Light on Math and Science?

in Blabber, Philosophy

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I have heard over and over, and said myself that MoDG is “light” on math and science.  Is this true?

First, we must remember that our curriculum is geared to dovetail with the university education at Thomas Aquinas College.  Our curriculum is KGRD through Bachelor’s degree.  Now, my kids aren’t going to attend school there, so I need to understand the big picture so I can adapt it.  I assumed I already knew it.  To me, “Liberal Arts” means “no heavy math and science.”  Here are some comments (emphasis mine) on math and science from the school site.

“A Thomas Aquinas College student receives the diploma only after completing a total of 28 math credits. This exceeds the requirements for a math minor at most colleges and universities, and several graduate programs have credited our graduates as such.

Besides the “mathematics” courses, our students do advanced math in both the junior and senior natural science courses as well. This is, in fact, a stumbling block for many students attracted to our focus on the discussion method, the great books, and our commitment to the Faith. Our admissions director could testify that we have lost many good prospects when they realized the extent to which our curriculum focuses on math.”

Here’s the math syllabus:
Euclid Elements
Plato Timaeus
Ptolemy Almagest
Copernicus Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres
Apollonius On Conic Sections
Kepler Epitome of Copernican Astronomy, Astronomia Nova
Archimedes On Conoids and Spheroids
Viete Standard Enumeration of Geometric Results, Introduction to the Analytic Art
Descartes Geometry
Archimedes Quadrature of the Parabola
Mathematical works of Hippocrates, Archimedes, Cavalieri, Pascal, Leibniz, Bernoulli, Newton, Berkeley, Balzano,et alia
Pascal Generation of Conic Sections
Taylor Integral Calculus
Dedekind Essay on the Theory of Numbers
Lobachevski Geometrical Researches On The Theory Of Parallels

I have a minor in math, and this list makes me hyperventilate.

Here’s the science one.  It looked like what I expected from a “Liberal Arts” school, until it hit Laviosier. From there on, it’s bonkers.:
Aristotle     Parts of Animals
DeKoninck     The Lifeless World of Biology
Fabre     Souvenirs Entomologiques
Galen     On the Natural Faculties
Harvey     On the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals
Linnaeus     Systema Naturae
Pascal     On the Equilibrium of Liquids
Archimedes     On Floating Bodies
Mendel     Plant Hybridization
Scientific papers of Driesch, Gould and Marler, Tinbergen, Goethe, Virchow, von Frisch, et alia
Measurements Manual
Aristotle     On Generation and Corruption
St. Thomas Aquinas     On the Principles of Nature, On the Combination of the Elements
Lavoisier     Elements of Chemistry
Avogadro     Masses and Proportions of Elementary Molecules
Dalton     Proportion of Gases in the Atmosphere
Gay-Lussac     Combination of Gaseous Substances
Pascal     Treatise on the Weight of the Mass of Air
Scientific papers of Berthollet, Couper, Lavoisier, Mendeleev, Richter, Wollaston, Cannizzaro,et alia
Atomic Theory Manual
Descartes     Principles of Philosophy
Galileo     Two New Sciences
Newton     Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy
Einstein     Relativity: The Special and the General Theory
Huygens    Treatise on Light
Newton     Optiks
Maxwell    A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism
Gilbert     De Magnete
Ampere   Papers
Mechanics, Waves, and Optics Manual
Electricity and Magnetism Manual

Again, I HAVE a degree in Chemistry. I got a semester into my PhD in organometallics and non-linear optics before I realized I just wasn’t suited to lab work, and I’m not sure I could get through this reading list!

Our K-12 stuff is supposed to have them ready for this syllabus? Wow.  Tell me more.

The next questions that follows is, BUT WHY? Why is this Liberal Arts Education so math heavy? They give lots of reasons.  The whole article is a must-read, if you ask me. But, I like the following two quotes the best (emphasis mine):

“But in pursuit of wisdom, we have to listen for what is true, not what we want to be true. Mathematics is an excellent preparation for this. Here we grow accustomed to recognizing good arguments and removing our passions from our reasoning process.”

I really wish more people knew how to do that!  It’s not reason and faith that are incongruous, in my experience, it’s reason and passion.

And this one (emphasis mine):

“We are not gathering students from around the world to contemplate their navels or even to think fuzzy, sweet thoughts about Jesus. We do not aim at this caricature of a liberal arts student. We want to help young minds make a good beginning on the road to wisdom. This is very difficult and takes sharp and careful reasoning. A heavy mathematical foundation sets the bar high, but it also helps strengthen the mind for the heavy lifting that must be done.”

Oops!  They knew that’s what I was thinking!  Liberal Arts, as early as an hour ago, still kind of meant “navel contemplation” to me.  Yikes.  How embarrassing.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Judy June 13, 2015

I do have a student at TAC who has completed the MODG Syllabi. We never enrolled, but I feel confident that he will be well prepared for his grad school work in either human or animal medicine. TAC will give him the ethical basis which is so important today. Because he will not have the official names of classes, he will have to take chem and biochem at a local college before he goes on. A few other graduates of TAC have done this before him.


2 admin June 15, 2015

Neato! I love hearing this kind of thing.


3 Molly June 13, 2015

I must admit surprise! I did not realize that Thomas Aquinas’ math curriculum was so heavy. I love the 4 arguments for why math is important to learn and master, thanks for covering this.

I haven’t looked beyond 5GRD for MODG. But I had assumed that the later years of a strictly-followed MODG curriculum would not prepare students for such a rigorous college mathematics syllabus as that offered by Thomas Aquinas. But it must, right? Otherwise there’s no way a MODG-schooled child would be prepared for the TA syllabus. And that seems an unlikely assumption, given the relationships between people at both institutions, as you mentioned in an earlier post.

I have a PhD in microbiology from a large state university in the Pacific NW, and an undergrad degree in microbiology from a large state university in the midwest, and did a postdoctoral fellowship in a highly-regarded lab at a private university in the NE, and then flirted with an academic career at a state university in Texas before finally realizing my vocation as mother and home educator. So I can evaluate, to some degree, the depth/breadth/rigor of a pre-med/pre-grad biological studies curriculum.

I was struck by TA’s Natural Sciences curriculum and how foundational it was. I was asked to study *none* of these books by my undergrad or grad, and am probably poorer, intellectually, for it. But these seem to be more historical tomes rather than current. So my quick conclusion is that TA’s Nat Sci curriculum would not prepare students adequately for graduate studies in natural sciences/medicine/dentristry/etc. Maybe I’ll be dissuaded of this once I delve into their curriculum more. However, I did find this at Cardinal Newman’s summary of the college: “The circumscribed curriculum causes pre-medical students to need additional coursework before attending medical school.” So I think my quick assumption is correct.


4 admin June 15, 2015

It’s neat, right? We should have a mom’s nerdy book club.


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