Let Them Be Born in Wonder is the title of an excellent article that highlights the work of the storied, but relatively short-lived, Integrated Humanities Program at the University of Kansas.

Part of the reason the program no longer exists is that a disproportionate number of students in the program were converting to Christianity as a result of their studies. The program was closed for this reason in 1979, despite the fact that the investigative committee found “no evidence that the professors of the program have engaged in such activities in the classroom.” It was, in many ways, the mere exposure to great minds and works of the past that drew students to God.

But the three founding professors also noticed something about the students entering the program that is worth us considering today: they had lost an interest in real things. These professors were convinced that before their students could encounter great works, they needed to reencounter, and be drawn again, to reality itself.

Aristotle and St. Thomas teach that the human person, as a union of body and soul, lives an integrated life in which the intellect and will rely on the senses, the imagination, and emotions. The professors recognized that the new generation of students was sensibly and emotionally disconnected from reality. Their technology, their whole environment, pre-internet thought it was, cut them off from God’s creation, and inclined them toward fantasy. Their basic correspondence to reality, to the true, good, and beautiful, had been blunted. They were not interested in real things, were restless, and could not focus.

What makes these observations more poignant is that they were made in 1968. Our world has grown to prefer the virtual and the digital even more in the decades that have followed.

I share all of this for three reasons.

First, I hope that you read the article, and grow to appreciate what the IHP sought to be and do.

Second, I hope this gives you some perspective on why any classical Christian school worth its salt will insist on nature studies, physical activity, art and music appreciation, and a direct encounter with great works from the past. We learn to learn from thinkers who we may not entirely agree with, but who nonetheless had a better picture of ultimate reality than most in our own age.

And finally, I hope this encourages us to remedy our own preference for the virtual and the digital; to sharpen our “blunted correspondence to reality” by seeking to “be born in wonder” by the natural order and human community around us.

If we are all determined to begin this work in our own lives, we might just stand a chance at leading our students to do the same.