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RECOMMENDED READING FOR EDUCATORS

In addition to the reading material available on the ARTICLES INDEX page of EDOCERE, we encourage the reading of the following works:

edocere.org

Education (Papal Teachings)
Monks of Solesmes

A gold mine for everyone involved in education. The analytical index allows us to find very quickly the papal statements on any subject (teachers, curriculum, parents etc…) Besides Divini Illius Magistri of Pius XI, we especially recommend the allocution of Pope Pius XII to students of secondary schools in Rome on March 24, 1957. It is a wonderful exposition of "the organic unity of culture which is achieved when the corpus doctrinae has Christ as its head." In this allocution, Pius XII shows that he knew very well the problems of modern education. He warns the students in these words; "In order to study seriously, you must guard against the belief that the amount of knowledge acquired is the fundamental element on which to build the edifice of your future culture. There is no need to know too many things, but only to learn what is necessary and suitable, and to learn it well, to understand it properly and study it thoroughly and intensely." The pope in another allocution, teaches that a liberal arts education "remains unequalled for the exercise and development of the most valuable qualities of the mind; penetration of judgment, broadmindedness, finesse of analysis and gifts of expression" (September 5, 1957). This book contains invaluable material on all the aspects of Catholic education and must therefore have the place of honor on our shelves. Principals will find in these pages a great source of inspiration for their own formation and the preparation of their teachers’ meetings.

Idea of a University
Cardinal John Henry Newman

This is one of the great classics on the ideal of Catholic education. Cardinal Newman’s book ought to occupy a special place in our library. Even his life is an inspiration to Catholic Teachers. What educators will find most attractive in Newman is, besides his perfect style, the unearthly spirit of its writing. We seem to hear the aged cardinal whispering to us: "we are born for higher things; our home is not of this world. We have not here a lasting city, but seek one to come." Some sections of the book only apply to the university, but most of it deals with the perennial principles of the true philosophy of education. We especially enjoyed the section about elementary studies, where Newman explains how real teaching must be "a discipline in accuracy of mind" in order to cure this "haziness of intellectual vision" which is the malady of all those who do not get a good education. In order to drive home his point, the cardinal gives us the example of an oral examination. Two students are questioned, one illustrating clear thinking, the other the want there-of. This book is enjoyable to read because it is full of wit and wisdom.

The Renewal of the Christian School
Fr. Roger Calmel OP

The author was a Dominican priest who spent a large part of his life being the spiritual advisor to a community of teaching sisters. This book contains some parts which only apply to the education of girls, but most of it deals with general truths which are the basis of all education for both boys and girls: the necessity of putting the minds of students in contact with the reality of things, the unequal dignity of the objects of knowledge (hierarchy between the subjects), the influence of the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas in order to obtain a profoundly Catholic education, the emphasis on the living teacher awakening true culture in a living mind (instead of letting the student memorize the contents of a textbook) etc…… The book was originally written in French. There is no complete translation available but only a "digest" of the substance of what Fr. Calmel has to say about education. All those striving to improve the quality of teaching in our schools would profit from reading this book. Its various chapters could be discussed in teachers’ meetings.

The Art of Learning and Communications: A Handbook of the Liberal Arts
Fr. Benedict Ashley, OP

This is a great book, at the same time speculative and practical. It enables us to see how concretely to integrate the liberal arts in our curriculum, especially at the high school level. This is a large textbook (600 pages) which goes through each of the seven liberal arts, giving not only the theory but also many practical examples. The teacher is viewed as a master craftsman training his students to craft for themselves these products of the mind which are syllogisms, literary compositions or mathematical constructions. Fr. Ashley also has a very interesting treatment of the fine arts and their importance in the Catholic school. He explains the purpose of their works (e.g., music or painting) is "to give us a recreative form of contemplation." Some chapters are a bit difficult to read (especially the ones on modern mathematics) but we do not know of any other book which treats these problems with such thoroughness.

The Catholic Teacher’s Companion
Fr. Felix Kirsch, OFMcap

This book is a treasure for everyone in the school staff. A part from some small items applying only to religious, most of the book can be used by lay teachers. It is at the same time a practical handbook covering such topics as class preparation, how to hold the attention of the pupils, the art of questioning, the teaching of composition etc., and also a book of meditations including such chapters as enthusiasm for teaching, the teacher as an apostle, the teacher’s rewards and virtues of the teacher. This is one of the best books we know on the subject. Father Kirsch has written a very helpful work. As the introduction says, "A good teacher is one who has added to whatever natural personality he may have, the culture and skill that is born of serious professional preparation." The Catholic Teacher’s Companion is an invaluable tool in order to make teachers real professionals, fully prepared for their exalted vocation.

The Image of His Maker:  Thomistic Psychology
Fr. Gerald Brennan, OP

A vulgarization of Saint Thomas’s teaching on the human soul. This is a good book to be given to teachers wishing to acquaint themselves with Thomistic psychology. It is not difficult to read and will provide educators with profound insights on how the mind works. The different faculties (intellect, will, imagination) the five senses of the soul, and concupiscible are all covered, following pretty closely the plan of the Summa. Father Brennan does a wonderful job in putting within the grasp of the average reader the powerful wisdom of the Angelic doctor.

The Nature of the Liberal Arts
Fr. John Wise, SJ

If you are interested in the history of education, this is a good book to read. The author studies in succession the liberal arts in Plato, Aristotle, Cicero and Quintilian, thus providing us with interesting insights into Greek and Roman education. He then covers both St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. His next chapters on the Ratio Studiorum of the Jesuits is very enlightening. There are other very good books on the Jesuit system of education, but one may lack the time to read them. Father Wise gives us here an excellent summary of the main points of the famous Ratio Studiorum. After a chapter on Cardinal Newman, the author explains that the function of the liberal arts is propaedeutic, in other words they prepare one for philosophy and theology. Their immediate goal is mental health and breath of vision through training of the intellect. Some passages of the book demand careful reading because of their difficulty, but on the whole, its contents should be accessible to most teachers. "The nature of the liberal arts" will undoubtedly promote interest in a vitally important subject.

Reason, Religion, Kindness: The Method of Saint John Bosco
Fr. Paul Avallone, SDB

The Method of Saint John Bosco is a good synthesis of Salesian spirituality. Many schools have included in their handbook as exposition of the preventive system of Saint John Bosco. This book provides educators with a clear summary of the Salesian method. It explains the importance of "rapport", i.e., establishing an atmosphere of friendliness and mutual understanding between the teachers and his pupils. It also shows what kind of punishments can be used in the preventive system of education. Father Avallone has succeeded in writing an inspiring little book. It will be very helpful to all those who wish to walk in the footsteps of Saint John Bosco.

Leisure, the Basis of Culture
Josef Pieper

This short essay of the Thomist German philosopher contains some profound insights into modern misconceptions of education. "The tendency to over value hard work and the effort of doing something difficult is so deep rooted that it even infects our notion of love… the essence of knowledge does not consist in the effort for which it calls, but in grasping existing things and in unveiling reality… leisure is a form of silence, a receptive attitude of mind, a contemplative attitude". In a world where everyone including teachers is so busy (sometimes trying to cover too much material) and as a consequence so tense, Josef Pieper teaches us to recover this inward calm, this "leisure" which is an essential part of any true education. As he points out, leisure in Greek is skole, where the English "school". "The word used to designate the place where we educate and teach is derived from a word which means "leisure". This small but profound book steeped in Thomistic metaphysics, makes us stop, think and gain an appreciation for one of the essential dispositions for true learning.

The Restoration of Christian Culture
Dr. John Senior

A thought-provoking book with deep insights into the problems of the modern world and how to solve them through a return to the simple things which made Christian culture. Prayer is one of them, "the humble soil, the humus of our common humanity, irrigated by tears of contrition. Works without prayers are dead". John Senior was a great teacher who saw the needs of our students: "When you plant even the best children’s literature in even the brightest young minds, if the soil of those minds has not been richly nurtured by natural experiences, you don’t get the fecund fruit of literature which is imagination, but infertile fantasy. Children need direct everyday experience of fields, forests, streams, grass and ground."

The School Examined:  An Essay on the Curriculum
Vincent Smith

One of the best books we ever came across on the philosophy of education. Not an easy book to read since it deals with the Thomistic principles underlying the Catholic curriculum, but anyone who studies it will be rewarded with understanding of how the different branches of knowledge inter relate and finally lead to wisdom. This is a powerful synthesis which helps principlals and teachers to integrate various disciplines into a harmonious whole. Vincent Smith first explains the nature of teaching and the 4 kinds of discourse (scientific, dialectic, rhetorical and poetical). He then covers the 6 disciplines which are perfectly teachable (able to reach the status of scientific knowledge): logic, math, natural sciences, ethics, metaphysics and sacred doctrine (in this order). Much of the book directly concerns the college curriculum, but it also has applications concerning both elementary and secondary school. We highly recommend this book especially to priests since they have the philosophical background which will enable them to master the topics covered by the author.

Various Books by Jean Henri Fabre
   

The Passionate Observer
Chronicle Books
85 Second Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
800-858-7787 fax

The Life of a Caterpillar
The Life of a Fly
Hunting Wasps
Bramble Bees

Vivisphere Books
2 Neptune Road
Poughkeepsie, NY 12601
800-724-1100 tel

Fabre’s Book of Insects
Dover Publications, Inc.
31 E. 2nd Street
Mineola, NY
11501


The Insect World of J. H. Fabre
Jacaranda Wiley Ltd.
33 Park Road, Milton
QLD, 4064
AUSTRALIA

The Elementary School Principal
Sr. M. Corcoran

This is a very helpful book for principals and vice principals. It covers many practical issues on the administration of a school: the role of the principal, his functions, how to distribute his time, how to effectively observe teachers in their classrooms, how to run teachers’ meetings etc… Sister Corcoran was the diocesan supervisor in Youngstown, Ohio and her book is full of excellent advice. It often happens that principals are put into a leadership position without preparation. This book will bring a solution to this problem in showing ways to effectively become the head of a school, especially with regard to teacher guidance and curriculum development. Other books provide inspiration, but this one provides practical information on how to successfully run a school.

Honey for a Child’s Heart
Gladys Hunt

This is a very helpful book for both teachers and parents about children’s literature. Gladys Hunt is not a Catholic bur her work certainly can be used by Catholic educators. (The chapter on Bible reading and the bibliographical section on Christian books should be skipped) Honey for a Child’s Heart is a practical guide to children’s books. It helps you to understand how to give our students a love of reading. It makes you discover the tremendous potential for intellectual, emotional and even spiritual development to be found in good books. The author starts from the principle that "Children don’t stumble onto good books by themselves. They must be introduced to the wonder of words put together…" She then shows how to enjoy books with our students. "As a teacher myself, I knew the delight of taking children into a great adventure with a story. The utter silence of the room, the intent look on the children’s faces. We had been together in the presence of good writing, and we felt bound together by the experiences." The book discusses the different genres, poetry, fantasy, fables, fairy tales, novels etc. Mrs. Hunt’s ideas about children’s literature are quite sound and her book (with the few reservations mentioned above) will be very useful to educators.

The Lost Tools of Learning
Dorothy Sayers

A famous essay advocating the restoration of liberal arts education. Dorothy Sayers focuses our attention on the 3 arts of the medieval trivium: grammar, logic and rhetoric. She makes us understand that, at least before university, subjects are secondary. What the teacher wants to impart to the student is a method of learning any subject. In other words, the school’s aim should be the acquisition of the ability to think clearly rather than the absorption of information. Students should learn to develop their imagination, reason correctly and express themselves well, both in speaking and in writing. This small work will help us to reorientate our teaching in the right direction: "What use is it to pile task on task and prolong the days of labor, if at the close the chief object is left unattained? For the sole true end of education is simply this: to teach men how to learn for themselves (i.e., in giving them the "tools of learning") and whatever instruction fails to do this is effort spent in vain."

Marva Collins’ Way
Marva Collins

This book shows you the experiences of a gifted teacher confronted with difficult students. Marva Collins’s work shows how even children with learning disabilities can get a classical education. She motivated children and made them want to achieve. That is what the book is about, a teacher teaching. "I liked being around people, working with them and helping them understand things. I had always been fascinated with learning, with the process of discovering something new". Mrs. Collins used to tell her students: "come on, I am not going to leave you alone to become work book idiots. We’re going to do some thinking in here." The book shows how she was teaching: reading out loud to them, getting the students excited about the book, skillfully questioning them about what they had heard, making connections with other things in their mind, thus linking the new knowledge to the old, pacing up and down the aisles etc… she loved children and loved teaching. Once her students realized their potential, her solicitude for their education, they "become addicted to learning and they had the desire to learn forever." Although the author is not a Catholic, her philosophy of education is conformity with Catholic principles. This is a book which is very easy to read and which should inspire our teachers.