It should be noted that “classical,” as is discussed below in more detail, properly understood includes certain “reforms” – actually “returns”- to authentic classical educational models, including the Paideia reforms and the study of original texts: the Great Books, in high school, as advocated and promoted by Dr. Mortimer J. Adler and the renowned Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain, for many years. “Complete” as used above, includes all grade levels, all courses, nursery through 12th, and for those students willing to do it, accredited A.A degrees by 12th grade as many of our online students have already earned, completing their B.A. degrees one year later. Perpetual Adoration – one hour per week per student – is an important hallmark, to be pursued as place, numbers and circumstances permit.
An Overview of the Angelicum Academy Curriculum for Associated Schools & Co-ops
Education derives from the Latin educare, which means to rear, nourish, bring up (and not from educere – to lead, bring forth or out – as is commonly supposed). It is close in meaning to the Greek paideia – the rearing of children and molding of the ideal member of society to the ideal of kalos kagathos, the “beautiful and good,” which was the Greek ideal of perfection, of excellence, called arête. Arete is a concomitant of what it meant to be a hero and was the central ideal of all Greek culture.
In contrast, Christ is the central ideal of all Christian culture. Catholic education takes the meaning of perfection to a much higher plane than did the finest of the Greek and Roman heroes. Christ came to teach us the way to live, and more abundantly than was known to the Greeks or Romans. “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” – John 10:10. Christian perfection consists in living in imitation of Christ, the Son of God, and the most perfect of men. He, not Achilles, Odysseus or Aeneas, is the Christian model of perfection.
The purpose of Catholic education then, is to help mold students into other Christs. We start as infants in complete ignorance, so that molding begins with human nature as it is then, learning step-by-step, beginning in the home, the first school, from our parents – by nature the first teachers. This education is carried over into the school whenever the educational resources of the home are no longer sufficient means to instruct the child in the cultural heritage that is to be transmitted to and acquired by the student, and where schools are available that do have those resources consistent with the higher purpose of education, mentioned above. Where such schools do not exist, this project may be of great interest to parents there.
We should not assume everyone shares the same understanding of what a “classical” education consists. Classical education, in the strict sense, refers to the educational approach of the classical civilizations of ancient Greece and Rome, rooted in Book 7 of Plato’s Republic. For this and other reasons, learning both ancient Greek and Latin are usually considered important elements of a classical education. Plato’s model was developed into the medieval curriculum of the seven liberal arts by Martianus Minneus Felix Capella (fl. c. 410-420 A.D.), divided into the three arts of language pertaining to the mind, called the trivium (grammar, rhetoric and dialectics); and the four arts or sciences of quantity, called the quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy).
The trivium, in modern language, teaches students how to read and write, speak eloquently and persuasively and how to listen. These are the arts of language. In modern, expanded, terms, the “arts” are often referred to as the humanities, to which have been added history, literature, political science, and more recently, philosophy and theology.
The “sciences” have expanded to include mathematics, the natural sciences and the “soft sciences” about human behavior, as psychology, anthropology and sociology (cutting back on that expanded meaning of science, “STEM” schools refers to the “hard sciences”: science, technology, engineering and math – basically jettisoning the soft sciences).
The three language arts of the trivium are necessary for the study of the humanities, just as mathematics is necessary for the study of the quadrivium and all of the sciences. There is a deliberate structure to classical education, that is ordered towards truth and freedom (“The truth shall make you free”-John 8:32), and lasting happiness, which Catholics understand is only attainable in the Beatific Vision of God.
The great classics of Western civilization – excluding here for simplicity the great masterpieces of music and the fine arts – contain the thoughts and wisdom of their great authors, preserved for us in their books. These include the great classics of literature, history, philosophy, theology, politics and science, written by the greatest scholars, sages and saints (Sacred Scripture being the greatest of the Great Books). When we read these great books, we partake of the genius and brilliance of their authors, become familiar with them, and are influenced by their wisdom:
Dr. Mortimer Jerome Adler
“We are tied down, all our days and for the greater part of our days, to the commonplace. That is where contact with the great thinkers, great literature helps. In their company we are still in the ordinary world, but it is the ordinary world transfigured and seen through the eyes of wisdom and genius. And some of their genius becomes ours.” – Mortimer J. Adler
An education in the liberal arts (from the Latin liberalis: “free,” and ars: “art or principled practice“) is thus general in nature, and aims to equip the student with a broad, well-rounded grasp of reality and a coherent view of the interconnectedness and purpose of things, which is provided by culture, largely transmitted by formal education. The closer the culture corresponds to reality, the better such a grasp it conveys.
Classical education does not include vocational training, business courses, or professional schools such as law, nursing or medicine, or research. In short, it is general in nature, not specialized and not career-oriented or technical. It contrasts with a specialized education, which should come later, after a general education. Here is the danger of having only an illiberal (vocational, specialized) education, described by Ortega y Gasset:
Ortega y Gassett
“Civilization has had to await the beginning of the 20th century, to see the astounding spectacle of how brutal, how stupid, and yet how aggressive is the man learned in one thing and fundamentally ignorant of all else. This new barbarian is above all the professional man, more learned than before, but at the same time more uncultured – the engineer, the physician, the lawyer, the scientist.”
The specialist serves as a striking concrete example of the species, making clear to us the radical nature of the novelty. For, previously, men could be divided simply into the learned and the ignorant, those more or less the one, and those more or less the other. But your specialist cannot be brought in under either of these two categories. He is not learned, for he is formally ignorant of all that does not enter into his specialty; but neither is he ignorant, because he is “a scientist,” and “knows” very well his own tiny portion of the universe. We shall have to say that he is a learned ignoramus, which is a very serious matter, as it implies that he is a person who is ignorant, not in the fashion of the ignorant man, but with the petulance of one who is learned in his own special line.
Professionalism and specialism, through insufficient counterbalancing, have smashed the European [Western] man in pieces. Culture is an indispensable element of human life, a dimension of our existence, as much a part of man as his hands; … but [without which] it is man crippled. The same is to be said of life without culture, only in a much more fundamental sense. It is life crippled, wrecked, false…the contemporary university has abandoned almost entirely the teaching of transmission of culture.”
Classical education, expanded as detailed above into liberal education, until the beginning of the 20th century (as noted by Ortega) was the traditional academic program in Western higher education. The central academic disciplines in liberal arts colleges typically included three areas: social sciences, arts, and humanities, including philosophy, logic, linguistics, literature, history, political science, sociology, and psychology. Unfortunately, our so-called liberal arts colleges have almost entirely removed the study of Greek and Latin from their curricula. In opposition to the classical approach which emphasizes study and critical analysis of the great ideas of Western civilization, many courses added recently are designed to indoctrinate with specific political ideologies. An example is the fraudulent 1619 history project being adopted and made mandatory in many secondary and collegiate schools, which attempts to redefine the United States as a slave state that began in 1619 rather than the Republic that emerged from the Revolutionary War of 1776. This is just one of many such specialized courses, such as women’s studies, and a multitude of various ethnic, gender or sexuality studies.
St. John Henry Newman
Well under 5% of colleges and universities now offer what could have been described 100 years ago as a liberal education such as that described by St. John Henry Newman in his The Idea of a University. As a result, there is no movement to return to a “liberal education model,” as it has been so corrupted in modern usage.
It may also be observed that no curriculum used in any modern school, college or university offers a classical curriculum in either the ancient or medieval models – all are more expansive –and yet some no longer include what most scholars would consider essential to a fully “classical” education, such as Latin and/or Greek, rhetoric, dialectics, and this is critically important: studied in original texts, the Great Books, rather than in 5th-rate textbooks written for commercial or political purposes and subject to the careless or shameless deliberate falsification of the thought of the great authors in modern textbooks, even to the point of directly contradicting what they actually wrote. Only the use of their original texts can avert this. So the term “classical” has a rather wide flexibility in modern usage, and with reference to the four years of high school studies often fails to include the essential element of the extensive study every year of the original texts – the Great Books – and so its use needs examination to determine reasonable integrity and applicability.
Because we have taught the Great Books in our four-year, online Great Books Program to high schoolers for over two decades now, we have many experienced Socratic moderators available to teach this course to students remotely, live, online, in a weekly two-hour class, as may be needed. We always have two experienced Great Books moderators, most Ph.Ds, in each class. Class sizes are limited to 20 online, but may be up to 25 in a school, attended live, online, via classroom monitor or on individual computers. We also have the option for students of listening to the two-hour discussions in the asynchronous mode – of specially selected, recorded portions – as homework, to be summed up later in a shorter, live discussion class.
Catholic classical schools have also properly added the introductory study of philosophy and theology to the classical model (these were formerly considered professional courses, but the higher-level philosophy and theology courses are still reserved for Master’s and Ph.D. or Th.D programs), due to their awareness of higher, ultimate ends, and thus the usefulness of philosophy and theology to aid human reason in considering such truths.
Dr. Adler and Jacques Maritain both understood that teens 14 and up are capable of reading, discussing and understanding the Great Books, as they did in the Middle Ages and in the US prior to 1900 or so, and so they strongly advocated the return to the use and study of Great Books in high school education. Adler also promoted a return to the extensive use of the Socratic discussion method of education and other elements of authentic classical education in the elementary levels of education in his Paideia proposals, which are an integral part of a return to authentically classical education, and which we incorporate in the Angelicum school and co-ops models under development. Persons interested in these reforms may find them in Dr. Adler’s three Paideia books.
No two Angelicum Academy associated schools or co-ops are expected to be exactly alike, everything said on the subject should be taken as suggestive or illustrative of general principles. Our recommendation is not a monolithic program to be adopted uniformly everywhere without any flexibility. However our model does insist, for its validity, on the presence in all such schools and co-ops on establishing the three modes of learning and teaching equally insisted upon by Dr. Adler in said books: the acquisition of organized knowledge through didactic instruction and elementary-level textbooks; the development of intellectual skills (i.e., the liberal arts) through coaching and supervised practice; and an enlarged understanding of ideas and moral values through Socratic questioning and active participation by students, using the original texts – the Great Books – as the centerpiece of such reforms. The precise way in which that is to be accomplished will be determined by the Board and faculty of each such school or coo-op.
One other presence which will also be insisted upon in all Angelicum Academy associated schools and co-ops: the Real Presence. Where the number of students, the cooperation of the diocese and local priests, and space permits, beside daily Mass, in the absence of such a nearby parish chapel, a Blessed Sacrament chapel will be provided for students, faculty and parents to visit one hour per week, there to pray and encounter the source and summit of the Catholic Church, Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.
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Please let us know if you have any questions. We are quite busy just now through mid-September, but are happy to try and answer any questions you may have.