The Classical Curriculum in the Catholic School
 
out"I now entered the first class of what today would be called the gymnasium for classical languages [Greek and Latin]...In retrospect it seems to me that an education in Greek and Latin antiquity created a mental attitude that resisted seduction by a totalitarian ideology." - Pope Benedict XVI, Memoirs

“Hardly any lawful price would seem to me too high for what I have gained by being made to learn Latin and Greek.” - C.S. Lewis
 
What it entails:
The classically-based curriculum focuses on studying the greatest spiritual, literary, artistic and cultural achievements of Western civilization by reading the original sources whenever possible, especially in the upper grades. 
 
The classical curriculum, combined with the study of Latin and Greek, brings intellectual knowledge of the Faith into the heart by introducing the student to the great works of Christendom and the pre-Christian masterpieces that influenced and inspired Christian Europe.  The intent and purpose is to deepen and strengthen the student’s commitment to Christianity and move the student, in the spirit of the Gospels, to accomplish great deeds himself.

The study of a classical curriculum serves several purposes:

• Focuses on the highest spiritual, literary and artistic achievements of Western civilization, elevating the mind and soul.
• Introduces students to the greatest books in their original sources, not biased textbook summaries.
• Integrates the study of different subjects, showing the interrelationships that exist among them.
• Provides a solid grounding in the basics, emphasizing the technique of learning by memorization in the lower grades.
• Improves language skills by the study of Latin and Greek.
• Underscores the fact that students are not literate when they can only read and pronounce words correctly, but only when they can place words and events into context and understand their complete meanings. 
 
Some Distinctions:
1. Classical education treats classical languages and mathematics as the organizing principles of education.  These subjects can only be mastered by orderly, systematic study over a period of many years.
 
2. Classical education recognizes that memory, analysis, and expression are important facets of learning at all levels.  It therefore treats the medieval trivium subjects (Latin grammar, logic, and rhetoric) as disciplines within a basic education. 
 
3. Classical education is holistic: it trains not only the mind, but also the emotions, the will, and the aesthetic sense.  It fosters love for what is Good, True, and Beautiful wherever these may be found.  Ultimately, this will lead the student to the source of all truth and goodness – God. 
 
4. Classical education rests on the principle of  “multum non multa”:  quality, not quantity.  It does not let what is good and true be crowded out for the sake of teaching “what is in style”. 
 
5. Classical education assumes that the core knowledge theory is being implemented at all grade levels. 
 
How it is implemented:
The classical curriculum is implemented in three basic phases.  Younger students are introduced to rote memory of basic facts.  These facts are the building blocks upon which all future knowledge will be built.  In addition, perfection in organization, listening, and observing are essential. 
 
The first phase is the Grammar Stage, corresponding to grades 1-4.  At this time, children’s minds are most receptive to the accumulation of information.  Reading, writing, spelling, arithmetic and the tools of comprehension are stressed with much emphasis on memorization.  This is essentially equipping the mind with a rich variety of material to be organized and polished in the later years. 
 
The grammar of spelling and reading is the rule of phonics and the tools of comprehension.  The grammar of English is the part of speech and sentence/paragraph structure.  The grammar of mathematics includes its facts and its vocabulary.  The grammar of history covers who, what, when, and where.  In science, students focus on identifying, naming, and labeling.  Religion centers on learning prayers and the basic truths of the Faith.  As these foundational skills and this knowledge are introduced and practiced, students gain mastery and a readiness for the Logic Stage.
 
In the Logic Stage (5th-8th grades) adjusts to the child’s natural bent for questioning and arguing.  During these years students are challenged to synthesize and analyze the facts they have learned in order to develop a well formed argument.  The learning focuses on why, how, and what if questions.  Connections are made between one piece of information and another.  The study of the Faith includes Catholic Apologetics.  Students in the logic stage develop the critical thinking skills essential to true learning for a lifetime.
 
The final phase is the Rhetoric Stage, corresponding to the upper grades, where students learn the skills of creative presentation of their knowledge.  The emphasis is on writing and speaking with force, originality, and eloquence.  Once students can think and analyze for themselves, they will not be easily influenced by any fads in philosophy or religion.  Therefore, students will have the lifelong ability to know and identify what is true, good, moral and ethical. 
  
Why should Latin be studied?
Elementary students should study Latin, not only because it is the official language of the Catholic Church, but also to be prepared to learn any and several modern languages in high school and beyond.  It is also an excellent preparation for the ACT Tests taken the junior year of high school for college entrance qualifications.  Students learn English as they study Latin.  Latin is the mother tongue of Western civilization.  Because it has been the language that has transmitted our cultural heritage for over 2000 years, it pulls together language arts, history, geography, culture, art, architecture, music, values, religion, government, science, and mathematics.  Everything in the modern world seems to be related to Latin and the ancient and medieval cultures that spoke it.  By examining the roots of our culture in its mother language, knowledge begins to integrate itself naturally.  This integration is at the heart of a classical education.
 

 

 

“Students whose reason is formed in the light of the Faith through a classical Catholic education become, in fact, a beacon of Christ’s light, leading others to the truth and transforming our world.”

Most Rev. Raymond L. Burke, Prefect for the Apostolic Signatura