The startup Minerva Project to me embodies everything that is wrong about the way the Church sees and does education. This is the kind of stuff we should be doing, not Silicon Valley startups. Catholic education is hopelessly wedded to conventional thinking–exactly the opposite of what we need, exactly the opposite of what the Gospel demands.
I strongly recommend that you read this story on Minerva by the excellent writer Graeme Wood.
I would highlight two points, resonant with themes well known to regular readers:
- Minerva hopes to replace and redefine liberal-arts education, but actually provides no such thing. Its mandatory curriculum focuses on “ways of knowing”, and I have no doubt that it will be very effective in teaching them, but ways of knowing, necessary as they are, and as bad as current liberal arts curricula are at teaching them, are a how, and a liberal arts education is supposed to teach also the what–that is to say, what we traditionally mean by “liberal arts”: philosophy, and so on. Minerva will produce relentlessly talented but intellectually shallow technocrats. Can you imagine how much better a Catholic version of Minerva would be?
- Minerva is thoroughly scientific, in both senses: both in the sense that it makes use of the latest science to define how it does things, and in the more important Baconian sense of relying on rigorous experimentation and iteration. This is the key mix, the powerful mix, the tremendous mix, the one that creates progress–the one that Silicon Valley understands deep within its bones, and the one that is completely ignored within the Church.
We invented the university. Education hasn’t been changing, and has been hopelessly conventional, for 100 years, without anybody noticing. It is an everlasting shame that we didn’t notice the outrage. But now, other people–people with tremendous resources, talent and ambition–have started noticing, and they are on the march. We need to get our stuff together, and pronto.