Online Catholic Schools Growing in Popularity

Catholic higher education has been provided online since 2010 by the Ignatius-Angelicum Liberal Studies Program (LSP).  Rachel Daly, writing for Catholic Education Daily, draws from an interview with The Catholic World Report (CWR), during which program president Patrick Carmack, J.D. shared his thoughts on why online education is becoming more popular.

He explained that the LSP is an “online, Catholic, generalist/liberal education, using the Great Books as primary texts … combined with a deeper, more systematic concentration on the Catholic Faith”.

Developed by Ignatius Press and the Angelicum Academy Home-School Program, it 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 60 credits are transferable to the college of the student’s choice.  They will be applied to the student’s chosen degree and have been recommended for acceptance by the American Council on Education to its 1,600 affiliated colleges and universities.

As to the character of the program, Carmack was put off by the ““dehumanizing element of technology that disembodies us to some degree,” but admitted that in many cases it is 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 brought up the numerous studies over the last decade which have shown that online education is equal to or better than an on-campus education, at least in terms of of measurable elements like grades.  He also acknowledged that their online courses in theology were taught by Fr. Joseph Fessio, a student of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

For those who ask, “Why the Great Books?”, Carmack deferred to Dr. Mortimer Adler, a former philosophical adviser to the program.

“Dr. [Mortimer] Adler 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.”

Carmack, in the original interview for the Catholic World Report, added that his ambivalence towards technology is best explained through something St. Thomas’ observed.  While considered simply, one thing may be better than another, yet relatively, that may be reversed by circumstances.

Writing for the Catholic Review, George P. Matysek, Jr. reports on the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s deep roots in Catholic education.  This month a gathering at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Homeland, was a kickoff for the start of the school year and an opportunity to meet the first schools chancellor for Baltimore’s Catholic schools, James Sellinger.  His pledge is to visit schools, learn their challenges, and develop methods for making Catholic education stronger.

His job description includes marketing, enrollment, and seeing to the fiscal health of about 50 Catholic schools.  Archbishop William E. Lori said that Catholic schools excel “… not because they have an abundance of money, but because they promote a learning environment marked by the truths, virtues, and values of the kingdom of the Beatitudes“.