Friday, January 05, 2007

Some thoughts on what Makes Education Catholic

I'm starting to dig some of my favorite old posts from some e-mail lists I've belonged to for years. This is from January 16, 1999 (from the Catholic Classical Education e-mail list)...

I think there's a lot of confusion and disagreement among Catholic
homeschoolers today about what materials are appropriate for a truly
Catholic education. Many people feel that a greater quantity of Catholic
books automatically makes a more Catholic and therefore better
education. I've even heard discussions in which homeschoolers judged
homeschool programs according to whether they used a Catholic or a
Protestant Mathematics text!

I think many of these conversations show a lack of understanding of what
it means to be Catholic. Math doesn't become a Catholic subject when you
use religious objects in the word problems. Math is an important subject
for Catholics to study first of all because we are interested in the
truth. (And the truth is not limited to religious and spiritual things -
we learn about God from studying his handiwork). Math is also
important for understanding order in God's creation and training the
mind to think logically and handle tough problems which will be useful
for learning about God in philosophy and theology. People who think that
Math programs should be "Catholic" (i.e. religious in content) may fall
into the error of trivializing the true purpose of studying the subject.
It is also very dangerous to send your children the message that
everything Catholic is good and everything that is not Catholic is bad.

To be sure many Catholic texts, such as the American Cardinal Readers
and Catholic National Readers include material that is not specifically
Catholic and contain excellent religious selections as well. Similarly,
a good Catholic History book will include the contributions of great
Catholics and the role of God in History (which are ignored in secular
texts), but they will also cover in an honest way the non-Catholics who
played an important role in History.

So what makes education truly Catholic? I think the first thing that is
necessary is that we're aiming in the right direction. Dr. Ronald
McArthur, the founder of Thomas Aquinas College, said that "all learning
is for the sake of knowing Christ." When I first heard that I was really
surprised, because I didn't see how Math and Science were ordered to
knowing God. Now I see that we have to try to keep our sights on the
final goal even when we're doing our day to day stuff that can seem
non-essential. I think having conversations with the children about the
purpose of education from a Catholic standpoint is probably a good idea
too.

As far as choosing materials for a Catholic education, we have to look
for ones that are authentically Catholic (even if they don't contain
religious content) rather than ones that are merely trying to look
Catholic. ...

I also agree that we can't shelter our children from everything that is
in this world. We must prepare and train them to be able to handle well
the problems that they will face. For example, you can't prevent your
children from ever having any conflicts with each other. You can,
however, by example, prayer, etc., teach them how to control their
anger, compromise when necessary, play fairly, etc. One of the
advantages to homeschooling is that you have the opportunity to know and
understand your children so much better and you have the time to "talk
them through" the little things that matter. You can also have control
the exposure they have to the outside world so that it can be handled in
manageable chunks. BTW - We did take our children to see "Prince of
Egypt" which we all enjoyed.

I hope the above makes sense, because I've gotta run and take care of
the kids.

God Bless,

Alicia Van Hecke

4 comments:

Matilda said...

Would you mind doing a quick run through of the materials you use to homeschool?
I have been struggling with this exact issue for a while now. History is one that really bothers me because it seems as though the Catholic programs present the Church in a "can do no wrong" light. I would appreciate help in this area so if you could squeeze it in when you get a break, could you expound?

Love2Learn Mom said...

We use a wide variety of materials to try to keep our perspective from being too narrow - including a lot of Catholic materials. The best place I can start you at is my history reading blog. As far as textbooks go, I tend to favor the Catholic History Textbook series, but I also should admit that I might be considered biased as my brother-in-law runs that project.

Love2Learn Mom said...

I will try to get to more of you question soon too.

Kristen Laurence said...

This is an important discussion to have. I think you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned seeking the truth in education. Thank you for posting this!