Through WCCUSD’s Ivy League Connection program, Hercules High School Students Justine Betschart, Stacy Chan, Ramiah Davis-Shephard, Louisa Man, Julia Maniquiz, and Yueming Wang will be attending Cornell University to either study Freedom and Justice or Hotel Operations Management during the summer of 2009.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Yet Another Successful Day

Class has just ended, and so here I am to deliver a full report of today's happenings. Unfortunately, the Wednesday schedule does not provide us with a guest speaker, but in its place is what is known as "Writing Workshop." After discussion section, we once again reconvene in our breakout groups to work with each other and our TA to hone and develop our abilities to write on political and theological theory, a task, might I add, I find very challenging. But before I go into that area, let me first communicate today's lecture.

I. St. Augustine (354 - 430): Justice as Government and Power
a. Life and Times
b. Sin and "The Human Condition"
c. God's "Gift" - Government
d. Orthodoxy and Torture
e. Just Wars

II. St. Thomas Aquinas (1224 - 1274): Justice as Being Moral and Good
a. St. T. vs. St. A on Reason
b. Law - Source or Content
c. Morality - individual, communal, objective
d. Natural Law
e. Moral Economy

III. Christian (Catholic) Political Thought Today

As you may have guessed, this week we are tackling the oh-so-broad but extremely perennial issue of justice. Today, specifically, we worked with St. Augustine and St. Aquinas's perceptions of human nature and, through such antithetical views, their differing takes on the purpose of government. The reading we had to do last night in preparation for this lecture was rather intense. I enjoy St. Aquinas very much and the current papal newspaper clippings and such included provided interesting context on the moral economy and economic justice. St. Augustine, however, is NOT my favorite IN ANY WAY. He is a very pessimistic philosopher, and getting through his pieces was not the easiest. The study sessions Justine, Ramiah, and I had prior to Cornell, however, helped extremely much. With antiquated. thick literature like this, it is often times necessary to critically read passages several times. Because I had been exposed to this material before thanks to the study sessions we had (as well as from our AP Lang teacher - kudos to him once again!), I felt much more comfortable reading St. Augustine. Today in discussion, I also felt much more prepared and confident, enabling me to better engage in the group discussions/ debates. With each passing day, I seem to be gaining momentum, intelligence, and critical thinking abilities. As said by our wonderful TA Desmond...

"As thinkers, challenge EVERYTHING."

And I am learning to do just so. I feel like this course is quickly and efficiently altering my thinking process - and for the better. My writing seems to be undergoing a transformation as well. Which brings me to today's Writing Workshop. Last Tuesday, we were asked to write an in-class essay on WHAT FREEDOM MEANS TO US. When first confronted with this prompt, I was taken aback. I had never exactly considered the term to such depth, and I was first unsure as what to write about. So I started thinking about how important my independence - how much I value it, and what it means to have my amazing parents trust me enough to give me such liberty (like going across the country for almost a month!). And then it came to me. To me, freedom is not just about having choices. It must also go hand in hand with responsibility, with consequences when such freedoms are violated and taken advantage of. We only had to write a rough draft, so I do not have a fine-tweaked or even slightly presentable piece of work, but I'll just give you all a taste of my paper. This was my introductory paragraph...

Freedom is all too often associated with an absence of oppressive forces, with an existence lacking in restraint. Freedom, contrary to this notion, is not founded on a release from suppressing factors. It is, instead, how one so chooses to utilize such emancipating circumstances.

The above is basically my thesis. With that concept, I must edit and refine my ideas and turn in a second draft come Friday. I am starting to feel a bit of pressure, because I feel as though my ideas are not tied in enough to the political and theoretical dimensions of our course. Writing is my passion, and because I cannot write to the best of my abilities unless I am at a comfortable understanding of my ideas and aware of the direction the paper must go in, I will be visiting our TA during office hours tonight. Wish me luck.

Tonight in our dorm facilities, we are having a group activity in which we will be able to get to know the other people on our floors while making stress balls. I'm really looking forward to having some fun, but I don't know how long I will be able to stay, because it takes place during the same time office hours with my TA are. I know balance is key, so tonight will be a test to my time management skills.

On another note, the weather in Ithaca is quickly heating up. For the first time since our arrival, I woke up to sunshine this morning. Usually it takes a few hours for the sun to come out, but I arose today to a much more cheery atmosphere. I look forward to more beautiful weather throughout the remainder of our stay. I hope all is well where my readers are! Write to you tomorrow.

- xoxo, Julia. 

P.S. I'd like to make a shout-out... or I guess, technically, it would be a "write-out," to Mr. Don Gosney. Thank you for all your inspirational comments on my blogs. Your kind words give me something to look forward to every time I sign on. Thanks! I hope you're doing well.


  1. Julia,

    I can't believe that the essay topic they gave you was slated for an in-class essay. That's the kind of topic we write multi-volume books on and still we merely scratch the surface.

    I liked your opening paragraph, though. It was well thought out and expressive.

    I'm afraid I would have a difficult time writing about what 'justice' is. I think we all have different ideas about what justice really is and as you travel around the world we see that different cultures and different religions have drastically different viewpoints on this.

    In Berkeley a shoplifter is brought before the City Council to be recognized and praised for freeing that loaf of bread from it's oppressor while in Riyadh the same shoplifter has his hand chopped off. Yet in both cities they call that justice. Even here in the US we view justice through a different set of eyes. In San Francisco they allow people to sell medical marijuana over the counter but in Texas they sentence you to 35 years at hard labor. Who's right?

    Without having read either of the OLD books you mentioned, I can guess that part of the difficulty in reading such books might be the differences in language styles. Even reading books written a half century or a century ago can be difficult because of the style differences. Try reading a modern Bible and comparing it to the King James Version most people know and you might not think they're even the same book. The concepts are the same but they they're written makes a world of difference.

    Not only are the concepts sometimes difficult to follow but the different style can make for slow reading.

    All I can say is: Better you than me.

    Keep those commentaries coming, Julia. I'm reading them and I'm enjoying them. So far the Cornellians have posted 43 blogs while the Brownies have posted 48. Then we have our Columbians and our Yalies so you can imagine that my reading can be voluminous as well.

  2. Julia,

    You're doing a wonderful job of blogging (and so, as you mentioned, is Mr. Gosney).

    I am impressed with your statement about freedom being how one chooses to utlize "emancipating circumstances". Your emphasis on "choosing" is important and insightful and I'm looking forward to seeing how you develop it.

    Thanks for carefully crafted posts -- we are all enjoying taking the class with you.

    See you next week.