What is a Classical Education?
A classical education consists of a study of the cultures and languages of the Greco-Roman world and of the liberal arts as organized and developed by the ancients. Its pursuit is a love of wisdom and a passion for truth. Moreover, a Catholic classical education is one in which the perennial principles of human education that typify the classical approach are elevated, imbued and baptized by the Truth of the Gospel as expressed in the Faith of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Such a course of study aims not only toward the natural good and development of the student but seeks to form faithful disciples of Christ as sons and daughters of the Church whose supernatural end is to be with God in eternity. As such, a Catholic classical curriculum is authentic human education.
Subjects of the Curriculum
Theology: The Theology curriculum presents the beauty, logic and saving truths of the Catholic Faith through the study of the Catechism and the study of Sacred Scripture in all grade levels. In addition, the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Sacrament of Penance and other Catholic prayers are integrated into the school day
Classical Studies/History: An in-depth study of the progress of the Western tradition founded upon Greco-Roman culture, assimilated and purified in a particular but non-limiting way by the Christian Faith, presents to the students their own history. The neglect and ignorance of origins is not a small part of the disintegration of culture in our day. Greco-Roman literature and history is uniquely replete with triumphs and dilemmas, heroes and villains with the wisdom and experiences of the great names of the past whose significance is of much value today; not in the least because it can be studied in a more objective manner than more recent history. Immaculata Classical Academy includes classical studies in grades 3-8 comprising the Famous Men series, published by Memoria Press, as well as literary masterworks such as the Illiad and Odyssey and the Aeneid.
English: Critical and aesthetic reading of literature, literary analysis, vocabulary, rules of grammar, composition and research skills are the emphases. Our standards of beauty, truth and goodness determine the scope and content of the literature program at all levels. Classical Composition as well as Seton Study Books are the spelling, grammar and composition programs that are used in most classrooms. An emphasis is particularly placed on grammar through the study of Latin.
Latin: Latin is required of all students grades 3-12. Latin merits a special place in a Catholic curriculum given its rich heritage as the vehicle sine qua non of Western civilization and its official and privileged place in the life of the Church. Also, Latin study leads the student to an understanding of the logic of language and thus provides a true formative education. At Immaculata Classical Academy we follow a well organized systematic course that does not simply stop with memorization of paradigms and vocabulary, but leads the student in active usage very early on. Such an approach typifies the methodology of the great Middle Ages where students were immersed in Latin. As part of our curriculum, we will be gradually including, in the upper grades, components of Hans Ørberg’s highly intuitive method which is matchless in its capacity to help the students understand Latin and encourages verbal and auditory skills. Thus while Latin has incomparable benefits for other subjects and education in general--a Latin for English value--we also believe, particularly as Catholics, that Latin for the sake of Latin ought to be included as it was in the great schools of the Middle Ages which formed truly Latin-conversant students. (See “Why Latin?” under Classical Curriculum for additional information).
Mathematics: Math is the language of objective material reality. While it can not of itself convey the highest truths, it does by its rootedness in order and structure along with, like Latin, being an incrementally progressive study, effectively form the students’ use of reason. As such, it prepares and assists the student in the use of methodical thinking and to recognize truths that are more than material. This is why it was valued and studied by the ancients, beyond its innumerable practical benefits, and so remains an essential part of a classical curriculum. The Saxon Math program is currently used in all grades and testing is required to determine each child’s level.
Science: The science curriculum helps the student develop an appreciation of the order and beauty of creation and introduces the student to the scientific disciplines.
The Fine Arts: The art and culture of Western civilization has flourished under the patronage of the Catholic Church because she views beauty as the “attractive radiance of the truth” of God’s Revelation. The study of the fine arts is integrated throughout the Academy’s curriculum as a complementary and vital part of the student’s education. Students are exposed to the masterpieces in art, music and architecture which comprise Catholic, and thus Western, culture through the centuries. The student learns the classical criteria for beauty and how beauty in art is at the same time an expression of Divine beauty. The entire student body forms a choir of liturgical singing and will learn pieces from the great treasury of Catholic music, including Gregorian Chant. Children are also instructed in traditional art techniques.
Why Classical Education?
Perhaps the best way to answer this question in brief is by offering a contrast of the proven classical approach with the various modern educational fads of the last fifty to one hundred years. On the whole, the latter is characterized by a transmission of “encyclopedic knowledge,” resting upon the authority of an instructor and ultimately dependent upon others’ empirical investigation. While factual knowledge is not to be neglected, it is on its own insufficient and requires something additional to animate it. A classical education offers precisely this, as it is sensitive to the unique gift of God that is the reasoning capacity of the human person. Through a formation founded upon the liberal arts the student is guided to the proper use of this precious faculty. The classical approach can be said to impart not only knowledge but the “way” of knowledge which is dialectical. Its goal is to make a student authentically wise with a desire for and sensitivity to truth.
Differing and seemingly ceaseless ‘theories of education’ ultimately imply that the human person is different than he once was or is in a constant state of change. The Classical approach recognizes that since his creation the truth of the human person is essentially unchanged and consequently so too are the goals and means to his real education.
Thus, a classical education is always and everywhere pertinent to any endeavor the student might undertake. Its efficacy is testified to not only by its normative use by the Church for more than a millennia but by the simple fact that it was the education of all the truly great names of the past from Socrates and Aristotle to Sts. Albert Magnus and Thomas Aquinas and on to Ronald Knox and C.S. Lewis. It is the educational key to forming virtuous men and women and rebuilding a disintegrated culture.