liberal arts

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 [...]

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