First classical academy in San Francisco archdiocese

Star of the Sea School trying to create virtue in students

Principal David Gallagher talks with students. (Photo by Christina Gray, Catholic San Francisco)

The following comes from a Jan. 17 story by San Francisco Catholic.

Guided by a new principal and support from the pastor and the archdiocesan Department of Catholic Schools, Star of the Sea School in San Francisco will become the first Catholic school in the archdiocese to offer students from kindergarten through eighth grade a classical education beginning fall 2019.

Classical education is a traditional educational model that seeks truth, goodness and beauty through the study of the liberal arts and literature’s “great books.”

The merits of a classical school education in both public and private schools have been largely “pushed aside” by progressive education programs championed by philosopher John Dewey (1859-1952), Star principal David Gallagher said.

Gallagher, a teacher at the Richmond District parish school for almost two decades, explains: “Where a classical education differs [from Catholic schools] is that we are trying to create virtue in our students. We are not just trying to point students toward a career but providing them with a knowledge base where they can go on to any career area they want.”

Gallagher, who said he was the beneficiary of what he called “a classical education” at St. Stephen School in San Francisco, described classical education as the “handing down of something that was given to us,” such as the works of Homer, Plato, Aristotle and Socrates.

“What Western civilization is based on is a legacy that we no longer really teach in the schools, at least in the elementary schools,” Gallagher says. “Less Shakespeare, less Steinbeck, less Robert Louis Stevenson.”

Star of the Sea pastor Father Joseph Illo told Catholic San Francisco that he was approached this time last year by Catholic schools superintendent Pam Lyons, who believed the school to be a good fit for a classical curriculum.

He had worked as chaplain for two years in Ventura County at Thomas Aquinas College, which has an integrated classical curriculum. “I became impressed by its efficacy in teaching critical thinking skills,” he said.

Comments

  1. So other Catholic schools do not promote virtue?
    The ‘proof in the pudding’ will be in fifteen years when the graduates seek admission to competitive graduate and professional schools. Can they get in? Can they graduate?

    • West coast says:

      These questions have been answered many times over. Graduates of schools like Thomas Aquinas College are admitted to whatever graduate programs they choose. Take one prominent example, Katy Short, a TAC alumnus, graduated from Boalt Hall at UC Berkeley and is legal director for Life Legal Defense Foundation. You’re totally uniformed saying there needs to be a 15 year waiting period. TAC was founded in 1970. And Star of the Sea is a grammar school, whose graduates can go to any public /private or Catholic high school they choose, armed with far more foundational knowledge than their peers from elsewhere. Your reaction seems more ideological though, and reeks of resistance to Catholic orthodoxy.

    • No. The proof will be when students are whole, intelligent, and capable young adults who can discuss and debate various forms of government, art, and philosophy by using logic and reason, thereby demonstrating a base of knowledge and wisdom that is lacking in graduates of other education styles.

      The purpose of a classical education is not to go to school.so that you can learn how to go to more school

    • Anonymous says:

      The goal of a Catholic grammar school is to give students a good Catholic education! A good classical education– used to be fairly common, for our Church, with many religious orders of nuns teaching Catholic schoolchildren! To form children in Catholic Faith and Morals, is the most important thing in all the world! We need tomorrow’s leaders in many fields, to be role models of outstanding virtue and moral character, as well as possessing a fine education! Without good character– it is all worthless– you can see that, in the many corrupt, immoral people, serving as leaders in today’s world!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Oh, so there are kids in San Francisco after all.

  3. This is great. I imagine there will soon be a long waiting list to get into this school. News like this tells me the Church is still alive. I pray there will be similar “copycat” schools coming forth.

  4. St. Christopher says:

    Wonderful decision to turn “classical.” It will be interesting to see the level of influence of non-Catholic student parents on implementing this decision, and if it interferes with the teaching of the Catholic Faith. One hopes that students will also get a good dose of “classical” Catholic education to go along with the secular classics.

  5. What!! There are children living in the city by the bay? I thought San Francisco had gone to the dogs!

  6. Deacon Craig Anderson says:

    This is great news! Thanks be to God!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Skilled communicators. Thinkers and life-long learners. Active faith-filled Christians. Responsible, globally aware stewards.
    That is what Star of the Sea says their students will be.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Weren’t Plato, Homer, Aristotle and Socrates pagans?
    Classical education isn’t really about what you teach but how you teach.
    Teach Catholicism.

    • Anonymous says:

      Classical education covers a great deal of important works, by great men of history! Read the works of St. Thomas Aquinas– so important for our Church!– and see how Aquinas incorporated classical philosophy into Christian theology! You will just love all you will learn! A few months ago I listened to a good, well-educated priest give a sermon, which included the famous “Allegory of the Cave,” from Plato– which I have always loved! A good, classical education is the most wonderful treasure!

      • I think you might be confusing classical education with a great books curriculum.

        • Anonymous says:

          Anonymous– the “great books” are always a part of a good classical education! And some schools simply state that they teach with a focus on the “great books”– same idea! The term “classical” is used in several ways. When you major in “Classics” at a university– you study the civilizations, cultures, and languages of ancient Greece and Rome. The model provided by ancient Greece and Rome, lost in the Dark Ages, and re-discovered during the Renaissance– forms the basic bedrock of our Western Civilization and education– along with our Judeo-Christian Bible and religions. Early Christianity is also a part of the study of Classics.

          • The current classical education movement is usually attributed to an essay named “The Lost Tools of Learning” by Dorothy Sayers. It began to get popular among some home schoolers in 2000’s. There are also Christian schools who have adopted this teaching philosophy.
            A woman named Susan Wise Bauer wrote books of ancient history for children that were “storified” to the point where it became inaccurate. They may have been corrected by now. She is a great proponent of classical education. Her company is called Well Trained Mind.
            Classical education usually includes learning Latin, (classical Latin not Ecclesiastical Latin)

        • Anonymous says:

          Anonymous– the “great books” are always a part of a good classical education! And some schools simply state that they teach with a focus on the “great books”– same idea! The term “classical” is used in several ways. When you major in “Classics” at a university– you study the civilizations, cultures, and languages of ancient Greece and Rome. The model provided by ancient Greece and Rome, lost in the Dark Ages, and re-discovered during the Renaissance– forms the basic bedrock of our Western Civilization and education– along with our Judeo-Christian heritage. Early Christianity is also a part of the study of Classics.

        • Anonymous says:

          Of course– this grammar school will provide a classical education, appropriate for the needs of grammar school students. And some may go on to further and deeper intellectual studies, when they are much older. Hopefully, they will also receive an excellent foundation in their Catholic Faith!

      • Anonymous says:

        Of course– this grammar school will provide a classical education, appropriate for the needs of grammar school students. And some may go on to further and deeper intellectual studies, when they are much older. Hopefully, they will also receive an excellent foundation in their Catholic Faith!

  9. Anonymous says:

    I just read about a Catholic grade school in Indiana, which started an after-school Adoration Club, in which students will learn all about Catholic prayer and religious devotions, reverence in church, Latin and English hymns, how to pray, how to say the Rosary– and how to participate in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament– plus many related subjects. All of this used to be so common, in Catholic schools– no formal “club” necessary! Good idea for today, though! Maybe many religious and priestly vocations will come, someday, from this new club!

  10. Anonymous, a classical education is history. One cannot teach the history of the Catholic Church if one does not know what others were teaching, where they were right and where they were wrong and why the Church opposed them. One cannot know why the Church opposed the Arian and other heresies if one does not know what they were teaching.

    • I doubt they will be teaching the Arian heresy in grade school.
      Classical education is a method of teaching but it is sometimes conflated with learning the classics in literature..
      In this article, since they mention critical thinking skills, they may be talking about a type of instruction known as Socratic instruction.
      Everything in that kind of instruction depends on the teacher’s skills at questioning the students.
      Sometimes it is also used to refer to a type of shild directed learning where the child is allowed to persue that which interests him in the various disciplines (history, science, literature, art and music). I doubt that is what SOS is attempting.

      • Of course they will not be teaching children about the Arian heresy. That is a “no brainer”. I was just using that as an example as to why one might study — from a Catholic perspective of course — about pagan literature.

      • My apologies for being so curt. Actually, I went back and reread the article, and the school goes up to eighth grade,so they might teach about the Arian heresy, with grade level material though. I was looking at the smaller students when I posted my last post.

  11. helen wheels says:

    Star of the Sea:
    Putting the “CLASS”
    back in classical education !

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