Catholic Education – A reflection

I have had a bit of difficulty gathering my thoughts on the subject of Catholic Education.  At first I blamed my allergies, as this is usually the case when my thoughts seem jumbled (or at least that is my excuse).  But eventually I discovered that my issue lay in two questions.  What is “education?”  And why do we pursue it?  To me these questions must be answered in reverse order to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion.

So why do we pursue education?  Like with a lot of other issues our culture is quite confused about why education is important.  The responses you will hear revolve around the mundane (to get a job) or the vapid and shallow (how sexism ruled the world until today).  Upon a cursory glance we see that perhaps our children are justified in rejecting the importance of education.  Our universities become glorified and expensive trade schools.  And if one does not conform to these uses then one is “wasting one’s education.”

Let me offer a corrective.  The purpose of education is to be able to find objective truth.  The pursuit of the truth in all things and the training of the mind to find such.  Far from being exclusively a “Catholic” belief, education was looked upon as the pursuit of truth in the universe and beyond.  It was a noble and worthy goal of all mankind.  The earliest pagans understood this even if the capacity for such was greatly limited.  And up until recently in human history the pursuit of the truth was believed in and honored by people of all religious, philosophical and cultural backgrounds.

The rejection of objective truth has led to this great confusion about what exactly an education is for.  Without the concept of objective truth, education becomes little more than job skills training combined with a great deal of trivia.  The liberal arts, once the foundation of a classical education, is a joke and a mere shell of its former self.

So if the purpose of education is to learn objective truth, what then IS an education specifically?  I would say there are two components to education.  The first and foremost is the teaching of how to think and learn.  Lest I be accused of brainwashing, let me explain.  Real thinking is hard.  It requires discipline.  There is logic and philosophy involved.  And a proper grounding in how one views the world and the ability to examine that view is essential to furthering our knowledge of objective truth.  Like developing virtues real thought takes time, discipline, and humility.  It does not come easy.

The second follows from the first.  In order to understand and explore the truth, we must be exposed to it from a variety of perspectives.  Art, history, sciences, philosophy, religion.  All these things speak the truth to us (ideally) and their study yields fruit in allowing us to explore the universe through a variety of disciplines.  A well grounded education relies on this diversity of exposure to truth under the disciplines of these forms.

It is not surprising then that us moderns are so “uneducated.”  We may hold Phds or Masters, but who among us can talk to another about his field?  We have become so specialized, so restricted.  Because of our specialized training we lack the ability to communicate what we learn to others, and others lack the knowledge to understand.  By rejecting the value in other disciplines, we sever another aspect of disciplined study, collaboration.

As far as a “Catholic” education this to me means that we hold to a particular perspective when it comes to the pursuit of truth.  We see the world through the Church’s eyes.  And we look for the hand of God in all that we do.  This is not to say that “God did it” is appropriate when studying various scientific properties, but that we do not sacrifice the Primary Cause for the sake of the secondary causes.  We see the Truth in a fuller sense, and we pursue the Truth in all things.

As the rejection of objective truth continues to take its toll on society we would be wise to reclaim this basic understanding of both truth and education.  As Catholics, we possess a more complete Truth that God in His goodness has bestowed on us.  It is our duty to remind the world that there is such a thing as truth.  And once that is accomplished “education” will be restored to its proper meaning.  And the value of education will be shown in its proper light.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Colin Gormley is a 30 something Catholic who is married. By day he is a software developer for the state of Texas. By night, or whenever he’s trapped with his wife in her biology lab, he blogs about the Catholic faith from an apologetics perspective. He often strays into politics given the current debates in the country, but he tries to see all issues with the eyes of the Church. His website is Signs and Shadows.[/author_info] [/author]