Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church


A Case for Classical Education

November 18th, 2012, Promulgated by benanderson

This past September First Things on the Square published an article titled a A Case for Classical Education. It’s a good read and especially interesting because of one of the co-author’s involvement in an East Rochester Catholic school.

Andrew Seeley is Director of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education and Tutor at Thomas Aquinas College, Santa Paula, California. Elisabeth Ryan Sullivan is a writer who serves on the boards of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education and the Catholic Education Foundation. She is also Director of Communications for St. John Bosco Schools in East Rochester, NY.

Another good read footnoted at the bottom is a speech by Dorothy Sayers titled The Lost Tools of Learning.

And if you don’t have the time to read these right now, but would like to and find that you’ve given up reading online articles because you don’t want to sit in front of your computer all day, read Scott Hanselman’s Two Must-Have Tools for a More Readable Web. (I’ve been using instapaper for over a year now and have found it enables me to read all kinds of online articles that otherwise would’ve went by the wayside.)


6 Responses to “A Case for Classical Education”

  1. avatar DanielKane says:

    Going the classical route is not for the faint of heart. It requires heroic levels of work and commitment. But, like all good things it is indeed worth the effort. We home schooled our children using the classical methodology (Mother of Divine Grace). There is no mistaking the value of actually being able to speak, memorize, read, write and critically analyze concepts.

    The same-sex marriage debate, abortion, the legalization of pot – all of these present-era evils flow from a lack of critical understanding that classical education brings to the forefront (like reducing marriage to joint tax returns and inheritance). Present-era education is simply the regurgitation of facts and correlating early reading with some kind of achievement. Yet the SAT scores continue to drop (in 2011 NYS was 40th in SAT Scores – behind MS, AR and AL). My kids did not read “on level” until 4th grade – which was scary. In the classical model one reads later, but memorizes earlier and ultimately goes higher. Today, my 7th and 8th grade boys speak, read, write and translate in Latin, English and Spanish. Only because of the Classical route (or rote – if you get the joke).

    I must admit that I was a late convert to Classical Education.

    Most importantly, Classical Education places the parents as the intellectual heads of the family. They look to us FIRST for the answer and discussion. This is mission-critical in this era where most are under-educated and poorly catechized. Well meaning people will lead them astray and one needs to constantly check – just last night some well meaning catechist taught that war was always wrong. But, since my son looks to Pam and I as the ultimate intellectual authority, I was able to identify this error and shed the proper context to the use of violence – by going to the original source; the CCC.

    Classical Education stressed the use of original sources. Want to learn physics? Read Einstein. Study Catholicism? Read the Gospel and the Catechism. Read the actual Iliad and not someone’s version of it. Few, even the best educated, will tackle the original sources.

    I have a friend that teaches in a nursing school. Most student nurses fail because they were never taught to apply their academics to dynamic circumstances, seeking the one correct answer (like scholastic education thrives on) instead of the best answer in a dynamic circumstance.Having been “test educated” they are conditioned to selecting one of 4 choices and not conditioned to think on their feet. Smart, straight A students fail RN school for just this reason.

    I am thrilled by the re-discovery of classical education and consider it part of the Holy Spirit’s foundation for the new evangelization. We need young men and women who can re-interpret and reapply the Gospel in the present era.

  2. avatar Nerina says:

    Hi Ben,

    I just wanted to say that “Readability” may be the best thing that has happened to my web-browsing experience – ever! Thanks for the recommendation.

  3. avatar Richard Thomas says:


    As far as student go, I think there has been a radical change between the nurses of the 50’s and today. Nurses then took pride in true patient care. Hospitalizations were more lengthy yet patients would never develop bed sores because of the nursing care. Patients would be cleaned and fed if necessary and personal contact was greater. Compare that to today where you find the nurses busy at their conputers, writing noteds, no one ever reads. Patients, needing encouragement to eat, often starve because there is no one to encourage them. I know because my father would have died in the hospital had we not been there to feed and care for him.

    But nurses today are overworked. And I don’t blame them when they often leave the field.

  4. avatar raymondfrice says:

    We need young men and women who can re-interpret and reapply the Gospel in the present era.

    Ditto for the clergy!!!

  5. avatar raymondfrice says:

    I have a classical education but I needed to get a few more “marketable” degrees to get a job.!!!

  6. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    The school above goes up through 8th grade, so hopefully we’re not too worried about jobs at that point. This education is much more important than getting a job. It has to do with forming the person to love God and others, to learn to think and reason, etc. Besides, do the majority of jobs in today’s economy require the hours and hours that are kids sit in classrooms? If training people do jobs is our main concern, then we are failing miserably.

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