“To Form Liberally Educated Catholic Ladies and Gentlemen”

As a mission statement I can think of none better for The Lyceum than “to form Liberally educated Catholic ladies and gentlemen” – that is, as far as truth is concerned. But I do wonder whether it might be the very worst mission statement in its effect on the modern ear!

First of all it contains the “L” word which in the present day appears to signify not the freedom from the various sorts of slavery in which our students find themselves- nor the freedom to which they are called by their very nature as human beings- but the word “liberal” for many first conjures the unpleasant connotations that might be associated with the late Ted Kennedy and his politics or even religious views.

Secondly – even if the phrase “liberally educated” does not imply being educated like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, the term appears to signify, for many, the kind of education that people receive who don’t know what they want to do. Liberal education might mean just anything these days. Perhaps at best it means a ‘general education.’

Newman replies to the contrary that “Liberal Education, viewed in itself, is simply the cultivation of the intellect, as such, and its object is nothing more or less than intellectual excellence.”

There are at least two other terms in the mission statement that might be offensive to the modern ear: “Ladies” and “Gentlemen.”

Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman famously said “Liberal Education makes not the Christian, not the Catholic, but the gentleman.” Apparently for Newman being a gentleman was something to which it is obvious that boys and men would aspire. Now in his Idea of a University it is clear that Newman is speaking of a college for men, but clearly just as liberal education makes boys into ‘gentlemen,’ so too it makes girls into ‘ladies.’

And what the full definitions of a lady and a gentleman are, and how liberal education produces these, we look forward to discussing!

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About marklangley

Academic Dean at The Lyceum (a school he founded in 2003, see theLyceum.org) Mark loves sacred music and Gregorian Chant and singing with his lovely wife, Stephanie, and their twelve children.
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