Sep. 21st, 2009

myblackeyedfire: (Icarus)
Mr. Nuccio passed away last week after a three-year struggle with scleroderma. At the start of his Western Civ. class he told us he meant to change the way we learned, the way we thought, the way we lived our lives. He succeeded. One of the only times I woke up in tears was the night I dreamt I had gotten an A and not an A+ in his course. The grade itself didn't matter since he never awarded anyone less than a C (Nuccio reasoned that to be average is to fail, and graded us this way to encourage a focus on learning and not grade point averages). It was the dread thought that I failed his class by not being wholly excellent and, by extension, failed at living the same way. Virtually nothing could have been worse.

I often think of what I learned from him, not only through classroom readings of Dante's Inferno, the Nichomachean Ethics and various texts, but in the very real ways being a student of his has changed my life. What we called Civisms, You are all in the process of becoming; Never pursue the lesser when you can have the greater; You have to change in order to accomplish an escape to freedom, are how I measure if I am living in a way I can approve.

He taught me to not seek out entertainment over knowledge, to try to better not just myself but those near me, to live in the 'now'. He gave me an opportunity in his class to prove my mettle as well as creating an environment where I felt I could share anything and not be judged. It was the first time I felt someone believed I was capable and gave me a chance to prove it. I learned to lead a team and construct an onager and research Roman culinary texts and watch The Wall as an existentialist criticism of Pink. I learned to recognize and try to steer away from folly instead of praising it, to cultivate a desire to keep going. I learned why Machiavelli was right and why I should still not pursue his methods to rule, to question traditions and habits, and to want to not be a prisoner in the Cave. I learned about what it meant to value strength and honor from watching 'Gladiator'. I learned the significance of everything being connected to everything else as an imperative for humanist action.

He encouraged students to write to him after they graduated. I sent him a few letters but felt ashamed at how little I had to share with him that would have lived up to the standard of arete we both set. Now, with the life-place I'm in, taking classes I love about social justice and with all that I have learned since his class, I think I can truly write him a letter he'd be proud of. I hope to have more to write about over the years and to never cease asking questions. Strength and honor, good sir. Strength and honor.


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