The Goal of Classical Education is Truth

“The least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousandfold.” Aristotle wrote this in the fourth century B.C. in a text called On the Heavens. Sixteen hundred years later Thomas Aquinas began his treatise On Being and Essence by paraphrasing Aristotle: “Because a small error in the beginning grows enormous at the end.…” The application of this wisdom to the moral life might be rather obvious. Tell a lie once, however small, and you will probably end up telling more. While it’s easy to see, in the realms of space or morality, how a slight error can lead to enormous complications later, these maxims are not only meaningful for astrophysicists and theologians. Teachers and school administrators would do well to reflect on these words as well.

In my classroom, a student will occasionally say something like, “What’s the big deal about a comma? Does it really matter?” A parent might complain when I take a point off their child’s math test because he wrote 28 cm, instead of 28 cm2. “Clearly, he knew the answer, as you can see from his work.” The parent is asking the same question: Does it really matter? My answer is always, “Yes, it absolutely matters because 28 centimeters is not the same thing as 28 square centimeters.” That is simply the truth. If teachers don’t communicate this consistently to their students and the students’ parents, we are acquiescing in a tendency toward cavalier mediocrity and the importance of truth withers away. If we decide how we say or write things does not matter, we will soon show the same disregard for what we say or write. Augustine put it another way observing that although rain drops may be small, together they can swell a river into a flood. This phenomenon is occurring in America’s schools, public and parochial.

How have our nation’s public schools reached the point where many of them no longer teach grammar? It has happened because schools deviated from the truth about language, which Josef Pieper characterized as a participation in truth. This presupposes contemplation and a degree of clarity in articulation. Clarity in written articulation presupposes an order in the symbols used to communicate an idea, what we call language. When schools began prioritizing self-expression, grammar became irksome, restrictive. Language is no longer about a reciprocal participation in truth, a means of communion, but rather a tool forced into the service one’s own sentimental and fickle demands. Commas, apostrophes, and correct capitalization now are seen as anachronistic obstacles rather than manifestations of an order inherent in language that aid clarity and facilitate mutual understanding. It was only a matter of time before grammar was jettisoned altogether. And, since excellence in writing is no longer required, neither is excellence in thinking because the two are inextricably joined. Couple this with an endless selection of graphic organizers and bookless curricula, and who needs to write anymore?

State boards of education packed with ostensible experts also deviated from the truth. When “the test” began demanding knowledge of elements of literature, for example, reading became analysis. Find the theme, graph the plot, describe the resolution. Let’s dispense with the quaint notion of our students sitting down together to talk about a story, why their hearts cry out for Oliver Twist or why they feel conflicted about Pinocchio. Training students to explicitly define terms does not foster a love for literature, nor does it provide a means of measuring their ability to understand and engage with a great story. Over time, in fact, it has the opposite effect. It kills the sense of wonder and erodes the imaginative faculty of a child, subsequently causing a gradual closing of their minds to any possibility of supranatural realities. If we want our students to understand how great writers create great literature, let’s give them Aristotle’s Poetics when they are developmentally ready for it.

In the meantime, children should be immersed in the wonderful worlds of fairytale, myth, folklore, and poetry. Focusing young students on the mechanics of a story rather than the story is like giving them a gift and ordering them not to open it to find the surprise hidden inside, but rather to analyze the box, wrapping paper, and ribbon, and then describe it to you in writing, which they will not be able to do because we stopped teaching them how to articulate their thoughts clearly in written language. Proponents of classical education have been warning that the new national standards currently under consideration will turn reading into research, as up to 70 percent of the content mandated will be comprised of informational text. “A small error at the beginning.…”

Where did the first small error occur? Jacques Barzun wrote that “the error began with the replacement of the word ‘pedagogy’ with the word ‘education’.” Barzun acknowledges a certain lack of beauty in the word pedagogy, but defends it by saying the word “sticks to the point of teaching.” The word education, on the other hand, “properly refers to a completed development, or the whole tendency of the mind toward it.” Barzun views this shift as an error because “thinking that we can give an education, we make wild claims and promises and forget to teach what is teachable.” Also forgotten, Barzun observes, is that education, properly understood, means the student assumes most of the responsibility, not the teacher. The teacher’s responsibility is pedagogy. The result of the confusion leads to writing lessons or art classes, for example, aimed at self-expression merely. Students will become poets and painters while understanding nothing of poetry or technique. Each teacher must, Merlin-like, magically create this transformation. Too many of them think they can because they have been fed a steady diet of the latest methodology —complete with its own system of cryptic terminology—devised by a Ph.D. at a state university. This is where the absurdities originate. The full perspective of education as a twelve to sixteen year prospect involving a team comprised of parents, many teachers, and the student himself, is either forgotten or ignored. Never mind memorization, recitation, technique, and grammar. They must express themselves as poets and painters, and they must do so now.

Catholics schools have been affected, too. Catholic institutions ought to be bulwarks against the secular absurdities denigrating public education, yet they have too often been complicit in advancing them. This phenomenon began with the liberalization and subsequent decimation of the religious orders, which had succumbed to the deviant claims of modern feminism. Catholic schools turned to the laity for teachers. But, the Catholic laity was quickly absorbing the errors of moral relativism. Although the external trappings of Catholic identity remained in place, internally Catholic schools began to resemble public schools. The fact that Catholic School Offices in dioceses all over the country now find it necessary to form committees to assess and develop Catholic identity in their schools is a disheartening indication that something integral to Catholic education has been lost. Other than the school’s name and a weekly mass, parents can no longer be certain their child is, in fact, attending a Catholic school, even if they are paying $4000 per year in tuition.

Well intentioned efforts to reverse the deterioration of Catholic education frequently veer into a false dichotomy resulting from the same confusion about pedagogy and education noted by Barzun. It should not be assumed a pastor, or even a bishop, understands education. It’s a hard thing to run a school well. However, the leadership of too many Catholic schools began looking to the languishing public sector for ideas. State legislatures are partly to blame for the general decline because, by defining successful education according to an interpretation of data based on flawed standardized tests, they encouraged public and parochial schools to do the same. Thus, Catholic schools have also become susceptible to making false promises about what they can do, and adapted too readily to the standardized demands of the state by uncritically incorporating the methodologies of the “experts.” In this Catholic schools have, like the public schools, reduced their students to data points.

This false dichotomy results in monolithic approaches to reform within the school focused either on academics or spiritual formation. Neither extreme is good because it excludes the rightful place of the other, diminishing the value of both. In the first instance, the Catholic schools become data-driven, test-focused institutions with little concern for each child’s soul and ultimate destiny. In the latter case, the pastor assumes a myopic perspective that sees the school only as a seminary for children. Curriculum in such a school is only useful as a means for forming young people who consider no other calling in life but priesthood or religious life. In both scenarios, poor hiring decisions are made which impoverish the overall life of the school both spiritually and intellectually. When the only concern is academics, classrooms are led by men and women who often see Church teaching as optional and the Faith as little more than quaint stories we tell to the little ones. When the only concern is catechesis, classrooms tend to be led by unthinking zealots who make an idol of the Church. The only geometry such teachers concern themselves with is the 900 angle they expect with each genuflection. They raise the axiom lex orandi lex credendi to the height of pharisaical obsession, which leaves the students impoverished intellectually, and skeptical about the Christian message of love.

Catholics schools have their own tradition to pattern their schools upon. That tradition is generally called the liberal arts. In classical terms, it is called the trivium and quadrivium methods. A properly organized Catholic school ought to provide spiritual formation and intellectual formation simultaneously by immersing its students in the manifestations of God’s love for us found in the good news of the Gospel, and in the ordered beauty we see all around us, from the atom to the most expansive galaxies in space, from a knowledge of American history to a well-crafted sentence. When I was a middle school teacher at a Catholic school, I used to remind my colleague who taught math and science that he was, in a certain respect, better positioned to evangelize our students than I was as the religion teacher. My students expected me to talk to them about God and the Church. Yet, to find those same theological truths written into creation itself! What is the study of math, science, and grammar if not the discovery of a rational, intelligible order? It must not be left to the religion teacher alone to evangelize students in a Catholic school. Moreover, we must stop viewing grammar as a boring set of rules. Grammar is the revelation of an order inherent in language which makes possible that “sweet discourse” Adam longs for in Milton’s Paradise Lost.

Catholic schools can find some useful models for renewal of their own schools within the growing movement toward classical education. There are now many private and charter institutions patterned upon the classical model. Charters like Great Hearts Academies, the writer’s current employer, offer helpful models for intellectual formation. Consulting home schooling organizations, such as Memoria Press with its “classical core curriculum,” would help Catholic schools understand how catechesis and the liberal arts can complement each other. Why is the classical model the right one for Catholic schools? It is the best option because, elevated and redeemed by Catholicism in the Middle Ages, this method of education meets both the spiritual and intellectual needs of the person, it eliminates the confusion between pedagogy and education, and it properly delineates the roles of student, teacher, and school in the formation of a young soul.

Getting first principles wrong means getting much more wrong, too. One first principle is imitation. Students learn to speak, write, paint, and play music well through imitation of those who have done it well before them. This is part of pedagogy and it is a component of any classical curriculum. The teachers at my classical academy are blessed that we get to teach grammar, spelling, cursive, and sentence diagramming using the sentences of great writers as our models; that we allow our students first to simply listen attentively to Mozart and Beethoven; that we encourage them to marvel at the soaring lines of gothic architecture and try to imitate them; that we reveal to them how Castilian Spanish is also characterized by principles of order, just like English; that we engage them in athletic competition as an exercise in virtue, not just an exercise. And, how blessed our students are at our school that they get to read stories and talk about them, whether they can define “rising action” or not.

Yet, one thing we may not do, since we are not a Catholic academy, is link the pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty to the One Who is truth, goodness, and beauty. The full reformation and redemption of education in America can only be accomplished through a Catholic academy, patterned upon the classical models of the trivium and quadrivium. In the meantime, Catholic parents in my city have a viable school option at least for the intellectual formation of their children in an environment that is not toxic to their child’s soul. Sadly, this is more than many Catholic school parents can say.

Tom Jay

By

Tom Jay is a teacher at a charter school in Scottsdale, Arizona. Prior to his current position, he taught junior high at a Title I parochial school in the Diocese of Phoenix. Tom is a graduate of the University of Dallas.

  • ForChristAlone

    “A parent might complain when I take a point off their child’s math test because he wrote 28 cm, instead of 28 cm2. “Clearly, he knew the answer, as you can see from his work.” The parent is asking the same question: Does it really matter? My answer is always, “Yes, it absolutely matters because 28 centimeters is not the same thing as 28 square centimeters.”

    Careful now. Is that “28 square centimeters” or 27 centimeters squared? After all, a small error in the beginning can have great consequences later.

    • Tom

      Ha! Clever. However, 28 square centimeters and 28 centimeters squared are, in fact, the same thing, whereas 28 centimeters is a different quantity altogether.

      • Tony

        But I think that in English, when we say three feet square, we mean three by three, or nine square feet. So 28 centimeters square could be interpreted as 28 centimeters on a side … 28 x 28, or 784 square centimeters …

        • Tom

          That is not correct. 3 ft. square means 3 square ft. But, you touch on an important point. This is the crux of the confusion. So often people say one thing, but mean another, as in 3 ft square. There must be standards of communication. This is part of truth.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    “THE” super important resource for Catholic elementary and secondary classical education: http://www.catholicliberaleducation.org.

  • Once again we have a call for the liberal arts, when it is liberty itself that is the main issue. Fix the culture and the schools will follow.

    • There is no either/or here. A free people is a people educated in order and truth. Children need from their parents virtue, truth, and beauty. Classical education in the hands of a devout Catholic offers this.

      Curious. How many children do you have?

      • Just the one, and he’s not smart enough for this. He’s special needs, barely able to read at a 2nd grade level in the sixth grade.

        The key there is “in the hands of a devout Catholic”. There aren’t enough of us left in America to make a difference. Virtue, truth, and beauty have been replaced with advertising at your local mall and on TV. Freedom has become the right to harm one’s neighbor and the right to harm the people one claims to love.

        Freedom is not a value I am teaching my son, because if I did, immorality and slavery to sin would be the result. Order and truth are opposed to freedom in today’s United States of America.

        • Sean

          “Even if I find one righteous person I shall spare them” -God

        • Christ started with His Mother, a few other women and 12 guys with a variety of “issues”…

          There is a difference between ordered liberty and libertinism. Liberty is the freedom to find and court a woman and upon securing her favor to marry her and raise a family-God willing, until death do you part. Libertinism is the idea that one should be unencumbered in pursuing “meaningful overnight, relationships” and to seek libidinous pleasure everwhere. It’s the difference between a glass of Cabernet with dinner and crystal meth.

          I want the freedom to find and make my way in the world (a path now set by time and circumstance), not to get lost in it.

          • So extrapolating from the Roman empire’s 60 million to America’s 300 million, if we can find 60 good Catholics, we ought to be able to rebuild. Thank you. That gives me some hope in my dark despair.

          • Jim in Pittsburgh

            I agree!

    • Marc L

      It seems like you’re demanding that we compose an entire chicken cell-by-cell, just so that we can get an egg.
      Put another way: the culture has been broken in large part due to pernicious ideas working their way into the initially limited sphere of schools, and thereout into the popular mind. We’re not going to stuff that back in the bottle. Rather, let’s fix the humanities with good ideas and, if it can gain critical mass, even if only within the church, they will bear fruit in the young who receive them.

      • In a way, yes. Pluralism is the error, subsidiarity is the answer.

        A limited sphere of schools is a real problem to begin with.

    • Tom

      Theodore, you might enjoy Christopher Dawson’s book The Crisis of Western Education.

  • s;vbkr0boc,klos;

    Centimeters or centimeters squared – whats does truth matter as long as he ‘means well’.

    • St JD George

      Spoken like a true common core advocate (tongue in cheek) … it’s the process that matters, not the results. It’s a good thing we don’t believe that in engineering.

      • fredx2

        True story. I was listening to NPR one day a few years ago on a long trip. The radio show was about creating the perfect liberal talk show to compete with conservative talk radio.

        The panel discussed what the requirements would be for the host. They agreed he should be a well educated Ph.d from one of our top universities, like Princeton or Yale, to give him heft.

        Then, they agreed that he would need a sidekick who “actually knew things”. When pressed about this, they acknowledged that the Ph.d’s we turn out are, for the most part, totally clueless about actual knowledge, they just had learned to play a game that made them look smart. But they are so enfeebled when it came to real, practical working knowledge that they would need help from the knowledgeable sidekick. “The dirty little secret is that Ph.d’s really don’t know anything nowadays.” they admitted.

        Me, I was laughing. But they seemed quite serious, and not disturbed at all by this state of affairs.

        • St JD George

          I won’t knock anyone who has dedicated their life in that pursuit (and not saying you were), but an observation is that there is a tendency to assume that because one has a PhD they are knowledgeable and experts in everything. I work with some who insist you call them by that title who lack humility, and others who refuse because they know the burden that will people gravitate towards them as purveyors of knowledge on everything. In reality they are very knowledgeable in the specialty area they have dedicated their lives to, and the may or may not have the capacity to have breadth into other subject ares.
          I’ve tried in the past, but I have never been able to listen to NPR for very long on the radio. My mind either wanders during the gibberish or I get irritated at the insanity that passes for enlightenment.

          • LarryCicero

            I used to work in landscaping. We all had PhDs(post-hole diggers) and made good use of them.

            • St JD George

              Never heard that one, that’s funny. The best in the business, I’m sure. i myself was struggling using one just this weekend putting in anchor posts for my grape vineyard … plants that is.

              • LarryCicero

                The ones who insist on being called by that title are probably least likely to figure out how use a “PhD.”

            • Soil is good for the soul. It’s our future.

              • St JD George

                I’ll second that. It’s definitely part of my future.

          • Phd, even when in a real field is a mile deep but an inch wide.

        • “a well educated Ph.d from one of our top universities, like Princeton or Yale, to give him heft.”

          Also known as academic incest.

          • St JD George

            I’ve associate Ivy with something that causes a rash and to be avoided because it’s an irritant – including the plant.

            Having said that, I am deeply appreciative of the many talented people with PhD’s (and not) who write articles or post here and who contribute greatly to the dialog of Christian understanding at Crisis.

        • PastorWayne

          I once heard an intelligent fellow describe our universities turning out “educated idiots.” Sadly, most such “experts” have a diarrhea of knowledge (of facts) and a constipation of wisdom.

  • St JD George

    I’m not a product of classical education, and as an engineer is school I pretty much shunned anything that smelled of “liberal arts” beyond that which was required. I have found out later in life that it is a void which craves filling. There was an age I would have jumped off a roof rather than listen to classical music, but now it’s all I listen to given the opportunity. Reading for pleasure is hard with so many demands on time, but I recently read a number of the books of Greek philosopher’s and found it amazing. Even more so the Bible. When I retire someday I look forward to having more time to fill in even more holes that went unfilled in my education. It is indeed sad to know that generations more are being processed through a system without imparting any knowledge or wisdom, just information.

    • Tamsin

      In its own way, engineering is a “classical education” because there is Truth: you are supposed to learn how to build bridges that don’t fall down. Either the bridge stands and supports weight for its entire service lifetime, or it does not. It’s like the bridge is True or False. With consequences for human flourishing!

      (Note: I’m not saying engineers are not fallen. They are as liable to cheat and steal as the next guy. Witness shoddy construction the world over.)

      But in the modern liberal arts, there is little or no Truth: you are supposed to learn how to wield words to obtain Power. Either you have Power, or you do not.

      As Mr. Jay said, “Language is no longer about a reciprocal participation in truth, a means of communion, but rather a tool forced into the service one’s own sentimental and fickle demands.”

      • St JD George

        Not everything is quite so Boolean, and I don’t think Tom was thinking about building structures as classical education in his article. Thanks for making me feel “inclusive” though, ha. We all were given our diverse talents purposefully through him.

      • But in the modern liberal arts, there is little or no Truth: you are supposed to learn how to wield words to obtain Power. Either you have Power, or you do not.
        Ahh spring.. and the sharp crack of a bat sending one into the cheap seats.

        • Tamsin

          too kind. cannot upvote. 😉

      • Charles Putter

        The true bridge builder is our Pontifex (maker of bridges) Maximus, il Papa, our Pope. A bridge crosses an obstacle. We need a spiritual bridge to surmount those obstacles that impede our path to eternal life, through Jesus Christ.

      • Marc L

        “But in the modern liberal arts, there is little or no Truth.” Which I think is why so many who are more well disposed to the Classics end up, out of ignorance, shunning them for the hard sciences and engineering. They are looking for a field that actually makes claims of truth, hoping to find Truth, and end up looking for Love in all the wrong places. Until later in life, when they find their “aha moment” in the Classical education they missed out on, and like JD pick up the thread where it was left so long ago.

        Okay, that was mostly autobiographical.

        • Tamsin

          Exactly! Thanks.

  • John Albertson

    A text book case for what you are talking about: the school system of the Archdiocese of New York is on life support, sustained by a new and burdensome extra school tax on all parishes. The bureaucracy is a creaking leftover of the 1970’s, whose overseers are not well educated in the classical tradition and who have autonomously imposed the Common Core on the schools (as well as adopting the states universal Pre-K program which does not allow religious symbols or instruction). Some of the brightest and most devout parents are starting independent Catholic academies. If they replaced the bureaucracy, the school system might have a future- which it clearly does not have now.

    • Vinny

      “Some of the brightest and most devout parents are starting independent Catholic academies.”
      The future of Catholic education.

  • ColdStanding

    It is my great pleasure to daily read from Fr. Alban Butler’s Lives of the Saints to the kids* before they go to school. The best part is usually the last paragraph where he reflects on the life of the saint in light of the science of the saints. Today’s reflection on the life of St. Peter Gonzales is very relevant to the above article because it emphasizes how much more important union with God is than knowledge. Please note that I do not there by imply that knowledge is dispensable. That would be foolish and against common sense. Perhaps I could say, as important as knowledge of the liberal arts is, knowledge of God is must be the beginning, middle and end of education.

    Blah, blah, blah. I’ll let Fr. Butler do the talking:

    If we look into the lives of all holy preachers and pastors, especially that of our Divine model, the Prince of pastors and Saint of saints, we shall find the essential spirit of this state is that of interior recollection and devotion, by which the soul is constantly united to God. This is only learned by an apprenticeship of retirement, and is founded in rooted habits of humility, compunction and prayer. Great learning is indeed necessary for the discharge of the pastoral duties; but this, and all exterior talents, must be directed and made spiritual by the interior spirit and intention, or they will be pernicious to the pastor, if not also to those whom he ought to direct. For fear of the dangers and abuse of human qualifications, some have chosen in some measure to despise them, hoping thus more securely to find God in solitude, penance, and contemplation. This cannot be allowed to those who are destined to share in pastoral functions. But for such to place any confidence in human industry or abilities would be still a far more fatal disorder. It is from true interior charity, zeal, compunction, devotion, and humility, that they must derive all their power, and be made instrumental in promoting the divine honour, and the sanctification of souls.—The pastor must be interiorly filled with the spirit of God and his pure love, that this holy disposition may animate all he says or does exteriorly. To entertain this interior spirit, self-denial, humility, perfect obedience, a contempt of the world, assiduous prayer, and constant recollection, must be his perpetual study. Those clergymen who pass their lives in dissipation, and whose thoughts and hearts are always wandering abroad, are undoubtedly strangers to the essential spirit of their state.

    *If it be a pleasure for the kids I can not yet say. My daughter, at least, protests when the length of the entry requires me to cut it short.

  • Jim in Pittsburgh

    Tom Jay’s article is GREAT! I’m a bit surprised by so few comments at this time (1:30 PM) on the east coast. Maybe too many readers are finishing their taxes.

    Regarding the article, I survived the “geometry of genuflection”, but not without serious loss of faith. Then Saint Pope John Paul II, that great Polish Knight, took over the Throne of Peter, telling us to “be not afraid”. Watching him celebrate Mass on the Mall in Washington, challenging the powers and principalities, both temporal and spiritual, I found myself in tears. BANG! I was back in the fold. He, through the Holy Spirit, gave me Hope.

    Classical Catholic education is the foundation to reform and renew both our schools and our culture.

    • ColdStanding

      Ah, small correction, it is not correct to say that JP II, through the Holy Spirit gave you Hope (point for capitalization of theological virture Hope though!). It is the other way around. The Holy Spirit through JP II gave you Hope.

      The giver is the Holy Spirit. JP II is the instrument.

      • Jim in Pittsburgh

        Hmmm…I must be suffering from one of those “Pittsburghese” way of talking. By saying “through the Holy Spirit” I was implying “through the power of” the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. We also frequently omit the verb “to be” in our local lingo. I spent some time living in Texas, so I’ll finish in Texas style.

        Y”all have a good day.

        Viva loco lingo! Our American English would be so flatter than a Kansas prairie without it.

  • St JD George

    Slightly off topic, but I learned a new word so does that count towards a classic education? The word is syncretist, and it fits the WH occupant perfectly. Raymond Ibrahim expresses how I feel here better than I could say. Remember this the next time the spoken word is used to try and shut you up.
    http://www.frontpagemag.com/2015/raymond-ibrahim/obamas-political-tool-of-christianity/

  • Veritas

    Tom, as a long-time teacher I must commend you on such a truthful essay.

  • M.J.A.

    Do appreciate the focus on need for discipline in education as well as in all matters ; yet , did The Lord foresee a time such as ours , when even those who might need remedial help in grammar – such as M.J A 🙂 , do not need to shy away from the call to do their share ; our Patroness ? – the well known St.Faustina of our times who only had a 3rd grade education , yet her diary , possible in the category of good spiritual classics ; there is also St.Emmerich, who was illiterate , yet, her visions written down by her helper , have helped to shed light on many biblical passages that might seem obscure ..what The Holy Spirit can do ..
    True, in the ordinary realm, adherence to the discipline in the subjects is also an avenue of training for discipline in other areas , a means of being faithful to The Spirit as well , who is a Spirit of order and truth .
    ‘All things have been created for Him and through Him ‘ – while mythology and fairly tales do have their role, in our times when many are immersed in all sorts of fantasy , through media , children might need to be given a sense of caution as well, about such , which very well might be part of the torrent of waters spewed forth by the dragon, to sweep away The Woman ; they might serve as tools of contrast with the Christian truth , thus aid to recognize the pattern of warfare early on and be prepared !

  • PastorWayne

    Although not a Roman Catholic, I thank you, Mr. Jay, for delineating well the crux of the scourge of contemporary “education.”
    While not quite the same, I have often characterized it as “education which teaches one what to think vs. education which teaches one how to think.” Thirty years ago, I purchased a set of cassette tapes which described education moving in this direction, deliberately designed by left-wing bureaucrats to create a society which will easily bend to their social engineering. I don’t believe we’ve seen the worst of it yet.

    • Tom

      You are right. This happened in large part because of Dewey.

  • sedediplomat

    Less Education and more Magisterium.

    10/10 problems could be solved by converting to the Catholic faith, outside of the apostate Vat II sect, and praying the Rosary (minus of course, the demonically named luminous “mysteries” which have lucifer as their source).

    The aim of classical education may be truth, but the result more often than not is degeneracy; strong passions and weak wills make this practically inevitable.

    Why hazard dialectics when moral and philosophical truths you can never doubt, because the magisterium itself vouches for its own clarity and infallibility, are tantalizingly close? For Pope St. Pius X in Lamentabile stated that the dogmas of Christianity are truths fallen from heaven w/o any need of further interpretation.

    A lot of people constantly ask for further interpretation, and interpretation upon interpretation never realizing that interpretation presumes understanding and that any answer must be simply understood!

    Every other study can change but the magisterium is always singular in meaning and therefore the reading of magisterial documents is both the simplest and most singularly rewarding to those wishing to be Catholic.
    But that is why God through the Magisterium teaches! To make sure that Theology does not err through repeated calls for “interpretation” but rather to ensure that everyone through simple acts of faith and understanding assent to what is infallible.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      “[T]he magisterium is always singular in meaning and therefore the reading of magisterial documents is both the simplest and most singularly rewarding to those wishing to be Catholic, to be good, and to be wise.”

      But, as Bl John Henry Newman points out, “As to the condemnation of propositions all she tells us is, that the thesis condemned when taken as a whole, or, again, when viewed in its context, is heretical, or blasphemous, or impious, or whatever like epithet she affixes to it. We have only to trust her so far as to allow ourselves to be warned against the thesis, or the work containing it. Theologians employ themselves in determining what precisely it is that is condemned in that thesis or treatise; and doubtless in most cases they do so with success; but that determination is not de fide; all that is of faith is that there is in that thesis itself, which is noted, heresy or error, or other like peccant matter, as the case may be, such, that the censure is a peremptory command to theologians, preachers, students, and all other whom it concerns, to keep clear of it. But so light is this obligation, that instances frequently occur, when it is successfully maintained by some new writer, that the Pope’s act does not imply what it has seemed to imply, and questions which seemed to be closed, are after a course of years re-opened.”

    • Marc L

      Was this supposed to be a satirical illustration of

      “When the only concern is catechesis, classrooms tend to be led by unthinking zealots who make an idol of the Church. The only geometry such teachers concern themselves with is the 900 angle they expect with each genuflection. They raise the axiom lex orandi lex credendi to the height of pharisaical obsession, which leaves the students impoverished intellectually, and skeptical about the Christian message of love.”

      Because that’s what I saw.

      • sedediplomat

        There is literally no vice in being “too” Catholic.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    “If we decide how we say or write things does not matter, we will soon show the same disregard for what we say or write… And, since excellence in writing is no longer required, neither is excellence in thinking because the two are inextricably joined.”

    Wittgenstein insists that “Thinking is not an incorporeal process which lends life and sense to speaking, and which it would be possible to detach from speaking, rather as the Devil took the shadow of Schlemihl from the ground.” He asks us to try this experiment: “Say a sentence and think it; say it with understanding – Now, do not say it, just do what you accompanied it with, when you said it with understanding!”

  • Alexandra

    I am not a Catholic,a protestant, but read this because of the mention of Memoria Press. I agree with everything your article said regarding education and it gives me great confidence to know that we are starting homeschooling next year using Memoria Press.

  • Ruth Rocker

    I graduated from college with a Bachelor’s of Arts & Letters. This used to be called Humane Letters and I loved it!! The requirements were literature, philosophy, history and study of either ancient Latin, Greek, or Hebrew along with the required general education classes everyone must accomplish. But within the general framework of those four areas, I was free to form my own degree. I took classes in literature in everything from Shakespeare and the Bible as Literature (one of my favorite classes) to modern science fiction and fantasy. My philosophy classes started with the Greeks and progressively moved forward in time. My histoy classes were mostly centered on Greek and Roman history – the foundation of our own form of government (at least in theory). I took Latin because Greek was an entirely new alphabet and Hebrew was a new alphabet and backwards . But once I got into the classes, I adored learning Latin. I truly believe that it should be taught at the elementary level. If one understand Latin grammar, it makes English so much easier.

    But, alas, education these days is one big overgrown vo-tech endeavor aimed more at making little gears to work in the cogs of business than in truly educating and uplifting the students. You cannot aspire to greatness if you are never exposed to it. You cannot aspire to excellence in any field unless you are exposed to it. These things can only be done through truly learning on the part of the student and being given the right tools from the teacher. Far too teachers attempt to kindle a love of learning for its own sake and too many just “teach the test” because that’s all they know how to do.

    We are truly shortchanging both our children and our society when we fail to do more than prepare kids to enter the business world. Yes, every one has to make a living, but you can develop your soul, your imagination, your sense of wonder at the marvels of the world around you at the same time. They are not mutually exclusive propositions.

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