The Turning Point
It is 1892. Two young Jesuits, Philosopher and Theologian (not their real names), on a break from Woodstock and on an after-supper stroll, are on a summer visit to St. Inigoes, the Maryland countryside where Andrew White landed in 1635. They have been reading the latest Woodstock Letters (vol. 121) with its annual fold-out pages with charts showing the enrollment statistics on the number of students in U.S. and Canadian schools for 1890-91. It lists 28 institutions, 11 of which are boarding schools. The largest of them is the thriving St. Francis Xavier in New York City, with 509 students; the smallest, Gonzaga in Spokane, with 62.
The total is 7,086, an increase of 582 over the year before. Philosopher, says the anonymous author of “About Teaching,” a speculative essay, is “full of ardor” for the teaching experience he is about to begin, but is at a loss to explain why our schools are so successful. Fortunately, his older companion, Theologian, whose learned conservatism has tamed his impulsiveness, has all the answers. “The reason is not far to seek. Our system must always prevail in as much as it is a system, but chiefly because it is a perfect system. Our success may for a time be slow, but under ordinary circumstances doubtful never,” he tells philosopher. For a while, prestige had slipped, he said, because they had been forced to employ laymen; but now that there are enough Jesuits, the “keen eye of the American public has sent enrollment up.” Following the Ratio is the key. Soon “even Protestant universities will not be ashamed to imitate us.”
As they stroll along, the experienced teacher explains to his rapt audience of one how to prepare the prelection, where the teacher explains the assignment by demonstrating how to best translate the text. Translate not word for word, theologian says, but by phrases; and above all be elegant. In your spare time this summer, “translate Ovid