Sunday, November 11, 2007

Ignatian Education revisited

My revived interest in classical education and the progym has led me back to my old fascination with Ignatian education.

Twelve or so years ago, my oldest was in 4th grade. We were in our second year of homeschooling. I was looking for a Catholic curriculum, since at the time I did not feel confident enough to just wing it. Serendipitously, my husband had been donating money to a small classical Catholic day school in Napa, California called Kolbe Academy. When we found they had a homeschool program as well, it seemed like the best thing for our family to enroll. And indeed, Kolbe has been a huge benefit to our homeschool, though I tend to use the principles and method more than the actual curriculum choices in some years.

My husband ordered the booklet called Implementation of Ignatian Education in the Home. I found it difficult reading, but browsed through it again and again, fascinated by the proposal of an integrated, challenging classical Catholic education. The "Final End" or goal of the method was to produce a fully formed Christian capable of, and willing to, live and act and think "for the greater glory of God" (Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam).

The means by which this would be accomplished, the "tools", were described as (from the summary at Kolbe's site):


    • Self-activity: forms the habit of independent study and interest in scholarly pursuits
    • Mastery: tackling progressively more difficult through learning, repetition and memorization builds confidence and motivation to keep learning
    • Formation: emphasizes development of the whole person--mind, body and soul--to help the student learn to make wise choices in line with the will of God

My first online writing ever was enthusiastic posts to a Catholic classical group (which I now moderate) about the Ignatian method as described in this little book.

I described the book this way back in 1999, paraphrasing some of the introduction:


The Ignatian Philosophy and Method of Education was developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola , and has been developed further and refined over the last 450 years. It can be used by anyone and is especially adaptable for use in the home. The fundamental goal of Ignatian education is to help parents lead their children to the knowledge and love of God. We must help those in our care to become responsible human beings, so that they will be able to cooperate with the Holy Father in his mission: *Instaurare Omnia in Christo* (To restore all things in Christ).

To do this we must train the student's memory, understanding, and will. The root of any person's failure is in the will, not the intellect!
The overall goals of Ignatian-directed education are to train the student to speak, to write, and to act.

To reach these goals, students are encouraged in : self-activity, mastery of progressively
more difficult material, and formation of the will through conscientious application of study habits. Lessons are developed with focus on just a few main points: prelection--- repetition -- recitation -- emulation-- memorization -- examination.
The Jesuits focused on secondary and tertiary education. (St Ignatius of Loyola formed the Society of Jesus, which flourished for 2 centuries before being suppressed in the 1770's; the society has been revived in recent times, but suffers sorrows at the hands of some of its very adherents)

The Ignatian method of education, called the Ratio Studiorum, corresponds in several ways to ST Ignatius's classic "Spiritual Exercises". One example: the Prelude and Points before each meditation in the Spiritual Exercises are analogous to the Ignatian "prelection" which is intended to help the student collect himself and turn to focusing on the academic material or skills to be learned.

There are more comparisons between the Spiritual Exercises and the Ignatian method of education in this PDF document: Reflections on the Educational Principles of the Spiritual Exercises.

I have an Ignatian education page, Multa et Multum which contains articles I wrote in past years about applying the method in the homeschool (in pdf form).

Here are two prayers by St Ignatius that sort of sum it up:


Take, Lord, and Receive

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding, and my entire will.
All I have and call my own.
Whatever I have or hold, you have given me.
I restore it all to you and surrender it wholly
to be governed by your will.
Give me only your love and grace
and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more.

St. Ignatius' Prayer for Generosity

Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for reward,
save that of knowing that I do your will.


Of course Ignatius, and the Society of Jesus, did not think that education could make you a saint. Far from it. But they did think that education could cooperate with, or work against, the effects of grace. And they did believe that education should train more than the intellect; it should train -- or rather, perhaps, aid in forming -- the will and the heart as well.

Since this blog is my thinking board, I wanted to get this out here as a sort of introduction since I hope to be talking more about implementing Ignatian education in the future and I am sure it would be confusing if I just jumped in.

1 comment:

christinemm said...

I really enjoyed your post.

Does this not sound very similar to the Charlotte Mason method? It seems to me they are similar, but Miss Mason was a Christian (Protestant). Some of what you wrote are almost direct quotes from Miss Mason about her interpretation of a classical home education.

Great minds think alike, I guess.

I love it when I see great theories crossing over each other and duplicating each other.