Friday, September 19, 2014

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Catholic Education Daily

 

Online Catholic Study Program Provides 'Backbone of a Liberal Education'

compThe Ignatius-Angelicum Liberal Studies Program (LSP), a Newman Guide recommended institution, has been providing sound Catholic online higher education since its establishment in 2010. In an interview with The Catholic World Report (CWR), program president Patrick Carmack, J.D., shared some insight into the guiding vision, advantages, and limitations of this form of education.

In the interview, Carmack explained that the LSP is designed to be “an online, Catholic, generalist/liberal education using the Great Books as primary texts … combined with a deeper, more systematic concentration on the Catholic Faith.” The program was developed by Ignatius Press and the Angelicum Academy Homeschool Program, and consists of eight six-credit classes in the Great Books, conducted in the Socratic style, and four three-credit classes taught through lectures and selected readings. The total of 60 credits can then be transferred to the college or university of the student’s choice and applied toward his or her chosen degree. The American Council on Education has recommended all 60 credits for acceptance to its 1,600 affiliated colleges and universities.

When CWR asked about the online character of the program, Carmack lamented the “dehumanizing element of technology that disembodies us to some degree,” but even so, affirmed that in many circumstances, it is still the best option.

A few years ago some of us were meeting in Rome with Cardinal Grocholewski, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, and he related how numerous requests were made to the Congregation for Catholic institutions of higher education to be established in poorer countries, even Muslim ones such as Indonesia, but that the Congregation had no resources to respond to this need, and so that opportunity for evangelization was being missed. Online education can address this need at minimal cost, worldwide, and we are already engaged in that apostolate. I think this is a situation in which one can reasonably conclude that the dangers of modern technology are secondary to its obvious advantages.

Carmack also affirmed during the interview the quality of the education, saying that “Numerous studies over the last decade have confirmed that online education is equal to or superior to an on-campus education, at least in terms of measurable elements such as grades” and pointed out that “Our Theology Online courses are taught by renowned educator Fr.Joseph Fessio, himself a student of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.”

As for the relevance of the Great Books in the educational venture, Carmack was absolutely confident: “Dr. [Mortimer] Adler [a deceased friend and philosophical advisor to the program] maintained that unless one were acquainted with such great, influential works one simply could not be considered well educated, nor understand the foundations of our society, its past, present or likely future.” He added that “the use of original texts is an antidote for survey courses and fifth-rate textbooks; and it constitutes, by itself, if properly conducted, the backbone of a liberal education.”

Finally, Carmack reportedly upheld the program’s commitment to its Catholic identity, citing The Newman Guide’s recommendation,and pointed out that its student numbers are up this year by about 30 percent.

Catholic Education Daily is an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society. Click here for email updates and free online membership with The Cardinal Newman Society.

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