Why is the CLAA Free?

In making the online courses of the Classical Liberal Arts Academy free, I am attempting to accomplish ten things:

Socrates and other wise men of history did not charge for their wisdom. The “liberal” arts are not pursued for money, but for happiness.

First, I desire to make classical Catholic education an unprofitable market. Sophists are people who pretend to have wisdom for the sake of making money. While we could spend endless hours arguing with such people, or explaining to parents why these people should be avoided, it’s easier to simply remove their motivation. By making real classical Catholic education free, we take away the motivation of pretenders to get involved with it. As word gets out that “there’s no money in classical Catholic education”, the sophists will go somewhere else. That’s objective #1.

Second, I do not want children to pay the price of their parents’ financial decisions, work ethic, circumstances, etc.. If a parent is not able to afford to pay a reasonable and just tuition for educational services–for whatever reason–the children pay the price. The children lose educational opportunities. The parents choose programs they can afford rather than the program that best serves the needs of their children. I don’t believe this is necessary or right. Therefore, by making classical Catholic studies free, all children have access to them regardless of their parents’ financial circumstances.

Third, I desire to be challenged to find sustainable methods for classical Catholic education. When teachers or school administrators are allowed to bill whatever they do to parents (or worse, the state), they seek out the methods that are most convenient or profitable for them (i.e., the teachers and administrators). This is not how education should work. Education should be most convenient for the students. By making classical Catholic education free, we are challenged to find the simplest and most sustainable methods for delivering instruction, assessment and support to students.

Fourth, I am serving a long-term mission of promoting classical Catholic education, not a short-term mission of making money. To promote classical Catholic education, I could rely on others to share information about the Academy, but many look at education as a means of their own advancement and do not share. Very few parents take any time or make any effort to help promote the work they are doing–even though they claim it is important and are seeking the benefits of it themselves. I could also rely on advertising, but advertising is expensive and that would, ultimately, hurt the children. Being able to share news of a free study program gives us an opportunity to easily promote classical Catholic education in the most efficient manner possible.

Fifth, true education is a work of mercy, not a business opportunity. One of the spiritual works of mercy is to “instruct the ignorant”. When we see schools telling students “Pay tuition or go away.”, we see a school that either (a) doesn’t believe the education it offers is necessary, or (b) a school that has no mercy. Most people in modern society see education as a competition, a means of beating one’s peers for the sake of material rewards. This is not true education. True education is necessary for human happiness and should not be held ransom by those who can provide it. The education I offer in the Classical Liberal Arts Academy is true education, and Christ said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”. I desire that blessing.

Sixth, I want to glorify God and remove all excuses from those who would blame God for their neglect of classical Catholic studies. I desire to remove every obstacle that prevents anyone from studying the classical Catholic curriculum and leave them without excuse before God.

Seventh, by making the Academy’s online courses free, I challenge myself to live simply and work hard. I challenge myself to live simply, to continue working, to be humble, and so on. It’s good for me, morally, to sacrifice much of the money that could be made and force myself to be resourceful, frugal and diligent.

Eighth, I honor those who have worked freely before me. I do not use work that other men have done freely in the past as a means of making money in the present. There are many, for example, who take works that saints and wise men published freely, at their own expense, and re-publish them or post them on websites, and charge people to access them. I prefer to live according to our Lord’s principle, “Freely you have received, therefore freely give.”

Ninth, I want to find good Catholic co-workers. There is an incredible amount of work to be done to restore classical Catholic education, but it requires men who are fit for the challenge. I receive contacts constantly from men and women asking me to hire them. They know I am working to make the classical Catholic curriculum free, yet they imagine that this is possible because I have access to other sources of cash and that there are “jobs” available as in other schools. They imagine that the CLAA is a non-profit organization receiving donations and hoarding tax-exempt cash behind the scenes, but we are not a non-profit organization and certainly are not receiving donations! I seek to find men who are actually concerned with serving Catholic students and not just looking for a “job”. There are no “jobs”. There is skilled work to do for children who have no money, and this work is for special men, not for selfish job-seekers.

Lastly, I don’t believe the world works the way most people think it does. I believe that most people fail to think beyond the immediate, short-term effects of actions and neglect to think through the long-term effects and what would happen if things were done differently. I believe that when we take the first step in doing good, others are inspired to do good in return, and a culture of generosity and collaboration develops among the good that allows true Christian works to be achieved. Someone has to make the first good move to get that culture going, and I want the Classical Liberal Arts Academy to make that move. Also, the assumption that if one offers a service for free, everyone will take advantage of him and use his service without paying, is not true. People who are just would never take benefits from another while offering no benefits in return. There certainly are people who would, and we will have to deal with such people, but there are many who will not, and their generous support (through paid services and donations) will provide for the Academy’s needs.

God bless,
William C. Michael
Classical Liberal Arts Academy