Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Classical Education

From Dr. Esolen:
Most of the time in this tangled life, we must weigh one good thing against another, because we cannot pursue both with the same devotion. Sometimes we must give up one of them altogether. I cannot spend all my time teaching college students the grammar they were never taught in school, because that would leave no time for the splendid literature of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. I must be content with a modest effort in the former, while pursuing the latter directly.

But sometimes life offers you a chance to pursue many important ends simultaneously by a single means. Such opportunities are precious.

Consider these problems facing the Church:

•  We need to triple our vocations to the priesthood.
•  We need ten times as many vocations to the religious life. Many orders of religious women have “modernized” themselves into oblivion. The sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary taught me and my siblings in our grade school in Pennsylvania. My class ranged in numbers from 45 to 51. That parish school no longer exists; the parish could not afford to pay full salaries to the lay teachers who replaced the sisters.
•  Vocations come disproportionately from Catholic schools. We need to be building schools, and preserving from decline those that have survived.
•  If the heart of the parish is the Mass and the sacraments, its young arms and legs are to be found in the parish school. There, families encounter one another as families, building up memories that span the generations. We need those memories more than ever, as in most places community life is a shadow of what it was, and the next door neighbor may as well have dropped from another planet.
•  Little of what merits the name of “education” goes on in our schools. Some subjects have been discarded: grammar, for instance, as a coherent and systematic whole. Our approach to education springs from a truncated view of man. It is dully utilitarian in its aims, which it nevertheless fails to meet. It fixes a low ceiling over the mind and heart and soul. It begins by denying God, by whom and for whom we are made, and proceeds to deny the objective existence of beauty and goodness, until at last all that’s left are the shreds of learning, political expediency, and the fads of the day.
•  Our schools are Petri dishes of vice: impiety, lust, spiritual sloth, ambition, and avarice. It is not clear to me what more desperately needs the Catholic school less: the Church, or the nation.
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