for St. Dunstan’s Academy Families
Want to learn more about our vision of education? Here are some books to read to get started!
The Book of Common Prayer (1928)
This edition of Thomas Cranmer’s prayer book is our source of liturgical life at St. Dunstan’s. The book provides our shared language of prayer and worship, drawn from the scriptures and the wisdom of the Church. This is one of the greatest resources for sustaining growth into Christian maturity over time.
The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis
When it comes to books about education and what it is for, there are few works as clear and convicting as C.S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man. It is essentially his philosophy of education, which exposes the problems with what would now be called “progressive” education. Lewis puts out a call for teachers (and parents) to stop training young people to be cynical, and to teach them to love what is lovely instead. For a fictional rendition of this book, read Lewis’ novel That Hideous Strength. Though it is the third volume in his space trilogy, it can be read alone, and shows the malforming effect a typical modern education has on character and virtue.
Defending Boyhood by Anthony Esolen
Anthony Esolen is one of the clearest and most inspiring writers alive, especially when it comes to issues of education and culture in general. His books are fun to read, and always offer a parents and teachers a call to provide a more good, true, and beautiful environment in which to raise their children. This book hones in on ways that boys in particular learn and grow when the culture around them is healthy, and values boys rather than trying to turn them away from the unique nature God gave them. The book is a celebration of boys and the gift they are to the world, and an enlightening glimpse into what masculinity has to offer the world. For those who enjoy this work, Esolen is a prolific author, and has many other worthwhile books on culture-making and parenting. Especially helpful are his Nostalgia: Coming Home in a Homeless World, Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture, and Life under Compulsion: Ten Ways to Destroy the Humanity of Your Child.
Leaving Boyhood Behind by Jason Craig
Jason Craig runs a farm in North Carolina, where he uses good work and adventures to teach fathers and sons about coming of age. In his short work Leaving Boyhood Behind, Craig surveys what anthropologists know about rites of passage in cultures around the world, and reveals a pattern that all those cultures have used to impart manhood to adolescent boys. Healthy masculinity does not come about automatically. Boys whose passage to manhood is neglected either become passive and checked-out, or they adopt a bullying machismo that undermines the real manly virtues. In order to grow into their manhood, boys must separate temporarily from their domestic life, be initiated into the company of men through rites of passage, and be incorporated into that same company so that they can leave their boyhood behind. The book also chronicles this same process in Our Lord’s life in chapter 2 of Luke’s Gospel. This slim volume, which can be read easily in a few sittings, makes a compelling case for why boys need rites of passage. For those families who haven’t considered boarding school before, or who aren’t sure if it is wise to send their sons away for a time, this is the book to read!
Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men by Leonard Sax
Though not written from a strictly Christian perspective, Boys Adrift chronicles the ways that our culture is failing to meet the unique needs of boys, and how that failure is leaving many boys bereft of the knowledge and motivation they need to live good lives. Sax is a psychologist and family medical doctor, and draws on a wealth of evidence to illustrate the ways our boys are pushed away from virtue. This is a quick read written in popular style, with frequent headings and quick summaries throughout.
Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the love of God by Simone Weil
This short article is readily available online, and shows the connectedness between academics and a life of prayer. It is beautiful and inspiring, and shows how integrated each subject is when viewed as an opportunity to build Christian souls in their capacity to love and commune with God by strengthening their powers of attention.
The Liberal Arts Tradition, 2nd Ed. (Clark and Jain)
This is the best overview of the Classical tradition of education around. In addition to their explanation of the seven liberal arts, theology, and philosophy, Kevin Clark and Ravi Jain show the centrality of piety and “gymnastics” (physical aptitude and knowledge of the world) to a well-trained soul.
Common Arts Education: Renewing the Classical Tradition of Training the Head, Hands, and Heart by Chris Hall
Chris Hall has written an excellent manual on the Common Arts, which reminds readers that once upon a time, people knew how to do things for themselves, and the things they knew how to do—like sewing, woodworking, cooking, and constructing buildings—were essential to living a wise and happy life. Hall is himself an expert teacher, and skilled in many of the arts he writes about. St. Dunstan’s students will learn many of the common arts described here.
Leisure, the Basis of Culture by Joseph Pieper
“Education concerns the whole man; an educated man is a man with a point of view from which he takes in the whole world.” This line from Pieper’s classic essay on liberal arts education encapsulates what we at St. Dunstan’s strive to remember in all of our thinking and school design: education is about forming whole persons for a good life. Viewed in this light, school is not merely about college prep– though it does help with that goal—rather, it is about life prep.
The Age of Martha: A Call to Contemplative Learning in a Frenzied Culture by Devin O’Donnell
O’Donnell, who is himself a headmaster at a Classical school he helped to found, reveals our culture’s deep need for rest. We are, like Martha, “worried and bothered about many things.” Our school life often reflects the anxiety, rush, and distractedness of the present age, and this ought not be the case. O’Donnell outlines the ways that schools and families can help make their environments contemplative, restful, and joyful by cutting back on the volume associated with school and extracurriculars, and focusing instead on depth of study.
The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, and Methods by A.G. Sertillanges, translated by Mary Ryan
Though it is aimed at students, Sertillanges’ work, which is a commentary on St. Thomas Aquinas’ “16 Precepts for the Scholar,” is a book every Christian thinker will benefit from reading. “The world is in danger for lack of life-giving maxims,” Sertillanges proclaims early on in his book, and then proceeds to lavish short, memorable bits of wisdom onto his readers for the remainder of the work. Sertillanges teaches prudence about how to organize life, how to establish healthy patterns, and how to get the most out of reading, writing, and thinking.
The Shallows: What The Internet is Doing to our Brains by Nicholas Carr
Carr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book on the internet and neuroscience is a must-read for anyone who wants to know how digital technologies shape and form our minds and souls. It is a call to use the internet with care, for even small amounts of time spent in the digital landscape alter our minds and memories in profound ways. This book’s insights show why a temporary rule of digital poverty is a wise measure for boys, so that they can focus on their growth in knowledge, love, strength, and skill while in their formative years.
John Senior and the Restoration of Realism by Francis Bethel
John Senior and his two friends Dennis Quinn and Frank Nelick pioneered the kind of poetic education we embrace at St. Dunstan’s Academy. Bethel himself studied with Senior in the Pearson Integrated Humanities Program (IHP) at the University of Kansas, and understands this mode of teaching from the inside. Senior wrote several books on education, including The Death of Christian Culture and The Restoration of Christian Culture, which are wonderful, but Senior’s penchant for poetic hyperbole can sometimes be jarring. For those who do not already know about the IHP, Bethel’s biography is the best introduction.
Since the St. Dunstan’s vision of education is largely about learning to see the world a new way, we suggest families acquire a few poetry anthologies, and begin learning from the masters. Gerard Manley Hopkins, Robert Frost, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and William Shakespeare are a great set to start with. Find some poems you all like, and begin to memorize them!