Thursday, 27 February 2003

Along with things I'm learning, I should be writing about all that we are going though, as a class, at the moment. That, in terms of history or looking-back, is as important, for it informs and shapes the understanding of learning, of what we are going through emotionally and psychologically, which gives context to writing as events unfold. Something like that.

As one of my classmates said Monday in Patristics, "I feel like I'm being beaten down rather than build up." That says it all! The program as it is structured right now is counter-productive to the stated goals of the program. We are all about priestly formation here at General. How are we being formed, not in words but in deeds? As James says, "Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do." (TNIV) Words are cheap - show me that you mean it when you tell us repeatedly during orientation that we should be diligent to maintain a balanced life? Prove to me that you think our spouses and children are as important as writing the next exigesis or paper or exam or 100 pages of reading or filling out form after form as our financial aid is cut! By the works of this program and seminary, it proves that you do not. Words are cheap. Because we are graded, and because we can fail, which stops our process, then the consequences of our maintaining a balanced and healthy life is academic failure, is denial of ordination and priesthood not because we are not truly called or that we are stupid, but because the way the program is designed works counter to the stated goals. Words are cheap!

If the program, which maintains that it is preparing leaders for the Church, demonstrates by its actions, by the example set in the working out of the program's particulars, that the way to be in life as a priest is to work yourself to death, to become cynical, exasperated, frustrated, anxiety ridden, sleepless, depressed, hopeless, then this program is a success. Is this the way we are to demonstrate balanced and healthy lives to our parishioners? Is this the way we are to be when we are leaders of the Church? Is this kind of life what the seminary intends when it "forms" us?

It isn't a matter that the academics are sub-par, because they are not. It isn't that the professors are not excellent, because they are, and it isn't that any particular course is unreasonable in its expectations, but when combined with attempts to life a half-way balanced and healthy life in New York City, it simply doesn't work! Four to five graduate level academic classes is not productive. This isn't an undergrad education - we should be wrestling with issues, the material, the concepts, but all we are doing is cramming for papers or exams or projects, only to drop it as soon as it is over or only do a half-assed job and forget most of it in a few weeks. That is not formation, what it is is an old pedagogical model that teaches facts (if retained) but does not teach thinking. Forming leaders for the Church, priestly formation, are all well meaning and worthy ideals and goals, but is that what is being accomplished. No, not at this point at least.

So, classes come and go. "Oh, don't worry, you will get through it," they say. "They all do." Well, isn't that a good educational philosophy! Is that what we should be telling our parishioners when they come to us? If we are learning from a negative perspective built on a foundation of unreasonableness, rather then build-up from a positive perspective and educational model, then something is desperately wrong. Something needs to change. "Oh, but every class says that and they get through it." That may be true, but it does not mean that the program is accomplishing its goals or that the formation that is happening builds priests who are healthy, balanced, and able to replicate a positive way of life in their own parishes. How much better would it be that by the working out of the program we could say, when we leave, "that is the way I want things to be!", "that is the what I want to replicate in my parish!", "want a wonderful learning experience because they demonstrated to me how it should be done - the right way"! Rather than, "this place sucked and all I learned is what not to do!" Learning may take place, but is it the intent of the administration and faculty that we learn from a perspective of negativity or is it that we are to learn from a positive perspective? Words are cheap - show me that you mean it by your actions, or simply shut-up.

No wonder they have a problem with alumni giving! What alumni want to give to a program and institution that attempts to accomplish its good goals in this negative manner.

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