Christendom has shared a close connection to The Heritage Foundation’s Dr. Ryan T. Anderson for many years, welcoming him to campus for talks on modern issues ranging from marriage to gender identity. This semester, the students have the tremendous opportunity to learn from him in class, as their professor, as he teaches them a class on how to deal with the crisis of modernity.
Anderson’s past work in the political field through research and publishing brings to bear on the upper-level class he is currently teaching. Entitled “The Crisis of Modernity,” this class seeks to identify what this crisis is through an examination of various areas of life, and how to best understand these issues.
“By the end of the course, students should have a better appreciation of both the costs and the benefits of modernity, and a more nuanced understanding of a variety of causal pathways that have brought us here,” says Anderson.
The impact of modern thought on important areas of daily life and work forms the core theme of the class. As well as looking at the current situation, Anderson’s class also provides a better sense of how this modern culture has come about. Students learn the benefits and weaknesses of modernity, as well as an understanding of how to flourish best in current society.
“The first half of the course considers specific topics of interest,” says Anderson. “We explored modern love, science, media, technology, markets, politics, and education. Now, post-spring break, we’re turning to several over-arching narratives that try to explain the modern condition, that offer an intellectual genealogy of the who, how and why, or that at least narrate what has happened.”
This class proves timely, especially for seniors. Christendom’s mission to restore all things in Christ necessitates a solid understanding of what the modern world most needs. In learning under a scholar who has been greatly involved in shaping the Catholic and conservative response to the problems of modernity, students have a unique opportunity to prepare themselves for fruitful dialogue after graduation.
“A lot of our classes here cover great material, but the topics we cover in this class are things we’ll actually talk to people about and have to discuss,” says senior Hannah Lowe.
The class meets each Friday for three hours, which gives plenty of time for discussion of the readings. The various texts for the class include Patrick Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed and Alasdair McIntyre’s After Virtue. Engaging in texts by authors of the modern period, students grapple with the current issues facing human society. Students also have the chance to improve their public speaking skills, as each student serves as the discussion leader for a class.
“All the readings are great,” remarked Lowe. “I’m enjoying the class especially for the readings on education and technology.”
Reading such texts allows students to wrestle with hot-button issues. Ignoring the problems of our time or dismissing the positive elements of our current culture only add to the difficulty of living in modernity. Taking a realistic look at the benefits and downsides of modernity gives the students in Anderson’s class the ability to constructively challenge today’s society to continual improvement.
“Because most of our intellectual culture highlights the blessing of modernity, the course will tend to focus on the negatives, but largely with an eye toward thinking through how to make the best of modern life and how to flourish in the conditions of modernity,” concludes Anderson.
This class shows the valuable synthesis of material that marks the liberal arts education. In studying the whole scope of modern culture from science to dating to ethics, wider trends and patterns are more easily discernible. Trained to pick out these patterns, students in Anderson’s class become equipped to serve as the next generation of thinkers in the political sphere.
Contributed by author Riley Damitz (’20).