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Educating For Barbarism

In his column for The Catholic Thing, Anthony Esolen, the Catholic literature scholar and translator of Dante, complains about the president of Princeton saying he’d like incoming freshman to read a book in common, but not one of the classics, because that would encourage them to “venerate” the book. His conclusion is powerful:

Eisgruber’s attitude is common enough, it pains me to say. It favors suspicion over reverence, and prides itself on being “critical,” when actually it encourages a shallow and adolescent flippancy, a refusal to listen to voices other than those pounding in our ears from the mass phenomena of our day.

Why do I write these words for The Catholic Thing? The purpose of a human education is not to raise clever barbarians. The purpose of a Catholic education is not to raise clever barbarians who attend Mass on Sunday and vote for pro-life candidates. If your Catholic school and its curriculum are not permeated with reverence for the permanent things – if its spirit is that of President Ice Digger and not that of Manzoni – you should shut down and send the children to the public schools. If they are going to get a bad education, it might as well be for free.

Preach it, brother.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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