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« A bishop publicly criticizing another bishop? By name? | Main | The Cardinal »

Thursday, August 27, 2009

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Comments

Shaun G

One of the dangers of insulation -- of setting oneself apart from the common culture -- is that you run the risk of no longer being able to connect with the people you are called to evangelize. (Of course, as you well note, one of the dangers of going with the flow is that you will be swept away as well.)

I think, through that lens, Yanikoski's comment raises two valid concerns:

1) Is the curriculum's Euro-/Western-centric focus causing the students to miss out on the many contributions from the non-European world?

2) Does the curriculum properly prepare the students to connect with (and hopefully evangelize) their fellow Americans, at a time when the Euro/Western influence is arguably waning?

Carl E. Olson

One of the dangers of insulation -- of setting oneself apart from the common culture -- is that you run the risk of no longer being able to connect with the people you are called to evangelize.

As someone who has spent a little time at Thomas Aquinas College and knows several TAC graduates, I simply don't see this as a valid concern. TAC's goal is not to isolate students from "the common culture," but to give them an education rooted in the Western classical liberal tradition, which is the foundation of the culture that has produced the greatest literary, artistic, political, and scientific achievements in history. The intent is to engage with the deepest questions and issues, which should be, I think, the intent of all good education. Engaging with common culture means little or nothing if you don't have a sound philosophical basis for engagement; otherwise you merely end up with what is already in abundance in a lot of "Catholic" schools: highly subjective, ultra-specialized navel gazing.

1) Is the curriculum's Euro-/Western-centric focus causing the students to miss out on the many contributions from the non-European world?

But how many Catholic schools out there actually provide students with a meaningful education in Western thought, as opposed to merely dunking them repeatedly in the trendy "isms"—feminism, multiculturalism, deconstructionism, post-modernism, etc.—of our time? Personally, I think a person should first know their own cultural heritage well, and then embark upon learning about other cultures. Yet most students today not only learn little to nothing about Western culture (as opposed to pop culture), they are often taught to despise or even hate it.

This in no way denies the many positive and worthwhile achievements of non-Western cultures. But I think some of those who criticize TAC as being somehow too "Euro-centric" or "exclusive" are coming from a perspective too heavily shaped by modern, "multicultural" assumptions which say, on one hand, that all cultures are equal (they aren't), while implicitly or openly downplaying the significance of Western culture.

2) Does the curriculum properly prepare the students to connect with (and hopefully evangelize) their fellow Americans, at a time when the Euro/Western influence is arguably waning?

I would argue that a curriculum that focuses on objective truth, critical thinking, and the Big Questions is going to do a far, far better job of forming good Catholics who are serious about living and proclaiming the Faith than a school that is beholden to relativism and a host of other "isms" which either deny or undermine the validity of Catholicism. If familiarity with common/pop culture really were the key criteria for effective evangelization, the past forty years or so should have been the Golden Age of Catholic Evangelization. But does anyone seriously think that was the case? Pope John Paul II repeatedly emphasized that at the heart of real evangelization is a lived knowledge of Jesus Christ and a belief in objective truth/Truth: “In living the faith and communicating it to others in a culture that tends to treat religious convictions as merely a personal ‘option,’ evangelization’s only point of departure is Jesus Christ, ‘the Way, and the Truth and the Life’ (John 14:6), the answer to the question that is every human life.” (Springtime of Evangelization). Having some detachment and distance from the common culture is actually, I think, a helpful (perhaps even essential) part of gauging how best to evangelize and assessing the "lay of the land," so to speak.

I'm not arguing that TAC is for everyone, or that it is the only way to go. But I think that Yanikoski's comments, on the whole, were both condescending and unfair. It's ironic, I suppose, that in age of supposed tolerance and diversity there is a decided lack of tolerance for a school that pursues an education rooted in the tradition that produced the most authentically tolerant and diverse culture of all time.

Dr John James

I'm genuinely puzzled by the criticism of this institution for being "Euro Centric".
A study of the literature, history, anthropology, and especially philosophical thought from the various European traditions and which incorporates the great philosophical traditions of ancient Greece, with a special emphasis on Aristotle, so influential in Catholic theology, would be an excellent intellectual grounding to help prepare students for their role as laity evangelising their culture.
Combine that with a deep interior life and an understanding of the need to sanctify work and you have an excellent vison of the apostles the Church needs in the 21st century.
Surely the value of the 'Great works of literature' is that they engage our humanity and deal with truths that transcend both culture and time.

Mary

"It's ironic, I suppose, that in age of supposed tolerance and diversity there is a decided lack of tolerance for a school that pursues an education rooted in the tradition that produced the most authentically tolerant and diverse culture of all time'

Now that statement hits the nail right on the head, bravo

Dan Deeny

Interesting. I didn't detect any condescension in the quotes from Yanikoski. Perhaps all cultures are not equal. How would you rank our culture, the one that permits a mother to kill her child at any time and for any reason during the period of pregnancy? Do we have a superior culture or an inferior culture? Compared to which cultures?
Thomas Aquinas College is probably providing a good foundation for students before they began to evangelize the culture. Goodness knows the West could use a bit of evangelizing. As could we Catholics!

Titus
A person could make the argument that Thomas Aquinas is preparing students for the past.

Of course they are---because it is the past that provides guidance and meaning to the present, the past that embodies the traditions that we are obligated to pass to the future. Looking at the current present, for that matter, the past looks a lot rosier than the future.

How would you rank our culture, the one that permits a mother to kill her child at any time and for any reason during the period of pregnancy?

People defending a "Euro-centric" perspective certainly are not advocating the superiority of contemporary culture, because all cultures are not equal. Western culture, the tradition that modern society inherited and has proceeded to squander over the last fifty-plus (or depending on how severe you wish to be, two-hundred) years, is superior to its predecessors, foreign contemporaries, and futile successors.

Maximilian Nightingale

I'm actually typing this comment from St. Bernardine Library at Thomas Aquinas College. I'm only a freshman but looking at what the later classes read, I'm confident that I will get what I'm looking for here: an undergraduate education in philosophy and theology centered around the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas.

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