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The Philosophy of Teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas

Item Number: 60746

Catalog Code: PTST-DIS

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Philosophy of Teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas

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How to teach—and learn—like the clearest teacher in history: St.Thomas Aquinas


St. Thomas Aquinas is Catholicism’s greatest teacher. His crowning achievement, the Summa Theologiae, was written as an introductory text for his students. But how many realize that his genius for teaching went hand in hand with his technique for learning from his own great teachers, St. Albertus Magnus and Aristotle? That connection becomes clear in this inspiring guidebook, as useful to students (formal or armchair readers) as it is to teachers and homeschooling parents. Highlights:




  • Aquinas’s rules for memory training
  • How teachers and textbooks are merely aids to self-development
  • How this growth and development applies not only to knowledge, but to character
  • Key characteristics of “ideal teacher” and of “ideal pupil”
  • The four requirements of a good teacher
  • How St. Thomas anticipates by centuries the best insights of modern educators—but acts as a corrective to their most harmful errors
  • “All learning comes from previous knowledge”
  • Two key characteristics of the best teachers
  • The relation of truth to character
  • The meaning of character as an “acquired self”
  • Why the ability to acquire and retain habits is central to forming character—and to education
  • How the formation of habits depends on the ability to conceive an ideal
  • Importance of great virtue on the formation of ideals
  • The four stages of character formation and growth
  • The four principles of learning as “self-activity”—and the role of a teacher
  • How all learning begins with a problem which the student must solve with the guidance of the teacher
  • Why experience is necessary for learning—and how the teacher helps the student organize his experience
  • Bad news for some “education majors”: Why the teacher must not follow contemporary fad educational theories
  • How the teacher must protect students from “the disintegrating effects of error”
  • How the mind knows a thing not only by what it is but by what it does
  • The medieval method of the disputando—how to use it, and why it is far superior to the modern “lecture” method of teaching
  • Why it’s wrong to abuse or manipulate words and other symbols
  • How man’s “constructive imagination” enables him to be different from any other creature
  • How this imaginative power is under the control of the will
  • How good teaching stimulates “reflective thinking”
  • God Himself as the model and pattern for teachers
  • How God, as man's Head Teacher, arranged the universe so that man would sense problems—and so that the universe itself would suggest solutions
  • How God made it easy for man to sort error and truth
  • The significance of “symbols”—chiefly, words—in education—and why the failure to understand this is one of the chief failings of modern education
  • How public education is taking on the nature of animal training
  • The teacher as mediator between child and curriculum
  • The importance of logic: exactly how—and why— teachers must present material
  • Reviewing learned material—why it's crucial
  • How Thomas’s view of teaching and learning relates to his complete philosophy of life

    The core of this volume is the complete text of St. Thomas' treatise on education, De Magistro (On the Teacher), presented here for the first time in English. An introduction and extensive commentary draw out its profound lessons for modern teachers and students. Here you will discover St. Thomas's most penetrating insights about education—and about why there can be no teaching without learning. The timeless principles of education laid out here are also a much-needed corrective to the destructive “fad” theories that dominate educational thinking today.

    “A valuable contribution to educational theory… will no doubt come as a surprise to many readers not familiar with medieval literature or the philosophy of the Schools. It discloses the fact that problems, commonly supposed to be of purely contemporary origin, were studied carefully centuries ago. The notion of education as growth, the function of symbols, the nature of reflection, the principle of self-activity, the value of experience, the conception of educational processes as selfdevelopment— all these are ancient, not modern, discoveries.” —Catholic World (1929)




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St. Thomas Aquinas

St. Thomas Aquinas Feast Day:
Roman Rite Calendar - 01/28

Patron Of: Against Lightning, Against Storms, Apologists, Booksellers, Catholic Universities, Chastity, Clear Weather, Pencil Makers, Philosophers, Publishers, Scholars, Schools, Students, Theologians, Universities

Also known as
Angelic Doctor; Doctor Angelicus; Doctor Communis; Great Synthesizer; The Dumb Ox; The Universal Teacher

    Son of the Count of Aquino, born in the family castle in Lombardy near Naples. Educated by Benedictine monks at Monte Cassino, and at the University of Naples. He secretly joined the mendicant Dominican friars in 1244. His noble family kidnapped and imprisoned him for a year to keep him out of sight, and deprogram him, but he rejoined his order in 1245.

    He studied in Paris from 1245-1248 under Saint Albert the Great, then accompanied Albertus to Cologne. Ordained in 1250, then returned to Paris to teach. Taught theology at University of Paris. He wrote defenses of the mendicant orders, commentaries on Aristotle and Lombard's Sentences, and some bible-related works, usually by dictating to secretaries. He won his doctorate, and taught in several Italian cities. Recalled by king and university to Paris in 1269, then recalled to Naples in 1272 where he was appointed regent of studies while working on the Summa Theologica.

    On 6 December 1273 he experienced a divine revelation which so enraptured him that he abandoned the Summa, saying that it and his other writing were so much straw in the wind compared to the reality of the divine glory. He died four months later while en route to the Council of Lyons, overweight and with his health broken by overwork.

    His works have been seminal to the thinking of the Church ever since. They systematized her great thoughts and teaching, and combined Greek wisdom and scholarship methods with the truth of Christianity. Pope Leo VIII commanded that his teachings be studied by all theology students. He was proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 1567.

    c.1225 at Roccasecca, Aquino, Naples, Italy

    7 March 1274 at Fossanuova near Terracina of apparent natural causes; relics interred at Saint-Servin, Toulouse, France; relics translated to the Church of the Jacobins, Toulouse on 22 October 1974


All information used with permission of the Patron Saint Index.

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