The Universities of Western Civilization
UOWC is more than a network of colleges. The UOWC founders view their work as an educational reform movement with antecedents in the “return to the classics” Great Books movement presided over for nearly a century by the renowned Dr. Mortimer J. Adler. The founders knew Dr. Adler personally and consulted him before his conversion to Catholicism in 2000 and passing in 2001. The whole notion in our time of introducing students to the serious study of Great Books while high-school-age (14 and up) came from Dr. Adler, as did the national promotion of the restoration of the Socratic method of conversational discussion of the Great Books. Dr. Adler believed that conversation (the dialectic) is necessary to develop understanding, as opposed to a monologue (such as a lecture), which tends to develop only the memory. The former aims at wisdom. The latter, used exclusively, tends to result in indoctrination. In Reforming Education, written in the 1940s, Adler wrote that Catholic schools were losing their way and falling into the same traps that had already ensnared public schools, including viewing teachers (rather than the learner) as the primarily cause of education.
As do all of the Great Books colleges and universities, Dr. Ronald McArthur, founding President of Thomas Aquinas College, credited Dr. Adler with inspiring his educational vision for TAC. UOWC member the Angelicum Academy has the unique distinction of offering the only four-year live audio, online Great Books Program for college credit, which begins its tenth academic year Autumn, 2009.
Another major influence on UOWC, which also influenced Dr. Adler, is the ancient Greek notion of paedeia: which includes educating a child through active learning via conversation, and through passive learning via lecturing. This pedagogy is reflected in the classical philosophical principle, from Aristotle: “Philosophy begins in wonder.” Like the great French Catholic philosopher Étienne Gilson, whom he emulates, UOWC founder Dr. Peter A. Redpath (whom Jude P. Dougherty, Dean Emeritus of the School of Philosophy at The Catholic University of America, has called “a profound and serious philosopher”) teaches that all legitimate philosophy begins in that initial experience of sense realism and sense wonder. He maintains that philosophy is not an abstract, closed logical system of thought. Rather, philosophy always remains open to the mystery of existence and hence to an endless, joyfully deepening penetration of the mysteries of God.
These are the educational principles which initiated the UOWC network, now expanded in scope to include Catholic colleges, college-level programs and universities which are faithful to the Magisterium of the Church and support the norms of the Apostolic Constitution Ex corde Ecclesiae. Why such expansion? Because before any specific educational pedagogy – important as it is – comes the faith. In the light of the true faith and fidelity to its teachings sound educational pedagogy finds its most fertile ground for discussion, proper development and support.
Non-Catholic institutions sympathetic to the goals of the UOWC network are welcomed as affiliate members where students can go for sound education utilizing independent study, and/or Great Books, the natural sciences and so on, taught in harmony with the truths taught by the Church. We welcome their collaboration and mutual assistance.