What’s in a Name?
MRC is named after the 16th - century Jesuit priest Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) who spent his adult life as an educator and missionary in China. At that time, the doors of the Chinese empire were closed to foreigners from the West. It was Ricci who brought Western civilization to China, and Chinese literati reciprocated by sharing with him their ancient and venerable culture. For him, inculturation was a reality centuries before the term was invented. He founded the modern Chinese Catholic Church.
Ricci astonished the Chinese because he loved them. An authority on so many subjects and disciplines—mathematics, astronomy, apologetics, literature, popular catechesis, poetry, art and music—he brought this treasury of gifts to his mission. His intellectual gifts were prodigious: a photographic memory, linguistic ability to speak flawless Chinese, ingenuity to write maps, assemble clocks, read the stars. As if this weren’t enough, Ricci had a keen ear for music and reportedly sang with great sweetness. This “wise man from the west” is recognized as “the most cultivated man of his time and one of the most remarkable and brilliant men of history.”
Known throughout the realm as Li-Ma-T’ou, this missionary scholar remains the most respected and beloved foreign figure in Chinese culture. Some in the Chinese government view him as the “Second Founder of Modern China.”
This is the man after whom MRC is named. He is its model of a complete liberal arts education cast in the Jesuit mold.
Student Protest against the Curriculum of MRC
In May, some two hundred enrolled students at (MRC) staged a week-long sit-in objecting to the core curriculum: The focus on Western culture and values was declared irrelevant. Studies in Western Civilization had failed to serve the academic interests of these students.
The students demanded of the administration that the classic core curriculum in the Humanities be discarded in favor of a new program of studies to reflect special interest groups of race, class, gender, and disability. Additionally, they demanded that only qualified faculty be hired to teach courses that reflected their interest in identity group studies of race, class, gender, and disability. The Dean of the MRC was to be fired.
Student demands focused on “dissatisfaction, traumatization, and boredom,” that is, “the Humanities program as it exists today” which “ignores and erases the humanity of its students and of peoples around the globe.” . . . “We are diverse, with many different life experiences, also shaped by colonization, U.S., and Western imperialist, neo-politics, and oppression under racist, sexist, classist, heteronormative and homophobic, transphobic, queerphobic, ableist, nationalistic, xenophobic systems which perpetuate conquest, genocide of indigenous peoples, and pervasive systemic inequities.”
Students spoke of oppression perpetrated by the Administration: “The first manifest demand is a complete change in the curriculum from a Whiteness-dominated curriculum to a non-Eurocentric interdisciplinary curriculum. If the (MRC) is unable to tackle these requirements, we demand that it be converted into a department so as to be accountable to another college.”
What Students at MRC Seek
If MRC students are seeking social justice and equality for all, if they are to make sense of this complex world, they ought to study the Humanities. If they are curious about how other cultures have learned to develop feelings of compassion, tolerance, respect, empathy, they ought to study the Humanities. If they are curious about how creative other people can be, if students are determined to live in a democracy of free citizens, the Humanities should be studied. Without the Humanities, democracy would not exist.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
The Crisis of Higher Education
In this country, we are experiencing an intellectual crisis that has already affected our work force, our politics, and our culture. Western civilization, the human culmination of centuries of learning is under attack by an identity-driven student population exemplified by the protesters at MRC. Whereas many academic leaders fail to uphold the purpose of teaching Western civilization, the faculty at MRC values it. Whereas academic leaders don’t believe that the Humanities have any fundamental influence on their students, the faculty at MRC is invested in it. Shared values—this is what brings the world together.
MRC is not alone in promoting a Humanities core curriculum. Many non-sectarian and private colleges proudly offer a core curriculum around which other subjects are framed. At least twenty-five colleges and universities in the United States offer the Great Books tradition to their undergraduates. These books are part of the great conversation about the universal ideas of cultures and civilizations, always related to ethical and religious values.
Many educators believe that nearly half of college graduates show no measurable improvement in knowledge or critical thinking. They speak and write incorrectly; they do not read. Their constant companions? Electronic devices with accompanying head sets. Weaker academic requirements, greater specialization in the departments, a rigid orthodoxy and doctrinaire views on liberalism are now part of the university’s politics and cultural life.
Clash of Goals
If the demands of these special interest groups—race, class, gender, and disability, were met, MRC would cease to exist. A program of identity studies clashes with the raison d’être of a college named after Matteo Ricci, a name synonymous with the richest of classic studies.