The Aims of Classical and Christian Education

As opposed to promoting a utilitarian, or vocational-based education, the ancient Greeks and Romans promoted a core curriculum of classical texts.  These great books introduced students to a common literary culture.  The great books were considered ‘great’ because they trained the mind how to think about cause and effect as manifest in nature.  This vision of education continues to be supported by the magisterium.

“It will, however, of course, be understood that we only ascribe universal education to one who in his own individual person is thus critical in all or nearly all branches of knowledge, and not to one who has a like ability merely in some special subject. For it is possible for a man to have this competence in some one branch of knowledge without having it in all.”

-Aristotle (384-322) On the Parts of Animals, 1.1

 “Anthropology, logic, the natural sciences, history, linguistics and so forth—the whole universe of knowledge has been involved in one way or another. Yet the positive results achieved must not obscure the fact that reason, in its one-sided concern to investigate human subjectivity, seems to have forgotten that men and women are always called to direct their steps towards a truth which transcends them. Sundered from that truth, individuals are at the mercy of caprice, and their state as person ends up being judged by pragmatic criteria based essentially upon experimental data, in the mistaken belief that technology must dominate all.”

-John Paul II, Fides et Ratio, 5