Dear Mr. Bertucci,
Please feel free to quote any and all parts of this email…I apologize for the poor quality of writing. In my freshman year of high school, I took Great Books 1 with an online Protestant tutorial service. While I derived some benefit from the course, emphasis was placed on “teaching” the works, not “exploring” them. I must confess that I do not now remember in what year Aristotle was born, nor in what year he died. I only have a dubious recollection of how the Academy received its name, and I would not be able to recount the manner of Persian bridge making. Nevertheless, I would have continued with that tutorial service on to Great Books 2 had it not been for the fact that this tutorial reads many of the Church Fathers in the second year of Great Books. As a convert to Catholicism from Protestantism, I neither had nor have a great longing to learn about the Church Fathers from Protestants. I must not be ecumenical enough. Searching online, eventually my principal and I discovered a Catholic Great Books 2 program-one that was offered for college credit! We gathered information about the program, offered by Angelicum Academy, and shortly thereafter I registered for it.
The difference in approach between Angelicum Academy and the other tutorial service was obvious from day one. As Mr. Bertucci is wont to say, their program is more concerned with wisdom than information. It took me awhile to adapt to this different spirit, but eventually I was swept into the tide of the Great Conversation, with much thanks to Mr. Robert Hutchins’ excellent essay of the same title. Angelicum Academy’s Great Books program opens up the great books while opening minds.
Their program teaches students to think, not to memorize. Everything they claim about their program is true. I have taken my first steps into a larger world, a world I might never have known. I recoil at the thought that I might have lived out the rest of my days without the wisdom that beckons to us all in the great books. I will continue to read the great books for the rest of my life, though unfortunately it will not be with Angelicum Academy. I am leaving; in the fall I shall enter the University of Wisconsin. Though I was in Angelicum Academy’s Great Books program for but a year, and a very hectic year at that (through no fault of Angelicum Academy), their program is the defining element of my pre-collegiate education, my first great beacon to our world’s common intellectual tradition, and one of the few things I will regret abandoning for the halls of vulgar knowledge.
Angelicum Academy cannot provide the wisdom gained by suffering, nor that of a St. Alphonsus Liguori; however, it can well provide wisdom of the basic sort. Though for lack of a better term I call it basic, such wisdom seems to be infrequently found these days. Our civilization is rapidly advancing technologically, but the wisdom with which to use this technology no longer lies in our citizenry at large. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but a little wisdom can ensure that said knowledge is used for the good. You may slave over your mathematical science if you wish, but you will most likely forget more than half of it within the course of a few years.
Wisdom is not so desultory a guest. (Mathematical science is vanity, anyway; this is where St. Alphonsus’ wisdom proves useful.) A person should be loath to call oneself educated without an understanding of the tradition of the West. Only the educated are free, the philosophers say, and indeed we are all philosophers. The decisions we make from day to day are based on philosophy. Is it not irresponsible to base our decisions on philosophy if we do not have training in the thinking mechanism thus called? This email need not turn into an apology for philosophy or the Great Books, however; and to write on without end would diminish the chance that you will read this message. Suffice to say, Angelicum Academy provides understanding. You must enroll in their program, whether regular track or college track. If you lack funds, request a scholarship. It will be one of the best decisions you will ever make.
For more information about our Great Books Program, please call Steve Bertucci at 360.496.0007 or visit this link: