In the early 1850s, Rev John Henry Newman (not yet a cardinal) was invited to be the founding rector of the newly inaugurated Catholic University of Ireland, which the Irish bishops had boldly initiated in a nation still under protestant British rule and barely recovered from the scourge of the potato famine.
Newman began by giving a series of talks in Ireland to explain the nature and purpose of the education he would lead. These lectures were ultimately incorporated in the classic Idea of a University. What Newman proposed was a broadly “liberal” education, or as contrasted with a narrow professional education. By this he meant an education that included theology and philosophy as key to understanding the world, the nature of the human person and the destiny to which each of us is called. Regrettably much of Newman’s vision has been diluted or even abandoned as more and more third level education becomes secularized and focused on career preparation.
Newman College Ireland unabashedly adopts the cardinal’s vision of liberal education, which will include as part of a “core” curriculum not only theology and philosophy, but history, literature, music, art, Latin, mathematics and natural science, an education for life, and a superb preparation for ongoing studies for a profession whether it be law, business, medicine, education or anything else.
Dr. Paul Shrimpton, Oxford, recently sent us a link to his interview on Newman’s vision for education in the Irish Times. Dr. Shrimpton recently published The Making of Men on this subject.
The good news is that Newman’s vision is alive and well at Newman College Ireland!