Not Such a Trivial Pursuit - Cardinal Newman Society

Not Such a Trivial Pursuit

A few weeks ago, at a Catholic homeschooling conference in Florida, or perhaps it was Ohio, I had a conversation with a husband and wife who were promoting a board game they’d designed, which involved role-playing based upon scenarios from Scripture. I remember thinking, at the time, that there were very few educational games designed specifically for Catholics. Such thoughts returned to me this week as I noticed the game of Trivial Pursuit amongst the board games at the vacation rental in California at which my family and I are currently staying. Wouldn’t it be good, I mused, were something similar to be designed for the education of young Catholics?

Pondering this idea, my imagination set to work designing such a game. It could be called Scientia, the Latin word for “knowledge”, and it would focus on categories of questions attuned to the essential elements of a good Catholic education. I envisaged there being nine distinct categories: Theology, Philosophy, History, Mathematics, Geography, Literature, the Visual Arts, Music, and the Physical Sciences.

The playing pieces would be busts of great men renowned for their contributions to each of these nine sciences: St. Paul (Theology), St. Thomas Aquinas (Philosophy), St. Bede (History), Archimedes (Mathematics), Christopher Columbus (Geography), Shakespeare (Literature), Leonardo da Vinci (Visual Arts), Mozart (Music), Gregor Mendel (Physical Sciences).

The winner of the game would be the first person to “graduate” to the ranks of the Illustrissimi (the Illustrious Ones) by answering one question correctly in each of the nine sciences.

I then thought it would be fun to compose the questions for just one of the cards in the pack of several hundred that would be required for the game:

Theology: What are the seven deadly sins?

Philosophy: The ideas of which philosopher, apart from Plato, are presented prominently in Plato’s dialogues?

History: In which famous naval battle in 1571 did a Christian fleet defeat a larger Muslim armada?

Mathematics: What formula gives the volume of a sphere?

Geography: In which country is the Marian shrine of Fatima?

Literature: Who is Dante’s guide through the Inferno?

Visual Arts: Whose Pietà graces a side chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome?

Music: Whose Sixth Symphony is also known as the Pastoral Symphony?

Physical Sciences: Which Catholic priest was the first scientist to propose what became known as the Big Bang theory?

As I took the leisure time to contemplate the rules of such a game, it dawned on me that this would be an excellent way of emphasizing Josef Pieper’s insistence that leisure is the basis of culture. It struck me that the process of learning through the leisure time that a game such as Scientia would afford is incarnating the essence of what a true education should be and should encapsulate. It would bring students together in the sheer leisurely joy of learning while they interacted in friendly competition to “graduate” as true masters of each of the nine sciences.

It also dawned on me that good ideas are ten a penny, and that it would take more pennies than I could afford to develop and market my imaginary Scientia. I considered the words of T.S. Eliot, that a shadow falls between the idea and the reality and between the conception and the creation. As this shadow overshadows my thoughts, I offer these musings in the hope that others might become torchbearers of such imaginative approaches to reuniting leisure to education. Perhaps others might bring to fruition the seeds that my own leisurely musings have planted. In any event, the time spent imagining such things has been time well-taken; and time well-taken is never time wasted. It has been anything but a trivial pursuit.

JOSEPH PEARCE is a senior fellow at The Cardinal Newman Society and editor of its journal. He is a senior contributor at The Imaginative Conservative and senior editor at the Augustine Institute. His books include biographical works on C.S. Lewis, Shakespeare, Tolkien, Chesterton, Solzhenitsyn and Belloc.

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