THE SOIL MUST BE RICH
The Art of True Education

June 2002By Robert K. Carlson

Robert K. Carlson is Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at Casper College in Wyoming, and the author of Truth on Trial: Liberal Education Be Hanged, a defense of the traditional view of liberal education. His articles have appeared in Crisis, Homiletic & Pastoral Review, The Wanderer, and elsewhere.

Recently Magdalen College, a Catholic liberal arts college in Warner, New Hampshire, invited me to speak on the topic, “What Is the Real Moral Crisis?” On the flight home, I thought about my experience while there, realizing that I had received as much as I had given to the students and faculty — perhaps even more. Magdalen had reminded me of an important perennial truth that slips from the mind like St. Bede’s fleeting bird if not reflected upon: that students cannot grow in infecund soil.

Upon my return home, I was asked by a friend, Fr. Drew Duncan, how things had gone with my speech. I replied, “It went well. At Magdalen the soil was fertile; the seed was vital; the farmers were strong, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable; the students were docile; and the harvest was bountiful.”

Inspired by the rich soil at Magdalen, I later wrote a letter to its President, Jeffrey J. Karls, which summed up my experience:

Your students, born and nurtured in good Catholic families, are entrusted to you by their loving parents to become members of the larger Magdalen family — in loco parentis. As adopted sons and daughters, they experience the beauty of your campus, Our Lady, Queen of Apostles Chapel, the sacred liturgy and music, civilized dress, good manners, and excellent teaching — all the fertile soil of Magdalen. And this bears good fruit. This was manifested in the charity and eagerness of your faculty to give what they have: wisdom, and the docility and joy of your students in the pursuit of that wisdom, which I observed in the two classes I sat in on and the conversations I had with students and faculty outside of class. And all of this was accomplished with such courtesy, a sign of true charity at work.


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