Thursday, September 22, 2011

Your Teacher Told You to Get What???

I can remember distinctly that, when I was a high school student at Saint Ignatius in Cleveland, the happiest teachers on the faculty seemed to be the Jesuits. Etched into my memory is a particular instance when I saw then-Mister and now-Father Raymond Guiao, SJ walking across the campus and being struck by the man's obvious joy. Of all the things I ever wanted in life, I knew that I wanted to be happy, to be joyful, and the joy of the Jesuits I came to know over the next several years helped to focus my desire to serve God as a Companion of Jesus.

In between classes yesterday, I heard some of the sophomores talking about how they were learning about sexually transmitted diseases in their Health class. Never wanting to miss an opportunity to say something outlandish and seizing an opportunity to point out the use of the Latin genitive case, I encouraged first my Freshmen Latin students and then, later in the day, my sophomores to go home that night and to announce with conviction at the dinner table that, "Mom, Dad: when I get older, I want to get an STD. Mr. Duns may get an STD too and it seems like a lot of fun."

Now, for the un-initiated, the Roman Catholic Church has its own version of the doctorate: the Sacrae Theologiae Doctor. It is, quite possibly, the most woefully named academic distinction in human history. At a cocktail party, people may well look at you in awe after learning you have a PhD. When you confess to them over delicious bruschetta or canapes that you have an STD, you're more likely than not to have your interlocutor beat the retreat and go off in search of hand sanitizer.

Some may ask, "Duns, why would you say such a thing?" My simple answer: first, because I think it is funny. Second, if the guys see that I can have fun with school then, I suspect, it may encourage them to have fun (within reason). Sometimes schools can be such heavy places, filled with a vast array of stressors and dilemmas, and I suspect that some of the joy and humor of a class can become an oasis for students. Besides, it's such a beautifully named degree that, in an all-boys school, I'd be remiss not to capitalize on it!

This is not to say that all parents found my humor equally amusing. One mother contacted me, quite obviously not surprised at what her son came home with, and said, "You must have been in rare form today." (I should hasten to add: I also showed the guys the design of the tattoo I'd get if I ever were to get a tattoo)  Another mother wrote and asked for clarification about the type of STD we were talking: her son, it turned out, was not paying full attention to what I was saying and knew that he was to announce to his parents the desire for the STD but forgot exactly what it stood for.

Ahhh, sophomores: the wise fools life up to the name yet again.

At least, to my knowledge, no one went home and said, "Mom, Dad, when I get older I want to get syphilis."

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