THE HISTORY OF THE ADLER-AQUINAS INSTITUTE
The Adler-Aquinas Institute represents the culmination of many educational reform efforts that began as far back as the 1930s and 1940s when Dr. Mortimer J. Adler wrote various essays some of which were later included in Reforming Education: The Opening of the American Mind (NY: MacMillan Pub. Co., 1989; 320 pp.) and books about educational reform. Dr. Adler’s prognostications in these works accurately identified intellectual errors that were gradually destroying American education, at every level. Those reforming education essays and Alder’s later Paideia Proposals inspired some educators to strive to implement Dr. Adler’s education reform proposals. The Paideia Program seeks to establish a course of study that is general, not specialized; liberal, not vocational; humanistic, not technical. Only in this way can it fulfill the meaning of the words “paideia” and “humanities,” which signify the general learning that every human being should possess.
- Dr. Mortimer J. Adler (1902-2001)
In 2000 A.D., with the advice of Dr. Adler (who passed away the following year), Patrick Carmack, Stephen Bertucci, Thomas Orr, Peter Redpath, Max Weismann, and Curtis Hancock began the Great Books Academy Home School Program and, later, the Angelicum Academy Homeschool Program to promote the study of the great classics (the backbone of a liberal/generalist education) in the online and homeschool arena, the one remaining area of American/Western education not controlled or influenced by the reigning philosophical errors (including skepticism, positivism, relativism, political correctness, and so on). Here, they believed, was a unique, historic opportunity to begin to promote a genuine educational renaissance absent bureaucratic governmental obstructionism working in lock-step with the dominant utopian, socialist political agenda.
Begun with the first 30 students in A.D. 2000, the Great Books Academy (and its Catholic counterpart, the Angelicum Academy), have since introduced thousands of students in over 40 countries to their curriculum (based largely on Dr. Adler’s advice and his Paideia proposals) developed to lead up to the four-year Great Books Program, which students can start as early as 9th grade (age 14, and up: the oldest student was 87). To prepare students for reading the Great Books – since many are not otherwise prepared - the k-8 program utilizes a “Good Books” reading list of approximately 140 children’s classics, based on a larger list prepared for that purpose by noted educator Dr. John Senior, one of the three founders of the Integrated Humanities Program at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, and online “Socratic classes” as recommended by Dr. Adler for grades 3-8.
As of 2011-2012, over 200 students were enrolled in the four-year, online Great Books program. Students read a great book, or major excerpt therefrom, each week (15 per semester) and meet online for a two-hour weekly discussion of the book, moderated by two experienced tutors. The Academies have also published 2,500 pages of Study Guides for the four-year program. Over the four years of the program the students are exposed to 120 great works of Western civilization–the “backbone of a liberal education” as Dr. Adler called it. Numerous colleges and universities accept these Great Books courses for either full (6 credits per completed semester: 48 credit hours total for the four-year program) or partial credit, as do many of the hundreds of member institutions of higher learning of the American Council for Education (ACE CREDIT) network.
Almost simultaneous with the founding of the Great Books and Angelicum Academies over a decade ago, founding members of the Adler-Aquinas Institute in the United States started to focus attention on collaborating with members of the Department of Philosophy of Culture at the Pope John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin (KUL), Poland to develop a Thomistic counter-culture adequate to address the metaphysical and moral problems of our age. Many AAI Fellows (including Fr. Joseph Fessio, Peter Redpath, Curtis Hancock, Thomas Michaud, Patrick Carmack, Stephen Bertucci, Robert Delfino, Scott Bloch, and James Kelly) have visited Poland and attended conferences and given lectures in Poland, cementing this relationship. As the only non-communist philosophy faculty within the only Catholic university behind the Iron Curtain, several members of the KUL faculty were students of Fr. Karol Józef Wojtyła (later Pope John Paul II) when he taught ethics at KUL, including the AAI Fellow, Dr. Piotr Jaroszynski, whom the same Pope personally thanked for his book on ethics.
- Prof. Piotr Jaroszyński PhD, AAI Provost
More recently, in collaboration with colleagues from KUL, founding members of the AAI started to work together to establish the Universities of Western Civilization, a growing network of colleges and universities including: Catholic Distance University, Harrison Middleton University, Campion College Australia, Benedictine University and Thomas Edison State College that have formally agreed to accept some or all of the course work completed in the Great Books Program (the first-liberal education-part of our recommended Ignatius-Angelicum Liberal Studies Program) and/or the Adler-Aquinas Institute.
Because the AAI founding members thought that a need existed for students entering the college level of the program to add a specifically Catholic approach to theology to the more generalist Great Books courses they take, founding AAI fellows sought the help of Fr. Joseph Fessio (AAI Chancellor and founder of Ignatius Press, English-language publisher to Pope Benedict XVI) to design such a curriculum.
- Fr. Joseph D. Fessio, SJ, Th.D., AAI Chancellor
Himself a student of Pope Benedict XVI, Fr. Fessio developed four theology courses for students, offered in collaboration with Harrison Middleton University, a distance education Great Books, Great Ideas institution. To link and incorporate the existing Great Books courses with those theology courses (and, later, the undergraduate and graduate programs of the AAI), Ignatius Press and the Angelicum Academy jointly formed the Ignatius-Angelicum Liberal Studies Program. The first students enrolled in the theology courses in 2011. At the headquarters of Ignatius Press in San Francisco, Fr. Fessio built a film studio for the purpose and has filmed approximately 15 lectures for each course, available to students online to supplement the required readings.
In 2012, in collaboration with Harrison Middleton University, the Alder-Aquinas Institute, launched its distance, undergraduate humanities, philosophy and religion, and education programs; and graduate philosophy and religion, humanities and education programs, described elsewhere on this website.
In so doing, AAI Fellows concluded their more than a decade-long effort to develop and offer a wholesome, sound, complete, integrated distance education curriculum, starting at the nursery/kindergarten level and proceeding all the way through elementary, secondary, undergraduate and graduate levels (including doctoral degrees)–a total of 22 levels/academic years of education (i.e., nursery, pre-k, k-12, 4 years bachelor’s, 1 year master’s, 2 years doctoral levels) which may be completed in far fewer years, at almost whatever pace the student chooses to work; students may enter and exit the programs at virtually any stage). This entire program is available online and by distance learning–the first, and only, such complete program anywhere, available worldwide.