Classical Education


At St Philomena School, History is a core subject. Who were Plato and Aristotle? Cicero and Marcus Aurelius? Charlemagne and William the Conqueror? Lorenzo de Medici and Oliver Cromwell? By the end of grade seven, our children are expected to be well acquainted with them and all of the most important figures in Western history by the time they progress to high school.

Our view of history shapes the way we view the present, and consequently influences the choices we make in the future. The civilised west, in which Australia was founded and continues to subsist, is for the most part a product of political and cultural institutions forged in ancient times and developed over the last two millennia. To understand who and what we are, we must know whence we came.

The school is committed to fulfilling the requirements of the incoming National Curriculum. Nevertheless, it hopes to surpass them by providing the students with a thorough knowledge, not only of Australian but also of world history, from the classical world to the present.


Latin’s a dead language,
As dead as dead could be.
It killed off all the Roman’s,
And now it’s killing me.

As the above ditty often found in old Latin textbooks indicates, Latin is a dead tongue; nowhere in the world is Latin spoken as a first language. One might inquire as to the purpose of studying such a seemingly purposeless subject. Would it not be better to study Chinese, or Japanese or Indonesian?

While these languages certainly have their relevance for Australian children in the twenty-first century, and is of use in understanding our neighbours, Latin helps Australian children to understand who they are. Western civilisation has a Latin foundation: Latin in language and Latin in its political, legal and cultural institutions. So many great works of prose, poetry, and music have been written in Latin, and exposure to them in the original language ennobles the mind through the noble sentiments such art communicates.

In a Catholic School, where the sacred liturgy is offered in Latin, studying this language has an immediate importance in the life of the school. The children learn, moreover, to sing the ancient Gregorian Chants at Missa Cantatas (Sung Masses) and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

Even were one never to make use of Latin after school, this particular discipline gives many other benefits. The student of Latin, for instance, can easily go on to learn Italian, French or Spanish; even non-Romance languages can more easily be picked up, thanks to a deeper grammatical understanding that the study of Latin ensures.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of Latin, however, is that it trains the mind to think analytically and to pay attention to detail. Every sentence must be as carefully constructed as a masterpiece of joinery; every part must fit perfectly, if the end result is to be a thing of beauty. There are so many word endings in Latin, so many possibilities to make errors, that no progress can be made without a great deal of concentration and sense of pride in one’s work. The memory is another beneficiary of Latin study, since not only vocabulary, but long lists of declensions and conjugations must be learned by rote.

Latin as a school subject has been neglected on account of its apparent uselessness. We maintain that if it improves our cultural literacy and helps equip the mind with the skills outlined above, Latin is a subject that should at least take equal place among the other subjects.


At St Philomena School we seek to foster a life long love of reading. To this end, we hold in special place the study of classical literary works to lead our students to an appreciation of “the best that has been thought and said in the world” and inspire them to apply these profound lessons to their own lives.

Classical works of literature are valued especially because they use language artfully to teach universally accepted notions of what is true, good and beautiful. For that reason, when selecting books, St Philomena School looks for three things: literary language; worthy stories and characters; and quality illustrations. The choice of books seeks to answer the following questions: Does this story ennoble the child’s mind? What aesthetic, intellectual and moral models does it place before him? Will it help with the formation of better character in the student?


Logic is divided into two areas: formal logic and material logic. A brief summary of each is given below.

Formal Logic. Formal Logic is the art of right reasoning and teaches the student to analyse the term through the process of simple apprehension, the proposition through judgement and the syllogism through deductive inference. The student learns to formulate simple categorical syllogisms and detect fallacies in the same. This training to formulate a logical argument develops the analytical skills of the mind and the ability to both argue a point based on sound logical principles and to avoid sophisms. The student will then progress to formulating more complex syllogisms.

Material Logic. The student hereby shifts his or her attention from dialectics to metaphysical epistemology. This includes a study of the transcendentals: the one, the true, the good and the beautiful. If formal logic is concerned more with the validity of an argument, material logic is concerned more with the truth of an argument. The two studies united enable the student to formulate a sound argument.


St Philomena School

61 Koplick Road

Park Ridge, Queensland, QLD 4125

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