liberal arts

Eastern European Resistance to Islamization

If you’ve ever seen Casablanca, you won’t have forgotten the scene in Rick’s Cafe where the German officers who are singing “Die Wacht am Rhein” are drowned out by the French patrons who burst into a rousing rendition of the “Marseillaise.” Something similar happened last week at the National Opera in Cluj Napoca, Romania. A [...]

What it Means to be an Educated Human Being

We are born and live in a certain location and in a certain time. By what appears to be the caprice of geography and chronology, we are thus, in a sense, “locked into” a particular place and period. In other words, we are trees in a forest we cannot descry; consequently, gaining perspective—seeing macroscopically instead [...]

Why I Left Providence College

Sometimes a single encounter with what is healthy and ordinary—I use the word advisedly, with its suggestion that things are in the order that God by means of his handmaid Nature has ordained—is enough to shake you out of the bad dreams of disease and confusion. If it isn't quite yet like meeting Saint Francis [...]

Putting First Things First in a College Education

St. Gregory's University just concluded its first bi-annual “Leisure and Labor Conference,” which brings academics and professionals together to reflect on the interplay between the liberal arts and the professions. The dialogue between Martha and Jesus in Chapter 10 of Luke’s Gospel captures the essence of this relationship between labor and leisure. Mary sits at Jesus’s [...]

How to Save the Soul of Our Catholic Schools

“How can we make our school more Catholic?” This is a real question schools ask, some with perplexity. Is it a new curriculum? Better religion classes? Having the kids come to Mass? The answer is vital for the future of Catholic education. The sociologist Christian Smith notes, from his extensive research on the life of [...]

How “Educators” Kill Creativity

How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable Seem to me all the uses of this world! Fie on ’t, ah fie! 'Tis an unweeded garden That grows to seed. Things rank and gross in nature Possess it merely. Hamlet, I, ii, 133-8 Recently, a document about education in Australia found its way onto my desk. Hereafter [...]

The Theological Foundation of Catholic Education

The annual Cardinal Winning Lecture on Catholic Education, sponsored by the St. Andrew’s Foundation, was delivered on February 6, 2016, at the University of Glasgow in Scotland by Tracey Rowland, the Australian theologian and Director of the John Paul II Institute in Melbourne. Rowland is the author of two books on Benedict XVI and of [...]

The Price of Relevance

Last month we examined the current state of the humanities in universities as an example of what happens when an institution attempts to “evolve” in order to maintain its place of prestige in the world. Too often, the disciplines of the humane letters have abandoned their own characteristic modes and methods of examining reality and [...]

On the Overweening Pride of the Professorial Class

In a recent essay in Partisan Magazine, Daniel Brown argues that the decline of the humane disciplines has come about through an envy of the physical sciences and, in particular, the impossible desire to replicate the kind of revolutionary insights that have given those sciences their prestige in the modern age. Brown accounts for this [...]

The Real Threat Facing the Humanities

Higher education in the United States is beset with a variety of crises, from skyrocketing tuition rates to the attendant ballooning student loan debt. Much has been written in the last several years, in particular, about the dire situation in which the humanities find themselves in the universities, as student enrollment in majors such as [...]

What Prospects for Thought?

Last month I suggested that a one-sided emphasis on will and power over transcendent realities has meant less and worse thought. That problem applies especially to public life, but man is social, so it spills over to private life as well. To respond to the situation, I proposed a renewed emphasis on institutions, like family and church, [...]

Back to Schooling

The art of education is under a cloud in this country, largely because it is treated as a science. Schools are not research institutions. They are not data mills. They are conservatories of culture. In the current anti-cultural climate how can teachers, especially Catholic teachers, ensure that students learn the rudiments of culture—and the rudiments [...]

The University Needs the Monastic Spirit More Than Ever

In one of her last stories, “Why Do the Heathen Rage?” Flannery O’Connor told a story of miscomprehension between mother and son. The story retells communication problems between generations by contrasting two valuations of life. Walter and his mother are at odds for reasons which are perfectly comprehensible within the mental world of each but [...]

Read Literature to Learn and Love the Truth

The other night I testified (via telephone) before the Alaska state legislature, on the standards their public schools are adopting for classes in English.  I’d read the standards but didn’t have them in front of me, so I was taken aback when one of the representatives plucked a directive out of all the verbiage and [...]

A School Without Screens

There is a growing consensus among human beings that the effects of our developing technology are not conducive to human development. Popular technology, despite its claim to interact and connect, breeds isolation. It causes people, especially young people, to stray into an introverted withdrawal from others and the world. As such, these results are antithetical [...]

The Literacy Crisis in American Public Schools

The bumper sticker that reads "If you can read this, thank a teacher,"  implies several bold propositions: If you can read this, then you are literate. If you are literate, then the efficient cause of your literacy is a teacher. Therefore, since you are literate because of a teacher, you ought to thank a teacher. [...]

Unlearning the Errors of Our Secular Age

I pointed out a month or two ago that the kind of meritocracy we have makes people stupid, mostly because it’s based on a technological attitude toward human life. Thought has an order, but not one we can fully grasp, so if it’s reduced to certified expertise and made a sort of industrial process it [...]

Press Ignorance Points to Deeper Problems

In The Idea of a University, Cardinal Newman writes, “Men whose minds are possessed with some one object, take exaggerated views of its importance, are feverish in the pursuit of it, make it the measure of things which are utterly foreign to it, and are startled and despond if it happens to fail them.  They [...]

The Liberal Arts: Dawson’s Prerequisite for the Reconstruction of Christendom

One of the greatest Catholic intellects and writers of the twentieth century, Christopher Dawson (1889-1970), worried deeply about the ideological, political, and cultural crises of the western world during the entirety of his adult life. The root of the problem, Dawson had come to believe between the two world wars, was the fundamental decline in [...]

Raising the Bar: Christianity and Liberal Arts in the University

I fear we Christians have lived so long in the shadow of the Enlightenment that, in our apologetic mode, we sometimes forget something we should undoubtedly remember:  that in an earlier time, the question was not (as it so often is now) “Can a great university be Christian?” but rather “Can a great university be [...]

MENU