Dr. Mehan on Children’s Literature and Human Flourishing: Introducing the Handsome Little Cygnet

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The Art of Teaching: A Conference for Teaching Men

November 9-11 • The Heights School, Potomac, MD

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This week, we welcome back Dr. Matt Mehan, former Heights teacher and long-time contributor to The Forum. Among a host of other things, Matt has written on the liberal arts, spoken about politics and poetry, and shared the wisdom of Thomas More on handling bad news.

In this episode Dr. Mehan introduces us to The Handsome Little Cygnet, a delightful book about a Cygnet growing up in the heart of the big apple. Our fluffy hero, in turn, introduces us, his human counterparts, to concepts of nature, mercy, and regaining the way after it’s been lost. Parents, too, can see here an example of patience and optimism while guiding our cygnets towards flourishing, naturally.

Show Highlights 

  • The importance of children’s literature in education
  • How about the big apple? Why New York City is a fitting setting for the story
  • What Aristotle’s Poetics can teach us about education and politics
  • What’s in a title?
  • What is a Cygnet?
  • Beneath the surface: fishes and their deeper meaning
  • On mercy and parenting with optimism
  • Why we should be prudent about what art our children experience
  • How you can help change the culture

Suggested Reading

The Handsome Little Cygnet
Mr. Mehan’s Mildly Amusing Mythical Mammals 

More on Mehan and Folley


Matt Mehan

About the guest:

Matt Mehan

Matthew Mehan began teaching at The Heights in 2000. He currently teaches History of Western Thought and the new Sophomore U.S. History and American Literature “AmeriCore.” Matthew is also the director of the Jackson Scholars senior thesis program. Matthew also served as Director of Admissions from 2003 to 2006, before leaving for graduate work. A magna cum laude graduate of the University of Dallas and the valedictorian of his class, he holds a B.A. in politics, an M.A. in English, and he earned a Ph.D. in Literature for his dissertation on Shakespeare, Thomas More, and the education of leading citizens.Matthew is also a fellow of the Center for Thomas More Studies, and he has been named The Worsham Teaching Fellow of Hillsdale College’s Washington DC Allan P. Kirby, Jr., Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and a reader at the Folger Library. Matthew has been awarded the Claremont Institute’s Publius Fellowship as well as two fellowships from the Earhart Foundation. Matthew has worked as an editor for both academic and popular publications. Matt's recently published illustrated book of poetry, Mr. Mehan’s Mildly Amusing Mythical Mammals, is available for purchase on Amazon. His wonderful wife Molly and he have seven children.