Tuesday, December 1, 2015
It is available here. I think the report will be of interest to, and should be read by, everyone who is interested in the project of Catholic higher education (as I hope all MOJ readers are!). There has been, over the last year, a lot of coverage in various quarters of Notre Dame's curriculum-review process and a great deal of interest in the question whether the University would use this process to water down or wander from, or to deepen and enhance, its distinctive Catholic character and mission. My own sense after a first read is that we came much closer to the latter. (Here's a graphic summarizing some specific proposed changes.) But, see for yourselves.
Here's just a bit:
Many excellent universities and colleges begin assessments of their curricula and the undergraduate educational experience with uncertainty as to the underlying purposes of that education and that experience. But even as Notre Dame has become more diverse, welcoming students and faculty from many different religious traditions and none, the aspiration for a superb Catholic liberal arts education appears more widely shared than ever by University faculty, students, and alumni.
This unity of purpose should remind and encourage us that we begin our process of core curricular assessment and improvement with notable advantages. The committee saw its primary task as discerning ways in which we can further advance this shared vision. In his 1990 apostolic exhortation Ex Corde Ecclesiae, St. John Paul II urged “continuous renewal” upon Catholic universities—both as “University” and as “Catholic”—and this warning against complacency seems to us even more prescient a quarter century later.8 In response, this committee recommends: a renewed commitment to distinctively Catholic dimensions within the liberal arts, an enhanced commitment to a broad liberal arts education, and the introduction of curricular innovations that foster the integration of disciplines. . . .
As central threads in the Catholic intellectual tradition, theology and philosophy have played and should continue to play a central role in Notre Dame’s core curriculum. Theology integrates academic inquiry through its disciplined reflection on ultimate questions. It achieves this from the perspective of God’s self-disclosure, particularly as known through the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures and their reception and interpretation in the Tradition of the Church. In placing theology at the core of its Catholic liberal arts education, Notre Dame is not merely adding another discipline to the existing educational paradigm. Instead, it embraces a paradigm of the intellectual life that posits the complementarity of faith and reason. Catholicism has always elevated reason and thus endorses the enduring value of philosophy, which brings reason to bear on issues beyond the resources of empirical disciplines, matters such as the existence and nature of God, the destiny of human persons, the actuality of free will, the nature and scope of knowledge, and the centrality of ethics. The examination of such questions makes philosophy a necessary partner in the quest for the integration of knowledge across disciplines. Philosophy is furthermore a partner as it helps our students become acquainted with, and able to address, the intellectual challenges raised for theism in a secular culture. The educational mission of the Congregation of Holy Cross has consistently emphasized the importance of preparing “citizens for society” as well as “citizens for heaven.”10 This impulse derives from an underlying commitment to the dignity of the human person and is echoed in Ex Corde Ecclesiae, where St. John Paul II writes that a Catholic university is called to study contemporary problems ranging from “the dignity of human life and the promotion of justice for all” to a more equitable “sharing in the world’s resources.”11 Finally, Notre Dame’s mission statement has long recognized that Notre Dame should be a place where “the various lines of Catholic thought may intersect with all the forms of knowledge found in the arts, sciences, professions, and every other area of human scholarship and creativity.” The University’s hiring strategies and investments to build faculty strength in intellectual areas consonant with the traditions of Catholicism—from Dante to global health, from impact investing to sustainable urbanism, from Hebrew Bible to Latino/a studies—reflect a remarkable institutional commitment, one that should have more resonance in core curriculum requirements.
Here's hoping the Cardinal Newman Society notices . . .
UPDATE: The CNS did notice. Story here.