Show Your Interest in a New Catholic School

Plans for a new Wichita Catholic school, in the classical liberal arts tradition, are underway. If you are a Wichita-area parent interested in sending your children to such a school, please let us know of your interest by filling out this survey form. It will only take a few minutes. This information will help our Founding Committee form a better understanding of the active interest in attending the school.

All feedback is appreciated; if you have further questions or comments, please contact us using the address provided through the survey.

Please also forward the survey to anyone else you know that may be interested.

A New Year, a New Catholic School?

The efforts to begin a new Catholic school in the Diocese of Wichita, one grounded in the classical liberal arts tradition, are advancing to fruition at a slow but determined pace. Just before Advent of last year, we held a public symposium at Blessed Sacrament parish to make the project more widely known. Additionally, in early December, representatives of our project met with Bishop Carl Kemme to discuss the future of the project.

The symposium of November 15th at Blessed Sacrament Parish* met its goal of introducing the project to a broader audience (a little over 100 people were in attendance from across the city). The main talks can be viewed online here. The symposium providentially took place on the feast of St. Albert the Great.

The goal of the school is to carry forward the Catholic tradition, which provides all human society a “moral and spiritual imaginative vision,” as Msgr. Shea notes in the opening pages of From Christendom to Apostolic Mission. “Much of what it means to be converted in mind,” he writes, “is to receive and embrace the Christian imaginative vision of the cosmos: to see the whole of the world according to the revelation given in Christ, and to act upon that sight with consistency.”

Mr. Isaac Traffas gave the first presentation, an overview of the plans and hopes we have for the new Catholic school. Drawing from our Vision Document, he gave various examples to illustrate how the curriculum would work in practice. The keynote presentation was given by Mr. Howard Clark, reflecting on a life spent devoted to Catholic education. In the first portion of the presentation, he described his experience as a student at the Integrated Humanities Program at KU, before telling of his time as teacher and headmaster at Gregory the Great Academy. He concluded by articulating several principles to guide the project of founding the new school, the centrality and implications of a Christian anthropology, piety, gymnastics and music (the muses of education), and leisure.

On December 9th, representatives of our group met with Bishop Carl Kemme and Janet Eaton about carrying the project forward. We presented the results of our efforts, both working in private and speaking with local families in public, and discussed ways to realize the new school. The bishop assured us that he considers ours a worthy project, is very interested in it, and wants to help from a diocesan standpoint.

As a result of the meeting, our group plans to move from the theory and vision of the new school towards a practical proposal. We are currently gathering members of a Founding Committee to present an actionable plan to Bishop Kemme for his consideration, and we hope to open a school based on our project and Vision Document by August 2023. The Founding Committee will secure funding, find a location, and determine the governance model of the school. Our work will begin in earnest in January 2022. 

Please keep us and the project for a new Catholic school in the Wichita diocese in your prayers!

__________

* Our program flyer neglected to note, and we correct it now, that as host, Blessed Sacrament did not thereby endorse or affiliate itself with our project.

Anthony Seiler

Anthony Seiler’s encounter with classical education began, in part, with a desire to avoid milking cows. He grew up on his family’s dairy farm northwest of Wichita and attended diocesan schools K-12. When it came time to choose a college, his goals were to find a rigorous, Catholic university that was far enough from home that he wouldn’t need to milk cows on the weekend. These conditions led him to the University of Dallas. His encounter there with the Church’s ancient traditions of classical education was an unlooked-for blessing. In the midst of a study abroad semester in Rome, these threads of the Western tradition came together for him in the realization that he could pursue education and his classes because they were interesting, not because they were a means to some other end. This awareness was a watershed moment in his life and has inspired him to join in efforts to bring classical education to our diocese. After college, his farm background and degree in political philosophy led him to serve on the staff of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee. His time away from Kansas helped him rediscover an appreciation for farming and home. He moved back to Wichita in 2019 both to be close enough to help with the family farm and to marry his wife, Tory, who is also from Wichita. As he and his wife start their young family, he is grateful for the opportunity to use his experience in advocacy and rhetoric to help share the ideas of the Catholic classical tradition in the hope that they can provide a vibrant education for their children and others in the diocese. In what little free time he can find between working for the local Farm Bureau and farming, he is passionate about studying history, architecture, and Shakespeare; sharing Italian dinners; and playing with his two young sons.

The Catholic Classical Vision

This section articulates the purpose and form of Catholic classical education and the content is meant to guide the formation our school. You can read the posts below (they are in reverse order), or you can download the full PDF vision document here. It is the fruit of extensive research, many drafts, and numerous fruitful and fascinating conversations–a true labor of love. We look forward to discussing it with you!

Download full PDF version here.

Contents

  1. Introduction & Vision
    1.1. Man and His Purpose
    1.2. Education
  2. The Order of Catholic Classical Education
    2.1. A Pious and Musical Foundation
    2.2. The Liberal Arts
    2.3. A Complete Beginning: Philosophy and Theology
  3. The Classes
    3.1. Religion
    3.2. Gymnastic
    3.3. Latin
    3.4. Language & Literature
    3.5. History
    3.6. Music
    3.7. Mathematics
    3.8. Sciences
  4. Catholic Classical Education: Whose Job Is It?
  5. Conclusion
    Curriculum

Welcome!

We are a group of parents who came together about three years ago to pass on the Catholic classical tradition to our children. The purpose of this site is to welcome you along in that project. The substance of the site is our Vision document which you can read piecemeal in our posts or download in its entirety. See the Letter to the Bishop for the quick pitch version of what we are about, and feel very free to sign it. Please join us in immersing our children in the highest and best of the Church’s tradition, and allowing it to guide them along towards Heaven!

Let Your Pastor Know

In our conversations about establishing a Diocesan K-12 Catholic classical school, it has become very clear that the support of Parish Pastors is pivotal. Perhaps the most important thing that you can do is let your Pastor know of your interest in this school–in passing after Mass, by email, by phone, etc.. Feel very free to direct him to this site or contact us if you would like us to make a presentation.

Sample email/talking points:

Dear Fr. ________,

Greetings! We hope that this finds you doing extremely well.

We are writing to let you know about an exciting initiative that is underway in our Diocese to establish a diocesan Catholic classical K-12 school. We understand that this would require a large commitment on the Doicese’s part in terms of resources and energy. We believe that this commitment would be well repaid in terms of benefit to our youth. Catholic classical education points children to God by immersing them in the highest and best that the Church’s tradition has to offer.

We acknowledge that our Diocese’s schools to a fantastic job of implementing pastoral programs and religious instruction, of hiring teachers that offer powerful witness to Christ’s love, and of facilitating frequent encounters with Christ in the Sacraments. We are hoping for a school that directs the student to God not only in what happens around the curriculum, but especially through it; divine purpose pervades the entire Catholic classical curriculum and all of its components are directed to transcendent ends.

Please feel free to visit catholicclassicalict.com for more information about the vision that we are attempting to realize with other Catholic and classically-minded families in our Diocese. And please do ask us if you would like for someone to come present the vision to you in person or over the phone; there are many enthusiastic proponents among us who would love to share their understanding of this amazing way of pointing our children towards God.

We would treasure your prayers for this effort and please be assured of ours for your ministry.

In Christ,

____________________

Big Event on Monday, Nov. 15th

If you’re interested in hearing what we’ve discovered about Catholic classical education and how we’re trying to make it available here in Wichita, we warmly invite you to this event.

November 15, 2021, 7 – 9p
Blessed Sacrament – Old Gym
124 N Roosevelt St, Wichita KS 67208


*Blessed Sacrament Parish is graciously allowing us to use their facilities, but this function is not connected with the school.*


Whether you can make it to this event or not, voice your interest here!  Signing up does not entail any commitment whatsoever; it is merely to help us understand if we are moving together as 25 families or 250 families and we might send the occasional email to announce another event, etc..

The Catholic Classical Vision Conclusion


The entire series can be downloaded as a PDF document here.


The series on the vision of Catholic classical education has reached its conclusion, having explained its end, form, content, and communal sources. Catholic classical education seeks to cultivate virtue in the entire person so that one is better able to know, love, and serve God through Christ and His Church. Its lineage began with the Greeks and was furthered by the Romans, elevated by the Church Fathers, and brought to a certain perfection by the Doctors of the Middle Ages. This long tradition of the Catholic Church can and must be handed on today, as it proposes an education arising from the needs of human nature itself, seeking its ultimate end in God. Its execution, no less than its nature, depends upon Divine Providence. May God who has thus far disposed the beginning of this project also rightly order its progress and bring it to a perfect end.

Mary, Seat of Wisdom, pray for us!

St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!

An overview of the School’s curriculum.

Detail from Fra Angelico, The Virgin and Child with Saints Dominic and Thomas Aquinas

The Catholic Classical Vision pt. 10: Whose Job Is It?

This series outlines the purpose, structure, curricular content, and communal origins of a Catholic classical education, for the sake of establishing a School dedicated to such an education in the Diocese of Wichita (Kansas). It discusses both the general principles of Catholic classical education as well as some particular points regarding that School. We begin by explaining the purpose and educational vision of the School, then consider the reasons for the order and structure of its curriculum, before discussing each class in the curriculum. Lastly, we describe the community required to achieve the goals of Catholic classical education.


The above curriculum aims at fulfilling to the degree possible the end, or telos, of Catholic classical education—to cultivate virtue in the entire person so that one is better able to know, love, and serve God through Christ and His Church. To reach this end, the curriculum outlined above not only forms students in a pious and musical education (broadly conceived), but in the liberal arts as well as in the beginnings of philosophy and theology.

It should also be noted that its subjects are, in some ways, comparable to contemporary, non-classical schools. One can therefore see how Catholic classical education can non-competitively achieve its own ends alongside different ends found in other curricula, college preparation, or state and federal requirements. However, the curriculum described above is only externally similar to those of non-classical schools.  The substance of an education does not consist in, nor is it adequately reflected by, externally verifiable parts or the metrics used in student assessment. The good of education is intrinsic, something that inheres in the soul.

This intrinsic character is the final element of our discussion, and it includes those who will carry out the education proposed by this curriculum, both the teachers and the community of the school itself. The common good of the School—the end of Catholic education and the means to seek it—is not perfectly possessed by the students. Rather, achieving this end requires the various stewards of the School community.  Thus, in this final section, we shift our focus from the curricular elements to the School teachers and its broader community.

The community supporting such a School, including the teachers and staff that help to bring about its aims, must be of a certain unanimity. The teachers must live out and embody the curriculum not only when in class with students but also as members of a faculty. The integral nature of the curriculum itself calls for collegiality among the faculty at the School. Otherwise, the students hear and read words about the harmony and unity of truth but never see it lived out—or worse, contradicted—in the relationships between their teachers.

Raphael, The School of Athens (detail)

For instance, it is one thing to speak highly of the notion that the modern sciences and the Catholic faith are not in conflict. Yet if teachers of Religion and Science never understand this harmony for themselves and attempt to lead students to its truth, or if students hear contradictory things from their teachers in various classes over the years, then the curriculum would be fatally undermined. By contrast, the ideal is a collegial faculty where teachers are fully competent in more than one area of the proposed curriculum. If teachers are not themselves able to teach across the curriculum, then they must at a minimum exemplify the wonder and disposition towards learning that students can imitate as they are formed by the curriculum as a whole.

The reason for this requirement is that the form of a liberal education must be possessed in order to be imparted. A cause cannot give what it does not in some way already possess. The teachers at such a school are called to imitate in their relationships the same virtuous pursuit of and participation in the whole of truth that is asked of the students. The plans and vision of the School depend upon finding such capable teachers.

Nonetheless, the School’s teachers are not the sole educators of its students. Parents are the primary educators of their children. Now, “primary” or “first” can be meant in different senses. Here, it means that parents bear the primary responsibility of providing an education for their children and thus have the authority to make decisions about that education on their behalf. Parents are also first in time, since from the youngest ages they teach their children truths about the world, about right and wrong, and about the Catholic faith. However, this principle does not mean that parents are the best educators in all subjects or at all times and places.

Thus, parents generally seek out others to help educate their children, because, while the family is the fundamental unit of society, it is not a complete community.  It needs other families, associations, and civil society at large not only in order to achieve its own ends but a flourishing life as well. That is, more complete forms of community are required for achieving the good life and not just a life that only meets daily needs.[1] In this hierarchy of communities the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity are at work.[2] Subsidiarity directs the broader community or higher levels of organization to aid the activities of the more local level when the latter cannot achieve its own end-goals. Solidarity directs individuals and smaller communities to contribute to the common good, that is, to the just order and peaceful flourishing of the community as a whole. In subsidiarity, a higher whole aids a lower whole to achieve its good; in solidarity, the parts of a common whole contribute to a good of a whole.

The solidarity of the parents with the School and the subsidiarity of the School towards the parents integrate the two as a community ordered to the end of Catholic education. As a smaller association within civil society and serving the Church, the School aims to complete—and not merely supplement—the parents’s role as primary educators. Since the School does not replace the life of the family, the School’s schedule must reflect this. The day-to-day operations of the School must be structured so that the good of family life is not harmed—for instance, by long school hours, after-school or Sunday activities, or undue amounts of homework. 

The School can also help the parents themselves become better primary educators (for instance, through parent outreach nights or other school-sponsored educational events for parents). The School ought also to participate in and contribute to the life of its local parish. In this nomadic age of ours, it should help to build up that community by its dedication to the common end of formation in the Catholic faith and its promotion of various activities at the parish. At the same time, family involvement in the School is essential. Just as students will be harmed—malformed in their education—if they are taught conflicting things in different classes, so too are they harmed if they are taught opposing things at home and at school. Indeed, the complementary role the School plays in educating its students would fail without their parents’s involvement.


[1] See Aristotle, Politics, I.2. Traditionally, the forms of complete community are one’s city or state, at a natural level, and the Catholic Church, as a supernatural community, the Mystical Body of Christ.

[2] See Pope St. John Paul II, Gratissimam Sane, Letter to Families, February 2, 1994. In particular, consider the following paragraph from n. 16: “Parents are the first and most important educators of their own children, and they also possess a fundamental competence in this area: they are educators because they are parents. They share their educational mission with other individuals or institutions, such as the Church and the State. But the mission of education must always be carried out in accordance with a proper application of the principle of subsidiarity. This implies the legitimacy and indeed the need of giving assistance to the parents, but finds its intrinsic and absolute limit in their prevailing right and their actual capabilities. The principle of subsidiarity is thus at the service of parental love, meeting the good of the family unit. For parents by themselves are not capable of satisfying every requirement of the whole process of raising children, especially in matters concerning their schooling and the entire gamut of socialization. Subsidiarity thus complements paternal and maternal love and confirms its fundamental nature, inasmuch as all other participants in the process of education are only able to carry out their responsibilities in the name of the parents, with their consent and, to a certain degree, with their authorization.” (Emphases in original)

The Catholic Classical Vision pt. 9: The Classes

This series outlines the purpose, structure, curricular content, and communal origins of a Catholic classical education, for the sake of establishing a School dedicated to such an education in the Diocese of Wichita (Kansas). It discusses both the general principles of Catholic classical education as well as some particular points regarding that School. We begin by explaining the purpose and educational vision of the School, then consider the reasons for the order and structure of its curriculum, before discussing each class in the curriculum. Lastly, we describe the community required to achieve the goals of Catholic classical education.


In what follows, we will discuss each class as it unfolds over the students’s entire career at the school. For each class, we will discuss its place in the curriculum in light of the overall form and order of a Catholic classical education and then describe its structure and content over the student’s career.

Religion

Religion classes at the School serve the end of inculcating the virtue of piety and as preparation for later study of sacred theology. The classes generally include study of Sacred Scripture, the lives of the saints, and catechesis. Catechesis itself will arise principally from what can be drawn from the Bible and the lives of the saints, but will also include necessary instruction based on appropriate catechetical books and will include preparation for the sacraments.

The Dome of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Depicting the Four Evangelists

The first three years of the study of the Bible will focus on reading through an illustrated children’s Bible each year. Grades 3–8 will study a sequence of the Bible as follows: the Pentateuch, the historical books, the Wisdom books, the Prophets, the Gospels, and the remainder of the New Testament. This will focus on learning to understand Scripture in its senses, both literal and spiritual, and their various species (for instance, the historical or allegorical, among others). Grades 9–12 will revisit this sequence in greater depth: from Genesis to David, from Solomon to the coming of Christ, the Gospels, and the writings of the Apostles. This final course of study will deepen students’ grasp of the senses of Scripture under the guidance of appropriate excerpts from the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. Since the Religion class overall is a preparation for theological studies properly speaking, certain elements of sacred theology will be introduced in the upper grades (Grades 11–12).

The study of the lives of the saints will be appropriate for each age and will emphasize stories about the saints that inspire students, not merely reporting factual information about their lives. Such readings will also include artwork depicting the saints or—if applicable—liturgical music either about or composed by them. In this way, it becomes clearer how the study of the Bible and the lives of the saints is to be considered musica humana—“human music”—since they are the stories of our heroes and teach the heart to delight in the good.[1] The study of the ways in which words bear signification and meaning in the different senses of Scripture is an element of the liberal art of grammar. Elements of rhetoric and even logic can be taught as appropriate (for instance, when studying the Letters of St. Paul).

Lastly, it is important to note that the School will not inculcate piety through instruction alone. The various intellectual virtues and the elements of the liberal arts will be grounded and sustained throughout the students’ careers by the common life of the School, especially through the Liturgy of the Hours and assisting at Holy Mass.

Gymnastic

Gymnastic is included in classical education in order to habituate various physical virtues. Throughout the course of students’ time at the School, this will occur in various ways at the appropriate level. Grades K–2 will simply be encouraged in play. Grades 3–5 can be instructed in the basic elements of various sports. Grades 6–8 will enjoy informal intramural sports and various outdoor excursions and field trips, while Grades 9–12 will have more formal intramural sports and excursions. These upper grades, as time permits, will also be instructed in the rudiments of various technical skills (e.g., shop class or carpentry).

Ballroom and other formal dances will also be taught throughout the various grades. This instruction will include in-class lessons and communal dances for families several times throughout the year. While such instruction can complement instruction in the Music class, it also promotes various moral virtues by habituating students in the fitting enjoyment of the sensible delight of music and dance.

Latin

The study of Latin, while not a liberal art as such, is nonetheless an integral element of a Catholic classical education for various reasons. First and foremost, this is because Latin is the language of the Church and the Catholic tradition.[2] Thus, an initiation into the knowledge of Latin is one of the necessary conditions for accessing the otherwise inaccessible sources of the Catholic and Western traditions, and the wisdom of the Church, in their original tongue.  Second, the vocabularies of both English and the Romance languages are heavily influenced by Latin, and so Latin leads to a sort of self-knowledge by revealing the roots of one’s own tongue. Facility in Latin also serves as a strong foundation for learning other modern Romance languages.

While not a liberal art itself, Latin includes elements of the liberal arts. Latin orators exemplify the various canons of rhetoric, as do its poets in regard to figures of speech. Even logical tools such as definition, classification, division, or types of logical connectives—for instance, conditional clauses—can be discussed and inculcated informally in the study of Latin. Of course, Latin especially provides formation in the liberal art of grammar, beyond what is studied in English classes. While earlier stages of the study of Latin will learn grammar informally, through usage rather than analysis, the later grades (in particular Grades 9–12) will focus formally on the nature and function of grammatical principles like the parts of speech, the nature of noun cases, the tense structure or voice of verbs, etc. Seeing these grammatical principles at work in another language besides their own assists students to see more universally how human languages possess common grammatical principles.

The early grades (K–2) will emphasize learning various Latin words, prayers, and hymns; this instruction will complement the Music class. Grades 3–8 will learn Latin by going ad fontes, to the original sources as much as possible, and by a method of viva voce instruction, or learning the language by actually hearing it and speaking it. Grades 9–12, besides studying Latin grammar more formally, will read from more difficult original sources of Latin history and literature.

Language & Literature

The two classes of Language and Literature as well as History complete the parts of the curriculum devoted principally to the Trivium. The Language & Literature class is devoted to the study of the English language as well as to works that introduce students to and exemplify the breadth and depth of English literature.

The Language and Literature class will especially inculcate elements of the Trivium, and these elements will be stronger in the higher grades. Students of Grades K–2 will learn the basic skills of reading, spelling, handwriting, and memorization. The activities of reading, listening, and discussion will include fables, myths, fairy tales—such readings are continued at appropriate age levels in all the remaining grades. Grades 3–5 build on these basics, and study penmanship and retelling stories, practice dictation, and continue memorization, especially of longer poems and speeches. Grades 6–8 begin the formal study of English grammar and usage, and developing greater facility in the art of writing.

Grades 9–12 continue these beginnings and turn to logic and rhetoric in a more explicit way, in both spoken and written form. For logic, students will read selections of Socratic dialogues, St. Thomas, and other authors to see the art of logic in practice, analyze such arguments, and then imitate them by constructing their own. Students will read and analyze great works of rhetoric from past masters (for instance, Cicero or St. Augustine), learn from their methods, and produce their own speeches in imitation. Once such structures of logical argumentation and canons of rhetorical presentation become familiar by use, they are studied in a more formal way.

History

The study of History not only makes students knowledgeable of their place within their own culture and the Catholic tradition, but it also expands their experience by considering famous lives well or poorly lived. This formation in history aids the formation of their moral insights.

History, insofar as it is only a study of particular and contingent events, is not a liberal art. However, it can be studied in a way that is liberal or formative of the mind. This is the case when history is studied not only for the sake of what it shows of the universal features of human nature but also when the mind informed by faith can see the providential order of history, especially salvation history.[3]

Indeed, history is a certain kind of music, musica humana, the story of humanity and of how God’s providence has guided it. Such an approach is warranted not only from within Scripture itself but also with St. Augustine’s theological-historical vision of the two Cities, the City of God and the City of Man. When studied in this way, history is preparatory for ethics, politics, and theology.

The history sequence will be organized thematically by year from Grades 3–12, cycling through the Ancient World, Christendom, and the Modern World. The literature sequence will be coordinated with it. The literature will focus on the great and good works that have stood the test of time. History will turn to primary sources when possible, especially in the higher grades (for instance, by reading Herodotus and Plutarch). The thematic years for history and literature will also provide a basis for integrative connections with Latin, Music, and even Science and Religion.

Music

The Music class aims to instill in students the habits of the liberal art of music. It focuses especially upon musica instrumentalis and the theory, history, and practice of music. Goals of this course of study include a grasp of the historical development and traditions of different types of music, as well as listening to and understanding good music. This course is also important for the general musical foundation of education in the broad sense, insofar as excellent music promotes the moral life of students. The class throughout a student’s career includes learning to sing, as well as learning about and listening to the entire tradition of music (from chant through classical to folk music).

In particular, students will learn to sing across the range of the Church’s liturgical tradition, especially in Holy Mass. Students in Grades K–2 will learn the Ordinary of the Mass and basic Latin hymns. Grades 3–5 will receive instruction in the basics of Gregorian chant and the various Propers of the Mass. This instruction will be completed by more advanced instruction in chant in Grades 6–8 and by participation in a polyphonic choir in Grades 9–12. The Music class in the latter grades will also feature instruction in the study of musical harmony and music theory. It is in these classes especially where elements of the Quadrivium (arithmetic and music) find their proper place in the School’s curriculum.

Mathematics

The courses in Mathematics during a student’s career at the School are especially focused upon training in the liberal arts of mathematics, as well as beginning the student’s deeper understanding of mathematics as a theoretical or philosophical discipline. Mathematics is both an art and a science in this way, for the art of producing proofs, geometric constructions, or arithmetic calculations is learned so that the student can see the truth for its own sake. To learn mathematics as a liberal art and a science requires going beyond a method that focuses solely upon the inculcation of formal rules. Paul Lockhart expresses well what the School’s curriculum aims to avoid, namely,

the perpetuation of this “pseudo-mathematics,” this emphasis on the accurate yet mindless manipulation of symbols, [which] creates its own culture and its own set of values. Those who have become adept at it derive a great deal of self-esteem from their success. The last thing they want to hear is that math is really about raw creativity and aesthetic sensitivity. Many a graduate student has come to grief when they discover, after a decade of being told they were “good at math,” that in fact they have no real mathematical talent and are just very good at following directions.

From Paul Lockhart, “A Mathematician’s Lament,” available online here.

The order of the School’s mathematics curriculum, while externally very similar to a typical order, must be animated by the “liberal” spirit that Lockhart describes. The ancient Greek mathematicians recognized a distinction between arithmētikē, or the theory of number pursued for its own sake, and logistikē, the art of calculation that is good because it is useful.[4] The true form of mathematics was not for the sake of problem solving, but for the sake of seeing and contemplating mathematical truths. The challenge, then, is to raise student’s minds from mathematics as rote application of rules for solving problems to mathematics as revealing the existence of a whole realm of universal truths, which are worthy of exploration in their own right. Indeed, it is precisely for this reason that mathematics is a prerequisite to higher philosophical studies. 

The early grades, K–6, will focus on the study of arithmetic and geometry in a way appropriate to mathematics understood as a liberal art. The higher grades begin to raise the students’ minds from the liberal art of mathematics to mathematical knowledge sought for its own sake, to pure theory. Grades 7–8 will study algebra as a method for furthering this mathematical knowledge when studying number and shape. Grades 9–12 will study geometry (in particular, Euclid’s Elements), then more advanced geometry (trigonometry, astronomy, and conic sections), and conclude with a two-year study of Calculus. A cross-curricular aspect of the mathematics courses will be their reference to and coordination with the courses in the natural sciences, especially physics. 

Sciences

A problem similar to the one Lockhart describes in mathematics can arise in the study of the natural sciences.[5] That is, in the natural sciences too there are counterparts to the Greeks’ distinction between arithmētikē and logistikē. The one is pure, disinterested love of the truth; the other, a skilled application of true ideas.

In the natural sciences, love and skill can be at odds. Curricula that overemphasize technical competence or STEM-readiness train students in the specific techniques of a given field (i.e., various “parts” of science) without educating them to love knowledge as a whole. Such students are trained to love a game of memorized, empty concepts—empty because students have not been taught to find those concepts instantiated in the complex natural world around them. They are also disconnected from a broader vision of the natural world as a whole. Thus, students run the risk of developing an intellectual hatred of natural science and even of philosophy as its broader whole. They may grow disillusioned with Aristotle’s wonder or Feynman’s pleasure of finding things out.

As mentioned in a previous post, the natural sciences are related as parts of natural philosophy. We need natural philosophy because it provides a coherent overview of things. It leads us to nature whole and entire, before we head off into the details of the sciences. The desire of natural philosophy is to behold and to understand the order and goodness of the cosmos for their own sakes. This desire stands in contrast to the reductionism and materialism latent in the natural sciences and their pedagogy, which combine a mathematical-mechanical method of causal analysis with a pragmatic, technological end-goal. The ancients paired the natural sciences with wisdom, but moderns pair them with technology.

The science classes, therefore, will aim not only at instruction of a robust knowledge of the particulars of the various natural sciences, but a broader and sounder philosophical grasp of their place in the whole that does not simply give a free pass to a reductionistic or materialistic view of the world. Robust natural science and sound natural philosophy are allies here. For instance, early grades will emphasize observation, natural history, and wondering and asking questions about what is observed. The writings and methods of J. Henri Fabre are exemplary here. This natural history and even the history of science can be deepened in Grades 6–8. Grades 9–12 will follow a course of study in Biology, Chemistry, and Physics.

These courses will not only permit a deeper grasp of the liberal arts of the Quadrivium, which are beginnings in the study of natural philosophy. They are also ordered to understanding how the natural world is a cosmos, a single, harmonious unity that was ordered by God and glorifies Him. This is not just musica mundana, a study of the harmonious proportions that God has woven in nature, but a preparation for natural and revealed theology, tracing the signs in creation back to their Creator.


[1] See this footnote in a previous post.

[2] See Pope St. John XXIII, Veterum Sapientia, February 22, 1962.  The document quotes Pope Pius XI in his Apostolic Letter on the importance of Latin, Officiorum Omnium: “For the Church, precisely because it embraces all nations and is destined to endure to the end of time . . . of its very nature requires a language which is universal, immutable, and non-vernacular.”

[3] See Michael J. Letteney, “History and Catholic Liberal Education,” a lecture given at Thomas Aquinas College, August 24, 2012.

[4] See Jacob Klein, Greek Mathematical Thought and the Origin of Algebra (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1992).

[5] This section borrows from a separate essay by one of the participating authors; see John G. Brungardt, “A Natural Philosopher’s Lament,” Public Discourse (April 25, 2019).