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The 'Making of Men'. The Idea and Reality of Newman's university in Oxford and Dublin Paperback – 20 Oct 2014
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After his experience as a one of the instigators of the modern Oxbridge tutorial, Newman set out his vision of the required institution in the Dublin lectures which later formed his renowned Idea of a University. He then set about the painstaking task of turning that into a reality in practical details of constitution, finances, academic programmes, and by no means least, student environment. All of these were directed towards the 'making of men', not merely technical training. The author describes the ups and downs, the support and misunderstandings of those around him, not least those who had asked him to undertake the task.
Did Newman succeed? Was the project of a Catholic university successful? The author answers these questions in a balanced way, showing where praise or blame might be said to belong in Newman and the other protagonists. The project and its founding rector is inspirational and this book reflects this.
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Shrimpton’s book, therefore, is an important contribution to understanding how Newman’s ideas took shape, and in understanding why the ultimate failure of the Catholic University had less to do with Newman and more to do with the cultural and ecclesiastical milieux in which he sought to found the institution. The book relies on a great deal of archival research: those of the Birmingham Oratory, University College Dublin, and Archbishop’s House Dublin. With the publication of this research, we now have a much fuller story of the major players in the foundation of the University, especially Archbishop Paul Cullen of Dublin, who was both instrumental in supporting Newman’s ideas as well as later criticizing what he perceived as their shortcomings, particularly in the area of discipline. Shrimpton depicts Cullen as embodying the ambiguity about the Catholic University that ultimately contributed to its demise: being a place of learning for laity, yet being (in Cullen’s mind) more aptly supervised by the hierarchy. Newman, in contrast to Cullen, emerges as a liberal educator whose main goal was (to use today’s language) student formation—that is, the formation of the whole student in a system that relied on tutors as well as professors.
The book begins with a study of Newman’s own experiences as a schoolboy, and moves on to explore how he developed a strong sensibility of the role of the tutor in his days at Oriel College, Oxford. His invitation to found a Catholic university in Dublin is the subject of chapter two, while chapter three draws in a good deal of Newman’s lesser-known writings to sketch his pastoral view of education. Chapter four is about the founding of the University in Dublin, and chapter five addresses the actual lived experience of students and faculty there. Chapters six and seven address his departure and legacy, and Newman’s later attempts to allow Catholics to study at Oxford. Several appendixes include excerpts from Newman’s relevant writings, as well as biographies of those involved in the Catholic University. The import of this book is that it very clearly shows how Newman translated his ideas about a university into practice. Shrimpton shows that the characterization of Newman as an idealist–and thus easily dismissible in the contemporary context, now so different from that of 19th century England or Ireland–is off the mark. Newman’s central idea about the purpose of a university is as relevant and edgy today as it was then.
My full review essay here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecapstone/2015/06/review-essay-paul-shrimpton-the-making-of-men/