Classically, education was seen as ordered toward the pursuit of wisdom and virtue. For centuries, liberal education (libera, free) aimed to enable students to act in a free, intelligent, and responsible manner. Free from the interior confusion, free to think logically and express themselves clearly, free from manipulation.
The great majority of educational institutions have abandoned the traditions that shaped some of the most brilliant minds in history, instead reflecting a social order directed to material ends above all else. Newman College holds with the preponderance of ancient Irish, classical, and Catholic pedagogical tradition, that “education is an art which should aim at the harmonious development of every side of human nature, physical, moral, and intellectual.” (Christopher Dawson)
Puritas et Veritas
Liberal education, for Newman, “is a ‘real cultivation of the mind’ which enables a person ‘to have a connected view or grasp of things’ and which manifests itself in ‘good sense, sobriety of thought, reasonableness, candour, self-command, and steadiness of view’” (Fr. Ian Ker) and furthers a theme often expressed in Newman’s writings: the Christian’s search for purity, both bodily and spiritually, as well as truth in all things. Liberal education yields “the command over our own powers, the instinctive just estimate of things as they pass before us”. Liberal education also serves a distinctively useful function, giving its recipient the “faculty of entering with comparative ease into any subject of thought, and of taking up with aptitude any science or profession.”
Integral Human Formation
Newman conceived the end of liberal education in a way that gave credence to more than just the mind and intellect. John Senior built on this, proposing that it is neither refinement, nor manners, nor even knowledge which is the end of a liberal education, but rather goodness. He advocated reconnecting human beings to the reality of being itself through the encounter of the emotions, senses, and imagination with nature and beauty. Senior’s “restoration of realism” saw the foundation of education as existing on an anthropological, even primal level. Following many others, he took as a model St. Benedict: “a man who knew how to harmonize the soul and body, nature and grace, social and spiritual, old and new”. (Pope St. John Paul II)
A liberal education:
educating the whole person.
As a Catholic institution, Newman College is obliged to pass on the great deposit of truth previously discovered and confirmed by previous generations, and believes in the unity of all knowledge. Read the words of Pope Benedict XVI on this subject here.
While our vision for liberal education on the whole is of course inspired by that of Saint John Henry Newman, it in many particulars is influenced by the Integrated Humanities Program (IHP), implemented with astounding results at the University of Kansas by John Senior, Dennis Quinn, and Frank Nelick in the 1970s. For more information read here.
Newman College's liberal arts curriculum teaches the disciplines of theology, philosophy, history (including Church history and art history), literature, poetry, languages, and the sciences, not in isolation, but in such a way that each throws new light on the other. Through a pastoral approach to learning, e.g. small class sizes, and one-on-one meetings with teachers and professors, a variety of pedagogical methods are employed, all of which foster a practical and personal engagement on the part of the student with what they are studying.
Ora et Labora
The Holy Scriptures often use images and ideas that come to us only through nature. Yet in our modern world, contact with nature is limited – often by design. The artificiality of industrialized society has weakened our grasp on reality, and helped to foster a false dualistic concept of the human person in which the body and soul are viewed as distinct and separate, even alien, to one another, rather than cooperating components of a single unity. “A rich and healthy experience of the natural world” (Senior) can, through the senses, repair this alienation, along with our appreciation of reality both natural and divine. As Pius XII maintained, “It cannot be too often repeated how much the work of the land generates physical and moral health…. Its stability, the enduring majesty of the rhythm of the seasons are so many reflections of divine attributes.” Newman College views contact with nature, work, and artisanship as essential components of a fully-formed human person, the physical counterpart and compliment to the life of the mind. Work is a support for contemplation, but even more, “the mind of man requires a certain manual expression to keep its balance.” (Douglas van Steere)
Padraig Pearse said that "a nationality is a spirituality". We believe that the Irish people, past, present, and future, have a unique and precious spiritual contribution to offer to the world and to God. Our forebears passed down the stunningly rich cultural and spiritual patrimony of Ireland through centuries of hardship and persecution.
Newman College aims to continue in this tradition. It seeks to foster both a sober cultural "remembering" and an authentic cultural development of the Irish people. A people is rooted when close to the land, nature, and the past, and, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, "with the two wings of faith and reason it may rise to the contemplation of truth".