Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Great Books Calling, Part 2

 

The second installment of a multiple-part series about my journey towards a true liberal arts education--particularly towards my dream school, Wyoming Catholic College. Part 1 can be read here.

After reading Anthony Esolen's book, it seemed I had never had another option. Going to a Great Books college was the next logical step from the quasi-classical education I'd received so far in homeschooling. I realized at last the source of my vague disappointment. I didn't just want to study English, or literature, or creative writing. Those, on their own, could never be enough. I wanted to learn about truth--in everything. And the Great Books method was the only one which addressed education as something more than a means to intellectual or material success. Its aim was to form the person. The whole person, body-mind-soul, for his ultimate destiny: knowledge and love of God.

That was what had been silently missing from my horde of college brochures. They talked an awful lot about the "what"--the number of majors, the small class sizes, the statistics of successful alumni, etc., etc., ad nauseum. So much "what" and so little "why". The purpose of higher education was presented as essentially utilitarian--fun on the side, perhaps, but really a tool for clambering higher up that ladder of highly-praised, poorly-defined, and sickeningly earthly success. So that the pamphlet I got from Harvard read just as hollow to me as the one from Joliet Junior College.

But the Great Books approach was different. While its method does prepare a person well for a career--perhaps better, even, than the so-called vocational or trade school approach--that is not the primary point. The point is not material welfare. It is not even intellectual satisfaction. The point of education is the right ordering of the soul. Not that every class must be a theology class, but every subject ought to be taught integrated with eternal truth. To me this meant something. It meant everything. The more I read about it, the more it filled me with a longing, desperate joy. I would have nothing else.

This resolve fell upon me so deeply that for several days I was afraid to tell my parents about it--for fear they'd caution me against making a college decision so quickly. My fear was groundless, but quite seriously nothing else appealed to me. Only a few schools in the country still based their curriculum entirely on the Great Books. Among those, only a few stood out to me: St. John's College in Maryland, St. Thomas Aquinas in California, and Wyoming Catholic College in...well, in Wyoming.

At last I knew what I wanted. I was going to school, not to learn more about literature, but to learn how to be a human being. Sounds a bit silly. We all know how to be human, don't we? Well--that's the question, isn't it? (I sense a Socratic discussion coming on...)

(To be continued)