The End of Christian Education
As Pope Pius XI wrote in 1939 in his encyclical Divini Illius Magistri (On Christian Education), "The proper and immediate end of Christian education is to cooperate with divine grace in forming the true and perfect Christian, that is, to form Christ Himself in those regenerated by Baptism." A sound Catholic education is rooted in Christ and grounded in the Church and acknowledges God's presence in all creation. With this knowledge comes humility and a joy for learning.
The classical pedagogy, successfully used by the Church through the ages, is uniquely situated to convey the "permanent things" to young minds eager for truth. This approach is suited to basic human nature and development and has been tested over centuries. Its purpose is not to teach the student everything, but instead to form in the student the ability to learn new material. Instead of teaching what to think, students are taught how to think. It is a rigorous education and requires self-discipline, but it trains students to be analytical and to be able to draw conclusions. It also fosters curiosity and a love of learning.
Mirroring the natural and organic development of the human mind, the classical approach also known as the Trivium divides the stages of learning into three: grammatical, dialectical or logical, and rhetorical. The grammatical stage (grades K to 6) emphasizes memorization and the learning of fundamental rules through drills and repetition. As grammar is the foundation for learning language, this stage provides building blocks for later learning. The logical stage (grades 7 to 9) takes these skills acquired in the grammatical stage and employs them for use in logical constructions . The child learns cause and effect, how things relate to each other and how they fit together. A child is ready for this stage when he has the capacity for abstract thought. The rhetorical stage (grades 10 to 12) takes facts and logic from the previous stages and uses them finally for creative purposes. This is when a student learns how to express what he has learned in a coherent fashion and learns the art of persuasive argument.
The classical educational approach is language-based, instead of image-based. The study of Latin and Greek support the study of language. Latin is the language of the Church, the root language of English and the language used by minds educated in the classics throughout the history of Western Civilization. It serves to train the mind in a clear and logical manner.
A classical curriculum is history-intensive - many subjects are studied within the context of history, which is divided into four periods (the ancients, the medieval period through the early Renaissance, the late Renaissance through the early modern era, and modern times).
Parents as the Primary Educators of Children
As Pope John Paul II wrote in 1981 in his encyclical Familiaris Consortio (On the Christian Family), "The right and duty of parents to give education is essential, since it is connected with the transmission of human life; it is original and primary with regard to the educational role of others on account of the uniqueness of the loving relationship between parents and children; and it is irreplaceable and inalienable and therefore incapable of being entirely delegated to others or usurped by others." Just as parents cooperate with God in creation (procreators), so do they cooperate with God's will in their children's salvation. Any formal educational institution can never replace parents in their role, but instead becomes an extension of the family. Teachers and administrators act as stewards toward the parents whose children are in their care, and work in harmony with parents to educate their children.