Each summer for two weeks, high school students from around the country join members of the teaching faculty on the campus of Thomas Aquinas College for spirited conversation, engaging firsthand some of the best works of the past 2,500 years. They read and discuss works selected from the masters of the Western intellectual tradition, including Plato, St. Athanasius, Euclid, Sophocles, Tolstoy, Shakespeare, St. Thomas Aquinas and Pascal. It is a time for forging new friendships, for enjoying the give and take of rational argument, and for pursuing the truth, which civilizes, ennobles, and liberates.
The pursuit of wisdom begins with wonder — wonder about the causes and principles of man and nature, and wonder about God, who is the first cause and principle of all things. Through serious consideration of questions which deeply concern each person — and the whole of society — the Summer Program at Thomas Aquinas College encourages wonder and leads participants toward wisdom.
The great books are the seminal works in all the major areas of learning, including mathematics, science, literature, philosophy, and theology. In studying and discussing these works, rather than textbooks, students engage firsthand with the greatest minds of Western civilization. The great books open up for the student the truth about reality. Studied carefully under the light of the Faith, they animate the minds and hearts of students, satisfying the hunger for the truth that makes men free.
During the first week of the program, discussions focus on questions concerning our sometimes conflicting obligations to honor and obey our parents, political leaders, and the Divine — questions raised by Sophocles in Oedipus Rex and Antigone, and by Plato in the Euthyphro. The account of the creation and fall of man in Genesis prompts a discussion about the Divine plan, human nature, and free will. Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling, Pascal’s famous essay on the “wager,” and St. Thomas Aquinas’s fifth proof for the existence of God all occasion considerations of the right relation between faith and reason. The great French naturalist J. Henri Fabre argues for purpose and order in nature, confronting those who, like some pre-Socratic philosophers, subscribe to the perennial idea of a godless universe, purely material and existing by chance.
Much of the second week centers on Euclid’s Elements, which demonstrates the intelligibility, order, and accessibility of mathematical ideas when understood through their causes. In the afternoons the discussion of the causes and consequences of the fall is resumed, beginning with Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich, which recounts the last days of a man who has led a life of self-absorption and apathy toward God. St. Athanasius’s On the Incarnation presents the answer that faith provides to the tragedy of man’s irreparable sin. The curriculum concludes with Flannery O’Connor’s short story “The Enduring Chill,” which revisits the earlier questions about death and life, arrogance and docility, and the grace that saves.
Classes are conducted, like all classes at Thomas Aquinas College, using the Discussion Method, guided by members of the teaching faculty. Class size is limited to 17 students in order to allow each student the opportunity to contribute to the discussions.
The location of the College is ideal for recreation of all sorts. In addition to daily sports, occasional movies, and hiking in the hills surrounding the campus, the program includes trips to the Getty Museum, a concert in Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara for volleyball on the beach and exploration of the historic city.
Thomas Aquinas College is genuinely Catholic and has a rich sacramental life. Mass is offered daily, and a chaplain is available on campus at all times. None of the religious activities are mandatory, however, and non-Catholic students are truly welcome.
Who? Students who have completed three years of high school by summer 2015.
When? Sunday, July 19, to Saturday, August 1, 2015. Students should arrive after 9:00 a.m. on July 19 and depart between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. on August 1.
Where? On the Thomas Aquinas College campus, adjacent to the Los Padres National Forest, just outside of Santa Paula, Calif. Out-of-town students will be met by College staff when they arrive at Los Angeles International Airport.
How much? $975 for tuition, housing, meals, books, and organized activities off campus. Students may want to bring a small amount of spending money.
Why? Because it may be the best two weeks of your life.
How do I get there? By car or air. Out-of-town students will be met at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) by College staff. Return transportation will be provided at the end of the program.
For more information, call 800-634-9797 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org .
How do I apply? The application process  is simple: Just submit a letter of reference, a high school transcript, and a complete application.