Education as a path to flourishing in the Catholic faith: School superintendent Brinton Smith
FORT WORTH — After spending almost 20 years as a teacher and administrator primarily in secular charter schools, Brinton Smith is thrilled to return to his roots in Catholic education as the new superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Fort Worth.
Smith began his new role full time in February after transitioning from leadership of Tallahassee Classical School in Florida.
“I really missed being in an environment where we could teach the fullness of truth,” Smith said.
Smith has concentrated on classical liberal arts for his whole career and is looking forward to focusing on “truth, beauty, and goodness” through the lens of faith.
“Our first priority is — are we being fully Catholic?” he said. “Are we living out our Catholic faith in our life and in our schools? Do we have a vibrant spiritual life and a strong moral life that reflects truth?”
By concentrating on truth, beauty, and goodness, students trace their education back to the Creator.
“The reason truth, beauty, and goodness go together is that they’re of God and part of His essence. They are gifts from Him, and they work together,” Smith said.
When students have that foundation, they are changed at the soul level, leading them to good action because they know the right thing to do.
By targeting grammar, logic, and rhetoric, the classical approach to education prepares students to engage others in the public square in positive ways that point them to God, which is an increasingly important attribute in today’s divisive world, Smith said.
The early Church trained young people to be excellent orators so they could go out into the public square and encourage others to follow God. Likewise, modern students learn to discern valid arguments and persuade others in positive ways.
“They can improve the dialogue in the public square, not by arguing past others or yelling, but by actually having true dialogue,” Smith said.
‘Doing those things that set us apart well’
Smith’s high regard for classical education is apparent throughout his career. He co-founded and led the Walsingham Society of Christian Culture and Western Civilization, a nonprofit fellowship of professors in the liberal arts who taught courses in theology, literature, history, and more to adults in Dallas-Fort Worth.
He helped open the region’s first Great Hearts charter school and held leadership positions at the Barney Charter School Initiative and Founders Classical Academy, all in North Texas.
Smith also is the executive director of the Classical Teacher’s Conference, which trains teachers in liberal arts and classical education.
He is pursuing his doctorate in humanities from the University of Texas at Dallas, and he holds a bachelor’s degree from the College of St. Thomas More in Fort Worth and a master’s in English literature from the University of Dallas.
“I appreciate my education at St. Thomas More and the University of Dallas,” Smith said. “One of the reasons I got into education is I knew what good this education has done for me, and I feel called to share it with others.”
His goal is to help diocesan schools provide a strong Catholic education and “doing those things that set us apart well,” like providing excellent catechesis and encouraging contemplation of the things that point us to God, such as the beauty of creation and great works of art, which lead us to goodness and truth.
Smith sees his role as superintendent as “a strategic position, thinking about the big picture and casting a vision for all the schools in the diocese.”
That big picture involves supporting students, parents, teachers, and administrators to flourish in their faith in God.
“Truth exists, good exists, beauty exists, and they’re all from the Lord and they return back to the Lord,” Smith said. “The goal is a flourishing human being.”
Happy to help diocesan schools
Smith and his wife, Rebecca, a Fort Worth native, met in college and have nine children. They live in the diocese and attend Mass at St. Rita Parish in Fort Worth, St. Patrick Cathedral, and St. Mary the Virgin Parish in Arlington.
“I’m happy to be helping my own diocese and to be able to help Catholic schools,” he said.
He’s spent his first few weeks on the job visiting schools across the diocese.
“I really appreciate everyone’s hospitality,” he said.
Smith summed up his objective as superintendent, saying, “I will do my best to serve the students of the diocese, parents, teachers and administrators, to listen and collaborate and always lead us in the right direction to the truth, beauty, and goodness that is our Lord.”