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Welcome back to Notre Dame!  I’m glad you are in my class. As of our first class meeting, you will have less than 3½  years left to enjoy life in this privileged oasis.  Now it’s time to get back to work.

To give you a sense of my philosophy of teaching, allow me to share four personal biases.  These are partly based upon my role as an educator but also upon what I have learned as a Notre Dame parent.  In other words, I know something about your ways and practices.

First, you are at Notre Dame because you are smart and talented. Yet as you discovered in the fall, everybody around you is smart and talented, too. And frankly, smart is boring. The greater challenge is for you to be interesting. This means that you should use your shortening stay at Notre Dame to acquire the tools, the wisdom, and the passion to make people care about who you are and what you will become.

Second, I am not really interested in the conventional definitions of what it means to be educated. It’s possible that much of the education you received before coming to Notre Dame was based upon two pedagogical goals:  description and memorization. In contrast, I emphasize analysis and understanding. If you can’t analyze and understand, you won’t be able to persuade. If you can’t persuade, we will have failed you.

Third, why Notre Dame? There must have been something special about Notre Dame that led you to choose it over other institutions, such as The Ohio State University, The USC, and various East-coast finishing schools. Did it matter to you that Notre Dame is a Catholic university with conspicuously traditional values?

Finally, to quote a prominent contemporary philosopher, “along with great privilege comes great responsibility.”  University education is a privilege that few people in the world experience.  Who knows why each of you has been given the blessing of leisure time to cultivate your minds?  You are morally obliged to make the most of it. As the Bible says: “No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, that those who come in may see the light” (Luke 11:33).

My office hours are on Tuesdays, 10:50-11:50; Wednesdays, 2:00-4:00; and by appointment.  My office is in the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, 211 Brownson Hall (right behind the Main Building). My assistant Sharon Konopka can always find me; call 1-5253. You do not need a specific reason to visit me. I’m always curious to know what’s on your mind.  My email:  amcadams@nd.edu

Again, I am glad you are in my class.

A. James McAdams


NOTE:  Please turn off and do not use your technology during class.  This includes electronic devices of any kind, such as laptops, i-Pads, cell phones, Kindles, video cameras, video games, or other personal digital devices.

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