The Ventura County Star newspaper has a feature piece (Aug. 24, 2009) on Thomas Aquinas College:
Thomas Aquinas College is not your typical modern university. Students read the classics, not textbooks. Girls must wear skirts or dresses to class. There’s a curfew of 11 on school nights.
Yet the conservative Catholic college, nestled in the hills of Santa Paula, is attracting national attention for its small classes, generous financial aid and strong academics. U.S. News & World Report this month ranked it among the nation’s top 100 liberal arts colleges.
Now, as students return to class this week, Thomas Aquinas is at a turning point, choosing only its third president since it was founded in 1971.
Thomas Aquinas stands out among Catholic colleges because Catholicism plays such a major role in its identity and curriculum, said Richard Yanikoski, president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.
What was it that G.K. Chesterton once wrote? Ah, here it is: "A dead thing goes with the stream. Only a living thing can go against it." Why, I wonder, does the president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities have against a Catholic school being Catholic? Does Derek Jeter apologize for being a Yankee? Does Oprah Winfrey downplay her identity as an influential television program host? Do we chastise geese for being part of gaggle instead of joining a herd of horses or a mob of deer?
Still, Yanikoski, while not criticizing the curriculum, sees some limitations to it.
“They are teaching a Euro-centric Catholic church in the context of a Euro-centric Great Books curriculum, at the same time that the church is moving inexorably away from the Euro-centric model,” he said. “A person could make the argument that Thomas Aquinas is preparing students for the past.”
Sure, a person—say, a lesbian Marxist or a French vegan deconstructionist—could make that argument, but I hope that person wouldn't be the president of the Association of Catholic
Colleges and Universities. What was it, after all, that George Santayana once noted? Oh, here it is: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
Of course, you would only know of that quote if you were stuck in the Euro-centric past. Granted, it takes less work to read books of the future, as they have yet to be written. But if you are keen on books that have already been written, you are going to have to look to the past. Even Oprah knows that.