In a brief hundred pages, Dr. Hancock’s book, Recovering a Catholic Philosophy of Elementary Education, presents a clear vision of the goals of Catholic education and the human person it is meant to develop. The book is divided into six chapters, each with a number of subdivisions and suggested discussion questions, making it ideal for busy faculty members to discuss over a semester or an academic year.
Dr. Hancock begins by explaining that a philosophy of education is inevitable – all educators work from one (or more), usually without realizing it, certainly without questioning it. He then draws on the Greek tradition as developed by St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas to express a Catholic philosophy of education.
[Catholic schooling] rests on a truth about the human person; a truth radiating out of the Gospel, paying the human condition the compliment of being many things at once: (1) a union of body and soul, a “spirit-in-the-world”; (2) a creature possessing an intellect and will, whereby it is stamped with the image of God; (3) a being of conscience, called to a moral destiny; (4) a creature who is social by nature, whose own identity is tied in some way to the identities and lives of others; (5) someone God desires to save, a creature whose happiness ultimately depends on ordering its life around the things of God. (P. 32)
Dr. Hancock emphasizes the central importance of developing the inherent powers of the human soul: memory, imagination, reasonable discourse, reasonable action, noble desire. He explains the crucial role played by the traditional liberal arts. He presents these ideas clearly and in ways that will inspire and direct every Catholic teacher. His final chapter presents challenges from and responses to the dogmas of contemporary educational philosophy.
Although addressed to elementary educators, any Catholic educator will benefit greatly from reading this book. It fills a huge lacunae in most teacher training programs, even those in Catholic universities.
Curtis L. Hancock’s Recovering a Catholic Philosophy of Elementary Education was published in 2005 by Newman House Press, Mt. Pocona, PA. It is available from The Catholic Response or online throughAmazon.com.