Let it be a school.

Anthony Esolen writes about Sacred Heart Academy, a school in Grand Rapids that was on the verge of closing and trying to come up with ways to save itself. The answer, it turns out, was simple: how does one revive a failing Catholic school? Let it be Catholic, and let it be a school.

In other words, the path forward for Catholic education is not to imitate America’s public schools which fail to educate students on an epic scale.

It is to be authentically Catholic: that is rooted in community, tradition, and public worship. It is to be authentically a school, aiming to form proper mental habits. Grade school children must learn their grammar and basic mathematics, and must have their hearts exposed to goodness and beauty.

Without tradition and community there is no education. What are you educating children in if not into a tradition? And to whom does the tradition belong if not to a community? A child is, in part, a barbarian to be civilized. Only when he masters the tradition can he be expected to contribute to it, or to change it.

The reason why public schools do such a bad job educating is that they have no tradition, and no community beyond football games.

As Esolen says:

Which of the beauty-forgetting innovations has ever worked? My best students at Providence College, unless they have studied Latin, know no grammar at all. My best students, unless they have gone to a school like Sacred Heart of Jesus, will likely never have heard the names of the greatest English poets: Chaucer, Milton, Pope, Wordsworth, Keats, Tennyson, Browning. My best students know no geography and very little history. They have no songs, other than the spewing of mass entertainment.

If we want to do our part to preserve civilization, supporting places like this are a good way to start.

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One comment

  1. Daniel D. D. · · Reply

    The greatest accident in my life was studying classical Latin at my public high school (it was the only language open to a student who waited to the last minute to register his classes). After reading the Aeneid and reflecting on it, it opened up my mind to a whole new world.

    Not to be sentimental, but I’m rather angry that my schooling has been so poor (and I went to one of the better, suburban public schools). If I ever have children, I guess I’m just that much more motivated to ensuring that they receive a classical education.

    I think the first question we Americans must ask and answer, is what is education, and what is its purpose?

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