High Schools students can spend
their summers in many productive ways…….a diversity of summer jobs, volunteer service
work, and camps. There are many sports
camps for basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball, and football. There’s also scout camp and band camp, but
have you ever heard of a Great Books Camp?
Thomas Aquinas College at Santa Paula, California just outside of northwest
Los Angeles has just that.
school seniors may obtain a great preview of TAC and a stimulating taste of the
true, the good, and the beautiful
|A welcoming barbecue on the first day of the 2014 Summer Program on July 20 |
by attending its two week High School
Great Books Program during the summer following their junior year. The adolescents will be exposed to a few of
the greatest minds of Western Civilization and will receive a great broadening experience
especially those who will be attending a a secular university or a more technical college that
specializes in the professions such as business, engineering, computer science,
education, or one of the health specialties. Hopefully, the students will obtain an
appreciation for the give and take of rational argument and a thirst for
pursuing the truth which civilizes, ennobles, and liberates. To begin with they receive in the mail the
readings: Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex
, and the work of St. Athanasius,
On the Incarnation.
The youths are expected to read them
before their arrival for Socratic discussion during the program under the light
of the Faith.
|About to begin a socratic discussion of a great work|
After discussion of the works of
early Greek thinkers in their pagan groping to make sense out of nature and
their existence, the account of the creation and fall of man in Genesis of the Bible begins the
discussion about the Divine Plan, human nature, and free will as well as the
causes and consequences of the great sin.
St. Athanasius’s On the
Incarnation presents the answer that the Faith provides to the tragedy of
the fall of man. Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling, Pascal’s famous
essay on the “wager”, and St. Thomas
Aquinas’s fifth proof for the existence of God in Summa Theologica all stimulate considerations of the right relation
between faith and reason. In Fabre’s The Grey Cricket the youths will see
purpose and order in nature. They will
reflect upon the meaning of life in Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich. At
the same time Euclid’s Elements
demonstrates the intelligibility, order, and accessibility of mathematical
ideas as tools for understanding God’s creation. Flannery O’Connor’s The Enduring Chill ties much of it together in revisiting the
earlier questions about death and life, arrogance and docility, and saving
Discussing a Euclid geometric proposition.
The students receive a glimpse of
the struggles, stops, and turns in the quest for the true, the good, and the
beautiful over the centuries and can imagine themselves in a time machine reliving
part of it as they read and discuss the works of the great authors of
|Evening Study Hall to prepare for a discussion of a great book|
Summer Program is not only the Great Books.
It’s also prayer – Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, opportunities for Confession,
Rosary Procession, Evening Consecration, discussion in the dorms, even prayer
before games. There are also fun
activities as sports, music and song around a bonfire, a hike in the nearby
mountains of Los Padres National Forest, a trip to the beach on the Pacific Ocean and dinner in Santa Barbara,
a visit to the Getty Center Museum in Los Angeles, an evening classical concert
at the Hollywood Bowl, acting in a Shakespearean play, learning dance steps, and a closing dinner dance
|Evening Consecration to Mary|
A total of 136 students from all
over the United States and even the world attended……30 states, 7 countries, and
4 continents, traveling from as far as Argentina, Italy, and Singapore. There were Catholics and some non-Catholics,
different races, ethnic backgrounds, a picture of diversity. If history repeats
itself, most of the 136 will enroll in the Fall of 2015. Of course, the religious activities are voluntary.
|A break during the hike into the nearby mountains
of Los Padres National Forest|
|Swimming during the hike in the ice cold Punch Bowl|
Thanks to my daughter Stephanie a 2014 TAC graduate, my other daughter Naomi (second from the left in the above photo) attended the Summer Program in 2012
and made close friends which she still has today although a student at
Franciscan University of Steubenville. Our
son Joseph (on the far right in the photo below) attended the 2014 program. Both enjoyed it. They did not come back transformed, but they now have an unforgettable experience to fall back upon in their development. They have been exposed to a number of great books, the Socratic Method of discussion, inquiry, socializing and mixing with people in an intellectual environment, art, music, and most of all the spiritual aspect of life. This experience reinforced and enriched much of what we tried to teach them at home and added a lot to what we as parents were able to give them.
In sum the TAC Summer High School Great Books Program is a marvelous two week spiritual,
intellectual, and social, experience of prayer, seeking the truth, learning,
and lots and lots of good clean fun. The
kids do not fit the nerdy stereotype at all, but as a whole are beautiful, wholesome,
fun loving youths who also enjoy learning. See the TAC website at www.thomasaquinas.edu and my blog #139 for a detailed description of
Thomas Aquinas College. See http://thomasaquinas.edu/admission/summer-program-blog/?cat=51
for the 2014 Summer Program Blog which has considerable detail with hundreds of
photos (slides) and http://thomasaquinas.edu/admission/high-school-summer-program
for a general description of the High School Great Books Program.
|Visiting the Getty Art Museum in this photo followed by a concert in the Hollywood Bowl in LA|
|A Rosary Walk to the Grotto|
|Learning the social graces at the semi-formal dinner dance|
A Great Books Program for Adults
. Each July Thomas Aquinas College invites members of the President’s Council to one of two Great Books Summer Seminar Weekends. I would like to see something like that for parents, friends of TAC, and other interested people from around the country. This would be a unique way for professionals to spend part of their vacations to fill gaps in their education. This would be particularly useful for engineers, scientists, business people who are weak in the liberal arts and all who have graduated from a secular college or university.
I’ll never forget a remark made by my psychology professor over fifty years ago at then Carnegie Institute of Technology, now Carnegie Mellon University. “Be careful that you guys don’t end up as a bunch of dumb engineers”. Even then the Carnegie Plan required at least one liberal arts course during every semester of their engineering programs so that engineers would be aware of the social consequences of the technology they develop and apply. Even more important, business managers and corporate executives must be more aware of the social consequences of their decisions…….that is social business responsibility. A solid grounding in the great social encyclicals of the great popes since 1891 is crucial.
The class of the second session of the Great Books Summer Seminar