The Continuing Legacy of G.K. Chesterton (Guest: Dale Ahlquist)

G.K. Chesterton is one of the great Catholic literary figures of the early 20th century. His legacy continues to this day, particularly in the field of education. Chesterton expert Dale Ahlquist joins Crisis Point to talk about how Chesterton still has an impact today, particularly in the “Chesterton Schools.”

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The Continuing Legacy of G.K. Chesterton (Guest: Dale Ahlquist)
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Eric Sammons:

G.K. Chesterton is one of the great Catholic literary figures of the early 20th century. His legacy continues to this day, particularly in the area of education. Chesterton expert Dale Ahlquist joins Crisis Point today to talk about how Chesterton still has an impact, and particularly in the Chesterton Schools. Hello, I’m Eric Sammons, your host and the editor in chief of Crisis Magazine. Before we get started, I just want to encourage people to like this video, to subscribe to the channel and let other people know about it. We always appreciate when you do that. Also, you can follow us on social media. Most social media outlets we’re @CrisisMag, we’re on Facebook, Twitter, all the alternative ones as well.

Okay, so let me introduce our guest here. Dale Ahlquist is president of the Society of the Gilbert Keith Chesterton, creator and host of the EWTN series G.K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense, and the publisher of Gilbert Magazine. He’s the author of five books and the editor of 12. He has been called probably the greatest living authority in the life and work of G.K. Chesterton. He is also the co-founder of Chesterton Academy, a classical high school in Hopkins, Minnesota, which is the flagship of the Chesterton Schools Network, which now includes 50 high schools worldwide. Welcome to the program, Dale.

Dale Ahlquist:

Thank you, Eric. It’s a delight to be with you.

Eric Sammons:

So it seems to me like you’re the go-to guy when it comes to Chesterton. I know you have that EWTN program, right, that goes through it. I’ve seen parts of that, I haven’t seen the whole thing. But yeah, I mean if you want know anything about G.K. Chesterton I think we should go to you.

Dale Ahlquist:

Well, I’m delighted to play that role. It was a passion that has just led to many good things. My own interest in Chesterton has been very fruitful.

Eric Sammons:

That’s great, that’s great. I think most of our audience probably already is familiar with Chesterton, at least on a broad scale, why don’t you give us though a brief biography of Chesterton just so we can kind of make sure everybody who’s watching this knows who he is.

Dale Ahlquist:

Well, you said a broad scale, let’s start with that. It would take a broad scale to weigh G. K. Chesterton. He’s a giant among literary figures and among intellectuals of the 20th century. But just a giant too. He was the guy who said he could stand up on a bus and offer his seat to three women at one time. But besides his great size, he did have the great intellect and the great humility that accompanied that powerful intellect. He was a very lovable, witty gentleman who got along with his opponents and didn’t have any enemies. He really knew how to speak the truth in a loving and witty and creative way, so that his writings and speeches have just influenced… have just had a ripple effect over the last century. He did all his writing in the early 20th century, one of the most prolific writers who ever lived, and was a very famous Catholic convert. He wrote a book called Orthodoxy, The Everlasting Man too, was his most important books. But also the Father Brown series that continued to live on like Sherlock Holmes for Arthur Conan Doyle. And I think one of the great things about Chesterton is how prophetic he is. My great interest in Chesterton is the fact that he seems to be writing for our time now, even though he was writing a hundred years ago, when he says things such as, “We are learning to do a great many clever things. The next thing we’re going to have to learn is not to do them.”

Eric Sammons:

I think one thing that you mentioned about Chesterton, I think really sets him apart, because you say a great intellect, which of course he did, but he combined that with a great humility, which let’s be honest, is actually rare to have that combination. It seems like the smarter people are, in today’s world at least, the less humble they are because they look down at everybody. But of course, there’s the famous story about when asked what’s wrong with the world, his famous answer of, “I am,” just showed his humility. I think that’s something about him that is needed today, because our world is full of experts and we’re supposed to follow the experts, and frankly most of the experts that are trotted out there have a certain arrogance towards the common man. But that was the opposite of G.K. Chesterton, wasn’t it?

Dale Ahlquist:

Yeah, in fact you bring a good point up. He never trusted experts, he trusted the wisdom of the common man, the ruck of the normal people because experts tend to not be normal. I think in a way he wished that he were more normal because he knew he wasn’t like anyone else, but he championed the people who were the common sense people, because common sense was what he was trying to bring to a world that really had gone off its rocker already with strange philosophies and truly arrogant ideas. That’s the best way to describe it.

Eric Sammons:

Now what led you specifically to become so interested in Chesterton to make it really your life’s work to study the man and to try to follow in his footsteps?

Dale Ahlquist:

Well, I was an evangelical, a Baptist, and I was a big C.S. Lewis fan, and C.S. Lewis is often the doorway to Chesterton. People want to find out what’s the influence behind C.S. Lewis and they learn quickly if they ask that question that it’s Chesterton. And once I discovered Chesterton, I really never went back to C.S. Lewis after that.

Eric Sammons:

No offense to C.S. Lewis, but he’d probably be happy with that.

Dale Ahlquist:

No offense whatsoever to C.S. Lewis.

Eric Sammons:

Now, what is your favorite Chesterton book?

Dale Ahlquist:

So what’s the next question, Eric? The question after that one?

Eric Sammons:

You don’t want to limit it to one, do you?

Dale Ahlquist:

No, sorry.

Eric Sammons:

Now what are his most popular though? Everlasting Man, Orthodoxy, are those probably the biggest two?

Dale Ahlquist:

Let’s list the top six. Certainly those two, Orthodoxy and Everlasting Man, I think his book on St. Thomas and his book on St. Francis are key books that should be read of Chesterton. You alluded to the famous conversation, What’s Wrong With the World, that line doesn’t come from that book but that’s a book also that people… a very prophetic book, What’s Wrong with the World, and then let’s just throw the Father Brown stories in there.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, right, exactly. And really it is kind of hard because, I mean, the thing I notice when I read Chesterton is that he’s got just a way of both being an easy read but a hard read. I don’t even know how to describe it, because-

Dale Ahlquist:

It’s paradoxical like the man himself, right there.

Eric Sammons:

Right, exactly, exactly. I mean, I feel like it’s not like he’s using these big huge words and trying to sound smart to everybody, but yet you are working in a certain sense when you read him, because he’s really bringing out a lot and he’s making you think. So I think that’s probably the biggest part, is he’s really making you think and see things in a different way. And I think wouldn’t you say that’s probably part of his genius then?

Dale Ahlquist:

Yes. I totally agree with that. He makes you think but also to see things in a different way, it’s that wonderful, paradoxical approach where truth is not what you expect it to be. Sometimes it’s the opposite of what you expect it to be. And he has this way of inversion that is sometimes maddening, always amusing and always enlightening.

Eric Sammons:

Now today, you’ve mentioned that he’s important today, what specifically about Chesterton makes him a good model today for us to look to in our frankly kind of crazy modern world?

Dale Ahlquist:

Well, I’m glad you already brought up his humility. I consider Chesterton a potential for sainthood because of his heroic virtue. He was a virtuous man and people are drawn to his goodness. They’re certainly drawn to his great intellect, his ability to explain things, his ability to encapsulate really complicated truths in just one sentence with one great quotable line. And yet, in the end what you’re drawn to is the innocence of the man and the humility and the goodness of the man. His virtue has that effect, and I think that’s one of the reasons he’s needed today. I think we need more models of lay Catholic spirituality.

Eric Sammons:

There was a quote going around, who was it, oh, it was the prime minister of Italy who quoted him about the thing about… what was it, like saying that the grass is green in the summer or something like that would be fought over. I mean, how did he see that?

Dale Ahlquist:

I know, when you read Chesterton you go, “How did he know that?” But he predicted that we’d have to fight for proclaiming the truth that the grass is green. It would be that fundamental. What is a woman?

Eric Sammons:

Right, right. I mean, that’s the thing, because a hundred years ago when he lived, I imagine nobody would’ve thought that that would even be a debate, these type of things, yet he basically saw it when nobody else did.

Dale Ahlquist:

Yeah, he said early on the problem today is that the two sexes are each trying to be both sexes at once. He said that. And that has kind of led to the confusion right there.

Eric Sammons:

Right, and nobody really was seeing that yet. I mean, that wasn’t until probably 50 years later people started seeing that a little bit. So I mean it really was prophetic in the sense of being able to see things clearly that other people could not. One thing I wanted to bring up about Chesterton, and I personally think it’s kind of dumb, but I want to bring it up anyway, is that recently there’s some controversy about his alleged antisemitism, and I feel like people are going to be like, well, they want to hear the real story on that because they saw this on Twitter and social media. Why don’t you go ahead, and I kind of know it but I want to make sure, why don’t you go ahead and just address that, this idea that somehow Chesterton was an anti-Semite.

Dale Ahlquist:

Well, I will say that there’s two kinds of people that accuse Chesterton of antisemitism. Those who don’t know any better and those who do. So it’s either out of ignorance or it’s out of malice. There are some people who just don’t like Chesterton and they want to bring him down and they can’t argue with him so they make the accusation, and that’s the kind of the poisonous accusation these days if you can do that then you don’t have to go to step two. You don’t have to have any anymore arguments. He can be dismissed out of hand. And it really is just a facile attempt to dismiss Chesterton altogether. Because he wrote so much, I mean just an incredibly prolific writer, people will find little things in there to say, “Oh, that’s awful,” but they always take them out of context.

Chesterton was a critic of many Jews who unfortunately were not good people, but he wasn’t casting anything against the whole Jewish people. In fact, he often defended the Jews when they were very unpopular. He was the one defending them, not only on a personal basis with personal friends, but on a large scale basis too. You see, the thing is Chesterton criticized everybody. So the Jews were no exception, but he also criticized the Germans, the Americans, certainly the English, certainly my people the Scandinavians, and these were not jabs and attacks, they were just simply pointing out where they’re off track on something. And so he writes with love, he’s a man with no enemies. It’s a really unfortunate accusation. I’m happy to defend Chesterton and I’m also happy to debate anybody publicly who makes the accusation.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, it’s a lazy, simple way to try cancel somebody. Because like you said, if Chesterton can have an impact today for good, those who are not for good, it’s like, well, we can just cancel him and we don’t have to deal with him. But it really is a lazy shortcut instead of actually… I mean, if you want to find criticisms of his work, go ahead. I mean actual criticisms. Yeah, let’s talk about it if you want to, but just this idea of he’s an anti-Semite, it’s insane. Okay, let’s move on. I mentioned at the opening program that his legacy has had a major impact on the world, but particularly in the area of education, in which you are a very much a part of. So why don’t you tell us what is the Chesterton Schools Network?

Dale Ahlquist:

So the Chesterton Schools Network is a group of classical Catholic high schools based on the first one that I helped found in the Twin Cities in Minneapolis, Minnesota 15 years ago. And it is a very tightly created curriculum, very integrated and very Catholic. And the other great thing is that we make it also affordable. But all these schools now around the country and in other countries have all been started at the local level. It’s a grassroots movement of creating high schools and parents really taking control of their children’s education when education, as we know it, across the board is really in crisis.

Eric Sammons:

So when you started this school, the Chesterton Academy, correct?

Dale Ahlquist:

Yes.

Eric Sammons:

That’s the name of it. Okay, you started that in Minnesota 15 years ago. I just have to ask, how do you start a school? How do you say, okay, I’m going to start a school?

Dale Ahlquist:

The main reason these schools have been taking off, Eric, is because we show people how you start a school. I think one of the inspirations for these people is that, well, if Dale Ahlquist can start a school anybody can start a school. And it’s true. But we actually came up with a formula that works, which it’s a group of families that get together and they say, “Here’s our curriculum.” And they start getting a couple of key personnel to join them and they publicize it to the community that they’re involved with. If you can get 10 or 15 or 20 students for the first year, you start getting momentum, but you can do it with a minimal investment.

You don’t have to go out and build a building, because of demographics being what they are there’s a lot of empty classroom space that is there to be rented and can be usually had for a song. And so it’s a lot of time and effort and certainly some expense, but the point is it can be done. And we’ve come up with a system now where people can use our curriculum and our templates for how to actually run this school, how to start it, how to get it going, and it’s a step by step process.

Eric Sammons:

So when you were starting off this first school, how many families did you have? What was the building you used? I’m asking a lot of questions here on this one, and how’d you decide what the initial curriculum would be?

Dale Ahlquist:

Sure. Well, providentially I had that year had been invited to speak at some classical Catholic schools around the country, I do a lot of travel and speaking. And I looked at each one of their curriculums and then plus my two older children had gone to a classical school that was not Catholic, and I basically took something from each of them and then created a whole plan of what I wanted to see in four years. And so I created the initial curriculum and we’ve made a few refinements to it since but it’s pretty much the same curriculum that we came up with at the beginning. We found an old public school building that was not being used for a school so they had some empty classrooms available, other people were renting some other classrooms. And we got about 10, well, we got 10 students for our first year going out and beating the bushes.

We hired a headmaster who went to some home schools, went to some parish schools and it was a word of mouth thing. And we started with 10 of the most miserable kids you’ve ever seen in your life but they were the pioneer students and it grew from there. And one of the things that helped to form it from the very beginning was not only G.K. Chesterton himself, but a really joyful atmosphere that has continued, I think, in each school to this day. It’s a real joy to bring the Holy Spirit into a classroom, to be able to talk about the faith in every subject you’re teaching and to see how one thing is connected to the other thing, and watching their minds pop with recognition when they see a truth.

Eric Sammons:

Now, are the Chesterton Schools only high school?

Dale Ahlquist:

Yeah, only nine through 12, Eric, yup.

Eric Sammons:

Only nine through 12. Now I’m looking at the curriculum here. I printed it out from your website. Now, I’m going to link to the website on the show notes for anybody who’s watching or listening so that you can go to it. And it looks like in a lot of ways it’s a standard classical education, but I notice that, for example, each year in their literature they always read at least one G.K. Chesterton to kind of give that flavor. So how is Chesterton part of the curriculum other than just the fact that obviously you read a text of his each year?

Dale Ahlquist:

Well, the texts that we choose are very pertinent to what else we’re studying. And taking it backwards, everything’s summed up at the end in senior year, we read The Everlasting Man which is this book that brings everything together. The history, philosophy, art, culture, mythology and theology, and everything they’ve been studying for the last four years is summed up in that book. Back up here to the junior year when they’re studying St. Thomas Aquinas in philosophy, well, we read Chesterton’s book on Thomas Aquinas, but they’ve also been reading the real deal in The Summa Theologica itself. Back up another year, sophomore year, the growth of the Christian world, the one of these pivotal saints at the beginning of the Middle ages, Saint Francis of Assisi.

And the beginning of that book is really interesting because that book just kind of sums up the history that leads up to St. Francis. He says you can’t start with the birth of Francis because that’s to miss the whole story. So the background is very essential to reading that book. And then we also read Orthodoxy the sophomore year, which is a combination of different subject matter. So we teach part of the book in theology, we teach part of it in philosophy, part of it in biology, and part of it in literature. So they see this is what integrated thinking looks like. And then the introductory book to Chesterton is the one that I wrote, Common Sense 101, and that’s to introduce the freshmen to Chesterton.

Eric Sammons:

Okay. Now your students, mostly at your school and then also at the other Chesterton Schools, do you find that they mostly come from homeschooling backgrounds or from Catholic schools, public schools, and they just then decide to go with this? I mean kind of where are your students coming from?

Dale Ahlquist:

I would say about a third of them come from homeschool backgrounds and probably a little bit more than a third come from parish schools, and then the rest are a real mix of coming either from public schools or other private schools that are not Catholic schools. And so there’s a real mix of students, but certainly homeschoolers, it’s a very friendly place for them because it’s founded by parents, and so the parents know that we’re representing parents.

Eric Sammons:

Right. Now, in your curriculum it says it’s a rigorous four year curriculum taught through the lens of the Catholic faith. So how is this a Catholic school as opposed to a non Catholic school and does it have a relationship with the diocese typically? Are there priests that say mass there? How does that all work, the relationship of the Catholic faith with the schools?

Dale Ahlquist:

Sure. Well every school is a local school and it may or may not have a relationship with the diocese. Hopefully they do because the bishop of that diocese welcomes the Chesterton Academy and I would say increasingly that’s the case. But sometimes the local diocese is threatened by the existence of a new school that might be considered as a rival to the existing schools. And so those schools just operate then as independent schools that teach the Catholic faith, but they can’t call themselves Catholic because that word rightfully is controlled by the bishop. But they still arrange to attend mass every day, and that’s one of the things that we require, that every school have daily mass. And so if they’re directly associated with a parish that’s where they have it. Otherwise, they will bus the kids to somewhere to have daily mass, but that’s an integral ingredient to the school is to have the Eucharist every day.

Eric Sammons:

That’s great, that’s great. Now you mentioned earlier also about the schools being affordable. Now, I think this is probably, at least in my mind and from people I’ve talked to in my own experience, the number one barrier. I mean obviously a lot of Catholic schools just aren’t that good, I’ll just say it. But beyond that, even if the ones that are decent, it’s just beyond the means of a lot of parents. And so how is it that Chesterton Schools can stay affordable?

Dale Ahlquist:

Yeah, that is just a huge issue, Eric. And it’s one of the things that we wanted to make paramount when starting a school because we wanted to be a pro-family school. And if you’re a pro-family school, pro-life school, you can’t make it impossible for large families to attend the school. And so there’s lots of ways to save money in education, and you know what, there’s lots of ways to waste money in education, and that’s one of the main reasons why schools are so expensive is because of the money that is just not being well spent at all. But we’ve already talked about the fact that we try to find existing buildings rather than trying to build a building. We do not rely on a lot of technology. The primary technology we use in the classroom is called a book. So we don’t have all those bells and whistles and the latest gadgets. You can run a science lab for hundreds of dollars instead of thousands of dollars and still teach all the principles of science. You don’t have to pay your administration way beyond what you’re paying your teachers.

In fact, you want part of your administration to be in the classroom teaching, especially in the early going. You rely on a lot of volunteer help. You want parents to be invested in the school from the beginning, not just dropping their child off and saying, “Here, you take care of them.” No, you are part of the education. We are in loco parentis but you are also our partner in informing this young person’s mind.” And so there’s lots of ways to cut costs. And even so, there’s some people that still can’t afford a low tuition and we make it key to try to raise enough money so that to make it affordable for everybody and give scholarships were necessary. So fundraising is always going to be part of it, but it’s very doable, very doable.

Eric Sammons:

That’s good to hear. We’ve homeschooled for a long time, but early on our oldest, she went to a local Catholic private school. I was even on the school board for a while. I was, at this time, a software engineer, but it drove me crazy how much they tried to do all this technology stuff and they wanted to spend all this money on technology. And the funny thing is, they always thought I would be on their side because I was a tech guy, I was a geek. I was like, “No, I don’t think my daughter in first grade needs to learn how to use a tablet and Excel or whatever. That’s not going to help her.” She’s going to figure it out on her own, first of all. I mean, it’s not like us old people that had to be taught that. But yeah, I do think there’s a lot of money that probably goes to waste in a lot of institutional schools.

And I did notice, before the podcast here I was looking up Chesterton Academies to see if there’s one near me… there’s one up in Dayton which isn’t too far from me… and one thing I noticed was like, holy cow, the professors… the teachers, I should say… they’re like professors practically, I mean they’re expertise. So you’re definitely not cutting corners on your teachers. One guy, he was just a teacher and most colleges wouldn’t have somebody as qualified as this guy was. He had a doctorate in biblical studies and I was just like, “Holy cow.” So is that a focus that really the money that is spent is trying to get high quality teachers?

Dale Ahlquist:

Well it’s really something, Eric, because when we started the school we had more applicants for teachers than we did for students. It’s really true that there are people out there that want to teach in a school like this. And obviously we have to pay a living wage to folks who are young and have families and everything, and we do, but there’s a lot of wonderful retired people who this is just their dream job. This is what they’ve been wanting to do is teach the Catholic faith with their expertise, and they always make up a percentage of the faculty, especially when a school is launched. But some of these PhDs, they’d rather be teaching in this setting than they would in a college setting. They have much more autonomy and are able to really teach their faith, combining it with their own expertise.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, that’s amazing. Now the Chesterton Academies or schools are basically classical education, and I know there has been a growth, at least anecdotally I’ve seen it, of parents interested in their kids learning through a classical education method. Why do you think that is that that’s becoming more popular, not just among Catholics I’ve noticed, but even among Protestants and I think even people of no faith?

Dale Ahlquist:

Well Eric, you don’t mind if I quote G.K. Chesterton do you?

Eric Sammons:

It probably would be appropriate.

Dale Ahlquist:

So in his book, What’s Wrong with the World, he says the problem in the school today is that most students are exposed to educational philosophies that are younger than they are. Think about that. We are always experimenting on our children. We’re always trying the latest educational philosophy and it always fails. And so we try the latest, latest one. And I think we’re at the point where people are seeing through that and saying these new ideas are simply not working, let’s get back to the stuff that worked for a really long time before we decide to replace it. And the old way is still the good way it turns out in this case, especially when it comes to teaching truth. I mean, education is truth in the state of transmission says Chesterton. It’s passing the truth from one generation to the other and it’s not teaching the latest and greatest new ideas. That’s not what you’re supposed to be teaching children. I think there’s that realization, that’s one of the reasons for the growth in classical education, our education system is in a mess because we are always trying new things.

Eric Sammons:

I heard somebody once say, it has stuck with me, that in the public schools today they don’t teach, they train. Basically they just train people to be good little minions in the factory or office, whatever the case may be. But just be good and go along with everything, but they don’t really teach. They don’t teach you how to think or anything like that. And I would say classical education in particular is teaching them how to think not just to train them to be good little citizens of the collective, so to speak.

Dale Ahlquist:

Yep.

Eric Sammons:

Okay, so now tell us then about specifically the growth of the Chesterton Schools Network. So you started just 15 years ago with your own school and now, what did I say? It was 50, is it 50 schools now? High schools worldwide?

Dale Ahlquist:

Yeah, our present number is 46 but there’s 16 in the pipeline so we’ll have over 60 schools next year.

Eric Sammons:

Wow, and this is mostly in the United States, correct?

Dale Ahlquist:

Yeah.

Eric Sammons:

But is it also outside the US?

Dale Ahlquist:

Yeah, mostly, a great majority in the United States but we are in four other countries right now. So there’s three in Canada, there’s one in Italy and of course there’s one in Iraq and one in Sierra Leone West Africa, as you would imagine. I know that there’s talk of one getting started in Ireland and one in Argentina. But yeah, all the rest are here in the United States. And the growth, it’s been wildfire, because the second school only started in 2014.

Eric Sammons:

Oh, eight years ago.

Dale Ahlquist:

Yeah, and probably within a five year period there were maybe 10 schools and now it’s 10 new ones a year are getting started. It’s absolutely incredible. It’s faster than we can even handle it. It’s unbelievable.

Eric Sammons:

Now are most of these schools brand new schools or do sometimes does a school kind of convert to a Chesterton School?

Dale Ahlquist:

Yeah, that’s a good question. We’ve had a couple schools convert, they were an existing school, they either decided to become classical or they were classical and decided to become a Chesterton School. And we also have a few cases where we have a large existing Catholic high school and there’s a Chesterton Academy track within the high school. So we are obviously there at the invitation of the local bishop when something like that happens. And there’s three or four of those around the country. But for the most part it’s either rising out of a K through eight school where they want to add a high school or it’s just a group of parents saying, “We don’t have any good high school options here and let’s start a Chesterton Academy.”

Eric Sammons:

Okay. So now how would you say that, and I’m not trying to rail too hard in this episode on regular Catholic schools, but what makes Chesterton Schools stand out from maybe your typical Catholic high school today?

Dale Ahlquist:

Yeah, and it’s a fair question to ask because there is something different about these schools. There are some really good Catholic schools out there. There’s some that their main problem is they’re just imitating secular schools and that’s probably their main problem. They’ve got a system that is really no different from a public school, it just has a religion class added to it. And those are the schools that are visibly in trouble. What makes the Chesterton Academy different? Well, I mentioned the integrated curriculum. Everything that’s being taught is connected to everything else that’s being taught. A four year philosophy curriculum. Most high schools have no philosophy classes at all. We have four years. So we’re developing faith and reason. It’s very important. We teach logic in ninth grade and they understand what a fallacy is at the ninth grade level. Something they can take with them all four years is they’re learning how to argue and reason and debate.

And then a four year theology program to go with it, which is not just a religion class but they learn theological history, moral theology, the depth of the catechism itself and how it applies to everything else. A four year art program, Eric, we emphasize the arts along with the math and sciences. So it’s not that we de-emphasize math and science, we still give them just a great exposure, but right up with them are the humanities and the arts so they learn how to draw and paint. They all have to be in plays so they act and they all sing for four years in school classes and just different levels of choirs that they’re in for four years. So they’re developing the artistic side too, not an elective, a requirement. And then daily mass. I would say that it’s our integrated curriculum, four years of philosophy, the arts program, those are the main things that set us apart.

Eric Sammons:

That’s great. Now the graduates of the Chesterton Schools, do they typically go on to college? Are there sorts of religious vocations coming out of them? I know it’s a big pool at this point after 15 years, but what would you say is typically for a lot of the graduates of these Chesterton Schools?

Dale Ahlquist:

Well, I can talk about our first school because that’s had the most graduating classes, that’s had 11 graduating classes now. The newer schools have had probably four graduating classes. What I can say is that these kids are going to the colleges of their choice or they are going into the trade of their choice. They’ve had the equivalent of a four year liberal arts education. They don’t really need to go to college if they don’t want to because they’ve been well prepared with knowing how to think and knowing how to use their reason and they’re ready to start a trade and they can go right into that kind of work and wouldn’t need a college education for it.

So we have the plumbers and the carpenters and electricians are starting right off and they’re making money instead of spending it on college. But then the ones that go to college are able to focus right away on a particular career that requires higher education and they’re really well prepared to do that. And then we have had an amazingly high percentage of young men who’ve entered seminary. At our first school one out of eight of our male graduates have gone to seminary.

Eric Sammons:

Wow, how about that. It’s interesting, one thing, I’ve soured more and more over the years on college myself and just the necessity that everybody has to do it like it’s an extension of high school. Obviously there’s certain things you have to do it for, but a lot you don’t. And one of the things though that college is useful for, if you go to a good one, is learning liberal arts, which are important. But when I was looking at your curriculum I’m like, “Wow, they’re going to get it in high school, they’re going to have all that set.” So you’re going to have philosopher plumbers out there, which is great. I mean, because they can live and it’s still very important for them to know these things and they’re applying, like you said, they’re starting to make money from day one and they’re providing a great service to everybody in doing stuff like that.

Dale Ahlquist:

And for those who do go to college, we’ve got an arrangement right now with Franciscan University of Steubenville that they will give college credit for our junior and senior philosophy and theology classes. So they have a head start going into college and those are transferable credits. And some other universities are starting to get on board and say, “Yeah,” because these kids come in and they don’t need to take these introductory courses. They’ve had the equivalent. And so it’s reducing college fees and time spent in college to get their degrees.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, that’s excellent. Because I mean, honestly, and this isn’t the fault necessarily of the colleges, but because the kids come in so ill-trained, you have to start very basic in philosophy and theology and things like that, because these kids show up, a lot of them who went to Catholic schools or public schools, don’t know anything. So I can see why they just say you guys just skip to the junior classes who came from the Chesterton Academy.

Dale Ahlquist:

That was really encouraging, just a great affirmation of what we’re doing. You can imagine.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, absolutely. Okay, so let’s wrap it up here. Where can people find out about the Chesterton… First of all, about G.K. Chesterton, but also about the Chesterton Schools?

Dale Ahlquist:

Well, since we don’t believe in technology, you have to put a letter on a horse and send that out. You go to our website. For G.K. Chesterton, just go to chesterton.org. Lots of great information to introduce you to the work that we’re doing for the Chesterton Society and to the man himself, chesterton.org. Then for the schools, if you’re interested in starting a school or exploring that more, it’s chestertonschoolsnetwork.org. Chestertonschoolsnetwork.org.

Eric Sammons:

And I’ll put links to both of those in the podcast description so people can just click on them and find them easily. Well, this has been great. I mean, Chesterton obviously is awesome, but it’s nice to see that he’s not a dead figure in the sense that we just kind of learn about him from history, but he really is influencing young people today through the Chesterton School. So I really appreciate you coming on, Dale, this has been wonderful.

Dale Ahlquist:

Delightful for me too, Eric. God bless you.

Eric Sammons:

God bless you. Until next time, everybody. God love you.

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