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Where to Begin When You Canít Continue?

Dr. Peter Chojnowski

A summary of the conferences of Dr. Peter Chojnowski given at the Society of Saint Pius Xís annual Priestsí Meeting of the United States District (Feb. 7 - 11, 2000), at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, Winona, MN.

This quotation from Aristotleís Politics, a substantial portion of which is dedicated to articulating a curriculum which would methodically prepare the young mind to receive the virtue of wisdom, is offered both to comfort us and to sober us. It is meant to comfort us, insofar as we can see the Philosopher at a point similar to the one we seem to find ourselves in, that is, one of bewilderment. We are not the only ones who have experienced the feeling of groping for answers to a question which should have been long settled, "What is the process of education like?" The quotation is sobering for two reasons. Firstly, we see how stark Aristotle considers the situation and the importance with which he invests the answer to the question, "On what principle should we proceed?" We are faced with a question so important that Aristotle himself dedicates a third of his major political work to it. Secondly, if we consider the matter, we realize that culturally and intellectually speaking, we are in a much worse position to answer a question like, "Upon which principle ought we to base education?" Besides, "the existing practice" is about as "perplexing" as it comes. Even though Aristotle may have criticized the traditional literary education based upon the Homeric epics of the Iliad and the Odyssey, he still did not question the manly virtues which the Homeric tradition presented, honor, shame, hospitality, and megalopsychia (i.e., great-souledness). He could also take for granted the fact that his method of instructing in the moral and intellectual virtues, would resonate with those who had the ideals of practical wisdom, justice, piety, courage, and temperance passed down to them from their ancestors. Aristotle was searching for a "principle" and a "practice," and even seems a bit disheveled when considering the prospect, even though he had before him a manly and humane ideal, that of the man of goodness and moral beauty. Aristotle has a universally recognized standard for good and virtuous action, and he still looks for "principle" and "practice"! What is our own situation then, when we have no universally recognized standard for manly virtue? What chance have we of finding the "principle" upon which will be based the "practice?"

Our task is to confront the problem of education with Thomistic principles of analysis and resolution. We will use Thomistic doctrine and principles even though St. Thomas Aquinas himself did not confront the same problems that we do, nor could he even imagine the problems we face in educating the typical secondary school boy. St. Thomas made no explicit provision for a cultural condition in which the lines of communication uniting one human generation to the next would break down completely. He would not understand a condition in which not only has an educational and literary tradition broken down, but the very persons whom we seek to educate have been cut off from the promptings of their own nature. Such "promptings" always set the task and the agenda in the process of education. How can a young boy learn what the culture of mature humanity is in its fullness, when he is not even sure what it means to be human? What are the consequences of the evident fact that the very first principles of the human will and intellect, those which are supposed to be self-evident, seem to have disappeared?

We are in a situation with regard to education which is in a way similar to the situation in the Catholic Church: everything which the Fathers and the Doctors said could not happen has happened. The ancient academicians could have never imagined that fundamental human psychology could be altered to make the evident obscure. If Pope Pius XII wrote that technology was altering the psychological life of man in his day, imagine a ten-fold increase of his assessment and you have the typical young person of our age.

It will be futile for me to lay down Thomistic principles for education in what could be called an "ideal" setting or even in a "normal" cultural setting. Instead, we must apply the unchangeable truths uncovered by St. Thomas to our contemporary, denatured, liberal student, and the denatured, liberal society in which he has been raisedóa society to which the normal appears bizarre, the society for which the normal conceptual framework of Christian civilization, the songs, the colors, the symbols, and the stories have no resonance and are no longer points of reference; the society which has been told that Christian culture has been demolished precisely so that it can build whatever structure it desires on the cleared lot. This is why I chose as a title for this article: "St. Thomas at Ground Zero: Where to Begin When You Cannot Continue?"

We must think in a scholastic fashion. We must consider the proximate object of our inquiry into the Thomistic principles of education, that is, the student. The student and his development is the goal of all our endeavors in education and the one whose good we have in mind through the process. He is the final cause of our efforts. His advancement to the state of mature manhood is the first in our intentions and the goal to be attained.

If the contemporary student is the object of our consideration, let us first mention certain aspects of the young man of today which appear to make his education an impossible task.

We leave aside for a moment the general lack of experience concerning fundamental human realities, the reality of pain, the reality of war, of hunger, of strenuous and life-dependent work, of an intense experience of human limitation and of a deep existential appreciation of manís dependence upon God for life and livelihood. These are general problems which characterize most of our contemporaries in the post-Christian, industrialized, computerized world.

What are some of the problems with Johnny in our classrooms. We proceed, again in good Thomistic fashion, from that which is most apparent and visible to what is most essential and profound.

1) Johnny has no manners. His behavior, his standing and his sitting, his speaking, form of address and demeanor while being taught indicate that he has no sense that he is now engaged in a hierarchical system in which he is the junior and the teacher is the senior member. Johnny does not experience, in a way that would determine his behavior, the existence of a definitive and existing milieu, that is, an overall intellectual and cultural atmosphere.

2) Johnny is silly. This silliness is a psychological consequence of two things: the lack of a proper and convincing milieu for Johnny to experience and his lack of a belief that what his teachers are telling him really matters.

3) There is no coherence in Johnnyís mind nor in his knowledge. There is no "big picture" in Johnnyís mind. This stems from a lack of coherence in his day-to-day education. He does not see the intelligible connections between subjects taught him nor the topics considered. Johnny cannot see any coherence between the life they live at home, with their friends, the life they foresee themselves living after they get out of school, and their schooling.

4) Johnny lacks essential academic skills. Without these skills, Johnny is rendered incapable of assimilating, in the normal way, the wisdom of the ancients.

5) Finally, and most importantly, Johnny at the high school and college level is a functional illiterate. This produces in Johnny the appearance that he lacks interest in knowledge, in writing, academic matters, education, argumentation, and discourse.

If we accept as true the above deficiencies we have to conclude that the teacherís function has become obsolete, since he no longer really has minds which have the raw material necessary for cultivation. We must ask the question no other generation has had to ask: "Has education become an impossible task?" What indicates that it seems to have become impossible is that it does not appear to be happening. We are not educating. At best, we are passing on information to be used at a future time. It must be thought and it must be accepted. At best, our youth are getting through the day. They are doing their work in order to get it done, normally at the last minute. They are not thinking about what they are doing. They do not really want to think about what they are doing.

Our boys are bored. A man who is bored will never be educated. It is the perceived boredom of the students which does more than anything else to aggravate the exasperation of our teachers. In this, as in many other ways, our own high school boys appear to follow the national trend. In the 34th Annual American Freshman Survey, produced by UCLAís Higher Education Research Institute and released last month, out of 260,000 college freshman interviewed, a record 40% answered that they were "frequently bored" in high school classes, compared to the 25% who answered yes when the question was first asked in 1985. Moreover, more students reported that they were habitually late to class or skipped classes entirely. From these new statistics, university researchers have coined the new term, "academic disengagement," a term I myself used a month before this survey was reported!  Linda Sax, a researcher who directed the survey, attributed this "boredom" to the "rapid advances in todayís high-tech world may make it harder to hold the studentsí attention....This is a reflection of the increasingly fast-paced society, made more so by computers and other media." Interesting also, for our purposes, Miss Sax adds, "Students tell us anecdotally that they love it when teachers use more interactive tools. But not all teachers do it."

Boredom Is What Remains at Ground Zero

Boredom is an inherently Christian psychological state. It tells us that this little finitude which now confronts is not enough to satisfy the hearts restlessness for the infinite God. It shows that more is always necessary, that the heart and mind race forward into the spaciousness of the imagination when their desire for being, truth, goodness, and beauty are not satisfied. Since boredom indicates a regularity of human desires, it is an indicator of the fixity of human nature. It is, therefore, a psychological state which can serve as a beginning. Boredom is a point of beginning for the student who is now completely disengaged and is manifesting, in an almost instinctive way, the failure of the current education practice. Also, it is a point of beginning for our own reflections on the basics of the process of education, which, by its very nature, is meant to "engage" and "draw out."

So it is the disinterested yawn which drives us back to the fundamentals of education. Does St. Thomas have anything to say to us here. Can he provide for us an understanding of what education is, what its most basic elements and relationships are?

To recover this understanding is to establish a basis from which we may advance in the real work of education. I want to be very clear that to despair of what has been done in the recent past is not to despair of education as an activity which is fundamentally human. It is the most distinctively human activity. Angels do not need it; brutes are incapable of it.

No other creature but man starts out existence with an intellectual capacity to know, but without ideas known. The discursive nature of human knowledge makes education necessary; it also makes of education an extended process; no other creature starts from such a low point and is called to such a high point. Education is an activity which is uniquely human. If education is necessary and we must return to essentials in order to restore this basic education which has been lost, it will be my contention that we have the advantage. We can foster milieus in which the basics of the educational process are made actual, whereas those who have massive funding, sports complexes, unwieldy faculties, and all the bureaucracy which accompany them, are handcuffed to these things. They must continue the production line of paper degrees, even though the reality which those degrees used to express is no longer present. Let those who would be certified be certified! Let us concern ourselves with how to form a man capable of functioning amidst a body of men. Let us produce men who are fruitful and vital members of the Mystical Body.

Governing Principles

If we are at ground zero St. Thomas would have us begin with the most basic principles employable in a consideration of education, that is Act and Potency. The precise movement of education is one from the actualized potency of the teacherís mind to the actualization of the studentís potency or capacity to know. The basic process of education is that the teacher acts as efficient cause in the reduction of the potency of the studentís mind to a state of actuality. This state of actuality will resemble to a certain degree the teacherís own state of actuality. The student is brought from a state of not knowing to a state of knowing. When considering act and potency as the most fundamental principles which we can employ to understand the process of education, two things must be remembered:

1) There is never act without pre-existing potency. This potency óor potential ówhich is to be actualized (or "activized"), however, is not general in any way. Education is the actualization of very specific potencies (or "capacities") of the human soul. To understand the progressive movement of education we must understand what are the specific human capacities for internal and external action and movement which we desire education to provoke. An understanding of these capacities will also provide us with an indication as to how to go about provoking that which is most fundamental in the human mind and personality, and 2) There is never an actualization of pure potency. The mind of the student is never in a state of pure potential. The mind of a student, according to Aristotle and St. Thomas, began life without a set of pre-given ideas, but does not remain in that state. Even the student with the poorest of educational backgrounds has had his mind "activated" by his constant interaction with nature and the world of human artifice into which he was born. As Socrates affirmed 2400 years ago, much of what the teacher requires the student to understand is already present in the boyís mind in an implicit way on account of the boyís trek with natural and human reality; the teacher must "simply"(!) bring to the forefront of the mind, by rendering explicit, what is already grasped in an implicit (and superficial) way. Teachers are confronted with human souls which already "know" to some degree. Our profession is to actualize pre-given, God-given abilities in those souls. Education will be a progressive actualization and, hence, perfection of a human being. This is going to require that teachers not treat students as if they were computers, "programming" them with information meant to be useful only in later life.

These basics are upon what we will build a proper knowledge of the process of education and for its reconstitution.

How to Use the Principles of Natural Law to Restore the Student

If the perverted re-consideration of nature by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (see The Angelus, July 1999, pp.30-37) began the process which led to the decomposition of education, the understanding of nature as advanced by St. Thomas Aquinas will provide us with the basis upon which to begin the reconstitution of that same educational process. Catholic education has as its purpose to bring about the realization of a boyís capacity to be a mature man with a mind which is a microcosm of the whole of the created order. So, we must understand the nature itself which is to be actualized. Must we not fully understand the object and, hence, the objective, before we can undertake a consideration of the method needed to attain that objective?

Inclination as Law

The contemporary boy who faces us in our classrooms is "disengaged" from the process of education. By doing homework and enduring lectures, he may present all the appearances of being a student, but, essentially, he is not. If he is not a student we are not teachers, certainly not the masters and guides who were the mainstay of the educational process in the past. We can call him "disengaged" because education is not the substance and totality of his life; it is only part of it. For education to be a true cultivation of the entire man it must include within itself all of the aspects of human potential and activity. Schooling for our boys has become a compartment, by no means the most important one, which they are required to fill with a certain prescribed number of items before the compartment can be safely sealed and its contents forgotten.

Rather than allowing our students to be disengaged and letting them escape on account of disinterest into the musings of the partially formed adolescent imagination, let us as educators engage them fully, let us hold up before them a form of actualization which they truly want and one which they know only we can bestow on them. Let them realize that the world of mere images to which they habitually escape does not compare to the substantial realities to which we can lead them by our engaging teaching. Not only can we hope to end the disengagement, but actually engender enthusiasm in our students concerning the educational process their teachers have initiated and they themselves are undergoing. The entirety of the education is this interior process on the part of the student by which he moves from a state of potentially knowing to the state of actually knowing. The teacher is simply the initiator and facilitator of a process which takes place entirely within the soul of the student.

How Do We Get to These Boys?

We accept as facts that we are dealing with a functionally illiterate generation who has been detached from the literary and cultural tradition of learning which had been passed down, largely intact, until 35 years ago, and also that the boy has been fundamentally detached from the substantiality of the world. He is instead used to the accidental forms which are not even attributes of natural substances, but rather artifacts. These artifacts are not created to engender understanding of the true, the good, or the beautiful, but to incite consumer spending. With these facts accepted, is there any "ground" we can locate which will be present in every boy to serve as a basis of stability in a situation of intellectual chaos and provide us with a "natural curriculum" upon which to build?

This "natural curriculum" is based upon the order of human knowing as presented by St. Thomas Aquinas and upon the union of body and soul which constitutes the essence of man. But we must first look to the primary precepts of the natural law (Summa Theologica, I-II, Q.94, AA.2,3). It is here that St. Thomas gives us a list of the basic and most fundamental orientations of human nature. These basic inclinations, orientations, and desires are the activities and powers that constitute what it means to be a man. These inclinations, as understood by St. Thomas, are so critical that he states that the natural law (which is only participation in this world in the eternal law) is human reasonís grasping of these primary inclinations in the course of ordinary human acts. These inclinations, and the desires which proceed from these inclinations, are what we call "Law." The primary precepts of the natural law, however, do not instruct man as to what not to do, but rather, instruct man as to what to do, that is, what goods he is to pursue. They present an intellectual and existential agenda for man. If we are considering the reconstitution of education in the souls of our students immersed in a culture dominated by manipulative and reality-distorting technology and the abstractions of liberal ideology, and we define "education" as the bringing to maturity of the human mind and soul, does it not make perfect sense that we should understand this nature which we are attempting to cultivate? Natural human desires reveal to us the program for a reconstitution of the curriculum and the entire educational endeavor.

This assertion that the orientation of man indicates to us the very task for education has been taught by Pope Pius XI in his encyclical Divini Illius Magistri [available from Angelus Press]. Referring to the process of Catholic education, His Holiness employs words such as "impulse," "impulse implanted in their nature," "perfection," "directed to manís last end." When speaking about youth, he states: "And hence they feel the impulse towards a perfection which is higher, which impulse is implanted in their nature by the Creator Himself." Also, there is "no true education which is not wholly directed to manís last end."

What are these primary precepts of the natural law, these basic inclinations of the human soul, which we would base so much upon? St. Thomas, in his usual terse way of treating fundamental aspects of reality which he understands to be self-evident, describes them in the following way:

Wherefore the order of the precepts of the natural law is according to the order of natural inclinations. Because in man there is first of all an inclination to good in accordance with the nature which he has in common with all substances, inasmuch as every substance seeks the preservation of its own being according to its nature, and by reason of this inclination warding off its obstacles belongs to the natural law. Secondly, there is in man an inclination to things that pertain to him more specifically according to the nature which he has in common with other animals, and in virtue of this inclination, those things are said to belong to the natural law "which nature has taught to all animals," such as procreation, education of offspring, and so forth. Thirdly, there is in man an inclination to good according to the nature of his reason, which nature is proper to him; thus man has a natural inclination to know the truths about God and to live in society, and in this respect, whatever pertains to this inclination belongs to the natural law, for instance, to shun ignorance, to avoid offending those among whom one has to live, and other such things regarding the above inclination (ST, I-II, Q.94, A.2).

According to St. Thomas, what is good is true and what is true is good ["The good and true are convertible." óThe Angelus Ed]. They are different aspects of the same fundamental reality, "being." Being, under various aspects (e.g., what is good; what is true) is the object of the intellect and the appetites. What motivates man is his desire for what he perceives as good. In the case of the primary inclinations of human nature, which are also the primary precepts of the natural law, "true things" are pursued as "good things." They are things which satisfy a natural desire for attainment and perfection.

Since we are speaking about intentional learning and not mere common, unavoidable experiences, we must remember that the true is desired by the rational appetite as a desirable good. A true thing must be seen as desirable before any one will seek it. No student is a true student if he does not actively participate in his own education. He must want it. He must want the truth for education to happen.

I am convinced that the first principles of practical reason, telling man what is desirable and worth seeking, are obfuscated for the contemporary Western man so that that which is supposed to be self-evident has become obscure or reduced to an "option." They may be denied in the college classrooms, but everyone lives as if they are the case. For instance, we cannot help but know that a thing is what it is and that something cannot be and not be at the same time. Liberals operate as if their view of reality is true and the traditional view is false. Their persecution of Tradition bears this out. What is happening in the college classroom is that a malicious will had by the typical professor is being intentionally turned against these self-evident truths of speculative reason. The will is intentionally distorting our common human recognition of the fixity of things.

What renders these self-evident principles of practical reason problematic is the fact that St. Thomas speaks of them as both self-evident by their very nature to anyone. But it has become clear that, because of some unprecedented interference, our own boys have become oblivious to the evident. It appears we no longer necessarily desire what "all men" have desired. And, there is the rub. How do we uncover and reactivate what St. Thomas thought could never be covered and deactivated?

In order to "regain" and renovate our students that they may become true students and true heirs to the traditional wisdom contained within Catholic philosophy and theology, we must find a way, in the course of the educational process itself, of removing the liberal, technological veneer which keeps our contemporary youth from recognizing the desires inherent in their natures as men. Once these are recognized, the natural dynamism of manís movement towards an end will engender that enthusiasm which can only be present if there is a connatural symbiosis of thought, feeling, and true desire for real things. What I mean by that is what St. Thomas says is a participation, on the part of human reason, in the providential plan which God has for all creatures as that plan resides in the Divine Intellect. Since the Divine Intellect is eternal, St. Thomas refers to this "plan" as the Eternal Law. However, even though the Eternal Law is present within the mind of the unchanging God, that does not mean that the plan is not about change, development, and movement towards a state of perfection. The Eternal Law is an unchanging plan concerning change and development. It is the type for the unfolding progress of all of temporal Creation. It serves as a divine model or exemplar of all things which have been created. God, in His Eternity, has ordained and sanctioned the movement of all things towards their final state of perfection; ultimately, each creature is ordained to imitate, according to its own type and mode of being, the Divine Perfection. So the plan is about change, development and the movement towards perfection, even if the mind in which it resides does not change nor move. The Eternal Law is about imperfectly actualized beings (you and me) striving after a perfect state of actualization (that is, Heaven) according to the limitations imposed upon them by their essence.

How does the human mind "participate" in the directive plan of the Divine Mind? The way this happens is that the human mind, in the employment of practical reason, and in the course of acting, encounters desires which are understood to be in accord with the Divine Providential plan for all men. The man knows the object of his rational desire as good. He takes pleasure both in the thought of the good to be attained and in the action directed to attaining that goal. We could almost say, "It feels right." Remember that to be "right" is to be in accord with human nature. The accord between action and nature is known by the mindís taking "pleasure" in it and realizing that such action is pleasurable. On the other hand, Immanuel Kant designated Law and obedience to the Law with struggle because he believed, perversely, that Law was contrary to natural inclination. St. Thomas understands inclination to be a law itself, in fact, the most immediate access man has to the Eternal Law. This is why St. Thomas speaks of the "natural inclination" all men have to virtue. This is not to say virtue is easy, but rather, that it can be engendered and when it is, man can and will take pleasure in it. What is presupposed in all of this is what I have referred to as a "connatural symbiosis" of thought, feeling, and desire. In any properly human act, action, thought, and feeling cannot be easily or entirely separated.

For St. Thomas, the essence of man is that he is constituted of body and soul, that is, he is both Matter and Substantial Form. Matter is part of his essence. With this in mind, when we consider the practical proposals for educational reconstitution, we will emphasize both the physical environment in which education takes place and the bodily activity which must be incorporated into the learning process. The natural inclinations of human nature must be considered within the context of an understanding of the complete essence of man. Therefore, materiality is going to be involved in all the partial realizations of these concrete human desires or inclinations.

For St. Thomas Aquinas, the definition of something, that is, the "essence" of something, must include within it all the elements of being which are characteristic to the specific creature. The "essence" pertains to the fullness of that beingís nature. Man is, therefore, properly defined as an "embodied rational soul," a being whose highest and most proper operation requires the activity and co-operation of the body. Matter "individuates" form. St. Thomas knew that it was this particular man with this particular body who was called to "activate" his nature. Real, concrete flesh and blood in real, concrete circumstances and environments doing real and concrete work are going to matter in real and concrete education.

The Task

Shortly, I will make some practical proposals. They follow the wisdom of St. Thomas Aquinas (ST, I-II, Q.94). What I seek to do by these practical proposals is to awaken the primary desires of the human soul, especially the desire for speculative truth, in order that what was once self-evidently desirable to "all" will again become self-evidently desirable to our youth. I wish to dissipate the haze of capitalistic technological liberalism which clouds the innate God-given desires of man, in order that the young will "see" what is truly good for them as men as good. Only by having genuinely good and enticing objects of rational desire can we hope to provoke in the youth character determining good acts of the will. Let us not forget the primacy of the understanding in the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas. We cannot love that which we do not first know. And we will not love that which we fail to see as rich, fruitful, engaging, and genuine.

As we have emphasized, this "reactivation" of natural desires which were supposed to be incapable of being "deactivated," must be accomplished within a physical environment which presumes manís embodied state and his reliance on the five senses. To enliven the young mind, we must remember that the vivifier of a man is his soul. It is the source of all of manís actions. It provides man with a unity of being in which the senses, the imagination, the memory, the rational desire, and the intelligence "live together." What is connatural for man is for the senses to trigger that process of knowing and loving which are the two essential acts of any development or education in man. The reason I offer suggestions for the enlivening of all of the basic orientations and primary desires of man is so that the whole man will resonate with the real. If we are to educate the whole man by engaging him, we must first awaken the boy.

Practical Proposals


1) The employment of manual labor as a participation in the preservation of the life and well-being of the community. This will allow them to "feel" the fact that work of the hands is necessary to preserve the life of the body, just as the work of learning is necessary to preserve the life of the mind.

2) Sports and contests to incite the agon or mutual striving for excellence in the physical domain. This will help the youngster to grasp the notion of "contest."

3) Strenuous outdoor activities and familiarity with the land. Put the boys in contact with God-created substantial forms rather then with man-created accidental artificial forms. This invites a better understanding of the natural essence of things and incites "wonder" with regard to the natural world. Aristotle says this "wonder" is the act which stands at the beginning of philosophical contemplation.

4) Discipline and punishment which involves a corporal element. For boys, this treatment is simpler, better understood, and overwhelmingly preferred to harshly separating the boy from the charity of the brotherhood of believers. With regard to punishment, which is the essential element of discipline, we must let the boy understand that standards are set for the sake of maintaining the community of which he is a valued member and, therefore, he must pay for his violation of the common good. Punishment loses its essential function when it is only understood as a cutting off from the community. This forces them into the hands of unbelievers. We must do everything we can to avoid having unbelievers raising and "training" our own.


1) Maintenance of masculine austerity and simplicity in manners, dress, demeanor, and relationships. Such behavior makes visible the idea of a single final cause. This also presents in an aesthetic manner the right relationship in the masculine soul between the soul and body, between the intellect, will, and the appetites. Remember the principle: "It is easier for a man to think about basic ends when he sees only basic things."

2) "Spartan" form of life. Provide only what is essential for the maintenance of physical existence. What else could be better for unclogging the pores of the soul and the mind? If consumerism and comfort are the reason for the deactivation of the first principles of natural human desire, be done with them. For these "monks without vows," there is an historical precedence: St. John Chrysostom most earnestly recommended to parents to employ the monks as instructors to their sons; to have their sons educated in monasteries, at a distance from the corruption of the world where they might be made acquainted with the Holy Scriptures, be brought up in Christian habits, and where the foundation of a true Christian character might be laid.


1) We must extend the athletic contest to the intellectual sphere. We must create the conditions for an intellectual competition amongst peers which will lead to the attainment of mutual excellence, for instance, the regular and public posting of grades.

2) We must make a competition of the doing and making involved in the Liberal Arts.

3) We must pass to the boys stories which resonate with the struggle for and the attainment of the goods which are in accord with right reason and natural desire. For this post-literate generation, we must revive an oral culture. What they hear, if well presented, will be remembered. Let us educate even if we cannot produce literacy.


1) Common prayer must punctuate the day. God must always be understood by the boys to be "in front of them, behind them, on this side and that." They must know that they are part of the Mystical Body of the brotherhood of the faithful. Their conception of the Church must be organic and they must know themselves to be vital parts of that organism whose end is the eternal life of the whole. Also, the boys must know and, more importantly, see that men pray.

2) Establish a familiarity with the Divine Office. This the spiritual part of the "back to basics" approach. This emphasizes the physical aspect of the rhythm of the day insofar as the day is tied to the position of the sun. The light must again tell the boys when and what to pray.

3) We must vivify in the boyís mind the liturgy of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with its emphasis on the rhythms of the liturgical and natural seasons. The boys must have these supernatural rhythms in their souls. Utilize natural signs which are evocative of supernatural truths, e.g., the bonfire, water, oil, darkness and light, sounds and smells. All are liturgical elements whose symbolic character should be exploited to the fullest. The images and symbols of God, His angels, and His saints, and the symbols expressive of Godís relationship to man and to the world, must be part of the innermost recesses of the young manís imagination. In this way the boy will never in his life be able to "get rid" of God no matter how hard he may try.


1) Establish a sense of Catholic brotherhood among the boys. Boys must, as far as is possible, eat together, learn together, struggle together, play together, and pray together. The ongoing struggle, so necessary to incite striving in the male soul, must be tempered by the understanding that all of them struggle for the same proximate and ultimate goal. We must establish a true friendship amongst the boys based on their common sharing of the good, the true, and the beautiful.

2) Encourage the formation of a certain hierarchy amongst the boys themselves. The eldest must take some responsibility for the younger and be delegated the responsibility of exercising some authority over them. Contrary to females, males need to think in a hierarchical fashion. Boys must think, feel, and externally act as a part of a hierarchical structure. A genuine hierarchy does not simply involve vesting one with authority in order to "babysit" the rest.

3) Teachers must have a role in the normal daily activities of the students, even outside the classroom. There must be no wall of separation between the two poles of the entire educational process. Education is the teacher and the student together.

  4) Rules must not be seen by the boys as an arbitrary and eccentric web of regulations which is meant to entangle, trip-up, and "imprison." The final product of such a regimen is "unnaturally twisted" in the sense that, when the boy leaves the environment of the school he "unwinds" and returns to his untrained self. The rules, in such a case, have not formed him in any interior manner. Boys are instinctively averse to arbitrariness and injustice in judgments or discipline policies. This is a manifestation of the "natural" understanding that law is properly a manifestation of mind rather than will. All law in human institutions is meant to be an application of the Eternal Law which resides in the mind of God. Rules should cohere with right reason as related to natural inclination and true desire. Rules must facilitate the achievement of what "all" desire.

In the ways outlined, let us rediscover the original meaning of the word "education." Put another way, let us "draw out" even more than we "put in!"