The Classical Catholic Curriculum

The ancient philosophers and saints taught that the study of seven arts were necessary for a man to know Wisdom and live virtuously.  These seven arts were: Grammar, Reasoning, Rhetoric, Arithmetic, Geometry, Music and Astronomy.  The ancient philosophers taught them all and their teachings remain with us today.  This is the only classical Catholic curriculum that has ever existed, and is the same curriculum we study and teach in the Classical Liberal Arts Academy.

Recommended Video: What’s the Difference between the Modern and Classical Curriculum?

I. Classical Trivium

The “Trivium” is a set of three arts, which provide a student with the language, reasoning and communication skills necessary for the pursuit of true Wisdom. This makes up the first part of the classical Catholic curriculum.

1. Grammar

The first art of the Trivium, and first of the seven classical liberal arts, is Grammar, through which we learn to read, write and speak rightly in any language. Grammar consists of four parts: Orthography, Etymology, Syntax and Prosody. In orthography, students learn the written letters of a language and the sounds they represent. In Etymology, students learn the various forms of the parts of speech. In Syntax, students learn the rules of sentence construction. Lastly, in Prosody, students learn the true art of pronunciation, which includes accent, rhythm and meter.

To cover the requirements of modern schools, we offer the following courses:

These courses, however, cannot be confused with the real classical Grammar studies that follow:

2. Reasoning

The second art of the Trivium, and second of the seven classical liberal arts, is Reasoning, through which we learn of the five kinds of predicables, the ten most general genera of predicables, the formation of propositions, the doctrine of the syllogism, the science of demonstrative reasoning, the science of dialectical reasoning, and the solution of sophistical fallacies. These concepts, which form the Aristotelean or Scholastic Method of investigation, are studied in the six books of Aristotle’s Organon.

3. Rhetoric

The third art of the Trivium, and third of the seven classical liberal arts, is Rhetoric, through which we learn, as Aristotle says, “to discover the available means of persuasion” in any circumstance. Our sources for this study are the Rhetorical works of Aristotle, Cicero and Quintillian.

II. Classical Quadrivium

The “Quadrivium” is a set of four arts, which provide a student with the art and science of the four species of Quantity. Mathematics were introduced by Pythagoras, as a means of ascending intellectually from the observation of sensible things to the contemplation of immaterial things, which is the ultimate aim of philosophy. This makes up the second part of the classical Catholic curriculum.

To satisfy modern requirements, we offer all of the modern mathematics courses:

However, these are not confused with the true classical mathematics courses below.

4. Classical Arithmetic

The first art of the Quadrivium, and fourth of the seven classical liberal arts, is Arithmetic, through which we learn the art and science of absolute multitude or number. The ancient sources for this study are numerous and we study them through a 19th century text that collected the teachings of the ancients on Arithmetic.

5. Classical Geometry

The second art of the Quadrivium, and sixth of the seven classical liberal arts, is Geometry, through which we learn the art and science of magnitudes at rest. This art is named “Geometry” or the “measurement of the Earth”, because, throughout history, it was argued by the wise men that the earth (Ge in Greek) was a body at rest. The source for this study is the famous text of Euclid, the Elements, which has been studied for over 2,300 years.

6. Classical Music

The third art of the Quadrivium, and fifth of the seven classical liberal arts, is Music, through which we learn the art and science of relative multitude, or ratio. Our source for this study is the 6th century Catholic scholar Boethius, whose work on the Art of Music, has been a standard text for 1,400 years.

7. Classical Astronomy

The fourth art of the Quadrivium, and last of the seven classical liberal arts, is Astronomy, through which we learn the art and science of magnitudes in motion. This art is named “Astronomy” or “rule of the stars” because it was the conviction of the ancients that the stars were bodies in motion about the earth. The sources for this study include Aristotle and Ptolemy, which have been studied for 2,000 years. Modern “Copernican” Astronomy may also be studied, but serves a different purpose.

III. Classical Philosophy

Philosophy is the pursuit of Wisdom by means of Reason.  In the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas explained that true Philosophy divides into four classes:  Rational Philosophy, by which man learns to order his thoughts; Moral Philosophy, by which man learns to order his will;   Natural Philosophy, by which sman learns the order of created things in the natural world; and, Practical Arts, by which man learns to order external things in his control.

Elementary Philosophy courses include:

Formal Philosophy studies begin with the subjects below.

1. Classical Ethics

In the first of the three philosophical sciences, we study the science by which we may learn to pursue happiness by the right ordering of our will. Aristotle explained that the goal of this study is “not merely to know about virtue, but to be good men.” We study this science in Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics, following the interpretation provided by St. Thomas Aquinas.

2. Classical Physics

In the second of the three philosophical sciences, we study the science by which we may discover the order that exists in sensible things. We begin the study of this science in Aristotle’s Physics, following the interpretation provided by St. Thomas Aquinas. After this general study has been completed, students can move on to Aristotle’s minor works on natural philosophy, which include: De Caelo, De Generatione, Meteororum, De Mineralibus, De Anima, etc..

3. Classical Metaphysics

In the third of the three philosophical sciences, we study the science by which we may discover the order that exists in insensible things. We begin the study of this science in Aristotle’s Metaphysics, following the interpretation provided by St. Thomas Aquinas.

Strictly speaking, the classical curriculum does not include the study of Catholic theology. However, classical education was embraced by the Catholic Church and brought to perfection by St. Thomas Aquinas and the Scholastic philosophers of the 13th century AD. Therefore, the study of Catholic Theology enlightens and directs the classical curriculum to its chief end: human happiness.

IV. Catholic Theology

Theology, the science of God, is the most noble of all studies and the end of the classical Catholic curriculum. This science is beyond the reach of human Reason and requires divine revelation. This science is pursued through two different sources: Sacred Scripture, which contains the content of divine revelation, and Sacred Tradition, by which Sacred Scripture is rightly interpreted and applied to all other studies.

Elementary courses in Catholic Theology include the following:

1. Catholic Sacred Scripture

The seventy-three books of the Old and New Testament contact all of the content of divine revelation. These books have been handed down to us in their original languages, which are most authoritative, and in translation. As the Sacred Scriptures are unlike any human writings, and are intended for more than mere academic learning, they are studied in a number of ways: in daily devotional reading (lectio divina), in academic reading, in public liturgical reading, etc.

2. Catholic Sacred Tradition

The authoritative interpretation of divine revelation is known as Sacred Tradition. The knowledge of Sacred Tradition is sought through the study of the catechetical works and writings of the Doctors of the Catholic Church. In the Academy, we study Sacred Tradition through the Baltimore Catechism and Summa Theologica.

V. Humanities

The final subject area of the classical Catholic curriculum is the Humanities. These studies are not essential to the classical Catholic curriculum, but enrich those that are, contributing greatly to them. The Humanities divide into the study of History, Literature and the Fine Arts.

1. History

History’s wisest men have commended the study of history, not for the sake of political propaganda or mere school requirements, but for the sake of Wisdom.  Cicero said, “Whoever does not know what happened before he was born remains forever a child.”  St. Augustine wrote, “Anything that we learn from history about the chronology of past times assists us very much in understanding the Scriptures.”  In the Classical Liberal Arts Academy, we offer students a World Chronology course that surveys world history from a Catholic perspective and a complete history program that covers the history of the Ancient, Classical, Medieval and Modern periods.

2. Literature

In the study of Literature, we study not as spectators looking to be entertained by others, but as students seeking to imitate the masters in our own works, for our own generation.  With a foundation of studies in the classical liberal arts, we are able to study the works of the great poets, playwrights and novelists who shared enjoyed a classical education themselves.  The Academy offers four courses in English Literature, beginning with English translation of the ancient poets, continuing with the medieval classics, and continuing through modern authors.