How Saint Ignatius High School’s “The Good Lecture” Came Into Being

By Ryan Cook

Ryan ChaseRyan Chase

Everyone has those weird moments where they step back and ask “How did I get here?” For me, those moments seem to happen a lot when considering my involvement as a Fellow for the God and the Good Life course at Notre Dame. In high school, I was a stereotypical school and sports nerd who only found extracurricular time around football/track practice for the occasional student senate event. I never thought that my extracurricular involvement in college would include being a member of the teaching team for an introductory philosophy course.  But as I was talking with my high school classmate and former GGL dialogue partner Chase Miller ‘21 on a rainy Friday afternoon, we started to discover some old similarities in the engaging curriculum that drew us towards joining the GGL Teaching Team.

Chase and I both graduated in the spring of 2017 from Saint Ignatius, an all-boys high school on the west side of Cleveland, with a reputation for its service culture, sense of community, and immersive theology education. Students take theology courses on Catholic doctrine, social justice, and morality for all eight semesters, highlighted by their transformative Sophomore Service experience. Although these courses provided me with an understanding of dogma and a drive for service, my senior year Christian Manhood course had a particularly formative impact on the past three years of my life.

The Christian Manhood program is taught by veteran theology teacher Tom Healey ‘81, who inherited the course after the death of Jim Skerl, the founder of multiple Saint Ignatius service groups and a legendary “Man for Others.” In the immersive semester-long Christian Manhood course, Healey provides students with guidance on how to live their vocations as Christian men, drawing on a powerful set of readings that spans from Vatican II to The Little Prince. Students write, reflect on, and apply these ideas to a library of other media (including Pink Floyd songs, the TV show Freaks and Geeks, and the movie Casablanca) to see how the themes of faith and “redeeming the time” are reflected by people living out their vocations.

The ideas proposed to students in Christian Manhood are the kind that you find yourself thinking about while driving to school in the morning, zoning out in your economics class, or reflecting on your upcoming college decision. These types of daunting yet applicable thoughts are remarkably similar to the Big Questions that first year students encounter in GGL and reflect upon during a formative period of their lives. GGL and Christian Manhood not only force students to deal with these inevitable belief crises, but also seek to equip them with the intellectual resources and practical scenarios to do so.

These similarities reflect the conclusions that Chase and I came to on that Friday afternoon on how we got here. And these are the same ideas we presented in the first annual James E. Skerl ‘74 Christian Manhood Lecture, delivered in our high school auditorium to the current senior class on Tuesday morning of Fall Break. In our 90-minute lecture, we were able to teach some baseline ethical theories, watch the “Jeremy Bearimy” episode of The Good Place, and discuss everything from the serious dilemma of nihilism to how to talk to girls in college. We are so grateful that we were able to turn the philosophical connections between these two special courses into a reality and help spread the good life to more young philosophers.