Classical Education Resurgence Continues | St. Ignatius Featured in The Compass

February 7, 2023

This article originally appeared in The Compass, January 26, 2023, edition. It was written by St. JPII Headmaster Alex Wolf and is reposted here with permission from the publication.

“Wouldn’t it be dreadful if someday in our own world, at home, men started going wild inside, like the animals here, and still look like men, so that you’d never know which were which?”

This is a quote from the beloved children’s series “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis. If something about those words seems particularly striking, it is most likely because this is actually happening in the world now. To confuse the very purpose of our existence as humans is a direct attack from the evil one. Perhaps one of the most significant areas where this confusion has crept in is the educational system. This is largely why there has been a significant resurgence of Catholic classical education.

If one fails to understand the purpose of something — what the ancient Greeks referred to as the “telos” or “end cause” — that thing becomes confusing or useless. Without knowing that a hammer is used for pounding nails, it will be used for other strange tasks or simply remain idle.

The purpose of Catholic classical education is simple. It is to better know, glorify and ultimately enjoy God. This happens through the study of the great academic traditions, in the form of curriculum and teaching methods, handed down to us through Western civilization. If education is altered to dissolve this tradition, or removes God altogether, the result is pure confusion.

In the last decade, there has been a significant return to classical education in the United States. The primary reason for this is that all human beings have a significant desire for God himself, a desire that can never be erased — no matter how much the evil one tries. They ultimately crave what is true, good and beautiful. Many have begun to see that mainstream public education is not satisfying this desire and is ultimately offering confusion in its place.

The Chesterton Schools Network, a nationwide network of Catholic classical high schools, for example, has seen explosive growth since its founding in 2013. Starting with one school in Minneapolis, the network has now grown to more than 60 schools throughout the world.

“People are reimagining and rediscovering what can be loved, understood and embraced from the enormous depth of not only Western civilization, but from the church herself who has long been civilization’s greatest champion. In that manner, Chesterton schools cultivate holy students that are articulate, clear-thinking, well-rounded and, very importantly, joyful individuals engaged in a content-rich curriculum.”

Another great example is Aquinas Academy in Milwaukee, which began with just a handful of students and has grown to an enrollment of nearly 200. In its early days, this school saw substantial growth under the leadership of Mother Mary Catherine, now mother superior of the Missionaries of the Word religious order based in Baileys Harbor. The classical schools in the Diocese of Green Bay — St. John Paul II Classical School in Green Bay and St. Ignatius Catholic School in Kaukauna — have seen similar growth.

The truth and wisdom of the Catholic Church has largely orchestrated classical learning throughout the centuries. Authentic classical education cannot be separated from Catholicism. The Church has been entrusted with the fullness of the truth, and classical education helps students to more fully embrace this truth.

St. John Paul II reminds us that, “The greatest challenge to Catholic education in the United States today, and the greatest contribution that authentically Catholic education can make to American culture, is to restore to that culture the conviction that human beings can grasp the truth of things, and in grasping the truth can know their duties to God, to themselves, and their neighbors.”