Why should our child begin the Angelicum Great Books Program at age 14 or 15?

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Why should our child begin the Angelicum Great Books Program at age 14 or 15?

Some of the Angelicum Great Books Students in DC

Some of the Angelicum Great Books Students in DC

1. STUDENTS HAVE THE TIME THEN, OFTEN NOT LATER: As Dr. Mortimer J. Adler wrote in the article cited below: “If we are going to have general human schooling in this country, it has to be accomplished in the first twelve years of compulsory schooling…” Dr. Adler noted that the responsibilities and financial pressures of college costs, adulthood and marriage effectively end the availability of sufficient leisure time necessary for general, liberal educational opportunities for most college-age students, in favor narrow specialized, vocational education. Twenty years later, in 1990 Adler reaffirmed his view that the Great Books – the “ backbone of liberal education” as Adler called them – should be studied in the high school years, before age eighteen: “As far as the United States is concerned, the reorganization of the educational system would make it possible for the system to make its contribution to the liberal education of the young by the time they reached the age of eighteen…The tremendous waste of time in the American educational system must result in part from the fact that there is so much time to waste.” (The Great Conversation by Dr. Mortimer J. Adler; 2nd Ed., 1990, p.55; Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., Chicago)

2. THE HUMANITIES CAN AND SHOULD BE COMPLETED AT THAT AGE: Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain held virtually the identical view as Dr. Adler on this matter: ”I advance the opinion, incidentally, that, in the general educational scheme, it would be advantageous to hurry the four years of college, so that the period of undergraduate studies would extend from sixteen to nineteen. The BA would be awarded at the end of the college years [at 19 years of age], as crowning the humanities…” (Education at the Crossroads)

3. EARLY EDUCATION IS IMPORTANT: Nobel Prize-winning economist Gary Becker (University of Chicago) says studies show that by age 16 government job-training programs for 16-year-olds do not succeed because they cannot overcome the failure to learn skills in the first 16 years.

Angelicum Student Attending a Great Books Online Class

Angelicum Student Attending a Great Books Online Class

4. IT SAVES LOTS OF MONEY: Private four-year colleges now cost approximately $25,000 per year, $100,000 for a degree(= about $750-800 per credit hour). The Angelicum Great Books Program high school credit track is only about $995 per year, or $83 per credit hour ($75 with early enrollment discount through July 5th). The college credit track costs only $2,950 per year, or $249 per credit hour (only $221 with early enrollment discount through July 5th).

5. IT IS AFFORDABLE FOR FAMILIES: The Angelicum Payment Plan will reserve a seat in the class of your choosing for only 10% down. The other 90% is payable in 9 monthly installments of 10% each, beginning September 1, 2012. For the high school credit track that is only $99 down, and $99 each month, beginning September 1, through May. For the college track, that is only $295 down, and $295 per month, September through May. The Angelicum Academy offers a generous 50% tuition reduction for all other siblings (may not be combined with other discounts).

6. STUDENTS MAY WITHDRAW AT ANY TIME WITHOUT FURTHER OBLIGATION: Students may withdraw at any time, and upon 72 hours notice to us (an email is fine) no further payments and no penalties are due. It’s a low risk way to test the actual classes. By the way, despite our generous withdrawal policy, our withdrawal rate runs only about 5% over the full academic year (i.e., 95% complete the full academic year. The U.S. college graduation rate currently stands at about 50 percent, according to the New York Times.

2012 Graduating Class of Angelicum Great Books Students

2012 Graduating Class of Angelicum Great Books Students


New Class Times Listed for Fall, 2012 Classes!

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New Class Times Listed for Fall Classes!

Angelicum Academy Bookstore News


Beginning May, 2012 the Angelicum Bookstore will be affiliated with Amazon at MyAngelicum.net. Amazon will inventory our books and handle all shipping and any returns or related problems. In the interim, we will be selling off our existing inventory. Our principal mission is not bookselling, but education. We offered that as a service for almost 12 years to our families, but find it no longer necessary due to the affiliate arrangement with Amazon. We will continue to sell our lesson plans, Great Books study guides, Good Books literature guides, enrollments and online classes at this site. Thank you for your past patronage of our bookstore!


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Many people are aware that Mortimer Adler was the principal editor of the Great Books of the Western World set of 60 volumes published by Encyclopaedia Britannica. Few know he also published a shorter list of the great books he found most influential in his life. I think it worth presenting them here, for those who haven’t the time to engage in broader reading of the Great Books.

The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides
From the Dialogues by Plato: Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Meno, Protagoras, Symposium
Aristotle’s Ethics and Politics
Plutarch’s Lives
Augustine’s Confessions
Dante’s Divine Comedy
Montaigne’s Essays
Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Lear, MacBeth, Othello
Locke’s Second Treatise on Civil Government
Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels
John Stuart Mill’s essays On Liberty and Representative Government
The Federalist Papers by Hamilton and Madison
Tolstoy’s War and Peace

Adler made a similarly reduced list of the 103 Great Ideas about which he had written so much:

Ideas about fundamental, over-arching human values:
Truth, Goodness, Beauty
Ideas about values men have sought and fought to maximize:
Liberty, Equality, Justice
Ideas that deal with problems of our society:
Law, Constitution, Government
Ideas indispensable to understanding ourselves and our place in the universe:
Man, God, Nature, World
Ideas involved in the successful conduct of our lives:
Love, Virtue, Happiness

Adler wrote that the educated person –a status not attainable until many years of study and reflection – besides reading great books and reflecting assiduously on the great ideas, also required discussing the books and ideas, and having years of enlarging experiences, including suffering, and travel.

-Patrick S.J. Carmack

How Great Books Season the Stages of Life

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This sumptuous, insightful, epiphany-riddled overview of life’s narratives as seen in the works of such writers as Blake and Balzac, Dickens and Dostoevsky, Faulkner and Roth, Shakespeare and Joyce, is the incisive and lavish result of a course, “Rites of Passage,” that Arnold Weinstein has taught at Brown for years.

Weinstein, Edna and Richard Salomon distinguished professor and professor of comparative literature, who craftily mingles his own experiences with erudition, has written a kind of grand summary of how literature speaks to us as we stagger from childhood to old age, innocence to experience, life to death.

There is an undertow of darkness here, the result of the conflicts that great literature presents to us. “Art makes life visible,” Weinstein insists, and is as necessary as a blood transfusion: “Language itself is the price we pay for leaving childhood, the conversion of wonder into grammar.” It offers us several scripts and possibilities, all of which broaden and deepen our own search for a soul and possible, though never apparent, deliverance.

I don’t want this tome to sound weighty and grim, for its style is bright, evocative, and bristling with apt one-liners and aphorisms, as if Weinstein in his wisdom has distilled the best of literature to its essence in all of its contradictions, paradoxes and polarities. No one gets out of life alive, but literature enriches the journey, accompanying us along the often painfully absurd encounters and episodes that engulf us. Literature fills us in.

Open to any page and find such nuggets as: “One does not grow up in Kafka; one goes under.” Or: “We are fated to be undone . . . you lose your power no matter what.” And: “Young love comes across as the core riddle of our lives.”

This review cannot do justice to such a wise, perceptive book, which will cause you to stop and pause, consider yourself and Weinstein’s own life, immerse yourself in splendid critiques, asides and ideas. It positively bounces along, pausing to ponder yet driving forward through the whole spectrum of youth and age, generational antagonisms, sexual urgencies, and the shadow of certain death.

“You cannot change the givens,” Weinstein knows all too well, “but you can season them, you can ironize them, you can replay in your head; and all this gives you a kind of agency you don’t have in any other way.”

This is splendid stuff all the way through.

As a professor of literature at Wheaton, Sam Coale (samcoale@cox.net) is a card-carrying member of the choir to which Prof. Weinstein preaches.

Give Your Teen a Head Start: Join The Liberal Studies Program – Fall Online Classes Start Soon


About the Liberal Studies Program

Fr. Joseph Fessio, SJ

Fr. Joseph Fessio, SJ

Ignatius Press and Angelicum Great Books Program have joined with cooperating colleges in the US, Australia, and Europe, to launch the Ignatius-Angelicum Liberal Studies Program (LSP), an online course of studies combining the best of home and distance learning with live, online classes.

Under the leadership of Ignatius Press founder and editor Father Joseph Fessio as Chancellor, the Liberal Studies Program provides unrivaled educational opportunities for homeschoolers, students enrolled in traditional high schools, and other students aged fourteen (9th grade) and up, to earn college credit while acquiring the foundations for a Catholic liberal education and lifelong learning.

LSP offers something unique among the many ways high school students can earn college credit — an online program specifically for Catholic students who want to embark on acquiring a liberal education using the Great Books approach pioneered by the great philosopher, educator, and Catholic convert Dr. Mortimer J. Adler.

Fidelity to the teaching of the Catholic Church is fundamental to the LSP program. Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Constitution on Catholic higher education, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, guides the LSP’s Catholic mission.

LSP is accepted for college credit at Benedictine College (Atchinson, Kansas, USA); Campion College (Australia); St. Bede’s Hall (Oxford, UK); Catholic Distance University, (online); and other colleges and universities. The growing list of collaborating colleges — the Universities of Western Civilization.

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Why Great Books?

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Dear Dr. Adler,

Why should we read great books that deal with the problems and concerns of bygone eras? Our social and political problems are so urgent that they demand practically all the time and energy we can devote to serious contemporary reading. Is there any value, besides mere historical interest, in reading books written in the simple obsolete cultures of former times?


People who question or even scorn the study of the past and its works usually assume that the past is entirely different from the present, and that hence we can learn nothing worthwhile from the past. But it is not true that the past is entirely different from the present. We can learn much of value from its similarity and its difference.

A tremendous change in the conditions of human life and in our knowledge and control of the natural world has taken place since ancient times. The ancients had no prevision of our present-day technical and social environment, and hence have no counsel to offer us about the particular problems we confront. But, although social and economic arrangements vary with time and place, man remains man. We and the ancients share a common human nature and hence certain common human experiences and problems.

The poets bear witness that ancient man, too, saw the sun rise and set, felt the wind on his cheek, was possessed by love and desire, experienced ecstasy and elation as well as frustration and disillusion, and knew good and evil. The ancient poets speak across the centuries to us, sometimes more directly and vividly than our contemporary writers. And the ancient prophets and philosophers, in dealing with the basic problems of men living together in society, still have some thing to say to us.

I have elsewhere pointed out that the ancients did not face our problem of providing fulfillment for a large group of elderly citizens. But the passages from Sophocles and Aristophanes show that the ancients, too, were aware of the woes and disabilities of old age. Also, the ancient view that elderly persons have highly developed capacities for practical judgment and philosophical meditation indicate possibilities that might not occur to us if we just looked at the present-day picture.

No former age has faced the possibility that life on earth might be totally exterminated through atomic warfare. But past ages, too, knew war and the extermination and enslavement of whole peoples. Thinkers of the past meditated on the problems of war and peace and make suggestions that are worth listening to. Cicero and Locke show that the human way to settle disputes is by discussion and law, while Dante and Kant propose world government as the way to world peace.

Former ages did not experience particular forms of dictatorship that we have known in this century. But they had firsthand experience of absolute tyranny and the suppression of political liberty. Aristotle’s treatise on politics includes a penetrating and systematic analysis of dictatorships, as well as a recommendation of measures to be taken to avoid the extremes of tyranny and anarchy.

We also learn from the past by considering the respects in which it differs from the present. We can discover where we are today and what we have become by knowing what the people of the past did and thought. And part of the past — our personal past and that of the race — always lives in us.

Exclusive preference for either the past or the present is a foolish and wasteful form of snobbishness and provinciality. We must seek what is most worthy in the works of both the past and the present. When we do that, we find that ancient poets, prophets, and philosophers are as much our contemporaries in the world of the mind as the most discerning of present-day writers. In fact, many of the ancient writings speak more directly to our experience and condition than the latest best sellers.

Mortimer J. Adler

Angelicum Great Books Program

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