Teaching Fellowships for next year. So that's a huge relief to know that I have another year's wages as I work on my dissertation. Yeesh, this brings my scholarship total now to something like $133,000: amazing. I don't know what the classes or the teaching load will be be, yet: if it's the Introduction to Theology course, that wouldn't be much of a surprise. It would be useful to develop and flesh out those lessons before going on the job market, since it's a given that wherever I would end up, I--like all other professors--would inevitably end up spending some of my time teaching an Introduction.
There's a lot from my high school lessons that I will be able to transfer. Given that theology is one of those disciplines that totally isolated from general education, even here or at Notre Dame, the undergraduate Introduction to Theology really is in some respects operating at a high school level, if not even lower, just because you have to assume absolutely no previous knowledge on the part of undergraduates, and virtually no philosophical or abstract reasoning ability. That may sound grim, or even insulting, but that's just the way it is: if an entire discipline is censored, even in the name of some notion of intellectual "freedom," the result is never one of enlightenment or skill, but just of clumsy and simplistic reasoning and prejudices. The class has to begin with just coaching students in learning to ask careful questions and recognizing what actually constitutes an adequate means of answering their questions. Being thrown into a literature that I had never encountered, in the fall of 2004 in Andrei Orlov's Apocalyptic Literature seminar, gave me a good refresher experience for sympathizing with the frustration I see in students as they try to come to grips with a discipline for which they have no preparation. That, I think, will be the hardest part of an Intro class for me: just being aware of how much I cannot assume in their understanding, and reining in my expectations to a realistic and achievable level, even as I try to hold the hoop high.