“The Catholic Church has the longest intellectual tradition of any institution in the contemporary world, the only uninterrupted tradition and the only explicit tradition … What I say is that this tradition must not be merely an ideal, but must be practiced.”
|Robert Maynard Hutchins|
So said Robert M. Hutchins, addressing the National Catholic Education Association’s Midwest Regional Meeting — in 1937. At the time of this address, Hutchins was president of the University of Chicago, where he had implemented wide-raging curricula reforms. He was not a Catholic, yet he could objectively praise the Catholic educational heritage and warn that Catholic schools were beginning “to imitate the worst features of secular education.”
“Catholic identity” has been a longstanding issue in Catholic education in the United States. From the late 19th century, when American Catholics struggled over whether to establish independent, specifically Catholic parochial schools or to accept the equivalent of today’s charter schools (government-controlled but allowing after-hours religious instruction) — the question of how Catholic schools might realize their Catholic identity while offering a truly humane education has been a hot one.
Unfortunately, the assumption has sometimes been that a Catholic education is somehow opposed to a fully humane education. That to have one it is necessary to diminish the other.
|Old St. Wendelin School, Recovery Township, Ohio|
History, however, tells a very different story. From the early medieval monastery and cathedral schools, to the universities of the high middle ages, to the Catholic colleges and universities of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, the Catholic educational tradition has been explicit – faith and reason are not opponents, but friends. They do not contradict one another but complete one another. The Catholic mind does not shy away from the discoveries of human reason, nor should human reason see the Faith as a restriction on its proper functioning and freedom. Both are involved in the search for truth.
It is this truly catholic educational philosophy that inspires and directs the Catholic Textbook Project. Our history series does not accept a diminished historical research in order to salvage a Catholic understanding of the world. Nor does it reduce the Catholic faith to an exercise of mere personal piety. Catholic identity does not spell historical amnesia.
Accurate, scholarly, well-written and beautiful – our books are fully within the rich tradition of Catholic education that Robert Hutchins praised 77 years ago.