Vision Statement: Part Five

The Undergraduate Core Curriculum

An 86-hour core curriculum of carefully selected subjects required for all students is Christendom College’s fundamental response to the crisis in higher education explained above. It is a response deeply rooted in perennial truth and long centuries of Catholic learning. This extensive core curriculum is constituted from seven discipline areas: three years of study in Theology, three years in Philosophy, two years of study in English Language and Literature, two years of study in Classical or Modern Language, two years in History, one year in Political Science and Economics, and one year in Mathematics and Natural Science. It is a curriculum worthy of any young mind. It is an arduous good requiring sacrifice and courage from any student wishing to attain it and from any faculty member wishing to impart it. As such, it is the kind of good that no consumer survey is likely to affirm or endorse amidst the futile but seemingly pressing hyperactivity of our culture. Yet this kind of education is urgently needed by the future citizens and leaders of our nation, by the fathers and mothers of our children, and by the priests and religious of our Church, if we are not to slip blindly into the dark and chaotic night of a dying West.

First and foremost, the required 36 semester hours in Theology and Philosophy reflect the College’s strong commitment to Thomistic wisdom as the fundamental ordering principle of the curriculum. The student of St. Thomas at once recognizes that much of modern culture has limited the domain of knowledge to the practical order—the effort to remake man and nature—while banishing the speculative order: the discovery of the truth of a given (not constructed) order of reality. In the modern secular and pseudo-Catholic university, the natural, social, and technical sciences are thought to advance man’s technical and political liberation, while theology, metaphysics, and ethics languish because they are seen as the products of emotional or religious feelings impervious to rational justification. The twelve courses in Theology and Philosophy dominate Christendom’s core curriculum precisely to help the student overcome this distorted judgment through exposue to the rich Catholic intellectual heritage enlightened by the Faith and right reason. The student is led to see that Christian philosophy, under the guidance of supernaturally revealed Truth, becomes the defender of speculative reason against its perversions.

Second, the required courses in History, Literature, and Classical and Modern Languages reflect Christendom College’s commitment to the Western cultural heritage. History provides an awareness and appreciation of the triumphs and failures of man in building, maintaining, and defending the Faith and Christian culture. Since the Incarnation, history becomes an essential study in the now ennobled temporal journey of man through time until the end of time, giving transcendent significance to all that men do either to advance or to hinder the cause of Christ. Literature develops the student’s moral imagination as he reads epic, tragic, lyric, and dramatic works of Western man. These literary works assist the student in the right ordering of his passions in the service of reason and truth. In this way, the student’s reflection on the exemplary sufferings and hopes of fictional men and women overcomes the modern disassociation of sensibility and reason. Classical and modern foreign languages not only enhance the above disciplines by allowing the student to enter more fully into the documents and life of past and present cultures, thereby transcending present limitations, but they enable the student better to grasp the nature and structure of language itself. In particular, mastery of Greek and Latin opens the riches of Biblical and ecclesial literature and the sources of Christian culture. History, literature, and languages support Thomistic wisdom by enriching the student’s intellectual experience.

Third, the required courses in Political Science and Economics focus the student’s theological and philosophical studies through an examination of political theory and social reality. The student is introduced to classical political philosophy and the rich social teaching of the modern Popes. Such essential elements of Catholic thought as natural law, social justice, subsidiarity, and the common good are examined. The student is shown how these principles differ fundamentally from Marxist collectivism on the one hand and from a materialistic utilitarianism on the other.

Fourth and finally, the study of mathematics and natural science introduces the student to the methods of the disciplines that have most profoundly shaped our contemporary world. In a context of the broader Thomistic vision, the student is shown how to place these disciplines in the hierarchy of human knowledge and aims. He sees how modern mathematics is the basis of the rigor and predictive power of the natural sciences and how the natural sciences have enhanced our understanding of the created universe. By making clear their proper place in the hierarchy of human knowledge, the student is enabled to appreciate the sciences without unduly glorifying them. The core curriculum is foundational for advanced study of any academic discipline and, indeed, extends into the junior year. At this time the student selects a major course of study in one of seven disciplines offered. That major usually requires an additional twenty-seven hours of course work, beginning in the third year. The student supplements and refines the intellectual skills and knowledge gained from the core with focused study, research, and writing in his chosen discipline. He caps his major with a senior thesis (of at least 40 pages) on some problem or topic in his chosen field of study. This deeper comprehension of one discipline culminates the intellectual progress begun in the core.

Christendom College believes the student will carry with him upon graduation the perspectives and consolation of Christian wisdom. Moreover, his developed skills in analysis, synthesis, reasoning, and written discourse will enable him to excel in whatever career choice he makes.

By the adoption of its core curriculum, Christendom College has rejected the proliferation of majors and the consequent perceived equality between all disciplines so characteristic of the modern multiversity. The College sees that the speculative credentials of many modern disciplines are problematic, either in their very principles or in their actual practice. Yet the growing numbers and academic demands of these disciplines have been primarily responsible for the destruction of core curricula in American universities of the past century. For Christendom to multiply majors and new academic departments would be to invite a reliving of this often tragic academic history. It is Christendom’s 86-credit-hour core curriculum, ordered by Thomistic wisdom within a historical matrix, that makes it unique in American higher education.

Previous Next