The Usual Suspects

The Usual Suspects

By Deacon Michael P. McKeating

Chairman

Chesterton Academy of Buffalo

 

            Those of you who are movie buffs know that the slang phrase “the usual suspects,” used today in all sorts of conversational settings, comes from one of the greatest movies of all time, the 1943 classic Casablanca, with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.

            The Usual Suspects can be translated into Italian as “Tipi Loschi.”  Tipi Loschi is the name chosen for a Catholic Covenant Community in a small city on the Adriatic Coast called San Benedetto del Tronto.  Tipi Loschi was founded by Marco Semarini, his wife and several other couples.  They were following the call of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati to form small Christian communities that pray, live and work together, “in the world but not of it.”

            It was originally started by Semarini and his friends when they were university students, as sort of a faith-sharing and accountability group.  They modeled themselves on Blessed Pier Giorgio, concentrating on Catholic social action, prayer, charity, and community.  After they graduated and got jobs, they stayed together in a loose community, and as they married, brought their wives into the group.  Encouraged by their local Bishop, in 1993 they incorporated under Canon Law as a “Private Association of the Christian Faithful.”  They jokingly chose the name Tipi Loschi, which is what Blessed Giorgio Frassati had called his group of followers.

            Over the years they grew to about 200 members.  In 2008, fed up with the militant secularism and materialism of the public schools, they formed a school of their own, modeled on the writing of G. K. Chesterton.  The name of the school is Scuola Libera de G. K. Chesterton.  The motto of the school is:

        “A dead thing goes along with the stream, only a living thing goes against it.” It is a quote from Chesterton’s book The Everlasting Man, published in 1925.

         Ironically, that same month and year that Semarini opened Scuola Libera,  the first Chesterton Academy in the United States was opened by Dale Ahlquist in Minneapolis, MN.  Now fast friends, the two men did not know each other at the time, nor did either know the other was starting a school called Chesterton Academy.  Both schools are now part of the Chesterton Network of Schools, of which Chesterton Academy of Buffalo is also a member.

        The curriculum is a classical curriculum, similar to that of the Chesterton Academies in the U.S.  The school is a work of Tipi Loschi, which is what we in the U.S. would call a “covenant community.”  In other words, the school is an arm of the community.  Community members teach and work at the school, as well as send their children there. 

        The Scuola Libera de G.K. Chesterton started in 2008 with four students, two of them Semarini’s children.  It now has an enrollment upwards of 70, in middle school and high school.  Scuola Libera means “Free School, but it is not free in the sense of costing nothing.  A Scuola Libera in Italy is a school free of government control. The Italian Constitution guarantees parents the right to control the education of their children.  (Imagine that!)

        Chesterton Academy of Buffalo was born in 2013 when I was in Rome for the election of Pope Francis, and I stumbled upon students from Scuola Libera and Chesterton Academy of Minneapolis playing soccer.  I was impressed that there was something different about them. I asked them who they were.  The rest is history.  We are now part of“the usual suspects.”

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What Would Chesterton Say about Brexit?

gk

By Michael P. McKeating, J.D. 

            People have been asking me:  “What would G.K. Chesterton say about the Brexit vote?”

            I think I can unequivocally say that he would be delighted.  He would be standing free pints of Guinness for everyone in Beaconsfield!

            G.K.  Chesterton, who lived from 1874 to 1936, was the quintessential multi-tasker.  He was a journalist, essayist, lecturer, theologian, philosopher, politician commentator, humorist, and novelist.  He was one of the greatest literary lights of the early 20th Century, having published more than 50 books and more than 10,000 articles in newspapers and journals.

            G.K. Chesterton is the inspiration behind the Chesterton Network of Schools, private high schools in the Catholic tradition that teach a classical curriculum. 

            Chesterton was a huge proponent of the “principle of subsidiarity,” the central principle of Catholic social doctrine.  Originally enunciated by Pope Leo XIII in the encyclical Rerum Novarum, reaffirmed by Pius XI in Quadragesimo Anno and by John Paul II in Centesimus Annus, holds that a government of a higher level should not interfere in the internal life of a government of a lower level.  The principle of subsidiarity was the foundation of the political philosophy of Distributism, which was very popular in England between the world wars.  It’s principal prophets were authors Hilaire Belloc and G.K. Chesterton.

            Chesterton’s novel The Napoleon of Notting Hill, is widely regarded as an allegory and a metaphor for the doctrine of subsidiarity.  The Outline of Sanity (1925) was a serious work of political essays in which Chesterton preached the principle of subsidiarity.

            The “Leave” vote for Brexit was a prime example of the principle of subsidiarity in our time.  The EU had become a swollen bureaucracy of unelected bureaucrats in Brussels, whose function was to micromanage the member states and control the lives of their businesses and people. 

            The Brussels bureaucrats controlled everything from the packaging of meat and the labeling of sugar, to attempting to force Catholic countries like Poland and Ireland to legalize abortion and same-sex marriage against the will of their citizens. 

            The British people finally had enough of micro-managing, pompous paper-pushers, and struck a blow for independence, sovereignty, home-rule, and subsidiarity.  The minions in Brussels are petrified that other countries might follow Britain’s example.  And well, they might.

            I think Chesterton celebrated Brexit in heaven with a big, foaming Guinness stout!

Graduation Speech - Maren Lelonek

Welcome Trustees, Deacon Michael McKeating, Dean Ann Suchyna, Faculty and staff, my fellow students, families, and friends. Thank you so much for coming today. I appreciate you taking time out of your busy day to come and support Janine and me. Can you believe Chesterton academy has successfully ended its first year?!! This year was one of the best years of my life and Chesterton is the best school I’ve been to. I’ve been to five different schools, I should know.  One thing that I’ve learned here is to be thankful, so first I would like to thank some people.

First, and most importantly I would like to thank God. He gave me such a wonderful gift of being able to go to such an awesome school and meet such special people. He had the Holy Spirit push me to come here, knowing that this school is what I needed and has made me the happiest I’ve been in the longest time.

Second I would like to thank my parents for such a wonderful opportunity to be able to follow God’s will to come to Chesterton Academy. I know it was hard giving up the fancy cars, the vacations, the big house. I know I have not always acted like I appreciate it but I really do. I hope I made it worthwhile and made you both proud.

Third, I would like thank my brother Jurek who has been there for me whenever I needed him. Thanks for being there for me and keeping me in line.

Fourth, thank you teachers, faculty, and staff for your patience with us and making sure we learned what needed to and being open to all the questions we had, no matter how ridiculous they were. Thank you also for showing us how our faith is the basis for everything and helping us understand it more.  All of you were the best teachers I’ve ever had.  Thank you.

Last but definitely not least to my fellow classmates. Thank you for all of your support and fun times we had together. I could not have made it without you guys. Thanks for all the great memories. You are the best and each one of you has a special place in my heart.

When I first heard about Chesterton Academy, I thought it was such a great opportunity for other kids. I had no idea that I would be one of those kids. I was a junior at Mount Mercy Academy who just switched schools because my other school, Holy Angels closed. I didn’t want to go through all of that again even though I wasn’t very happy at school.

A few weeks passed after hearing about Chesterton and I started to forget about it and started to drift into a depression. I wasn’t friends with the right people, my grades dropped, and my faith in God was fading. Then a situation happened at school, which brought me back to thinking about Chesterton Academy.  I remember talking to my mom about it and her telling me we will just check it out and it would be a backup plan if the situation at school got out of hand. So we checked it out.

It seemed like an incredible opportunity but it was just a backup plan. Back at school things got a little bit better. The situation didn’t get out of hand and I made new and better friends, who are here today, but I still wasn’t happy and was slipping deeper into my depression.

 My mom loved Chesterton when we went to the open house so much she found out the date of the next open house and made both me and my dad go. At this point I still was considering it a “back up plan”. Both my mom and dad thought it was perfect for me and said I could switch schools if I wanted. After that I knew I was supposed to go there but I was scared. I was going to have to meet new people, make new friends, and this was its first year so what was the education and teachers going to be like? Was it going to be worth it?

Man was it worth it. Yes I had to meet new people and make new friends but everyone else was new too. I made new friends and fell in love with Chesterton Academy. It has taught me not only lesson in History, Philosophy, and Theology but life lessons that has shaped who I am today. I became so much stronger and more confident in my faith. Everyone at Chesterton is like family to me. We’ve had our ups and downs but we all stuck together and got through it together.  So here are a few words of wisdom that I have learned from Chesterton Academy:

1) Always Trust God and put him first in your life: God is the most important person in your life. No one can take Him away from you unless you let it happen. God will always be there for you no matter what. The outcome that you want may not be the He gives you but it’s the one you need. Each one of you is special and is called to change the world, whether it be small or grand. God never gives you even an ounce more than you can handle and does not let you suffer for no reason. Never lose faith in Him. If you put Him first, you will always be successful. Chesterton Academy always put God first. We go to mass everyday and pray before class and everything we do.  They taught us that God is the most important person in our lives and no matter what to honor him throughout our lives.

2) Stick together- This year was a great year We all became like family. You guys are wonderful with accepting others. Make sure to always accept the new students next year. With that said, the devil knows this school is exactly what God wants and what he doesn’t. He will do anything to destroy the good in this school. If you see this happening, bullying etc., say a prayer to the Holy Spirit and defend and protect what we stand for, of course with kindness and compassion. Do not be afraid because that fear is not from God. Stay strong and stay together.

3) Everyone has a story- When I first came to Chesterton, I was having a pity party for myself. “How could all of these bad things happen to me?” or “Why me?”. When I started to become friends with others, I heard their stories which were so much worse than mine. I realized everyone has a story. God uses everyone for different purposes. Don’t ever judge someone on something they did or have done. We don’t know why they have done what they did. Always, no matter what they have done to you, treat them with compassion and kindness.

4) Always be thankful and forgiving – Lastly always be thankful and forgive. There is always a reason for things happening. When I went to see Mrs. Suchyna for Meet the Dean, she had showed me through thankfulness and forgiveness, God can live within you. Just pray to God and offer it up. So always have compassion thankfulness and compassion in your hearts. Thank you again for giving a second home, Chesterton Academy, and renewing God in me. I will always consider myself a Chesterton girl and only a Chesterton girl. Thank you and may God bless you today and always.

One Smart Strategy to Get Your Students to Think

Socratic Method

By Michael P. McKeating, J.D.
Headmaster
Chesterton Academy of Buffalo

Socrates was a Greek philosopher who lived from approximately 470 BC to 399 BC. He was the mentor of Plato, who in turn counted Aristotle as his most famous pupil. His teaching method is still effective today at stimulating productive thought and discussion among students.

Socrates taught by asking questions in a form very similar to that used in legal cross-examination.  He discussed key points of his philosophy with his friends shortly before his death.  His method was to ask friends what they thought about a particular issue, and then probe, clarify, negate and hone their position by asking further questions to bring out any inconsistencies in their statements and get them to think.

The chief opponents of Socrates were a group of pseudo-philosophers called the Sophists.  The Sophists were akin to today’s moral relativists or postmodernists.  They did not believe in right or wrong, good or evil.  They would argue any side of any question for a fee, and the next day switch and argue the other side for another fee.

Socrates described himself as a gadfly, someone who annoys his opponents by criticizing them to the point of action.  In his time, Athens was governed by a group of autocrats who had seized power.  He would hang out in the public square and embarrass the oligarchs by asking them questions like, “What is justice?” and then painstakingly bring out the inconsistencies in their answers with further questions, showing they had no idea what justice was.   

Needless to say, Socrates was a nuisance to those in power.  He was eventually arrested, tried on a charge of corrupting the young, and sentenced to death by being forced to drink hemlock.

The Socratic Method, teaching by asking questions, is the method used by the Great Schoolmen of the Middle Ages, such as Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, and Albert the Great.  It is also used in virtually all law schools today.

We use the Socratic Method at Chesterton Academy because it teaches students to think logically, to articulate clearly, and to defend their position under cross-examination.  In this way they become clear thinkers and confident advocates for their beliefs.  They also become effective defenders of the faith.

Did the March for Life Do Anything?

March for Life - Chesterton

By Michael P. McKeating, J.D.
Headmaster
Chesterton Academy of Buffalo

During the nine-hour bus ride from Buffalo to Washington D.C. for the annual March for Life, one of the students raised an interesting question.  Essentially the question was, “Why are we doing this?  What’s the point?  Abortion is still legal, and Roe v. Wade has not been overturned.”

It is not a frivolous question, and it provoked some thought.  Are we accomplishing anything? 

The answer is, although it is important, even imperative, to work in the legislative arena trying to change laws and the judicial arena bringing about respect-life change through these processes, the battle is not ultimately won in either of these spheres.  The battle is won in the hearts and minds of our fellow Americans.

This is good news, because change of minds and hearts is something the March for Life can and does affect.

There is evidence that the battle is being won in this capacity.  Pro-life and anti-abortion sentiment has been growing steadily in this country.  A recent nationwide poll conducted by the Marist College in January 2015 shows that 58% of Millennials, or Generation Y, believe that abortion is morally wrong.  51% of the 30-44 age group, Generation X, also opposes abortion on moral grounds.  The younger generations are more pro-life than their parents and grandparents – the baby boomers. 

These are the highest percentages of pro-life sentiment in decades.

Medical professionals tell us that the increased availability of ultrasounds, through which pregnant women can actually see their babies, has had a profound effect in motivating women who are on the fence to choose life.  This is again supporting evidence that the battle is being won at the interpersonal level – contacting and changing hearts directly.

When human hearts and opinions change, grassroots-driven legislation will follow. We are seeing that state legislatures and state courts are restricting abortion in various ways, such as parental notification laws, licensing and regulation laws, laws requiring access to counseling and ultrasound, etc. 

A recent article in the Huffington Post, a liberal, pro-abortion publication, lamented that 54 abortion clinics in 27 states had closed in the past three years due to various legislative restrictions enacted as a result of pro-life action.  According to a February 2, 2014 story in the New York Times, in 2011 abortions fell to the lowest point since 1981.

Anecdotally, when I attended my first March for Life in 1997, there were an estimated 100,000 marchers.  This January, the consensus is that there were more than 250,000.  Each one of those marchers, animated by their experience and the witness of others, returns home and witnesses to countless friends, neighbors and family members. 

Yes, we are accomplishing something.  We are changing minds and hearts – one at a time.

Chesterton Academy of Buffalo traveled as a group to the March for Life 2015. This is one student's witness while marching.

To see more photos from the Chesterton Academy of Buffalo trip to the March for Life 2015, click HERE.

4 Reasons Philosophy Should Be Taught in High School

 
photo credit: Lawrence OP via photopin cc

photo credit: Lawrence OP via photopin cc

 

By Michael P. McKeating, J.D.
Headmaster
Chesterton Academy of Buffalo

At Chesterton Academy of Buffalo, we require all students to take four years of philosophy. One of the questions I am often asked is: “Why teach philosophy in high school?”  There are many reasons, but I like to emphasize four.  

1. First and foremost, philosophy teaches one to think.  If this sounds fundamental, that’s because it is.

The ability to think—really think—is a scarce commodity today.  Today, everyone has an opinion about everything.  But few can explain or defend their opinion.  If you ask someone where they got that opinion, they may look at you like you just landed from Mars.  If they are able to answer at all, more often than not they will begin the answer with: “Well I feel that…”  Immediately you are in the realm of emotion, and outside the realm of reason.

The study of philosophy teaches the student to think rationally, starting with observations and propositions and arriving at conclusions following the rules of logic.   It teaches one to analyze arguments and to expose logical fallacies.

2. Second, philosophy asks and proposes answers to the fundamental questions of life.

These were succinctly summarized by St. John Paul II in his encyclical, Fides et Ratio:

Moreover, a cursory glance at ancient history shows clearly how in different parts of the world, with their different cultures, there arise at the same time the fundamental questions which pervade human life: Who am I? Where have I come from and where am I going? Why is there evil? What is there after this life?

The study of philosophy asks, analyzes and proposes answers to these questions.  This is essential to any education because, as John Paul II points out, all humans seek answers to these questions in order to give direction to their life. 

3. Third, philosophy seeks truth—or at least it always did until recently.

Since World War II, there has risen a branch of modern philosophy called Postmodernism, which holds that there is no such thing as truth.  Truth, along with goodness and beauty, are regarded by classical philosophers as the ultimate desires of all men.  Aristotle, at the beginning of Metaphysics, said, “All men by nature seek to know.”  To know what: truth.  Even those who claim not to believe in truth will immediately object to a false proposition, “But that is not true!”

4. Fourth, studying philosophy builds virtue.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines virtue as a habitual and firm disposition to do the good (CCC, #1803).  St. Gregory of Nyssa, one of the Catechetical Fathers of the Church, said, “The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God” (ibid.).

Plato and Aristotle wrote extensively about virtues and the virtuous life 350 years before the birth of Christ.  This is one of the reasons that many theologians consider them to be precursors of the Gospel.  The ideas and principles that they formulated about virtue are as applicable today as they were in the fourth century B.C.  In philosophy, students can acquaint themselves with and discourse on these timeless writings, applying their understanding of virtue to real life.

As long as rational thinking, understanding the purpose of life, truth-seeking, and virtue-building are important to learn in high school, we also consider it important to teach philosophy in high school.


____________________________________

At Chesterton Academy, freshmen learn from the “Pre-Socratics,” the Greek philosophers who lived before Socrates.  To sophomores, we teach Plato and Aristotle, the fathers of Western philosophy, who were viewed by the Church Fathers as precursors of the Gospel.  Junior year, we teach St. Thomas Aquinas and early modern philosophy. Senior year, we teach Hobbes, Rousseau, Locke, Adam Smith, Marx, Chesterton and Belloc.

Click here to learn more about our classical curriculum.

4 Practical Reasons to Teach Latin in High School

photo credit: Admiral Kahoku via photopin cc

photo credit: Admiral Kahoku via photopin cc

By MICHAEL P. McKEATING, J.D.
Headmaster
Chesterton Academy of Buffalo

At Chesterton Academy of Buffalo we require all students to take three years of Latin. 

When I speak to groups of parents about this, I get one of two reactions.  Most say: “Praise the Lord.”  But some say: “Why do you do that?  Latin is of no use today.” I love those comments.  They are the perfect foil.  They launch me on my favorite speech.

 The study of Latin is essential to a classical education, or to any Liberal Arts education for that matter.  There are a number of reasons for this.

1. First, Latin is important because it teaches one to read, write and speak English better.

This is true because studying Latin forces one to focus on grammar, syntax and parts of speech.  We usually don’t do this when we speak English, because we learned to speak English as infants and we do it without any reflection.  Often we are not speaking correctly, but we do not know it.

But Latin has a rigid sentence structure, nouns are declined, verbs are conjugated, and adjectives must agree with the nouns they modify in gender, number and case.  Therefore in every sentence we must think about whether a word is a subject, predicate, direct object, indirect object, part of a prepositional phrase, etc.

In short, we must learn sentence structure and parts of speech, essential in any language but generally no longer given much emphasis in English in our schools.

2. Second, more than 50% of the words in the English language come from Latin, so in the course of learning Latin vocabulary, we necessarily expand and perfect our knowledge of English vocabulary.

As a result of Latin’s effect in strengthening and expanding our English vocabulary, numerous studies have shown that students who have taken Latin in high school score at least 50 to 150 points higher on standardized tests such as the SAT, than do students who have not studied Latin (Townsley, 1985; Morgan, 1989; Barrett, 1996; LaFleur, 1998).

3. Third, a knowledge of Latin is very important in a number of professions, particularly law and medicine. 

In the legal profession, for example, there are hundreds of Latin phrases that are used by lawyers every day. Some examples are:

Mens Rea – Guilty mind
Certiorari – Bring it forth
Obiter dicta – Offhand comment in a legal decision not necessary to the decision
Duces tecum – Bring it with you
Ex post facto – After the fact
Habeus corpus – Produce the body
Ignorantia juris non excusat – Ignorance of the law is no excuse
In limine – At the threshold
In loco parentis – In the place of the parents
Non compos mentis – Not of sound mind

And there are hundreds more.  One literally could not practice law without knowing the meaning of these Latin legal terms.

4. Finally, studying Latin helps us to better understand the Latin Mass, as well as the original text of the many traditional Latin hymns, such as Tantum Ergo, O Salutaris, Pange Lingua, Ave Corpus Verum, and many others.

Also, the original text of all Vatican documents is written in Latin. From there it is often translated into French, and from French into all other languages. So when we read the English translation, it's often a year or two after the original came out, and it has gone through at least two translations. This is why there are so many disputes over translations, and why studying Latin would help us to better understand them.

At Chesterton Academy of Buffalo we promote the quest of knowledge to glorify God and to make the student a well-rounded, well-spoken citizen of the world. While we do not approach the quest for knowledge from a utilitarian perspective, it is clear that learning Latin is extremely beneficial for a multitude of reasons.

What is a Classical Curriculum?

photo credit: Nick in exsilio via photopin cc

photo credit: Nick in exsilio via photopin cc

By Michael P. McKeating, J.D.
Headmaster
Chesterton Academy of Buffalo

At Chesterton Academy of Buffalo, an Independent High School in the Catholic Tradition, we teach a classical curriculum.  I am often asked by parents of prospective students, as well as by benefactors and others, “What is a classical curriculum?”

The classical curriculum has its origin in Plato and Aristotle, and was the method of education used in nearly all of Western Civilization for over 2,000 years.  It is the method which produced such great geniuses as St. Anselm, St. Albert the Great, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bonaventure, Chaucer, Dante, and St. Thomas More, to name but a few.

The purpose of a classical curriculum is to build well-rounded generalists, who can think about, discuss and debate any subject.  Unlike most modern schools, such a curriculum does not teach subjects in narrow unrelated compartments, but stresses the inter-relatedness of all subjects, showing how philosophy, theology, mathematics, history, literature and music are all related.

For example, a lesson in geometry may lead into a discussion of the philosophies and writing of Euclid and Pythagoras, the fathers of geometry, which may help in debate during social and political discussions.

In Medieval times, a classical curriculum was frequently referred to as the Trivium and the Quadrivium.  One could loosely translate these Latin terms as “the three subjects” and the “four subjects.”

The Trivium consisted of 1) grammar, 2) logic and 3) rhetoric.  The Quadrivium consisted of 1) arithmetic, 2) geometry, 3) music and 4) astronomy.  Together, these categories comprised the seven subject areas of a traditional liberal arts education.

These terms did not all have the same meaning that they have today.  For example, grammar was not limited to the rules of a language, but meant the collection and ordering of facts into a coherent whole.  Logic meant bringing understanding to this body of knowledge by eliminating contradictions.  Rhetoric meant the art of communicating this knowledge and understanding its wisdom.

The curriculum at Chesterton Academy of Buffalo is basically a classical curriculum, although the subjects are not called by the same names.  At Chesterton, all students take one year of debate, two years of a second language, three years of Latin, and four years of literature, history, science, mathematics, philosophy, theology, art, music, and drama.

 During freshman year, all subjects of the Chesterton curriculum have a concentration on the Ancient World. For sophomores, the focus is the Early Medieval Period; juniors, the High Middle Ages to the Renaissance; and seniors, the Modern World. Thus, the curriculum produces students who can think and process the world around them as a narrative throughout time integrating all subjects.

For more on our curriculum, see: http://www.buffalochestertonacademy.org/curriculum/

Our students on their first day of literature class at Chesterton Academy of Buffalo.

Our students on their first day of literature class at Chesterton Academy of Buffalo.

Why We Don't Use Common Core

photo credit: Steve Rhodes via photopin cc

photo credit: Steve Rhodes via photopin cc

By Michael P. McKeating, J.D.
Headmaster
Chesterton Academy of Buffalo

             At Chesterton Academy of Buffalo we do not follow “Common Core.”  We do not use Common Core standards, curricula, tests, or Common Core-aligned textbooks.

            We follow the Classical Model of education.  We teach all subjects through the lens of the Catholic Church, using wherever possible the Socratic method.  We do so because this model is far superior, as proven by the experience of centuries.

            The Common Core is a comprehensive system of standardized, top-down curricula, textbooks and tests for grades K through 12, conceived and funded primarily by Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation and promoted by President Obama and the federal government.  Its stated purpose is to make children “college and career-ready.”  It is entirely pragmatic and utilitarian, based on the educational philosophy of John Dewey, with a strong overlay of Postmodernist philosophy for frosting. 

            It is pragmatic and utilitarian because it emphasizes uniformity and conformity.  It wants all students to meet the same standards, but it wants to accomplish that by lowering the standards.  It also seeks to impose a uniform, politically correct content.  It stresses the information necessary to get into college or to get a job.  These are two laudable, and in most cases, necessary objectives.  But it stresses them at the expense of denigrating the study of great literature, philosophy, history or foreign languages. 

            At Chesterton Academy of Buffalo, we seek to educate the whole person.  As humans, we are composite beings, made up of body and soul, not robots.  The pagan, secular philosophy of John Dewey and his followers—which is really the foundation for Common Core—sees faith and reason as incompatible and mutually exclusive.  We see faith and reason as not only compatible, but complimentary.

            Common Core seeks to teach and test students in the reading of government documents and manuals, because it is useful.  It stresses information.  We teach students to read the great works of Western Literature:  The Iliad, The Odyssey, Beowulf, The Song of Roland, the Confessions of St. Augustine, The Divine Comedy, The Canterbury Tales Hamlet, Macbeth.  We introduce them to the works of Homer, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dante, John Donne, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, G.K. Chesterton and Flannery O’Connor.

            We require four years of philosophy.  Why do we do this? Because it teaches students to think, a skill in short supply today.  In today’s culture, everyone has an opinion on everything, but few can explain or defend their opinion.  We teach the principles of logic—how to reason, from first principles, through propositions to conclusions.  In short, we teach students how to explain and defend their beliefs.  We also teach Music, Art, Drama and Debate.  We seek to form the whole person with a comprehensive world-view, not narrow specialists.

            Common Core teaches skills in separate, unconnected compartments.  We teach that all knowledge is interconnected.  In each year we show how philosophy, theology, history and literature, music and art are interconnected and interwoven in a cohesive whole.  And we teach that all knowledge is interconnected through the central mystery of human existence:  the Incarnation of Jesus Christ—God become Man.

            In summary we don’t use Common Core because we use something far better.  The superiority of the classical education has been tested and proven by the experience of the centuries.  In the words of Dale Ahlquist, the founder of the Chesterton Network of Schools, “We are doing something new by doing something very old.”