Friday, May 16, 2008

I am that man

I am that man

I finally got over high school. I was walking down the street from the LaConner post office, and it just happened, like 44 years later. I immediately told John at the bookstore, "Hey, John, I just got over high school." And he replied, "Well, I haven't."

And you all know what I mean. High school was hell, and the resentment was almost permanent. But I'm over it now -- through no effort on my part, so I'll call it a miracle of divine intervention.

The high school was Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Illinois -- an all boys Catholic school. The student population swelled to 1,600 when I got there in 1960, thanks to the baby boom. The Jesuit order ran the school. They were zealous and demanding. They had me spotted for a wise guy and they pounced on me every day. I didn't have any friends either.

But Loyola was academically sound. The priests taught me how to write and how to think, and I am grateful for that.

I found this essay in some old papers. I wrote it when I was a senior in 1964. This was the part I truly believed. I still believe it. I am that man.

The Value of a Liberal Education

What is a liberal education? What is its goal? Why does the Catholic educational system wholeheartedly subscribe to it? These questions have and will be asked many times, by laymen in the Church and outside of it. The answer is simple. The answer has been drilled into me as long as I have been attending Loyola: the development of the whole man, the integer homo.

The whole man, the completely educated man, if he does exist, is the man who has knowledge of the whole truth. The closer a man comes to knowing the whole truth, to having real wisdom, the more complete he is in the eyes of God. The whole man, the man who has concomitantly studied religion, literature, and science, can better cope with moral matters; he has a better chance of reaching total wisdom and understanding after death: the Beatific Vision.

The concept of a liberal education differs radically from that of educators who see little value in the mental discipline of the traditional subjects, and who would make the primary end of education be social adjustment or the direct preparation for the physical life. While it is silly to say that liberally educated men are totally unprepared for such matters as making a living, holding down a well-paying job, and being an enlightened citizen in this democracy, these matters are only by-products of the integer homo.

It is the liberal education which gives a man a clear, conscious view of his own opinions and judgments, a truth in developing them, an eloquence in expressing them, and a force in urging them. It teaches him to see things as they are, to go right to the point, to disentangle a confusion of thought, to detect the sophistic argument, and to discard the irrelevant. While this type of education does not prepare him for the specifics of business or computer science, it prepares him to fulfill any job with credit and to master any subject with facility. The liberally educated man is at home in any society because he has an understanding of them all. He has common ground with any class. He knows how to converse intelligently and, more important, when to remain silent. He learns the humility of Socrates and Christ, the perseverance of Sysiphus, the cunning of Odysseus, and the loyalty of pius Aeneas.
The liberally educated man has a gift which serves him in public and the privacy of his own conscience. It will support him when he is young, middle-aged and senile. It will serve him most of all in the next life.

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