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I got an e-mai l today, not sent to me per sonal ly but to our Web site’s Publications mailbox and forwarded to me. The author had not bothered to find out the editor’s name, nor did he bother with a salutation. Yet he requested that I publish a link to his article refuting one of our articles. Well, that takes some nerve. Still, I followed his link and read his opening line: “For some time now, I’ve
been threatening to publish an expose of the pretentious claims of self-styled ‘Thomists’ . . . Well, this is it. The Big One. Get ready, and hold on to your hats.” What, I wonder, would the good St. Thomas think of such a tone? The Italians today would say that he is maleducato. Roughly speaking, the word means “badly brought up,” but you can see the root of education in it. And talk of education always takes me back to my time at the University of Dallas. In the final week of a graduate course in literary criticism, the professor asked each of us to come prepared with an assessment of the course. He wanted to know: What was the “take-away”? It was a lot to think about. I had signed up for the class with some reluctance: By that time in my studies, I had spent plenty of time with literary criticism,
and by and large it does not make for cheerful reading. But any worries I had were soon dispelled. During the course Dr. Roper had us concentrate on one school of thought at a time. He then asked us to reread a piece of literature we already knew quite well and to see and write about it through the lens of that school of thought and using its vocabulary. So we became Reader-Response critics, Deconstructionists, New Historicists (all postmodern movements). I had dealt with all of these schools before, but from the outside, as it were. This exercise was effective and actually fun. I reread Othello through a feminist lens and noticed things that I had passed over on dozens of previous readings; merely using the vocabulary of the critical approach brought new light to bear. So I became a better reader and a better critic—that’s a pretty good takeaway. But there was something deeper. The class really was a microcosm of
UD’s intellectual formation, which starts with intellectual humility. Treating ideas—let alone people—with contempt and derision was simply not allowed. Practicing that basic respect over time builds genuine intellectual charity, a virtue which assumes that people are intelligent and sincere even if—especially if—we believe that they are wrong. Anything less than that and we’re not educated, but maleducati.

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