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Environmental Leadership Learning Community (Armon)

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Course Title

Environmental Leadership Learning Community

   
Instructor(s) Chara Armon
Arthur J. Ennis Postdoctoral Fellow
Villanova University
   
Discipline

Augustine and Culture Seminar

   
Subject(s)

Environmental Learning

   
Description

St. Augustine recounts in his Confessions that, just before his conversion, he heard a child singing, ―Tolle lege, tolle lege, ―Take up and read, take up and read. Augustine did so, and by reading was transformed: after much personal and spiritual struggle, he was at last able to change his life. The Augustine and Culture Seminar (ACS) introduces students to great works of literature and thought that teach us not only about the cultures and time periods in which they were written, but also about our own cultural heritage and ourselves, here and now. The basic idea is that by reading great works, perhaps we too can be transformed; perhaps we too can move more deeply into ourselves, and from there move more compassionately out into our communities.

ACS seeks to help students develop a richer inner life and an appreciation for community. The seminar is founded on the belief that seeking the truth (veritas) with respect and love (caritas) toward one another leads to deep and lasting community (unitas). ACS thus tries to help students live the values so important to Villanova that they are on its seal: veritas, unitas, caritas.

In Book VIII of Confessions, Augustine tells the story of his conversion, the miraculous change that, it might be thought, would end the intellectual wanderings of his youth and bring peace to his restless heart. Yet Augustine goes on to pose some truly fundamental questions near the beginning Book IX: ―Who am I, and what am I?(IX.1.1). Even after his conversion, there is much that Augustine fails to understand about himself: his mind, his heart, his failings, and his place in the world. He still confesses to God, ―In your eyes, I have become a question to myself‖ (X.33.50).

The question, ―Who am I? is the best way to summarize the Augustinian inquiry that is the goal of ACS. It is an inquiry that distinguishes us from other introductory courses, which, even when they treat a similar topic (God, for example) or even read the same author (Aristotle, for example), pursue different questions in doing so. Our focus in this particular class is on inquiring about ourselves in relationship to the natural world we inhabit—following the example of Augustine in the Confessions.

One way or the other, Augustine is our model. ACS learning community students take this course not only to learn about Augustine, but more important to learn to be like him in his passionate engagement with ―the higher things: literature, history, and politics; truth and moral values; the gods and God. In the Confessions, Augustine speaks of himself as committed to the truth ―heart and voice and pen. The ACS learning community faculty believe that thinking deeply about what we care about, learning to articulate our thoughts clearly and persuasively, and working to write with insight not only will serve as excellent preparation for future careers, but will help us come to terms with life emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually, both in the university and beyond.

 

See PDF here.