liberal arts

France: A Tale of Two Faiths

Last March, an Islamist terrorist stormed a supermarket in Trèbes, France, shot two people dead and took others hostage. In negotiations with police, the terrorist agreed to accept a police lieutenant’s offer to swap places with the last hostage, a female cashier. The police officer, Arnaud Beltrame, was subsequently killed. In honor of his heroic [...]

An Education to Restore Wonder

On a recent fall afternoon, bright and chilly as it can be in the Midwest, a group of parents in St. Louis had the opportunity for an informal visit from the president of Wyoming Catholic College and his wife, who is an associate professor at the school. The Doctors Arbery—Glenn and Virginia—each brought to the [...]

The Thanksgiving Turkey Theory of Education

I’m a teacher of some apparent merit and a philosopher of very little. I am decidedly not an educationist. I don’t know, let alone employ, novel theories of education or tricks of the modern pedagogical trade. I read philosophical books with students, talk to them about those books, ask them questions, and attempt to answer [...]

“Student-Centered” Colleges and Universities Retreat from Responsibility

Western culture, like Christianity, is generously teleological. Deep in the gullies of popular culture, high-profile coaches chatter about achieving goals at the end of the season while damaged celebrities explain therapeutic processes that have yielded redemptive outcomes. High culture abounds with savvy talking heads who can identify the long-term objectives of this or that nation; [...]

Education Should Not Be Fearful

At the beginning of the summer, an open letter by the heads of eight private schools in Washington D.C. appeared in the Washington Post and caused waves throughout education circles on the internet. In this letter, these modern-day educators announced that they were taking the supposedly radical step of eliminating Advanced Placement (AP) courses from [...]

The Humanities Won’t Save You!

I was recently asked by a student group at my university to participate in a panel discussion about the humanities. Having been asked the rather loaded question, “why are the humanities needed more now than ever?,” the panelists were expected to defend the humanities, presumably against some charges or enemies that are particularly contemporary. But [...]

Secular Superficiality Versus the Rootedness of Culture

The other day we Americans were informed by National Public Radio that it was Easter Sunday, when Christians celebrate the fact that Jesus did not have to go to hell or purgatory, but rose straight into heaven. It is like saying that Christopher was named Columbus after the capital of Oklahoma, or that Joan of [...]

10 Books That Every Boy Should Hazard

Thanks to the adulterators of children’s literature, the natural anticipations when approaching forgotten classics have been skewed. Everyone expects that everything will be picturesque, nice, and most importantly, safe. For reality is far too dangerous, far too harsh a thing, and children must be protected from it at all costs. Real stories for real boys, [...]

Whose School Is It?

The school, Christopher Dawson observed, plays a pivotal role in transmitting culture. Thus every despot since Napoleon has assumed control of national education. We Americans are free and so, we believe, is our educational system. But the fact that education is compulsory and largely administered by the state makes its status as a free institution [...]

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 [...]

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