Reflections on Catholic Education
Catholic education is not shaped by trends, fashions, and fads. It teaches all subjects in their integrity, according to their first principles that govern liberal arts education in areas like grammar, logic, rhetoric, and geometry. It does not dilute, oversimplify, or “dumb down” subject matter to accommodate students but teaches them how to rise to the level of demand required by a particular discipline such as theology, Latin, or chemistry.
It has high expectations of its students and instills intellectual excellence and does not lower its standards and commit grade inflation. Recalling the words of St. Thomas Aquinas that “All truth, whoever said it, comes from the Holy Spirit,” it cultivates in the mind openness and love of truth to “all that is,” that is, the truths that come from all bodies of learning: science, theology, history, literature, and the arts.
Catholic education has its heritage in the liberal arts that pass on the wisdom of the past and the venerable traditions of Western civilization known as The Perennial Philosophy—what is universally true for all people, in all times, in all places (“the best that has been thought and said” in Matthew Arnold’s famous phrase). Thus it rejects the doctrines of moral relativism, political correction, indoctrination, and ideology by educating the mind to detect lies, propaganda, and heresies in all their various disguises.
Catholic education recognizes that just as there is a health of the body and a perfection of the soul, there is also an excellence of the intellect—the ability of the mind to read, write, speak, listen, calculate, and judge and to think, clearly, logically, and comprehensively in seeing the relationship between the parts and the whole, the relationship between cause and effect, and the connection between all bodies of knowledge as unified and ordered to a greater understanding of God who designed all of creation to reflect His truth, goodness, and beauty as objects of the mind to know and contemplate with wonder, love, and gratitude.
Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman best describes this ideal of Catholic and liberal education in these words from The Idea of a University that define the nature of intellectual excellence at its highest as “the clear, calm, accurate vision and comprehension of all things”:
"It is almost prophetic from its knowledge of history; it is almost heart-searching from its knowledge of human nature; it has almost supernatural charity from its freedom from littleness and prejudice; it has almost the repose of faith, because nothing can startle it; it has almost the beauty and harmony of heavenly contemplation, so intimate is it with the eternal order of things and the music of the spheres." - Dr. Mitchell Kalpakgian
Dr. Mitchell Kalpakgian earned an B.A. in English from Bowdoin College, a M.A. in English from the University of Kansas, and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Iowa. He has taught at Simpson College in Iowa, Christendom College, Wyoming Catholic College, and Northeast Catholic College. He taught at Mount Royal Academy from 2001-2007 and resumed teaching in 2010. He has taught all levels of high school English and Latin. He has written several books: The Mysteries of Life in Children's Literature, The Lost Arts of Modern Civilization, The Virtues We Need Again, An Armenian Family Reunion, and The Virtues That Build Our Lives.
Dr. Kalpakgian is a regular contributor to the Seton Magazine. He regularly incoporates instruction in the classroom at MRA into insightful and enlightening articles.