What is your current position?
I am an Assistant Professor of Humanities at Wyoming Catholic College, where I teach great books seminars on politics, literature, philosophy, and rhetoric.
What inspired you to choose this career path?
I fell in love with the great books approach to liberal education in college, and pursued graduate studies to deepen that love as well as sharpen my understanding of political philosophy. I have found reading and discussing the great books a fruitful way to lead a richer intellectual and spiritual life; doing so has also transformed my understanding of citizenship and what politics is and ought to be. I view teaching as an opportunity to introduce others to that love of wisdom and enjoy it with them.
What are you currently working on?
The semester has just begun, so right now I am focused on three things: getting to know my students, revisiting the works that I am teaching, and figuring out how best to help my students fall in love with these works and the wisdom they contain.
How did you hear about the Claremont Institute?
A good friend of mine in graduate school was a Publius Fellow. Thanks to the Claremont Review of Books, which I’ve read regularly ever since, Claremont has remained on my radar.
There are all sorts of educational programs out there for current and rising conservative professionals. What do you think makes the Claremont Institute’s Fellowships unique?
Claremont presents to its fellows several essential ingredients for statesmanship: an education toward the standards that should guide our politics, adept analysis of present realities, and remarkably free discussion of the above. It is only by realizing the depth and nature of our crisis that we can be make the most of the possibilities that remain open to us. The Lincoln Fellowship in particular brought together an invigorating mix of thoughtful and energetic professionals working in policy, media, publishing, technology, and the academy.
In which one of the original 13 colonies, looking back on history, would you have wanted to live and why?
Massachusetts, where I was born and raised, because it is my own and because I love it.
Who would it be, if you could have a conversation with any great thinker and what would you discuss?
Polybius, provided he first had the chance to get to know America and American history. I would like to hear from the great analyst of republican greatness and political decay what he made of our modern mixed regime at the Founding, where he thought we were in the cycle of regimes, and what he thought could be done to guide the ship of state clear of the worst disasters.
What qualities do you believe will make outstanding statesmen/women in this century?
Prudence and courage. Prudence enables one to see the best— right and effective—means to a good end; it requires knowledge of and assent to what is truly desirable (a political order that secures our safety and is conducive to our happiness) as well as what is possible under current conditions. For this reason, it requires not only “political theory” but also practical experience and familiarity with the infinite variety of events recorded by history, to have a decent chance of grasping the right course of action here and now. Courage is involved in some way in every good act, and especially so in the boldness that we need today, when virtually every institution—political, economic, social, cultural, technological—is either indifferent or actively hostile to human flourishing and a healthy society.
What do you believe is the greatest challenge facing the United States today?
A ruling class that is variously ignorant, indifferent, and even hostile to our way of life in particular and the conditions of a peaceful and flourishing society in general; diminished ambition and awareness of human greatness in the American people in general, which is only to be expected from our corrupted education; toxic discourse and mutual distrust, which discourages us from common action; and a weakening middle class—the moderating ballast in any republic—which makes its weight less and less influential for our public debates.
What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing educators in today’s academic environment?
Political correctness and the leftward tilt of faculty are troubling, but a deeper problem is the research university itself. The research university has been very good at encouraging progress in the sciences and the creation of new technologies. But the research imperative, its incentives for faculty specialization, and the resulting fragmentation of learning in the major-elective scheme, have made the modern university structurally hostile to the kind of liberal education that is good in itself and also helpful for educating citizens and statesmen. Citizens and statesmen need humanistic knowledge, not just scientific knowledge or professional training. A liberal education for citizenship helps to cultivate prudence (the ability to make good political decisions), which requires knowledge of universal standards of justice and the good life (addressed by disciplines such as philosophy and theology) as well as sufficient maturity—which is gained through one’s own experience over time, but is supplemented by the vicarious experience of masterful depictions of particular humans and actions, factual and fictional (addressed by disciplines such as history and literature). Moreover, the managerial style of the modern academy and its administrative bloat have made students and faculty alike accustomed to having their affairs managed by their betters, depriving them of opportunities for meaningful self-governance. Such opportunities for student and faculty self-governance in colleges and universities, like the New England townships described by Tocqueville, might have been practice for political self-rule; instead, the administrative and managerial university not only staffs the administrative state with credentialed experts but also habituates us to being ruled by them.
Do you believe that a course in ethics and integrity should be taught in every academic institution? Why?
Yes, because academic institutions are not free-floating republics of letters with no attention to the particular republic—or lesser regime—whose territory they happen to occupy, though our increasingly post-national research institutions sometimes pretend that they are just that. The necessary connection between politics and academia—their mutual dependence and mutual obligations—is a reflection of human nature, which is both rational and political, and political because it is rational. Liberal education ought to have pride of place in our institutions of elite education, and liberal education rightly understood is compatible with and even includes moral and civic education. That said, I don’t think most of our current institutions would teach a beneficial version of such a course.
What books are you currently reading?
For my teaching: Herodotus’s Histories for a class on the Greek city, and fragments of the Presocratic philosophers for a class on the philosophy of nature. I’ve just finished Eric Adler’s excellent The Battle of the Classics. To distract myself with books that can have no possible relevance to the present day, I’m reading José María Gironella’s The Cypresses Believe in God, a novel set in the years leading to the Spanish Civil War, and I’ve just started Edward Luttwak’s Coup d’État: A Practical Handbook.