Is The Heights a Classical School?

The Teaching Vocation


A Conference for Men Exploring Professions as Educators

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Michael Moynihan unpacks his article about whether or not The Heights is a classical school.

Like a tree, whose roots are firmly planted in the ground and whose branches reach toward the sky above, education at The Heights is at once traditional and forward looking. While drawing liberally from the western canon and “the best that has been thought and said,” to borrow Matthew Arnold’s phrase, a Heights education is nevertheless at home in the modern world.  Neither the buried archives of special collections, nor the high-rising offices of enterprising tech start-ups are uncharted waters for Heights alumni. 

Because of the double-nature of our approach to education, the question of how The Heights fits into the classical school movement produces an interesting and important conversation. To help us think through the ways in which The Heights is in dialogue with both the classical and contemporary worlds, we welcome Head of Upper School, Michael Moynihan, back to HeightsCast. With over twenty-five years of experience as a teacher, Michael offers us a nuanced discussion of:

  1. How a traditional approach to education can embrace the advances of modernity without losing its roots.  
  2. The ways in which modernity, properly contextualized, can help correct certain biases latent in classical thought. 
  3. The role of professional preparation in a liberal arts education.

Whether or not one’s work is clearly connected to the classical ideal of contemplation, the goal of education converges in the heart of a man who knows he is a son of God; and who, like the Son of God, sanctifies his ordinary work.

Show Highlights 

  • Is the Heights a classical school? 
  • How does the Heights fit into the classical school movement? 
  • The role of professor John Dewey in progressive educational trends. 
  • How Dorothy Sayers’ speech on “The Lost Tools of Learning” sparked a revival in traditional education. 
  • Ought from an is? How our anthropology informs our education
  • The baby in the bathwater: some positives of mainstream education today viz. the acquisition of professional skills.
  • How modern thought corrects some shortcomings of the classical tradition.
  • The vision of St. Josemaria and what this means for education at The Heights.
  • How education can help students to passionately love the world.
  • Sanctification of ordinary work and divine filiation. 
  • Work as a sharing in the home of Nazareth.
  • Is professional work a distraction from contemplation? 
  • The teaching vocation 

Suggested Reading 

Is The Heights a Classical School by Michael Moynihan

The Lost Tools of Learning by Dorothy Sayers 

Passionately Loving the World by St. Josemaria Escriva

Michael Moynihan

About the guest:

Michael Moynihan


A native of Rochester, NY, Michael Moynihan earned B.A. degrees in history and science pre-professional studies with a concentration in the Honors Program from the University of Notre Dame. He graduated Summa Cum Laude and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. After teaching for one year and earning a master’s degree in theology from The Catholic University of America, he joined the faculty of The Heights School in 1995. He has taught chemistry, Advanced Placement chemistry, eighth grade science, ethics, math and religion, has coached The Heights’ cross-country team and founded The Heights Mountaineers program. Michael was named Head of the Upper School in 2002. He and his wife, Angela, have eleven children, with four sons here at the School.