Tag Archives: knowledge

Engendering wisdom beyond knowledge

If education’s purpose is to teach us how to think, a Catholic education is necessary for thinking in alignment with God – about one’s unique identity and purpose in this life, proper use of his talents, and the manner of his life-journey toward his ultimate meeting with God. That meeting is life’s most important one, called at a time we least expect.

Christine Valentine-Owsik

Today’s secular educational institutions have abandoned any sense of immutable Truth and reality – even in the natural realm, and replaced them with soft ideologies and ephemeral identity-politics. Reality of God is relegated to mythology. The kids don’t get authentic education, but indoctrination – which doesn’t teach them how to think or even how to learn. Indoctrination pushes thoughtless, baseless conformity for feel-good, popcult rewards. Such group-think is rampant at the most prized secular schools, and with the steepest of price tags.

But a proper education, a good Catholic one, trains the whole person (his intellect and his will), not just his mind alone. And it affords three incredible benefits.

First, it acquaints a student with real, unchanging Truth – about everything from science, to literature, to the study of mankind and of God. A student should realize why he is here on earth, where he is headed, and what the whole of his life means in that regard. Those who keep these in mind throughout life have stronger resolve, and don’t as easily fall prey to anxiety, fear, distraction, and despair.

“When we put truths into our minds, we … live out those truths in our lives. But if we put falsehood and vice into our minds, they [eventually] work themselves out into our lives,” said the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.

Second, there’s a correlation of studies in the student’s curriculum, among all branches of knowledge to which he’s exposed. Some courses are more overarching and substantive than others – and the truths of these serve to illuminate the teachings of the lower courses. But everything fits and synergizes.

Third – and of critical import – is the depth, the deepening knowledge a student realizes from his education. This is when he is able to construct a philosophy of life garnered from his learning. His philosophy of life will serve him for life – in times of abundance and hardship, emotional highs and duress, triumph and rejection, camaraderie and loneliness, busy-ness and languish, health and hospice, and ultimately to his last moment.

This is wisdom, which cannot be bought or faked.

Most secularized colleges stress freedom – from tradition, from social mores and morals, from parents, from laws, from anything. But freedom doesn’t comprise truth. Real freedom actually derives from Truth.

“For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and preserving the way of his saints” (Prov 2: 6-8).

Isn’t this the education we want for ourselves and our children?

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK is Legatus magazine’s editor.

Know the marks of a worthwhile education

As the new school year gets underway, it’s a good time to be thinking about the quality of education that our children are getting, or in all too many cases the education that they are not getting.

The first test of what constitutes a good education is the way that one of the most important questions is asked and answered. It is Pilate’s famous question to Christ: Quid est veritas? What is truth? If the asking of this question is not at the heart of a school’s curriculum, it is not a school offering a true education. If, on the other hand, the question is asked but only with the tired indifference of the relativist who believes that it is a question that is unanswerable, the school is likewise failing to offer an authentic education. The question needs to be asked as one that needs to be answered and, furthermore, as one to which the answer is ultimately knowable and known.

As for the answer to the question, a school offering a good and true education will answer it in the words that Christ gave to His disciples when He told them that He is “the way, the truth and the life.” The way to truth can only come through Christ, which means that it can only come with an understanding of the Gospel and the teaching of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, which is nothing less than the Mystical Body of Christ in the world. An education that sidelines Christ, or ignores Him, or which treats Christianity as only one of several equally valid religions is not a true education at all. How can it be? In denying Christ, it denies the way, the truth, and the life, without which, or whom, there is nothing ultimately but darkness.

Having established the centrality of Christ to all authentic education, the other essential element of a true education is an acceptance of the unbreakable bond between fides et ratio, the indissoluble marriage of faith and reason, which is at the heart of true Christian philosophy. At the heart of this rational path to truth is a proper understanding of “science.” The word science comes from the Latin word scientia, which simply means knowledge. It is for this reason that the Church has always taught that theology is the queen of the sciences. Theology is the knowledge of God, the first and most important of all the sciences. Another science that is often neglected is philosophy, which is the knowledge of reality to be discovered in the love of wisdom. It is the science of wisdom. History is the knowledge of reality to be discovered by understanding the past. It is the science of the past, or, to put it another way, it is the science of human experience. If an education is neglecting these crucial and authentic paths of knowledge in favor of the so-called “hard” sciences, the latter of which are encapsulated in the so-called STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), it is not an authentic or adequate education. These subjects are important, of course, but only as part of a wider knowledge, which includes the other sciences.

Last, but emphatically not least (indeed the last shall be first!), a good and true education must be an education that teaches what it means to be good. It must teach virtue, and it must teach the Christian understanding of love, the very heart of all virtue, which is the conscious choosing of the sacrifice of the self for others. Such an education, which teaches the good and the true, can be said to be truly beautiful.


JOSEPH PEARCE is a senior fellow at The Cardinal Newman Society and editor of its journal.