Monday, July 10, 2017

Jesuit Model of Education

"The Jesuit Model of Education" was a lecture given at a conference for educators, especially principals, in 2004 by Fr. Michael McMahon. He does a good job in describing the history, objectives, religious emphasis, ends or purposes, means, teaching, curriculum, the role of the classics, and so on. Many of the points made by the authors could be applied to Protestant education.

First, the author describes the history of Jesuit education. He states that even those who criticize Roman Catholicism recognize the great good accomplished by Jesuit education. The Jesuits was founded in 1540 by Ignatius Loyola. The Jesuits were organized for evangelization and apostolic ministry. They quickly realized that the "way to defend the Faith was through education." Jesuits have been educating Catholics for almost 500 years. The Jesuit model of education is based on the Ratio Studiorum,, the Jesuit manual of education. McMahon states, "The landmark achievement of the Jesuits was to give order, hierarchy, structure, unity, and methodology to education." The Ratio Studiorum does not emphasize the theoretical side of education; instead, it focuses on the practical method of organizing and "conducting" schools.


Why did the Jesuits make education an important work of the order? The founder of the order helps us understand the motivation of the Jesuits: "The end of the Society is not only to care for the salvation and perfection of their own souls with divine grace, but with the same [divine grace] seriously devote themselves to the salvation and perfection of their neighbors. For it was especially instituted for the defense and propagation of the Faith, and the progress of souls in Christian life and doctrine." In other words, the motivation was the salvation of their own souls and the souls of others. The Jesuit philosophy of education combined the scholastic philosophy with the teachings of the church, faith and reason. What was of utmost importance was a correct understanding of "human nature as created by Almighty God and the ultimate destiny of man."

We can say that Jesuit education was preparation for both life in this world and for "everlasting life." Their goal was to form the souls of young people for God. The concept of "form" is very important to the model of Jesuit education. They are trying to create a certain type of person. The author notes, "We are intimately involved in the formation of citizens for heaven, souls made for the beautific vision." The Jesuit model of education is not just speaking about the training of the mind. They emphasize the formation of the whole person, mind, body, soul, and character. In addition, they believe the religious end of man or religion needs to permeate every class, not just religious classes.

The Ends

The ultimate end of Jesuit education is to "lead students to the knowledge and love of God." They want to form students a love and knowledge of God, a love and knowledge of the Catholic faith, an enthusiasm for the Catholic faith, and people who will manifest the importance of the Catholic faith in their lives. They are attempting to form Christ in each of their students. McMahon states, "The proximate educational aims are, first, to develop all the powers of the body and soul. It's the whole man that is being formed: his body, senses, memory, imagination, intellect, and will. It is developing, disciplining, and directing all the capacities of the human personality." This is what Jesuits think should be the purpose of education. The Ratio Studiorum states, "The development of the student's intellectual capacity is the school's most characteristic part. However, this development will be defective and even dangerous unless it is strengthened and completed by the training of the will and the formation of character."


The first principle of the curriculum is that "The curriculum is to achieve formation, not just information." I have already mention how important the word form or formation are to the Jesuit model of education. McMahon states, "The curriculum is structured to develop the intellectual and moral habits to form the character." It was a consistent theme of Christian education to form both the mind and character. Part of the goal is to create in the student the skills of learning. There is similarity with the Jesuit Model of education and Mortimer Adler's padeia proposal. The author states that simply providing information does not form the soul. The methodology of Jesuit education was to form the man in such a way that he will be able to think for himself. To think well is accomplished by developing intellectual and moral habits in the student. The second principle of the curriculum is that the "study is to be intensive rather than extensive." Since the goal is to form, not simply to inform the student, and the way to do this is by being intensive, "by studying in depth a relatively small number of subjects rather than superficially studying a large number." It also emphasizes studying the most important things thoroughly. There seems to be much wisdom in the two principles of the curriculum. It does seem that modern education puts too much emphasis on inputting information, instead of forming the student by developing intellectual and moral habits. It also seems true that studying less is studying more.

The Classics

McMahon said for the high school, Jesuits thought that studying the humanities--literature, language, and history was the most important thing. They thought that studying these subjects, without excluding others, "contributed to the balanced formation of the human being, making him a fit receptacle for the grace of God." This is true because the humanities teach "abiding and universal values for human values." They emphasized studying the great classics, books, and authors. They believed the great books were helpful in forming the person. They believed "The great thoughts and the noble deeds seem to make the pages palpitate life." Homer's heroes and their deeds, for example, "flames in the mind long after the music of the language died from the ear, and the beauty of the imagery has faded from the memory." It is these things and things similar that calls for the best in humans which educates them. It should teach praise for what is noble and scorn for what is base. Much of the truths learned through reason will fits snugly with the truths of the Christian faith. McMahon states, "By utilizing these perennial works, the Jesuits formed the soul by noble deeds and great acts; inspired their students and provided a vision for the young mind. These are abiding concepts in education and is why it is so necessary to build our schools upon them. By such studies, the Jesuits fostered in their students the ability to think worthwhile thoughts and express them effectively." In addition, the Jesuits emphasized providing worthwhile knowledge, not just learning anything; encourage students to think things through with their teachers and their peers; to organize their knowledge in a workable form, and to express it effectively. All three columns  of Adler's Padeia Proposal are emphasized in the Jesuit model of education. The Jesuits emphasized the eloquenta perfecta: "knowing the right things, knowing them well, being able to organize them properly, and express them in the proper manner."

These are some of the important points I noticed in the presentation of the Jesuit model of education. Many of these things would be useful for evangelicals in educating their students. One might question the emphasis on memory work, and the emphasis on the teacher. Jesuits have been educating students for over 400 years. It seems that not only Catholics, but other groups should utilize their principles of education.

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