Catholic Philosophers of Education, 1900-1960
By Fayette Veverka
CATHOLIC PHILOSOPHERS OF EDUCATION 1900-1960: This entry examines the contributions of a particular school of educational thought grounded in Catholicism’s scholastic intellectual tradition that dominated Catholic thinking about education in the first half of the twentieth century. This “Catholic philosophy of education” engaged the energy and imagination of many serious thinkers who produced a substantial corpus of writing including several book length treatments.
While Catholics pointed with pride to the unity and consistency of their fundamental principles, they nevertheless differed quite dramatically on how these principles were to be translated into educational policies and practices in the U.S. context. This entry identifies five central themes shared in common by the Catholic philosophers of education listed above as well as describing five contested issues that sharply divided conservatives from progressive. While not all scholars cited are profiled in depth, biographical sketches of key figures who had major leadership roles in Catholic education are included.
Catholic Educators Profiled
Edward A. Pace, 1861-1938
Thomas Edward Shields, 1862-1921
Francis W. Howard, 1867-1944
Jacques Maritain, 1882–1973
Edward A. Fitzpatrick 1884-1960
George Johnson, 1889-1944
John D. Redden, 1903-1959
John Courtney Murray, S. J. l904-l967
Other Catholic Educators Referenced
Pius XI, 1857-1939
Pierre J. Marique, 1872-1957
Paul Blakely, S.J. 1880-1943
Charles L. O’Donnell, 1884-1934
Edward B. Jordan, 1884-?
William F. Cunningham C. S. C., 1885-1961.
James H. Ryan, 1886-1948
Francis A. Ryan, 1887-?
William J. McGucken, S. J. 1889-1943
Francis J. Haas, 1889-1953
John Francis O’Hara, 1889-1960
John Julius Ryan, (l898-?)
Geoffery O’Connell, 1900-?
Though the term "Catholic education" has become virtually synonymous with "Catholic schooling," this entry uses the term more broadly to describe a particular historical model of religious education; one that reflected a distinctive understanding of the relationship between religion, education and culture that while historically linked with schools, was not necessarily tied to any one agency, structure or program. In the United States, this understanding took shape in the context of the religious and cultural alienation of Catholic immigrants in the nineteenth century and fostered the development of the Catholic schools system as the church's primary educational strategy in American society. At the beginning of the twentieth century, attention shifted from the building of a school system, to defending its role in American society. The pressures were both external and internal. Catholic schools were under severe attack with the resurgence of anti-Catholic nativism and widespread fears of social fragmentation after World War I, so much so that by l923, Oregon, after several unsuccessful legislative attempts in other states, passed a law requiring public school attendance in the lower grades. Catholic leaders faced the urgent task of allaying public concern and defending the integrity of Catholic schools in American society. To retain the loyalty and support of an increasingly assimilated, socially mobile Catholic population, the church was at pains to demonstrate to parents that Catholic schools were as good as public schools and that they were as characteristically American as they were Catholic. The dilemma, of course, was that in arguing that Catholic schools were equivalent to their public school counterparts and that they were genuinely American institutions, Catholic educators then had to ask what made Catholic schools different (Veverka, 1988, 1993).
The answer to that question was a central focus of serious intellectual work in the first half of the twentieth century which produced a substantial corpus of writings including several book length treatments. While there were too many Catholic philosophers of education among this group to profile individually here, this entry will describe the basic principles this group of educators shared in common as well as provide brief biographical sketches of certain major figures that had significant positions of influence in the Catholic community.
Philosophical and Theological Foundations
In the opening of the 1921 meeting of the National Catholic Education Association, Secretary General Francis W. Howard proudly contrasted Catholicism’s unified philosophical and theological vision with “secular” theorists who “find their greatest difficulty in establishing a set of working principles on which they can agree.”
Most Rev. Bishop Francis W. Howard, D.D.
The Fifth Bishop of the Diocese of Covington. Francis W. Howard was born on June 21, 1867 in Columbus, Ohio. He studied for the priesthood at Mount St. Mary Seminary of the West in Cincinnati, Ohio, and was ordained by Bishop John Watterson on June 16, 1891 at St. Joseph Cathedral in Columbus.
In 1901, Father Howard organized the first Columbus Diocesan School Board. In the following year, he participated in the establishment of the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA). For the next 42 years, Father Howard held offices in the NCEA including: Secretary General 1903-1928, President 1928-1936 and as a member of the Advisory Board from 1936 through 1944.
On March 26, 1944, Father Howard was appointed Bishop of Covington to replace the ill Bishop Ferdinand Brossart. The consecration took place on July 15, 1923 at St. Mary Cathedral in Covington. The consecrating bishop was Archbishop Henry Moeller of Cincinnati. During his years in Covington, Bishop Howard worked enthusiastically to improve and expand the Catholic school system of the diocese. He oversaw the establishment of Covington Catholic High School, Covington Latin High School, Lexington Latin High School and Newport Catholic High School. Bishop Howard also made Villa Madonna College (now Thomas More College) a diocesan institution. Bishop Howard died on January 18, 1944. He was buried at St. Mary Cemetery in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky.
Source Citation: The Archives of the Diocese of Covington. Retrieved from http://www.kenton.lib.ky.us/gen/kenton/covington/covbios/index.htm
That unifying vision for Catholic philosophers of education was grounded in Catholicism’s scholastic intellectual tradition, inspired by the Thomistic revival initiated by Pope Leo XIII’s l879 encyclical, Aeternis Patris. Having rejected the complexity and relativism of modern thought, Catholic philosophers of education retained an untroubled confidence in the power of human reason to grasp essential truth (Halsey, 1980). A Catholic Philosophy of Education, a 1942 textbook for Catholic teacher training by John D. Redden and Francis A. Ryan, for example, illustrates the prevailing understanding of the role of scholasticism in Catholic life and education.
The only complete, adequate, natural way of thought is scholastic philosophy, which supplies the rational foundation for our supernatural way of life and way of thought. There may be other non-scholastic ways of thought, but none of them is complete and adequate, even if it be presupposed that they are sound … The Philosophia Perennis … furnishes basic criteria for differentiating the true from the false and for passing judgment on all philosophies of education.
John D. Redden (1903-1959). John D. Redden was born in 1903 in Dover, New Hampshire to Helena (McCooey) and Michael Redden. He received his BA in l924 and his MA in l926 at the University of New Hampshire and went on to teach at St. Mary’s College in Winona, Minnesota and Canisius College in Buffalo, New York before joining the faculty at Fordham in l931 where he earned his Ph.D. in l935. He taught at Fordham for 28 years, chairing the division of history and philosophy of education in the graduate department of education. He co-authored several books that were used in Catholic teacher training with his Fordham colleague Francis A. Ryan. He died in l959 at 56 years old, leaving behind his mother, his wife and one daughter.
Source Citation: Dr. John Redden, 56, Fordham professor. New York Times (1857-Current file); Jun 12, 1959; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2003), p. 27.
As an earlier 1930’s text The Philosophy of Catholic Education by Charles L. O’Donnell C.S.C. similarly asserted, while others might find such claims “fantastic and highly irritating,” Catholic educators presumed to offer not a vision of education, but the normative vision of education based on “the one and only possible perfect synthesis of truth” (p. 8).
Among the most basic “working principles” for Catholic philosophers of education was the conviction that true education was not possible without a religious foundation. In the most significant Vatican statement on education of this period, The Christian Education of Youth (1929), Pius XI (cited in Papal encyclical, 1930) argued that true education must be based on a true understanding of the origins, nature and destiny of the human person. Since Christianity alone could lay claim to such a normative anthropological vision, then "no perfect or even adequate education can exist which is not Christian" (p. 1).
Though not primarily educational philosophers, two major Catholic intellectual figures of the first half of the twentieth century, Jacques Maritain and John Courtney Murray, defended the encyclical’s theme of the inseparability of religion and education based on what Maritain, in his 1943 Terry Lectures at Yale University, Education at the Crossroads, called the “Christian idea of man.” This view understood
. . . man as an animal endowed with reason, whose supreme dignity is in the intellect; and man as a free individual in personal relation with God, whose supreme righteousness consists in voluntarily obeying the law of God; and man as a sinful and wounded creature called to divine life and to freedom of grace, whose supreme perfection consists of love (p. 7).
Jacques Maritain (1882-1973), a French philosopher, was one of the great Catholic thinkers of the 20th century and a leading figure in the revival of Thomism. He was the author of some 70 books, among them the widely read and influential, Education at the Crossroads (1943), an articulate defense of liberal education.
Maritain was born in France, the son of Paul Maritain, a lawyer, and Geneviève Favre. He was raised in a progressive Protestant environment, receiving his education at the Lycée Henri IV (1898–99) and at the Sorbonne, where he prepared a license in philosophy (1900–01) and in the natural sciences (1901–02). At the Sorbonne, Maritain met a young Russian Jewish student, Raïssa Oumansoff, who was to share his life and his quest for truth. They became engaged in 1902 and were married two years later. Through the influence of their friend Leon Bloy, both were received into the Catholic church in l906. Having been profoundly disappointed in first, scientific materialism and then, the philosophy of Herni Bergson to counter his profound sense of life’s meaninglessness, Maritain, at Raissa’s urging began reading Thomas Aquinas and describes the experience of reading St.Thomas' Summa Theologiae as a "luminous flood.”
In 1912, Maritain began teaching at the Lycée Stanislaus where he sought to defend Thomistic philosophy from its intellectual opponents. Soon after, he was named Assistant Professor at the Institut Catholique de Paris (attached to the Chair of the History of Modern Philosophy), became full Professor in 1921 and, in 1928, was appointed to the Chair of Logic and Cosmology, which he held until 1939.
Like St. Thomas, Maritain held that there was no conflict between faith and true reason, that religious belief was open to rational discussion, and that the existence of God and certain fundamental religious beliefs could be philosophically demonstrated. He called his own view "critical realism," in contrast to philosophical systems (e.g. Kantianism, idealism, pragmatism, and positivism) influenced by nominalism—the belief that universal notions are creations of the human mind and have no foundation in reality. He never abandoned the conviction that St. Thomas’s metaphysics provided the basis for a political and ethical philosophy that does justice to the dignity of human beings and their relationship to God and could address contemporary cultural problems including education.
Beginning in 1932, Maritain traveled annually to North America to teach at the Institute of Mediaeval Studies in Toronto. In l940 he moved to the United States and taught at Princeton (1941–42) and at Columbia University (1941–44). In December 1944, Maritain was named French ambassador to the Vatican, and was involved in discussions that led to the drafting of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Jacques and Raissa returned to France in l960 where Raissa soon fell ill and died. Jacques moved to Toulouse, to live with a religious order, the Little Brothers of Jesus and to live a contemplative life. In 1970, he petitioned to join the order, and died in Toulouse on April 28, 1973. He is buried alongside Raïssa in Kolbsheim, Alsace, France.
Source Citation: Excerpted from Gallagher, D. A., Evans, J. W. & Sweet, W. (2003). Maritain, Jacques. In New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd ed., (Vol. 9, pp. 177-180). Detroit: Gale.
Similarly, John Courtney Murray argued at a 1941 Philosophical Symposium on American Catholic Education, that if the goal of education is “to assist humanity in the realization of itself” and from a Catholic perspective, “to be a whole man, one must be a Christian,” then education is impossible through human efforts alone and requires “the spirit of Christ” (pp. 107-108).
If religion provided the only adequate foundation for education, then Catholic philosophers argued that any system of education that attempted to separate religion from education was essentially defective and inadequate. Pius XI’s The Christian Education of Youth objected strenuously to "any pedagogic naturalism which excludes or decreases the importance of supernatural formation in the education of youth" and educational systems "founded wholly or in part on the negation or forgetfulness of original sin and of grace, or, in other words, only on the forces of human nature" (p. 8). Catholics’ objections were not merely to a school system in which religion was not part of the curriculum, but to the very idea that one could educate in non-religious ways. Paul L. Blakely, associate editor of America magazine from 1943 to 1962, rejected the notion that
Catholic education. . .consists essentially in the teaching of religion. Remove that from the curriculum of the Catholic college and you would have but secular education. Instill that into the secular curriculum, and you preserve the essential features of Catholic education. . . . This is not a Catholic education. . . . For religion and education are not like a man and his hat. They are like a man and his soul. Take away the hat and you still have a man. Take away the soul, and you have a corpse. . . . religion is not something added to life. It is life, here and hereafter. Hence religion, which explains our duties to God, our neighbor and ourselves, can be safely excluded from no human activity, and least of all from education. (p. 75)
A second unifying principle for Catholic educators was the frequently cited statement from On the Christian Education of Youth that “the real immediate aim of Christian education is to cooperate with Divine Grace to form a true and perfect Christian.” This project of Christian formation did not imply a denial or rejection of human nature, but its “supernatural elevation” through the power of grace. John Courtney Murray explained that the Incarnation “affirmed on the one hand the validity of all things human, while affirming on the other hand their insufficiency.” Thus, Christian educators affirmed a basic paradox. On the one hand, "we must not reject even the smallest of human values … Our affirmation of human nature must be total and sincere." But the Incarnation also "imposes a recognition that the merely human is not enough … we must lose ourselves to find ourselves; we must go out of humanity in order to possess it; to be human we must consent to be made divine." Thus, concludes Murray, the goal of Christian education becomes the union of grace and nature in the human personality whose life becomes "humanly divine and divinely human" (pp. 109-113).
John Courtney Murray, S. J. (l904-l967). John Courtney Murray entered the Society of Jesus in 1920. He was ordained a priest in 1933 and received his doctorate in theology from the Gregorian University in Rome in 1937. He was a professor of theology at the Jesuit theologate at Woodstock, Maryland until his death. He also edited the magazine America and the journal Theological Studies. Murray’s major contributions were in public theology, especially church state relations, where he argued for the compatibility of American constitutionalism and Roman Catholicism. Indeed, according to Murray, it was the church’s claim to independence from the state that served as the catalyst for Western ideas of freedom and the principle of limited government first embodied concretely in America in a written constitution. It was this concept of limited government that grounded Murray’s claim that education did not fall within the exclusive domain of the state. His religious superiors, troubled by his views, restricted his writing and lecturing throughout the l950’s, but his ideas were vindicated at the Second Vatican Council where he helped to fashion the church’s declaration on religious liberty, Dignitatis Humanae.
Source Citation: Excerpted from Acton Institute for the Study of Liberty. (l992). John Courtney Murray, S.J. 1904-1960. Religion and Liberty 2, 2 (March and April). Retrieved from www.acton.org/publicat/randl/liberal.php?id=38
A third unifying principle among Catholic educators was an understanding of the organic interconnection of all aspects of human life. On the Christian Education of Youth rejected as “erroneous” the charge that Christian education hindered participation in everyday life and encouraged "the suppression or dwarfing of the natural faculties" and was therefore "inimical to social life and temporal prosperity, and contrary to all progress in letters, arts and sciences, and all the other elements of civilization” (p. 3) In response to this charge, Edward B. Jordan, S.T.D., (l931, dean of the Catholic Sisters College and vice rector of Catholic University of America till his death in July 1951, insisted that “in the formation of Christians, no phase of man’s life can be neglected” ( p. 64) while his colleague Monsignor George Johnson, professor of education at Catholic University, elaborated:
Human improvement, the true end of education, is total improvement. It cannot successfully concentrate on one phase of the life of the individual to the neglect of other phases, because human personality is a unitary thing which cannot be dissected and divided. The soul does not exist apart from the body but is united with it in a most intimate and vital manner. What we eat bears a relation to what we think, and what we enjoy has an effect on our prayers. Our moral fiber is strengthened by the way we earn a living, and our personal integrity is measurable in terms of our social conduct. Therefore our physical health, our economic well-being, our social and civic relations, our cultural development, all are bound up in the most intimate manner with our moral and spiritual progress. To educate the child, consequently, means to promote his growth in all these spheres. To neglect any one of them means to stunt his growth in all (l944, p. 4).
George Johnson (1889-1944). George Johnson (1889-1944) was a leading national figure in Catholic education as a professor of education at the Catholic University of America, director of the National Catholic Welfare Conference’s Department of Education, editor of the Catholic Educational Review, and Secretary General of the National Catholic Educational Association. As director of the Commission on American Citizenship, he supervised the preparation of a Catholic textbook series, Guiding Growth in Christian Social Living and co-authored an exposition of the curriculum’s guiding philosophy, Better Men for Better Times. He was born in Toledo, Ohio on February 22, l889 to Henry and Kathryn (McCarthy) Johnson. and educated at St. Johns University in Toledo, St. Bernard’s Seminary in Rochester, New York and the North American College in Rome. He earned his doctorate from the Catholic University of America in l919 and served for two years as the Diocesan Superintendent of Schools in the Diocese of Toledo before joining the Catholic University faculty in l921 where he directed the Campus School until 1935. In l928 he became director of the Department of Education of the National Catholic Welfare Conference and was named Secretary General of the National Catholic Educational Association the following year. As a writer, he influenced Catholic education as a frequent contributor and as one of the editors for the Catholic Educational Review from l921 till his death. He was a very public figure, serving on many educational advisory groups under both Presidents Hoover and Roosevelt. Marquette University awarded Johnson an honorary Doctor of Laws in l930. He died in Washington on June 5, l944.
Source Citation: Obituary. (l944). Catholic Educational Review Vol. 42, 7 (September): 385-87.
Fourth, Catholic educators insisted that education was a lifelong process that could not be “confined to classrooms and organized schooling.” Monsignor George Johnson opined: “Teaching and learning of some sort are going on … whenever persons come together and influence one another” (1944, p. 2). Indeed, it is the home, not the school, that is the “most effective teacher of religion” argued Pierre J. Marique in The Philosophy of Christian Education. The state’s interest in education is subordinate to the more fundamental rights of parents who “by nature hold the primary right to education their children” with schools serving merely “to supplement and extend the educational function of the home” (1936, p. 306).
Even in the schools, religion was understood less as a subject to be taught, and more as an ethos that should permeate the atmosphere of the schools and a worldview that should be systematically correlated with other disciplines in the academic curriculum. In a radio address, Charles L. O'Donnell described the fundamental importance of the ethos of Catholic schools in which "religion is woven into the warp and woof of the child's intellectual and moral life" in the Christian formation of its students.
The religious school is usually built in the neighborhood of the church, most commonly alongside the church. The pastor of the parish or some delegated assistant pastor directly supervises the school, having personal care of all its interests. Generally the teachers are member of religious orders, that is to say, mature women consecrated by vows to teaching, not as an experimental occupation or a stop-gap assignment on the way to some career, but as a life-work. The crucifix in the schoolroom, the pictures and statues of the saints, the prayers said in common, even the special religious holidays, all this goes into the making of that intangible thing called atmosphere than which there is probably no influence more potent in shaping the destiny of the child (1930, p. 15).
While a religious ethos and atmosphere must “permeate” the Catholic schools, the curriculum itself must also reflect “a unified outlook on life.” Written guidelines for schools seeking accreditation from the Program of Affiliation of the Catholic University of America, for example, described in vivid images how religion should serve as “the integrating factor" of the whole school curriculum.
Nature is a book. Poets reveal its message to us, but Christ also showed us how to read it. Algebra and geometry may supply the student with a discipline in worldly things; English may equip him with a vocabulary and literary information or even capacity to enjoy the written word; history may bring the past before him; economics may introduce him to the problem of the distribution of wealth. But these subjects need to be tied together. Useful knowledge should be acquired, but side by side with the so-called practical is the higher practicality of correlating all knowledge and action to a supernatural goal. When the religious attitude is acquired, the laws of the atom, the marvels of the radio, the existence of oil wells and stream-lined trains or cars become messengers speaking admiration and love of Him who is Infinite Intelligence. Education thus becomes spiritualized. And that school is truly Catholic in which the students see all the teachers animated by this outlook (Cited in Reidel, p. 1).
Finally, Catholic educators were united in their conviction that Christianity held the key to genuine social progress in American society. Only a transcendent religious ideal could sustain a harmonious social order and avoid the extremes of either the anarchy of unrestrained individualism or the totalitarianism of collectivism and social conformism. Seeing themselves "on the threshold of a new era in a changing civilization," Catholic educators assumed that Catholicism, in particular, bore a special mandate to "pollenize, permeate, and direct this vast enterprise" with education as its chief resource (O’Connell, 1930, p. 3.)
The ideal model of society presumed in On the Christian Education of Youth was one in which the temporal power of the state and the spiritual power of the church worked hand in hand for the promotion of the public good. Catholics denied the possibility of conflict between public responsibility and religious commitment when church and state each fulfilled the duties and responsibilities proper to its particular and distinct realm of authority. In other words, "when ecclesiastical authorities strive to form a good Christian by spiritual means, they, at the same time, are striving to form a good citizen" for "in the Holy Roman Catholic Church an upright man and a good citizen are two absolutely similar things” (p. 4).
Differences between Conservatives and Progressives
While Catholics pointed with pride to their unity and consistency in their educational philosophy, they acknowledged genuine differences on “secondary aims.” As one participant at the 1926 NCEA convention observed, “there are, loosely speaking, two groups of Catholic educators in America: the conservative and the progressive. Their differences concern not essentials but accidentals; not principles but practice; not truth, but opinion” (Lischka, p.22-23).
While both groups stressed their fidelity to authentic Catholic principles of education, conservatives were critical of the widespread influence of progressivism in American education - even in Catholic schools - and were eager to distinguish and differentiate Catholic educational practice from "non-Catholic" approaches. Progressives, on the other hand, felt that the Catholic synthesis was broad and rich enough to incorporate the insights and practices of secular education without harming, and indeed enriching, the distinctive character of Catholic education.
Conflicts between conservatives and progressives were rooted in differences between a classical and an historical mode of consciousness. Was education to be determined primarily by "the universal and permanent characteristics of human nature" or by "the changing situations that confront men from one generation to another?" In response to his own rhetorical question, Edward B. Jordan, professor of education at Catholic University, argued that although the conditions of social, civic and industrial life may change, "human nature is everywhere and always the same, hence there will be certain features of man's education that remain the same to the end of time" (1943, p. 36). Similarly, Edward A. Fitzpatrick, editor of the Catholic School Journal, objected to a "social patchwork" approach to education that emphasized "adjustment and adaptation to the kaleidoscopic changes in the external aspects of our mechanical civilization," and argued that the true purposes of education consists in "a revealing search for … abiding and enduring and eternal values" (p. 6). In contrast, progressives stressed that a changing society imposed new demands upon education. Jordan's successor as chairman of the education department at Catholic University, George Johnson, for example, maintained that
No thinking man can claim to be unaware of the changes that have taken place in American life even in the last fifty years. Who can be found to defend the thesis that the initiation of the young into adult society in 1930 can be effected by the same means as a like initiation was effected in 1900? It is true that there are eternal verities that never change, fundamental principles that remain valid no matter how circumstances may shift. But circumstances do shift and in their shifting require new interpretations and application of the eternal verities and the fundamental principles. Our faith in the absolute should not blind us to the existence of the relative. (l932, p. 297)
Another progressive voice, though primarily in the field of labor relations and civil rights was Francis J. Haas, dean of the School of Social Science at Catholic University. Haas was a prominent labor arbitrator during the New Deal who served as chair of the Fair Employment Practices Committee under Roosevelt and later, a member of Truman’s Committee on Civil Rights. Echoing Johnson’s concerns, Haas criticized Catholic education for “holding too closely to the precise formulations of the great teachers of other times. We seem to forget that the giants of the past - Augustine, Thomas, Scotus, and Suarez - could pass judgment only on conditions existing up to and including their own times” (p. 197).
Progressives and conservatives also understood the social responsibilities of Catholic education differently. Traditionalists emphasized education’s concern for "the human person in his personal life and spiritual progress, not in his relationship to the social environment" (Maritain, p. 15). Others (see McGowan, LaFarge, Delaney, Walsh) drew on Pius XI's prescriptions for Christian social reconstruction in Quadragesimo Anno (1931) to argue that Catholicism offered a positive program for establishing a "Christian social order" consistent with American ideals.
The most significant effort to translate this social vision into educational practice was a comprehensive project of social education undertaken by the Catholic University of America at the request of Pius XI in 1938 to "evolve a constructive program of social action, fitted in its details to local needs, which will command the admiration and acceptance of all right-thinking men" (Cited in Johnson, 1943). In response, the U.S. bishops established the Commission on American Citizenship whose members, for over fourteen years, coordinated and guided the development of a nationwide program of Catholic social education.
As a foundation for their educational efforts, the Commission defined the following six cardinal principles of Catholic social teaching: the dependence of man upon God, the individual dignity of every human person, the social nature of man, the sacredness and integrity of the family, the dignity of the worker and his work and the unity of all men. As applied to U.S. social life, these principles were interpreted to support the rights of individuals against undue encroachment by the state; the obligation of citizens to respect and obey lawful authority; the need for laws to protect the rights of all citizens regardless of race, color or creed; efforts to improve the social and economic conditions of victims of discrimination and injustice; the rights and freedoms granted to citizens by the Bill of Rights; the indissolubility of marriage; the rights of labor to organize and form unions as outlined in the church's social encyclicals and the 1919 U.S. Bishops Program on Social Reconstruction; the stewardship of wealth; recognition of the interdependence of all humankind; the obligations of justice and charity between nations; and the proper use of the earth's resources (Synon, pp. 107-122). The work of the Commission included the publication of Better Men for Better Times, a comprehensive statement of a Catholic approach to the solution of social problems, and The Teaching of Current Affairs, a guide to the critical interpretation of news in light of Christian principles. The commission also sponsored the formation of Catholic Civics Clubs of America to encourage Catholic social awareness and action. However, the major achievement of the Commission was the development of a social education curriculum, Guiding Growth in Christian Social Living and a companion set of basic readers, the Faith and Freedom series that came to be used in seven out of eight Catholic elementary schools in the United States by 1953 (Jordan, 1943).
Guiding Growth was designed to integrate the teaching of religion with all the subjects of the school curriculum. Its aim was "to provide those experiences which, with the assistance of divine grace, are best calculated to develop in the young the ideas, the attitudes, and the habits demanded for Christ-like living in American society." The curriculum sought to guide the students' knowledge, attitudes and actions concerning their relationships with God, the Church, other persons, nature and themselves in order to promote the goals of physical fitness, economic competency, social virtue, cultural development, and moral and spiritual perfection in Christ (Johnson, 1944, pp. 5-14). While holding in common the ideal of the inseparability of religion and education, Catholic educators prioritized intellectual and religious formation differently. Traditionalists tended to subordinate academic goals to the task of moral and spiritual formation, earning Catholic schools the reputation for being “anti-intellectual.” William J. McGucken, professor of education at St. Louis University, is a good representative of this view:
[The Church's] primary purpose in establishing schools, kindergartens, or universities is not to teach fractions or logarithms, biology or seismology, grammar or astronomy--these subjects are subordinate to her main purpose to inculcate the "eminent knowledge and love of Jesus Christ our Lord.” The sharing in that supernatural life that unites the soul to Christ she regards as of greater importance that worldly success. For strange as it may seem, the Church considers religion as more important than fractions. If it came to a point where a choice must be made between endangering faith by learning fractions or keeping the faith and not learning fractions, there is only one answer - do without the fraction. (pp. 34-35)
Criticizing this view, William F. Cunningham, professor of education at the University of Notre Dame (1919-26 and 1933-61) as well as vice-president of the National Catholic Education Association, (l937-57) argued that schooling was primarily for intellectual formation.
The school socializes, of course. It teaches young people how to live with one another, but this is not its primary purpose. The family will always remain the supreme socializing agency; the school does this largely by indirection. The very purposes which brought [schools] into being is to train the mind. It is an intellectual agency. (1927, p. 184)
Also insisting on a limited role for schools, Maritain warned that “no illusion is more harmful than to try to push back into the microcosm of school education the entire process of shaping the human being … school education itself has only a partial task, and this task is primarily concerned with knowledge and intelligence (pp. 25-26).
Another point of dispute was the expanding role of the social and psychological sciences in shaping educational practice. Conservatives emphasized the pre-eminent role of theology and philosophy in guiding Catholic education and remained skeptical, if not antagonistic, to even a limited role for the "secular" sciences in the spiritual and moral tasks of education. Thus, The Christian Education of Youth, while affirming the legitimacy of "science, scientific methods and scientific research," cautioned educators against submitting "facts of a supernatural order concerning education" to the "research, experiments and judgments of a profane or natural order." Assuming a rigid dichotomy between the realms of the sacred and the secular, conservatives assumed a defensive posture towards incursions of one realm in to the other. John O'Hara, Cardinal-Archbishop of Philadelphia, noted that a "mind set dominated by a theology of salvation … had little need of the emerging social sciences."
The secularist, who denies the existence of the soul, writes a thousand books to explain what makes Johnny tick. The Catholic teacher who follows the secularist up a dozen blind alleys wastes precious time and risks failure. The good nun who spends as much time praying for Johnny as teaching him, takes Johnny as he is, soul and all, and never has to worry about his conditioned reflexes (Cited in Murphy, p. 79).
Despite the prevalence of this cautious, defensive mentality, evidence suggests that Catholic educators made substantial use of the social and psychological sciences in their effort to improve educational practice. A review of presentations at the annual National Catholic Educational Association meetings between 1920 and l960 reveal extensive use of the educational sciences to improve teaching effectiveness, enhance character formation programs, and revitalize religious instruction (Matthew, Mary Ruth, & Commins). Psychologically oriented instructional methods were frequently discussed as a remedy for widespread dissatisfaction with rote memorization, logical presentations of dogma, and excessively abstract approaches to catechesis (McGucken, 1943, pp. 329-51). James H. Ryan, education director of the National Catholic Welfare Conference in l926, urged educators to adopt a “scientific approach” rather than a “personal and philosophical approach” in the management of Catholic schools (1926, pp. 396-402). In accord with his directives, diocesan superintendents of Catholic schools began the widespread use of intelligence and aptitude testing, survey techniques, and child accounting systems, and other strategies reflective of the “cult of efficiency” (Connaughton, pp. 115-18).
Finally, conservatives and progressives debated teaching methods appropriate to Catholic education. Conservatives emphasized the role of discipline and habit, the authoritative role of the teacher, and respect for the cultural achievements of the past. They criticized progressive education’s methodological innovations such as “learning-by-doing” as “slow and incomplete” (Redden, l940, p. 518). Child-centered pedagogy, they argued, only ended up in the “psychological worship of the subject” to the neglect of substantive content (Maritain, p. 14).
Others believed it “possible to accept improvement in teaching and techniques and methods” from secular education “while continuing to reject uncompromisingly the philosophies which have given them birth” (O’Connell, 1946, p. 134). Indeed, some thinkers went so far as to argue that Christian educators could integrate and assimilate “all sound methods of education” despite their non-Christian philosophical foundations. As John J. Ryan (l950) argued, “the Christian educator loses none of the values of either the naturalist thinker or the humanist, but while integrating and reproportioning all these, gains others which only the virtue of hope could make him believe possible” (p. 7).
Three Catholic educational leaders played pivotal roles introducing the progressive education movement to Catholic educators: Edward A. Pace and Thomas Edward Shields were both professors at Catholic University and founders of the Catholic Educational Review, the first successful U.S. journal on Catholic educational thought and practice. Shields went on to author textbooks on the psychology and philosophy of education and a religion curriculum for elementary schools. He had a significant influence on Geroge Johnson, his student at Catholic University from l916 to l9l9 who joined Shields and Pace on the faculty in l921. A third important figure was Edward A. Fitzpatrick, editor of the Catholic School Journal, a more practical pedagogical journal for Catholic school teachers.
Edward A. Pace (1861-1938). Edward A. Pace was born July 3, 1861, the son of George Edward and Margaret (Kelly) Pace. He studied for the priesthood at St. Charles College, Ellicott City, MD (1876–80), and the North American College (with classes at the Propaganda University), Rome, where he was ordained on May 30, 1885.
After being awarded the S.T.D. degree in 1886, he returned to the Diocese of St. Augustine, FL, and served for two years as rector of the cathedral and chancellor. In 1888, following his selection for the faculty of the projected Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., he returned to Europe for graduate studies in psychology. After a year at Louvain and Paris, he transferred to Leipzig, where he studied under Wilhelm Wundt, and received the Ph.D. magna cum laude in 1891. Thereafter he served at the Catholic University of America as professor of psychology (1891–94) and of philosophy (1894–1935), dean of the School of Philosophy (1895–99, 1906–14, 1934–35), general secretary (1917–25), vice rector (1925–36), and founder (1899) and first director of the Institute of Pedagogy, which developed into the department of education. In 1936 he was named vice rector emeritus and professor of philosophy emeritus. The psychological laboratory that he established in 1891 was the second in America and the first in a Catholic university. As an editor of the Catholic Encyclopedia (1907–14), Pace took a leading part in planning and bringing it to a successful conclusion. At the international Congress of Arts and Sciences held in St. Louis, MO, in 1904, Pace served as chairman of the section of experimental psychology. He became first editor of Studies in Psychology and Psychiatry (1926), and with Thomas Edward Shields he founded and edited the Catholic Educational Review (1911). He was founder and first president of the American Catholic Philosophical Association, which was established at the Catholic University of America in 1926, and with James Hugh Ryan he first edited its journal, New Scholasticism. In 1925 he was elected president of the American Council on Education and in 1929 was appointed by President Herbert Hoover to the National Advisory Committee on Education. He received the medal Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (1914), was named a prothonotary apostolic (1920), and received various honorary degrees. He died in Washington, D.C. on April 26, l938.
Source Citation: Excerpted from Ryan, J. H. (2003). Edward A. Pace. In New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd ed., (Vol. 10, pp. 740-741). Detroit: Gale.
Thomas Edward Shields (1862-1921). Thomas Edward Shields was a Professor of Education at the Catholic University of America where he completed his Ph.D. under the tutelage of his colleague, Edward A. Pace who wrote the preface to his dissertation, “Twenty-five lessons in the psychology of education.” In 1907, he started the “Catholic Educational News Service” and until l910, published a series of articles on teaching religion. The enthusiastic response to the series led him to establish the Catholic Education Press to publish Catholic elementary school textbooks. He also saw no Catholic journals that could take on the challenge of non-religious theories of education. (In the l890’s the Review of Catholic Pedagogy had lasted only a year, Mooker’s Magazine, two years, and the l909 Catholic School Work, only seven months.) On June l5, l910, he and fellow Catholic University Professor of Education Edward A. Pace petitioned the Rector of the University, Thomas J. Shahan, to establish a journal through the Department of Education devoted to exploring the connection between Catholic principles and practice, improvement of teachings methods, and criticisms of nonreligious educational theories. The Catholic Educational Review, with Shields serving as editor until his death in l921, was published ten times a year between l911 and l969. Shields and Pace wrote a prospectus indicating the journal's purpose as attention to the needs of Catholic teachers, bringing to their attention the connection between principles and practice, improvements in method, and standards of criticism of current theories. The initial intent was to have each issue contain a survey of the field: one article each on the history of education from the Catholic standpoint, methods, management or policy, a practical phase, the philosophy or psychology of education, the international struggle between materialism and religion in education, the contributions of teaching communities, and practical schoolroom difficulties, as well as worthwhile news and book reviews. The first article, by Pace, was on "The Papacy and Education." Many of the early articles were contributed anonymously by nuns.
Source Citation: Excerpted from Buetow, H. A. (2003). Catholic educational review. In New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd ed. (Vol. 3, pp. 282-83). Detroit: Gale.
Edward Augustus Fitzpatrick (1884-1960). E. A. Fitzpatrick was born in New York City on August 29, 1884 to Thomas and Ellen (Radley) Fitzpatrick. His undergraduate and graduate studies were completed in 1911 at Columbia University, New York City, with the Ph.D. Two years later he married Lillian V. Taylor. After teaching in the public high schools of New York, Fitzpatrick was appointed to the Wisconsin State Board for Public Affairs and devoted the rest of his life to educational work in Wisconsin. He served on the University of Wisconsin staff in Madison, Wis. (1919–23), and became dean (1924–39) of the Marquette University Graduate School, Milwaukee. From 1928 until his death he served also as chancellor, and as president of Mount Mary College, Milwaukee. Fitzpatrick edited The Public Servant (1916–17), Hospital Progress (1924–27), and the Catholic School Journal (1929–60). He published articles and books, including Industrial Citizenship (1927), Foundations of Christian Education (1929), I Believe in Education (1938), How to Educate Human Beings (1950), Exploring a Theology of Education (1950), and La Salle, Patron of All Teachers (1951).
Source Citation: Excerpted from Kevane, E. (2003). Fitzpatrick, Edward Augustus. In New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd ed. (Vol. 5, p. 753). Detroit: Gale.
A 1946 study by Laurence J. O’Connell assessed the impact of progressive education in twenty Catholic diocesan school systems. The study concluded that despite their rejection of the philosophy of progressive education, Catholic teachers adopted teaching practices that reflected an emphasis on child-centered learning, extensive use of activities and projects to supplement more didactic models of teaching, stress on the social dimensions of education, and use of scientific methods and testing procedures to improve teaching effectiveness.
The analysis offered here suggests a central paradox in the history of Catholic education in America. To defend the need for a separate Catholic school system in the United States, educators had to argue that Catholic schools were different; yet to continue attracting enrollments, they also had to demonstrate that they were as good as public schools. Thus, while preserving the language of a distinctive “Catholic” viewpoint in education, Catholic educators also embraced secular educational trends that made Catholic schools less different and more like their public counterparts.
The l960’s marked a dramatic end to discussions about a distinctively Catholic philosophy of education. With the election of the first Catholic president of the United States and the advent of the papacy of John Paul II, Catholics had entered a new chapter in their encounter with modernity. For many, a new openness to the modern world shattered the basic assumptions of the scholastic worldview and its search for universal unchanging philosophical truth. And having finally gained their long sought acceptance as legitimate participants in the American way of life, Catholics seemed more interested in exploring this new cultural terrain than probing their own particularity. Vatican II’s affirmation of the freedom of individual conscience also provided a theological rationale for American Catholicism’s embrace of the individualism, pluralism and voluntarism of American style religion.
This cultural shift in part explains the demise of Catholic philosophy of education in the l960’s as well as the newly resurgent questions about Catholic identity that absorb so much attention in Catholic circles today. Having embraced modernity intellectually, outgrown its ethnic ghettos socially, and succeeded financially and politically at the beginning of the new millennium, has U.S. Catholicism lost its soul? While that is a very complicated question, new directions in catechesis and educational practices including the development of a the new Catechism of the Catholic church and the conformity review process for catechetical texts in the U.S. suggest that at least for the Catholic hierarchy, the answer is yes. Whether or not the hierarchy is successful in its attempt to assert its teaching authority to cultivate a common vocabulary of faith with clearly defined boundaries for belief and belonging is yet to be seen.
Catholic Philosophers of Education 1900-1960
(* Recommended readings by profiled authors)
Blakely, P. L. (l931). What is Catholic education? National Catholic Education Association Bulletin, 23, 71-78.
Brown, J. N. (1940). Educational implications of four conceptions of human nature; A comparative study. Washington, D. C.: Catholic University of America Press.
Commins, W. D. (l939). Catholic education and psychology. In R. J. Deferrari (Ed.), Vital problems of Catholic education in the United States. Washington, D. C.: Catholic University of America.
Connaughton, E. A. (l951). Diocesan organization of Catholic education. Catholic School Journal, 51, 115-118.
Cunningham, W. F., C. S. C., (1927). The reconstruction of secondary education. National Catholic Education Association Bulletin, 24, 184.
Cunningham, W. F., C. S. C., (1940). The pivotal problems of education; An introduction to the Christian philosophy of education. New York: Macmillan.
de Hovre, Frans & Jordan, E. B. (l934). Catholicism in education: A positive exposition of the Catholic principles of education with a study of the philosophical theories of some leading Catholic educators; A textbook for normal schools and teachers’ colleges. New York: Benziger.
Delaney, J. P., S.J. (1943). The social order in war and peace. National Education Association Bulletin, 40, 153-161.
Fitzpatrick, E. A. (1930). I believe in education. New York: Sheed & Ward.
*Fitzpatrick, E. A. (l930). The foundation of Christian education. Milwaukee: Bruce.
Fitzpatrick, E. A. (l934). Religion in life curriculum. Milwaukee: Bruce.
Fitzpatrick, E. A. (l950). How to educate human beings. Milwaukee: Bruce.
Fitzpatrick, E. A. (1950). Exploring a theology of education. Milwaukee: Bruce.
Fitzpatrick, E. A. (l952). Great books: panacea or what? Milwaukee: Bruce.
Fitzpatrick, E. A. (1953, l955). Philosophy of Education. Milwaukee: Bruce.
Fitzpatrick, E. A. (l954). The Catholic college in the world today; Some duties of educated Catholics. Milwaukee: Bruce.
Fitzpatrick, E. A. & Treacy, J. P. (Eds.). (l936). Readings in the philosophy of education. New York: Appleton-Century.
Fitzpatrick, E. A. & Tanner, P. F. (l939). Methods of teaching religion in elementary schools. Milwaukee: Bruce.
Fitzpatrick, E. A. (l914-l960). Papers. Archival Material.
Fitzpatrick, E. A. (l933). The life of the soul. Milwaukee: Bruce.
Fitzpatrick, E. A. (l931). A curriculum in religion. Milwaukee: Bruce.
Fitzpatrick, E. A. (l927). The scholarship of teachers in secondary schools. New York: Macmillan.
Fitzpatrick, E. A. (1951). Catholic education, 1901-1951. Milwaukee: Catholic School Journal.
Fitzpatrick, E. A. (l939). The idea of a university. In Educational symposium: Presented at the Loras College Centennial, Monday, Dubuque, Iowa. Dubuque, Iowa: Loras College.
Haas, F. J. (l939). Catholic education and the social sciences. In R. J. Deferrari (Ed.), Vital problems of Catholic education in the United States. Washington, D. C.: Catholic University of America.
Hart, C. A. (l932). Aspects of the new scholastic philosophy. New York: Benziger.
*Howard, F. W. (l921). Report of the secretary general. National Catholic Educational Association Bulletin, 18, 16.
Johnson, G. (l925). The aim of Catholic elementary education. National Catholic Education Association Bulletin, 22, 458.
Johnson, G. (l932). The need for a Catholic philosophy of education. In C. A. Hart (Ed.), Aspects of the new scholastic philosophy (pp. 291-297). New York: Benziger.
Johnson, G. (l939). The Catholic church and secondary education. In R. J. Deferrari (Ed.), Vital problems of Catholic education in the United States (pp. 82-90). Washington D. C.: Catholic University of America.
*Johnson, G. (l943). Better men for better times. Washington, D. C.: Catholic University of America.
Johnson, G. (l944). Educating for life. In M. Joan, O.P. & M. Nona, O.P. Guiding growth in Christian social living (pp. 5-14). Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press.
Jordan, E. B. (l931). The philosophy of Catholic education. National Catholic Education Association Bulletin, 28, 64.
Jordan, E. B. (l943). Forward. In G. Johnson, Better men for better times. Washington D. C.: Catholic University of America.
LaFarge, J. L., S.J. (1938). Democracy and the Catholic high school. National Catholic Education Association Bulletin, 35, 258-66.
Marique, P. J. (1939). The philosophy of Christian education. New York: Prentice-Hall.
*Maritain, J. (l943). Education at the crossroads. New Haven: Yale University.
Mary Ruth. (1929). The function of religion in character formation. National Catholic Educational Association Bulletin, 26, 39-83.
Matthew. (l928). The scientific approach to the understanding and measurement of character. National Catholic Education Association Bulletin, 25, 241-50.
McGowan, R. A. (l930). The school and the industrial commercial system. National Catholic Education Association Bulletin, 27, 52-65.
McGucken, W. J. (l927). Jesuit secondary education in the United States. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Chicago.
McGucken, W. J. (l932). The Jesuits and education; The society’s teaching principles and practice, especially in secondary education in the United States. New York: Bruce.
*McGucken, W. J. (l934). The Catholic way in education. Milwaukee: Bruce.
McGucken, W. J. (l939). The renascence of religion teaching in American Catholic schools. In R. J. Deferrari (Ed.), Vital problems of Catholic education in the United States. Washington, D. C.: Catholic University of America.
McGucken, W. J. (l943). The philosophy of Catholic education: A summary of the fundamentals and objectives. New York: American Press.
McGucken, W. J. (l950). The philosophy of Catholic education: A summary of the fundamentals and objectives. New York: American Press.
McGucken, W. J. (l950-59?). Catholic education: Its philosophy, its fundamentals, its objectives. New York: America Press.
McGucken, W. J. (l962). The Catholic way in education (Rev. ed.). Chicago: Loyola University Press.
McGucken, W. J. & Sheridan, M. P. (l966). Catholic philosophy of education (Rev. ed.). New York: America Press.
*Murray, J. C. (l941). Towards a Christian humanism: Aspects of the theology of education. In H. Guthrey, S.J. & G. G. Walsh, S.J. (Eds.), Philosophical Symposium on American Education (pp. 106-115). New York: Fordham University.
O’Brien, K. J. (l958). The proximate aim of education: A study of the proper and immediate end of education. Washington D. C.: Catholic University of America Press.
O'Connell, G. (l939). Catholic education and non-Catholic philosophies. In R. J. Deferrari (Ed.), Vital problems of Catholic education in the United States (pp. 1-7). Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America.
O’Connell, L. J. (1946). Are Catholic schools progressive? St. Louis: B. Herder.
O’Donnell, C. L. (1930). The philosophy of Catholic education. Washington, D. C.: National Council of Catholic Men.
*Pace, E. A. (l905). Modern psychology and Catholic education. Philadelphia: Catholic Truth Society.
Pace, E. A. (?). Philosophy and Belief. New York: Paulist.
Pace, E. A. (l928). Studies in psychology and psychiatry. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins.
Redden, J. D. (l940). The challenge of progressive education. Catholic Educational Review, 28.
Redden, J. D. & Ryan, F. A. (l942). A Catholic philosophy of education. Milwaukee: Bruce.
Redden, J. D. & Ryan, F. A. (l942). Workbook in a Catholic philosophy of education. Milwaukee: Bruce.
Redden, J. D. & Ryan, F. A. (l944). Freedom through education. Milwaukee: Bruce.
Redden, J. D. & Ryan, F. A. (l951). Intercultural education. Milwaukee: Bruce.
*Redden, J. D. & Ryan, F. A. (1956). A Catholic philosophy of education (Rev. ed.). Milwaukee: Bruce.
Riedel, L. E. (l949). Religion in the curriculum. In McKeough, M. J. O. Praem. (Ed.), The curriculum of the Catholic secondary school (pp. 31-32). Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America.
Ryan, J. H. (l926). The need, method and benefit of a diocesan survey. National Catholic Education Association Bulletin, 23, 396-402.
Ryan, J. J. (l950). Beyond humanism, towards a philosophy of Catholic education. New York: Sheed & Ward.
Synon, M. (l953). The school program as a factor in citizenship building. In M. M. McArdle, S.N.D. (Ed.), The Catholic Curriculum and Basic Reading Instruction in Elementary Education (pp. 107-122). Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America.
*Shields, T. E. (l905-l907). Twenty-five lessons in the psychology of education. Washington, D. C.: Catholic University of America.
Walsh, G. J., S.J. (1948). The social responsibility of Catholic educators. National Catholic Education Association Bulletin, 45, 52-59.
Works About Catholic Philosophers of Education: 1900-1960
(* Recommended overviews)
*Elias, J. L. (1999, Winter). Whatever happened to Catholic philosophy of education? Religious Education. Retrieved from http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3783/is_199901/ai_n8828517
*Bryce, M. C. (l978). Four decades of Roman Catholic innovators. Religious Education, 73, (S-O Supplement), 36-57.
Halsey, W. H. (l980). The survival of American innocence: Catholicism in an era of disillusionment, 1920-1940. Notre Dame, Indiana: Notre Dame Press.
Murphy, J. F. (1971). Thomas Edward Shields: Religious educator. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Columbia University, New York.
Price, M. D. (l962). Monsignor George Johnson: His educational theory and the direction of his influence on elementary education. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, St. Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri.
Veverka, F. B. (l988). For God and country: Catholic schooling in the 1920’s. New York: Garland.
*Veverka, F. B. (l989). Defining a Catholic approach to education, 1920-1950. Religious Education, 88 (4), 523-542.
Veverka, F. B. (1998). Catholic education and catechesis: Traditions in tension. Listening: Journal of Religion and Culture (Winter), 60-77.
Woods, T. E. (2004). The church confronts modernity. New York: Columbia University.
Ward, J. B. (1947). Thomas Edward Shields. New York: C. Scribner’s Sons.
Fayette Breaux Veverka (Ph.D., Teachers College, Columbia University) serves as Associate Professor of Theology and Religious Education at Villanova University, Villanova, PA.