Monday, October 02, 2006

"Thomism in a Catholic College" by Dr. Ronald McArthur

I found this lovely little essay by the founder of Thomas Aquinas College in Ignatius Press' sale rack in the book The Mind and Heart of the Church: Proceedings of the Wethersfield Institute, Volume 4.

Here's a sample:

To study St. Thomas, then, the way he should be studied demands that we see our way through the obstacles that prevent us from taking him seriously as our teacher, as the one who forms our minds. (I take it that we agree that he should form our minds - that we agree, that is, with the advice and commands of all the Popes since his death that we should study him as our master in the intellectual life.)

Our first task, should we be serious, would be to restore genuine liberal education in our Catholic schools, to help our students acquire those arts that are the ways to wisdom and without which the intellectual life is impossible. This means that our students learn to read and write, acquire the basic disciplines in mathematics, and, in sum, learn to think by acquiring the liberal arts. Such a restoration of liberal education is impossible using textbooks, almost all of them written to escape the difficulties involved in any serious thought. Lectures as the basic mode of teaching must go, for they presuppose, if they are to help the student, that he is already educated enough to intelligently consider what is told him. (Aristotle, if you recall, thought that the generally educated man was not one who was expert in any field but one who could listen to any lecture and judge if that lecture were reasonable or not, if it proceeded from principles proper to its subject, and if it proceeded with fitting arguments.)

The antidote to the lecture is a steady diet of discussion of significant texts, whereby the student attempts first to understand what he can and then to discuss his own understanding with his peers and his teacher. In this way the student can come to have some confidence in the use of his intellect.

The talk by Janet Smith on "The Lay Woman in the Church" was also excellent. (I've only read the two essays so far.)

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