Podcast #31

Matt Croasmun directs the Life Worth Living Program at the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, and teaches a course with the same name in Yale College. Started by Miroslav Volf and Ryan McAnnally-Linz, the course helps students engage with a big important question: What is a good life? In an especially wide ranging conversation, we talk with Matt about possible answers, how to go about finding an answer, and the nuts and bolts of teaching such an ambitious class.

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Show Notes

0:00 Intro

0:39 Breaking new ground with a guest from the Yale Divinity School.

2:22 Students bring big expectations–and big questions. No pressure.

3:58 Doug shops for a religion.

5:01 The most important question of our lives?

11:26 How do you evaluate students’ value choices?

16:42 Grading on an awareness of philosophical consistency and inconsistency.

18:25 Yale is a reputation economy.

25:06 Teaching students to read charitably.

28:59 Big-picture claims for the humanities: teaching interpretation is also teaching moral agency.

32:27 Teaching three seminars at once: separately and jointly.

35:56 During what year should college students worry about the meaning of life?

37:16 160 applicants for 40 spaces: choosing students.

39:29 Why teach the meaning of life?

41:33 Teaching and religion as different ways of sharing knowledge.

43:10 Disseminating the course around the world.

45:04 How many seminars have a “retreat”?

48:05 Altruism, utilitarianism, and Peter Singer.

49:02 Vernacular pedagogy and a moral vision of life: food as morality.

52:13 More nuts & bolts: questions of assessment again.

56:45 How Matt ended up teaching the course.

59:24 Can scholarship really be life-changing?

1:04:41 When is learning life-changing?

1:09:09 Don’t observe: try it. Appreciating the day of rest.

1:10:52 You can’t take a year off from life.

1:13:27 Being in love with means and forgetting how to talk about ends: Elon Musk.

1:15:54 Education being treated as a tool.

1:16:24 Matt’s teaching fail: when the student asks the deeper question.

1:22:37 What teaching experience gives.

1:23:43 A course that should be required–and that Doug should teach.

1:24:36 Closing credits