I took the old collegiate seminar (“A Death in the Curriculum”) under an infuriating fellow named Daniel Koob, even complained to a dean about the demands and hated the required aggravations . . . until about midyear, when I discovered I was breathing outside the womb—and wanted to be there! Basically, I had learned to read—not just the text at hand, but all texts, incorporating both intellect and value base.
Research is mostly fine and good, though certainly it can easily become an absurd little game. Give and take—while wrestling with lasting materials and vital issues—is all that separates education from trade school. All the research in all the schools matters such a shallow swallow compared to the deep currents that should never be left for “experts” to expose. We have too many authorities but not enough thinkers.
Richard Mendola ’74
After being mostly lectured to for three years as an undergraduate, it was a pleasant experience my senior year to have a class, Great Books Seminar, where we could actually have a discussion with a professor and among ourselves. It cannot be that difficult to train professors to teach seminars. It is not just the acquisition of knowledge that is important. Students need to read more, think more, discuss more, and be lectured to less.
_Frank F. Tetlow ’66
Anthony DePalma’s article (“The Soul of a University”) was an elegy to the beauty of campus and to the outreach of priests. Like him, I still miss the park-like setting, and I still remember the kindness of administrators when my father died, too young, while I was there. But Notre Dame’s soul is not tied to its arboretum or social outreach efforts; it is tied to its status as a Catholic university. To be one, it must provide its students with the degrees they seek and the lived example of how to grapple intellectually with faith without losing hold of it. I learned—by watching my professors think—how to reconcile thoughtfulness with Catholic faithfulness. If the professors stop taking an interest in this, then all the trees and priests in the world won’t save Notre Dame from losing its soul.
Jason Spak ‘95
It seems that an important question to ask when contemplating academic excellence is, "To what extent do the common measures of that excellence (for example, program rankings) reflect the programs’ impact upon the University’s primary constituents, the students?" If an improved ranking reflects a better educated student, then it is a worthy goal. But if an important part of a Notre Dame education is lost, as the author hints, then the measuring stick is faulty. Perhaps America, and the church, needs a university that educates fully the students who attend it, more than they need another top-tier research institution that has sacrificed its core, even unwittingly, for the sake of standards that we will discover to be as insubstantial and empty as much of the rest of American culture.
_Michael T. Riley
What a set of contradictions the spring issue presents! A letter dismissing pacifism as a “fringe belief” is juxtaposed with a report that beneath the Basilica’s main altar are the bones of Saint Marcellus, martyred for refusing military service. Then Michael Baxter’s Christmas mission of mercy and curiosity displays the human face of a people, over a million of whom died of starvation or disease as a consequence of U.S. sanctions that Madeleine Albright insisted were “worth the price,” living in fear of another U.S. assault. By contrast, a graduate’s account of his eager participation in that war and another by a war-related accident victim displays the characteristic military lack of any doubt that the war was justified—despite the unanimous view of church leaders that it was not and despite our current appreciation that, as Saddam Hussein had attested, he did not have WMD (the determinate argument for the war), and that we had no compelling evidence that he did. Finally, again by contrast, a moving account by a survivor of the Baghdad U.N. headquarters bombing—an abominable act of violence (against good Samaritans) by any standard.
William H. Slavick ‘49, ’51M.A., ’71 Ph.D.
Reading the articles on Iraq made me proud I have been against this unjust, unprovoked war which is based on lies and propagated by a self-described “war president.” How anyone could follow the events occurring in Iraq and conclude that this war has anything to do with its misnomer, “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” is baffling. Iraq is much worse off now, the region much less stable, and we in the United States are much less safe now that Saddam Hussein has been deposed. The Iraqi people are united against us while more lives are being needlessly lost.
Regina Pakalnis, M.D., ’77
Madison, New Jersey
Where were the peace activists during the ’90s when Saddam was murdering thousands of Kurds and Shiites? Why wasn’t Michael Baxter, CSC, selflessly demonstrating for peace and protection of victims then in Iraq, or against the Taliban, or in Iran or Syria where state torture and murder are routinely employed? His article affirms what we all suspect: Peace activism is a cynical and politicized form of anti-Americanism, plain and simple.
_Michael S. O’Connor ’78 Capt/MC/USNR