20221125_115755
Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman
Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman
        Newman, Education, and the Human Person
/

  

Newman, Education, and the Human Person

            John Henry Newman was an educator during much of his adult life. In his 20s he was a tutor at Oxford, and in his 50s he founded the Catholic University of Ireland and later the Oratory School.  In describing his theories of education in his well-known Idea of the University, Newman had to counter the popular educational views of John Locke, who espoused an essentially utilitarian understanding of education. Locke’s outlook as expressed in Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693) focused on making the child an obedient family member and later a productive member of society. By contrast, Newman felt that the primary purpose of education was to fulfill the student as a human being by enriching his mind.

            The most obvious thing we notice when reading Locke’s book is that it is geared to producing a gentleman who will benefit society. In his Dedication, Locke writes of publishing his work as a “Duty” promoting “general Advantage” (lxii) and for the “Welfare and Prosperity of the Nation” (lxiii). Locke consistently writes in terms of practicality regarding what will make a person be successful, live a satisfied and healthy life, and promote the general welfare. Locke wanted the curriculum to be based on the immediately practical. Poetry and music are not recommended. Classical and foreign languages are also regarded as only minimally useful. In general, one’s reason, not tradition, should guide curriculum.

            Newman, like Locke, wanted his students to contribute to society and live a healthy and presumably prosperous life. However, he did not see this as being the true end of education. Rather, the goal is the achievement of what he calls the “philosophical habit” (Idea 76), an expansion of the mind that leads to the ability to think, and especially to understand a subject’s place within the entire sphere of knowledge. While Newman’s goal is very broad, Newman regards Locke’s as excessively narrow. Newman contends that Locke, “limits utility in education to its bearing on the future profession or trade of the pupil, that is, he scorns the idea of any education of the intellect, simply as such” (Idea159).  Newman does argue that the acquisition of the philosophical habit will normally cause a student to be well fitted for a profession, but that is not its purpose.

            Newman appreciated the traditional elements that Locke despised. He believed that learning the classical languages was uniquely effective in training the mind and opening it to the wisdom of another time and culture. Newman also loved both poetry and music, and he realized that there was a part of most persons that these arts appealed to. Newman wished to engage the whole student and see him flourish. The educated person, he writes in the Idea, “has the repose of a mind which lives within itself, while it lives in the world, and which has resources for its happiness at home when it cannot go abroad. He has a gift that serves him in public, and supports him in retirement, without which good fortune is but vulgar, and with which failure and disappointment have a charm” (178).

            How are we to account for Newman’s appreciation of the individual that he taught? I think the first and most obvious source of Newman’s personal approach to teaching is found in his deep religious spirit. Newman saw every encounter with a living person as an opportunity to influence a soul. He understood his tutorship as a proper exercise of his ordained ministry. He wrote that he took with the utmost seriousness “the opportunities given me of benefitting those who are under my care” (Memoranda Personal and Most Private, II Sunday, May 7, 1826; cited by A. Dwight Culler, The Imperial Intellect, 52)).

            I believe a second reason for Newman’s personalism was his educational experiences as both a learner and a teacher. Newman enjoyed the human element in education. Though he was not the Big Man on Campus type, he was generally happy in school and university, and he records joyful moments when he received the friendship of his teachers. When he began tutoring students, Newman tried to replicate this policy of encouragement and friendship, as we see in his letters to students, his summer visits to their homes, and his frequent walks with them.

            Newman approached his teaching from an obviously Christian anthropology. He saw every young person from the start as a being in the image of God. The student should thus be nurtured and led for his own sake, not produced with an idea towards the improvement of society. Although Newman was aware that the intellectual growth of the person was ultimately beneficial to society, his goal was to enlighten the individual person and enrich his inner being rather than serve an assumed utility. He hoped for all his students to be consumed with the love of God, and he lovingly urged the souls entrusted him to pursue that ultimate calling.

Scott Goins

McNeese State University

Like this article?

Leave a comment



[]
1 Step 1
Name of the Petitioneryour full name
Name (of the person in need)your full name
Short Description of the Need, for ex. heart disease, spiritual conversion, finding employmentPrayer Intntion
0 / 300
Previous
Next

For forty days we are in ‘spiritual circuit training’, with the goal of joining St Peter on his morning run to Christ’s tomb.

But our Lord is clear: He said “to all” that “if any” man, and in doing so both offers Himself to every man and leaves no room for half-hearted disciples.

Newman encourages us to be more of what we are: courageous Christians who do all we can, to our utmost, for His Kingdom.

In this ingenious poem, “Candlemas,” Saint John Henry Newman weaves together the entire liturgical year using the theme of light as the thread

Newman approached his teaching from an obviously Christian anthropology. He saw every young person from the start as a being in the image of God.

Do we treat time, which is always slipping through our hands, as the precious resource it is?

Dominic abundantly shared with John Henry the gifts inspired by the Saints he admired, who are recorded in his spiritual journal.

The contemplation of Him, and nothing but it, is able fully to open and relieve the mind, to unlock, occupy, and fix our affections.

Our Books

About Cardinal John Henry Newman

Purchase Book


A Guide to John Henry Newman will interest educated readers and professors alike, and serve as a text for college seminars for the purpose of studying Newman.

Review by Catherine Maybanks
(Catholic Herald, April 1, 2023)

Review by Serenheed James
(Antiphon, April 2023)

Purchase Book

 
Fr Peter Conley takes us on an exciting journey into the spirituality and inner life of Saint John Henry Newman.
 

Purchase Book


Endorsement by Neyra Blanco (Amazon)
I bought this book for my son and he loved it, he wrote this review and urged my to submitted: “I think this book has a very beautiful message, because it shows how the young Newman was so determined to achieve his dream of becoming a priest, but even after his dream he continued to work in the church with passion until the day he died, it’s so admirable that even Newman so old and so weak still had that urge to continued his work of being a priest. And the book is well written with words not too complicated with very enjoyable texts and well illustrated pictures. I highly recommend this book for a 5th grader.  

Purchase Book


What is a Classical Liberal Arts Education? Why is it so important for the development of a person?

Fr. Juan R. Vélez answers these and more questions you might have about University Education in the 21st century. This book is aimed for parents, prospective University students, and educators. It will help you discern why adding Liberal Arts electives to your education will help it form it better, and help the student learn to reason, and not just learn.

He also explains how many Universities have changed the true meaning of Liberal Arts, and the subjects, and gives advise on how to choose College Campus, Subjects, and Teachers.

A wonderful book that every parent should also read way before your children are College bound. A Liberal Arts education can start earlier in life, even from home.

Purchase Book


Endorsement by Christopher Moellering (Goodreads, September 14, 2019)
In Passion for Truth Fr. Vélez gave us an outstanding biography of Cardinal Newman. In this work, he provides a concise overview of his thought and his devotion. This is a great work for someone who, perhaps hearing of Newman for the first time because of his beatification 13 October, 2019, wants to know more about this English saint.Vélez is a wonderful writer in his own right, and the frequent quotations from Newman round out the work nicely. I especially appreciated the frequent citing of Newman’s Meditations and Devotions, which show a different side of his spirituality than his more well-known works, Development of Christian Doctrine and the Grammar of Assent.

Purchase Book


Take Five: Meditations with John Henry Newman, endorsement by Illow M. Roque (Amazon, September 3, 2010)
“There is a time to put direct inquiry on hold and give ourselves to prayer and practical duties.” Sound advice from one of the earlier, thought-provoking reminders in this sparkling gem of a book: Take Five | Meditations with John Henry Newman, written by Mike Aquilina and Fr. Juan R. Vélez and published by Our Sunday Visitor. This particular paragraph, referenced above, which begins with a direct quote from soon-to-be canonized priest, cardinal and poet, John Henry Newman: “Study is good, but it gets us only so far . . .” is actually the 15th in a series of 76 concise, logically organized meditations moving from the elementary to the sublime. Each meditation–one per page–is built upon the great man’s writings and remarkably rich spirituality. Whether taken whole in one reading or in part page-by-page over a course of weeks and months, these wonderfully insightful meditations will open up, even to the busiest reader in the midst of the world, a unique pathway into prayer and contemplation. My advice to spiritual inquirers at all levels, from the novice to the spiritually adept, is to follow the authors’ recommendation to use this book as a guide for daily prayer and meditation. The structure of the book itself is ideal: first, the authors introduce us to Cardinal Newman, the man, where we are given the opportunity to get to know him through a brief sketch of his life and spirituality at the beginning of the book. This is something readers will likely find themselves referring to again and again, prompting many, I suspect, to even wider explorations of this most gifted Christian leader. Then comes the meditations, consisting of a short summary of Newman’s thoughts on subjects taken, as the authors explain, from various salient points for which Newman is justly remembered: The pursuit of objective religious truth; Teaching on the Virtues; Defense of the Catholic Church; A devout spiritual and moral life; and Generosity and loyalty in his friendships, which sets the topic and tone for each meditation to follow. Each meditation consists of an excerpt taken from Newman’s thirty-plus volumes of writings and diaries. Next comes three brief and extremely useful sections entitled: “Think About It,” which establishes a prayerfully resonant tone throughout the book; “Just Imagine,” which provides a vivid, prayerful experience of the Scriptures that tie in, and finally, “Remember,” a pithy summation which the authors suggest may be used as a daily aspiration. Each meditation is given its own page, which makes it ideal for daily reflection for readers on the go. This book is a must have for every serious Catholic who wants to take their faith to the next level, which is to respond appropriately to the universal call to holiness and seek interior union with God.
Fr. Peter Conley

For forty days we are in ‘spiritual circuit training’, with the goal of joining St Peter on his morning run to Christ’s tomb.

David Warren

But our Lord is clear: He said “to all” that “if any” man, and in doing so both offers Himself to every man and leaves no room for half-hearted disciples.

Robert Kirkendall

Newman encourages us to be more of what we are: courageous Christians who do all we can, to our utmost, for His Kingdom.

Prof. Barb H. Wyman

In this ingenious poem, “Candlemas,” Saint John Henry Newman weaves together the entire liturgical year using the theme of light as the thread

Scott Goins

Newman approached his teaching from an obviously Christian anthropology. He saw every young person from the start as a being in the image of God.

David Warren

Do we treat time, which is always slipping through our hands, as the precious resource it is?

Fr. Peter Conley

Dominic abundantly shared with John Henry the gifts inspired by the Saints he admired, who are recorded in his spiritual journal.

Robert Kirkendall

The contemplation of Him, and nothing but it, is able fully to open and relieve the mind, to unlock, occupy, and fix our affections.

Fr. Juan Velez

Merry Christmas to all! In the following video from Colombia, I send you a warm greetings for Christmas. May God richly bless you and your families, and may St. John Henry Newman continue to be a source of inspiration for