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Blog - Blogue

  • Homeschooling and DUC

    Monday, March 16, 2015

    By Joseph Yawney

    Open House for Homeschoolers


    When: March 21st, 2015, 11 am - 2 pm

    Where: Dominican University College

    96 Empress Ave.

    To register: Please email welcome@dominicanu.ca by March 20th


    Homeschoolers and DUC have a long history. We’re a natural fit in many regards. There have been numerous occasions when one unsuspecting teen signs up for a single course while completing their high school, only to find themselves 3 degrees later still with us, having encouraged all their siblings to join them in the meantime.


    DUC is not necessarily part of the unschooling or alternative education movement, though we are at home with these philosophies in many ways. It's a question of “methods” and to a large degree a question of “ends”.


    We are a post-secondary institution affiliated with Carleton University and accredited by the province of Ontario. We have to toe the line in terms of producing curriculum that has been approved by governing bodies and we need to make sure students are meeting the basic requirements within our programs.


    But it doesn’t mean we can’t have fun!


    The manner in which students are encouraged to learn and pursue their personal questions, the educational methods at DUC, bode well with many alternative education movements. Often enough, students can choose their own exam questions, essay topics, and ask questions that they care about in a classroom setting. DUC is a place that’s not afraid of thinking differently, of thinking big, and it’s especially fond of unthinking. Of trashing sacred cows in order to build better approaches to problems.


    Though we follow the general rubrics necessary to fulfill provincial academic requirements, academic freedom and the communal pursuit of wisdom are more than just fancy accolades within these beautiful gothic walls, so well-suited to contemplation.

    DUC gardens

    It’s our bread and butter.



    It’s that for which we live.


    The devolution of classical education has led to a mainstream movement towards education as a tool: learning for profit, if you will. The proof of this is that all important question:


    “What are you going to do with that”?



    Well-meaning adults everywhere bedevil youth with this question to the point where anything but the almighty $ is seen as circumspect motives for learning. Christmas dinners, small-chat in the dentist office . . . casual conversation with strangers and longtime relatives alike . . . these can all amount to stressful, awkward experiences for students of anything but one of the traditional “money-making” disciplines. Mr. O’Leary leads the charge in this regard (watch 3 min in).


    This, I believe, is where homeschooling/unschooling and DUC most truly come together.


    It’s a question of “ends”.


    What are we in it for?


    Various answers come about.


    Though a surprising variety of profitable and respectable careers are available to philosophy and theology students, money is not usually the primary motivation for students entering our doors:


    “I wanted to”

    “It makes me happy”

    “I had questions I needed to answer”

    “I wasn’t happy with the status quo”

    “There had to be a better way to think these things through”

    “I don’t know . . . Yes. I’d do it again”

    These are some of the responses you’ll get when asking our students why they began with us. They are some of the same responses that parents give when asked why they chose to instruct their children outside of mainstream education.


    What’s at stake here is the pivotal question on which the future of education hinges.


    The alternative, a continued focus on practical sciences divorced of any consideration of what was traditionally called the highest sciences (philosophy and theology), is not pretty.


    The hollowing out of educating into a utilitarian pursuit has left a sea of unhappiness in its wake. This is evidenced by:


    • people switching jobs every two years.

    • Astronomical rates of dissatisfaction in the workplace.

    • Trouble with work-life balance.

    • Struggles with existential questions.

    • Lack of motivation.

    • Depression.


    The list goes on. People need to be able to frame questions within a larger context. This larger context is not possible for students who have a sole focus on the immediate, concrete framework which is presented within the “hard” sciences. 



    Society needs people who are well-rounded in our increasingly complex, interrelated and interdependent culture. Are thinking about human needs should encompass more than dollars in a bank account. People need to understand themselves as thinkers and actors within a larger system, for their own good and that of society. Mr. O’Leary fails to see that his passion for making money as the sole purpose for living is not ubiquitous. When people’s days end, some have greater hopes than multi figure bank accounts. As a society, as a community, we need to take stock.


    What are we living for?


    When we’re willing to entertain more creative answers than Mr. Greenback, we will allow space for education to return to its roots. A love of knowledge and the pursuit of wisdom will be given a chance to find a new birth within our youth, leading to a society where adults have a better handle on the deeper realities that they care about. And these deeper realities can then better guide us in our work and life choices.


  • A Conference on the Family - God's Dream is His People

    Friday, October 31, 2014

    Joseph Yawney is Director of Public Relations at Dominican University College and has a Master's in Philosophy from DUC in the area of virtue ethics. He lectures across the province of Ontario to high school students introducing them to philosophy through socratic dialogue.

    The Synod on the Family was all the buzz. “Progressive Catholics” and the media had high hopes for “Big Change” in the Church. The midterm report produced had their hopes up. They came away mostly disappointed due to the change in tone in the final report.

    There is indeed a lot on the table for the discussions happening this year and next. If you look at the Instrumentum Laboris that was prepared as an outline to the discussions, you see that there are few controversial issues that are not on the table.photo of family in the sunset.

    Same sex unions, abortion, contraception, divorce and remarriage . . . they’re getting into it all.

    But “winning” or “losing” debates does not seem to be top of Pope Francis’ mind. He’s not interested in hot button issues to see what clamor he can raise within or outside the Church. His goal appears practical, and his modus operandi is anything but the lofty style most often presented by high-ranking Church officials.

    He starts out by reminding those gathered:

    “Synod assemblies are not meant to discuss beautiful and clever ideas, or to see who is more intelligent…”

    He’s not interested in “discourse”. He’s pushing for us to focus on what will help people lead better human and Christian lives.

    “God’s dream is his people . . .”

    Family - We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.This telling phrase from his opening address points us toward where he’s hoping the ongoing discussions take us.

    There’s been enough discussion of “Truths” in the Church. We’ve been well steeped in theological discourse. We’re much poorer when it comes to applying the universal to the particular. How do we encourage? Build up? Meet people where they are at and help them take the next good step? These questions are not often asked.

    You wouldn’t know it from the polemical nature of the coverage of the discussions that were held, but I believe the Pope created space for the wide variety of voices within the Church in an attempt to enamore us to true communication. A “fusion of horizons” (à la Gadamer et al) encourages “communicative action”, listening intently to conversations to the point of taking on the heart and mind of the other with whom you are in dialogue so as to come to mutual understanding. To be radically open to the realities on the ground instead of clinging fervently to doctrine, we must be willing to take up the hearts and minds of those on both sides of the discussion.

    Living the Truth

    We must be willing to be honest about problems in the Church.

    Much is left wanting. As a Catholic community, we need to fess up. To take stalk. To be realistic.

    Too often I hear:

    “This is not a kindergarten,”

    from some people at Mass when kids are a little out of hand.

    I resist responding:

    “Would you prefer it be a graveyard?”

    What are our parishes doing to make children welcome? Active participants? Could we go so far as to say cherished and central to the whole thing?

    According to doctrine, birth control is a strict no no for Catholic families. For all sorts of good reasons. But what of the lived reality? What does the average parishioner understand of it and how to practice it? A Church that preaches NFP as the only form of fertility care should perhaps ensure it’s members have access to it?

    Basic NFP methods work for some, while others need professional and ongoing support in order to be successful. These options can be costly and are not covered by the health care system. If the church preaches them, it’s only just to provide them to those who would otherwise have no access to them. Seems not too absurd.

    We’re up in arms about the possibility of assisted suicide being made possible in Canada. But when was the last time we visited an elderly person? Went out of our way to go to a nursing home or hospital? Tried to make the lives of the dying that much more pleasant?photo of grandfather and grandson.

    Truths are not going to live themselves.

    They don’t exist out there in some platonic ideal.

    Living the Truth in the Family<

    The Church is beautiful. Her Truths are indeed “here to stay” and the best thing going for those who can follow them. But, as Saint Thomas Aquinas argued, before asking someone to be moral we must first make sure their basic needs are met.

    If we’re to follow our Pope’s lead when he says that:

    “The Lord is asking us to care for the family, which has been from the beginning an integral part of his loving plan for humanity,”

    We’ll have to realize we’re in this together.

    Moral acts take place in a context. So, if we want people to live morally, we must provide them with the means to do so.

    For truths to be lived realities there must be a loving community, strong families who are committed to one another, to see them brought about. If the Church is broken, don’t be fooled: it is a communal fault.

    I’m not negating individual conscience or the possibility of a true blue sin, but people need to be in the position to commit one. They need to first be given a fighting chance. Morality does not occur in a vacuum.

    If we’re going to be successful in all this, we’re  going to need to buckle down. Gear up. Start making plans for the basic needs of everyone to be given the means necessary to live the Catholic faith. The financial and material support, moral education . . . and until we get there, we can begin with basic courtesy and trust.

    We tend to forget that the Church is for the people. WE are his plan. His DREAM. Not a set of absolute truths and beautiful dogma. But rather a set of broken, reeling, sometimes wonderful lives, living day by day in more beauty and truth.


    As family.

    November 20th-21st, we at DUC will be looking into the helpful ways we can assist those in our communities to better live their lives as family. “Debate” will intentionally be avoided . . . helpful conversations encouraged. We will be working through the teaching documents of the church on family life. It will also be a chance to hear from church leaders on the fruits of the Synod. You are most welcome to join us. Register here.