Below is a list of the courses that I currently teach at St. Mark’s School.
Ethics and Morality
What does it mean to be a good person, or to live a good life? How should an individual or a society decide what is right and wrong; which actions are obligatory, optional, or prohibited? Are there universal and eternal moral truths, or is everyone’s opinion on moral questions equally valid? These are some of the questions that humans have asked throughout all times and places, and that philosophers and theologians alike have struggled to answer. In this course, students will study a sampling of the great western philosophical and theological ethical traditions. They will also be encouraged by class projects, discussions, and formal debates to think for themselves, to engage controversy intelligently, and to form their own reasoned and defensible positions on important and challenging issues facing society today, such as sexual ethics, environmental sustainability, economic justice, capital punishment, war, and the challenging range of bio-ethical issues including genetic engineering, euthanasia, and the uses and implications of reproductive technologies. Film, literature and current events will be used as resources alongside the text, and lively but reasoned and respectful debate will be a primary mode of learning. (Description written by the Rev. James LaMacchia.)
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: Heirs of Abraham
This course explores the scriptures, histories, beliefs and practices of those whom the Qur’an calls “The People of the Book”: Jews, Christians and Muslims. What assurances, hopes and fears bind these faiths together? What has divided them, often to the point of bloodshed? The answers to these questions are multi-faceted and require careful study and appreciation of the contending scriptural claims, the merging and diverging histories, and the diverse forms of worship and practice that have developed in these three faiths over the millennia. In this course, students will dramatically improve their scriptural literacy, their understanding of the religious impulse, and their confidence in bringing their own thoughts and experiences to bear on some of the most analytically elusive and yet deeply meaningful questions in human history. They will also have the opportunity to experience the contemporary manifestations of these three religions, visiting local places of worship — a Jewish Temple, a Christian Church, and a Muslim Mosque to cap their study of each religion. (Description written by the Rev. Barbara Talcott.)
Many traditions conceive of the spiritual life as a journey or quest — a pilgrimage. This is not only true of art and literature that is overtly spiritual or religious, but also of secular works. This course will ask students to engage with a variety of different media (memoir, novel, film, poetry, music, etc.) and consider the commonalities and differences between spiritual journeys within different traditions and during different eras.. Why is it that humans seek something beyond themselves? How do external experiences, circumstances, and landscapes shape our interior quest and vice-versa? Can all humans be thought of as participating in some sort of pilgrimage? What is it that humans are really striving for? As students examine these ideas, they will also turn a critical eye toward their own journey or quest, finding new and creative ways to express that journey.
Mystics & Zen Masters
Many religious traditions seek to unite the human with the divine, a process that American poet Denise Levertov called “oneing.” In this comparative course, we will trace the development of mysticism in a number of different traditions including Taoism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam. Along the way, we will also apply the critical lenses of psychology, anthropology, and gender studies to these practices, attempting to discover why humans seek union with nature or deity and how gender and society affect that search. To aid in our discussion, students will read from a number of modern mystics including Thomas Merton, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Rainer Maria Rilke, as well as medieval and ancient mystics and mystical texts like John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Julian of Norwich, The Cloud of Unknowing, the Islamic poets Rumi and Hafiz, the Tao Te Ching, and many others.
The 3-minute Film Project (co-taught)
A script-to-screen film workshop where you will work in teams to write, shoot, edit, and produce original 3-minute movies. Over 7 weeks, you will practice the fundamentals of script writing, cinematography, and editing. Develop your original idea from concept to treatment to script. With script in hand, your team will begin filming. You will get the opportunity to shoot footage with a range of cameras, from smart phones to digital SLRs to cinema cameras. Once your shots are captured, it’s time to enter the editing room to finish your masterpiece! Along the way, you will learn the ins-and-outs of professional filmmaking software like Final Draft, Adobe Premier, and Adobe After Effects.