For the 47th year, the Church in the United States observes Catholic Schools Week, this year from Sunday, January 29, to Saturday, February 4. As regular readers of CWR know, I am an indefatigable proponent of our Catholic schools; indeed, from the age of four, my life has been lived under the loving shadow of Catholic education.
Although I have had a very varied priestly ministry, bar none, the apple of my eye has always been our beloved schools, without which I believe the Church in this country would have very little future. We all know the statistics: The graduates of our schools have the highest level of practice of the Faith as adults; our schools are still the main source of priestly and religious vocations; our academics are second to none. We are told, however, that the reason they are not bursting at the seams (although they are in some places) is finances. So, in this essay, I would like to take up that issue.
“We can’t afford to send our kids to a Catholic school.” That’s the recurring mantra, which does not impress me. Consider this: The vast majority of our Catholic institutions were built by nearly penniless immigrants. As a grandson of four immigrants, who raised their children during the Great Depression, I heard the stories of penury; yet I also heard my maternal grandmother (who raised three children by herself) say many times, “But when the priest said he needed money to build the church or the school, who else could give but us?” Yes, the woman who made five dollars a week gave one dollar to the parish! How’s that for “double tithing”? So, penniless immigrants built the institutions but the most affluent Catholic population in the history of the Church can’t sustain them?
No, our current problem is not money; it’s faith. American Catholics have the highest per capita income of any religious group – but have the lowest level of religious giving. That fact had my boyhood pastor declare: “Catholics are for the birds – cheap, cheap, cheap!”
Pope Benedict XVI, during his pastoral visit to our nation in 2008, delivered an inspired and inspiring address to Catholic educators on April 17. I would like to call attention to this particular paragraph:
This sacrifice continues today. It is an outstanding apostolate of hope, seeking to address the material, intellectual and spiritual needs of over three million children and students. It also provides a highly commendable opportunity for the entire Catholic community to contribute generously to the financial needs of our institutions. Their long-term sustainability must be assured. Indeed, everything possible must be done, in cooperation with the wider community, to ensure that they are accessible to people of all social and economic strata. No child should be denied his or her right to an education in faith, which in turn nurtures the soul of a nation.
Several words pop off the page from that talk: “sacrifice”; “the entire Catholic community”; “sustainability”; “wider community”; “no child denied”; “nurtures the soul of a nation.” I would like to piggy-back on those words.
“Sacrifice” is a word that has been excised from the modern lexicon, but it is the sine qua non for the life of any family, parish, or civil entity. In the exhortation of the venerable marriage ritual, we hear a paean to sacrifice: “Sacrifice is usually difficult and irksome. Only love can make it easy. Perfect love can make it a joy. We are willing to give in proportion as we love. And when love is perfect, the sacrifice is complete.” The adventure of our Catholic school system was the unique gift of the Church in our nation to the Universal Church; its success was predicated on the principle of self-sacrifice: the sacrifice of clergy and Religious, who worked for subsistence compensation; the sacrifice of parents; the sacrifice of parishioners; the sacrifice of whole dioceses.
Related to the centrality of sacrifice is that of priorities. How many priests and bishops are brave enough to tell parents that subjecting their children to the government schools is endangering their souls? And further, to challenge parents with the financial wherewithal to re-order their priorities: ballet lessons, basketball camp, winter vacation – or a God-centered education?
Pope Benedict, in highlighting the need for the “whole community” to be committed to the enterprise of Catholic education, was merely paraphrasing the Code of Canon Law, where we read: “The Christian faithful are to foster Catholic schools, assisting in their establishment and maintenance according to their means” (canon 800 §2). In other words, parents are not to bear the burden alone. As a community of believers, a family of faith, all the baptized – whether or not they have children or whether or not they use our schools – should deem it their responsibility, indeed, a living out of their baptismal responsibility, to contribute to the cause of bringing up in the Faith the next generation. The Diocese of Wichita has followed this plan for decades now, to great success, with their diocesan-wide stewardship model. Of course, this is no different from what occurs in the civil sector: Whether or not one uses the godless government schools, every citizen must foot the bill.
Yet another aspect of the question is the availability of Catholic schools. A demographic fact of life is that, beginning in the 1960s, vast segments of the Catholic population moved to the suburbs. While parishes were founded there, rarely were schools part of the project, with bishops and pastors either forgetful or violative of church law, which holds: “If schools which offer an education imbued with a Christian spirit are not available, it is for the diocesan bishop to take care that they are established” (canon 802 §1). Further, what’s the problem with asking parents how much they can afford, if not the whole amount? After all, having an additional child or two in a particular grade doesn’t add to the cost of the electricity, nor does it demand an extra teacher; it does fill up a classroom, which is psychologically good for both teacher and students – and it helps save a few more souls.1 A shining exception to the unfortunate and short-sighted approach of erecting parishes without schools was Archbishop Edward McCarthy of Miami, where the new burgeoning suburban parishes of the 1980s did incorporate schools, with the result that the school system of the Archdiocese of Miami is quite healthy.
Our next word is “sustainability.” For decades, I have argued that our elementary and secondary schools should be tuition-free, as they once were, or at most calling for a mere token parent contribution. When I attended grammar school, the annual fee was $50; when I began high school, it was $150; in my senior year, it had jumped to $300. That same high school today costs nearly $15,000; this is not sustainable. Willy-nilly, that kind of price tag forces families into two-parent out-of-home employment or simply drives them into the waiting arms of the government monopoly.2
At the same time, administrators need to look at cost-trimming possibilities. Granted, our schools do not have the bloated budgets and bureaucracies of the state systems, but I still see some room for getting rid of excess fat. Can secretarial and custodial work be carried out by willing and able volunteers? The same for substitute teachers? Does an elementary school with barely 200 pupils really need a vice-principal?
What might Benedict have had in mind by referring to “the wider community”? I think he meant that if we let folks outside our Catholic bubble know what we accomplish educationally, they might be enlisted as supporters. A Sister, who chaired the business department in one of the schools I served, approached business leaders in town to subsidize the cost of all the “techie” materiel. One businessman asked why he – a Mormon – should contribute to a Catholic school. Sister Josephine replied, without blinking an eyelash, “Because you’re going to want to hire my students to work for you when they graduate!”
The Holy Father would also have been alluding to the need for governmental assistance. Parental freedom of choice in education has been an integral part of Catholic social teaching for more than a century, in a consistent line from Pius XI to the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church. This is a fundamental human right and not a function of the largesse of government. It is meaningless to assert that parents are free to choose the most appropriate educational environment for their children – only if they can afford it. A civil right penalized is a civil right denied, pure and simple. Now, let’s be clear: We do not want a single farthing to flow from the government to our schools; we want the money to go to parents, who then determine where they wish to spend that money. The latter approach is important for two reasons. First, if the subsidy were to go from state to school, we know that governmental intrusion would ensue in short order; after all, “he who pays the piper calls the tune.”3 Secondly, it underscores the philosophical basis, namely, that parents are the primary educators of their children and thus most suited to make decisions about their education.
With the Carson case of last year, the Supreme Court opened wide the door for parental choice. We need to walk through that door, collaborating with other faith communities or any other folk of goodwill. When I wrote my doctoral dissertation on this topic in the 1980s, not a few people thought I was the victim of a pipe dream.4 At present, at least 23 states have some form of choice programs. Over the years, I have encouraged schools to post a sign on their front lawn, to the following effect: “St. John’s School saves you the tax-payer $$$xxx each year.” That’s consciousness-raising at a very gut level.
Then the Pope asserts that “no child should be denied his or her right to an education in faith.” Although this could be interpreted as encompassing the previous point I made about government assistance, I think he is much more concerned here with the internal life of the Church, that is, no Catholic child can ever be denied a Catholic education. It is grossly scandalous to hear of incidents – thankfully few and far between – when children are denied admission to a Catholic school due to the parents’ inability to pay. Canon Law holds: “Pastors of souls have the duty of arranging everything so that all the faithful have a Catholic education” (canon 794 §2) – “all the faithful,” not only those with the financial means. If it is true in the secular realm that “a civil right penalized is a civil right denied,” how much more is that true within the family of the Church. When a tuition collection agency or a parish finance council banishes a child from one of our schools, it is the duty of the pastor to stand in the breach, reminding all that God’s grace (which Catholic schooling is) cannot have a price put on it. However, again, let us repeat that here we are concerned with genuine need and not dealing with parents whose priorities are out of whack, which is to say, those whose priorities are not in keeping with the Gospel.
Finally, Benedict XVI enlarges our vista by teaching that an education in the faith “nurtures the soul of a nation.” That was not a throw-away line; it is a most valuable insight. As the melt-down of the government schools continues unabated, both academically and morally, our schools will be the only serious player for genuine human formation. That realization is why, for a long time now, people of other faiths or no faith at all, have committed their children to our schools or who support these institutions.
In this entire discussion, a most-overlooked dimension is the role of Divine Providence. I tend to be a rather hard-nosed administrator, but even I have to say that in the post-Vatican II era, we have given regrettably short shrift to God’s power and will to provide. If any or all of the American saints and blesseds had submitted their educational plans to a feasibility study, I doubt that we would have had a single school or orphanage or hospital established. When Bishop John Neumann assumed the leadership of the Diocese of Philadelphia in the nineteenth century, there were only two Catholic schools; when he died, eight years later, there were 100! Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini opened 67 institutions in her lifetime – one for each year of her earthly existence. The same can be said for all the other “greats” of American Catholic education: Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton, Mother Katherine Drexel, Mother Rose Philippine Duchesne, to name but a few. These American holy ones firmly believed that their apostolate was God’s will and thus threw themselves onto His providential care. We can do no less today.
The convert-monk-poet, Thomas Merton, in his spiritual autobiography, Seven Storey Mountain, set in clear relief the educational scenario in France between the two world wars, which he experienced as a youngster:
When I think of the Catholic parents who sent their children to a school like that (the state school), I begin to wonder what was wrong with their heads. Down by the river, in a big clean white building, was a college (that is, a high school) run by the Marist Fathers. I had never been inside it: indeed, it was so clean that it frightened me. But I knew a couple of boys who went to it. They were sons of the little lady who ran the pastry shop opposite the church at St. Antonin and I remember them as exceptionally nice fellows, very pleasant and good. It never occurred to anyone to despise them for being pious. And how unlike the products of the Lycée they were!
When I reflect on all this, I am overwhelmed at the thought of the tremendous weight of moral responsibility that Catholic parents accumulate upon their shoulders by not sending their children to Catholic schools. Those who are not of the Church have no understanding of this. They cannot be expected to. As far as they can see, all this insistence on Catholic schools is only a money-making device by which the Church is trying to increase its domination over the minds of men, and its own temporal prosperity. And of course most non-Catholics imagine that the Church is immensely rich, and that all Catholic institutions make money hand over fist, and that all that money is stored away somewhere to buy gold and silver dishes for the Pope and cigars for the College of Cardinals.
Is it any wonder that there can be no peace in a world where everything possible is being done to guarantee that the youth of every nation will grow up absolutely without moral and religious discipline, and without the shadow of an interior life, or of that spirituality and charity and faith which alone can safeguard the treaties and agreements made by governments?
And Catholics, thousands of Catholics everywhere, have the consummate audacity to weep and complain because God does not hear their prayers for peace, when they have neglected not only His will, but the ordinary dictates of natural reason and prudence, and let their children grow up according to the standards of a civilization of hyenas.
As we thank the late and beloved Pope Benedict for his stirring encomium to Catholic schools in America, during this Catholic Schools Week of 2023, let us – as the Catholic family in the United States – commit ourselves to ensuring that our children never “grow up according to the standards of a civilization of hyenas.”
1One situation with which I am very familiar: A parish in suburbia has been split six times. The mother church has a grammar school and high school, filled to capacity. Not a single one of the daughter parishes has a school, even though each of them has anywhere from 900 to 2000 students in CCD. Not a single pastor or bishop in more than forty years has sought to remedy that most regrettable gap in pastoral care.
2The Archdiocese of Denver has embarked on a creative funding plan. Taken from their website:
Why Variable Tuition?
Our goal is to increase enrollment in our schools.
We want to make a Catholic education an affordable option for our Catholic families, particularly middle-class families with several children.
The Variable Tuition Program is modeled on what many of our successful schools already do on a case-by-case basis. This program simply creates a standard framework across all our schools.
Adjusts tuition to the unique circumstances of each family
Participation is voluntary for families. Those who opt out can choose to pay full tuition.
No family will pay more than the actual cost of educating their child
Increased enrollment will lead to healthier, more sustainable schools
3The abysmal state of Catholic education in Canada or Ireland should serve as fair warning in this regard.
4That work has been published by Newman House Press under the title Constitutional Rights and Religious Prejudice: Catholic Education as the Battleground.
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The fact is that the cost of Catholic Schools will be high without and adequate number the sisters to be teachers. So right now there are only two workable solutions to expand catholic schools (1) a radical sacrifice of most families to save money to send their children to the catholic school or (2) some funding support from the government. One model for state funding is what has happened in the States of Arizona and Iowa. In particular the Iowa governor signed a just passed a Law, to be phased in over 3 years, that will provide a voucher of approximately $7600 to send a child to a private or non public school. Of course the Teachers Unions and their bought and paid for ally, the Democrats, oppose this and will do all they can to undermine and destroy this option. If this option works it will spread, this is something that needs to be watched and supported by the Catholics in the pew.
Any time the State funds something, the cost of that something rises very rapidly. I predict the schools will not be satisfied with only $7,600 per child and will slowly creep on costs.
Great that you home schooled. Two points 1) In a Catholic school environment cost are controlled at local level ie the parish, without the interference of the anti Catholic Teachers Unions, so there is a natural cost control mechanism. 2) The funding for private schooling, which BTW includes home schooling takes the monopoly away from the public schools. Monopolies are not good anywhere especially in schooling, where public schools and their Teachers Union Hierarchy are more than ever are anti God, anti Family, anti Country and anti person. You can be sure that the Teachers Unions will be targeting this funding more than ever. Their monopoly is at stake, there is nothing more dangerous than a Teachers Union whose free lunch is being chipped away.
Anytime there is a third party payer system, as this would be, costs can quickly get out of hand. One need only look at the colleges and tax payer backed student loans.
Some Catholic parochial schools charge no tuition to parish families who attend Mass faithfully & participate in a stewardship/tithing program. Whatever the family’s income level they all tithe the same percentage. They must also commit to volunteer hours.
A new pastor in our former parish attempted to introduce that concept to parents at our school & was met with little interest. It wasn’t the tithing or volunteering parents rejected but the idea that they’d be required to attend Mass on a regular basis.
Several years after that our little school was closed. It wasn’t for lack of money but a lack of children. That’s something schools in general are facing these days. All the public elementary schools in a rural county we lived in were consolidated into one building with the high school. There were just too few children to keep multiple schools going.
Catholic schools are going to have to come up with new models. The classic 19th Century model was based on a whole different structure with large Catholic families, numerous nuns, priests & religious brothers, & a cultural assumption that Catholic children should receive Catholic educations in Catholic schools.
That model is not going to work financially for non-affluent families these days unless something like a parish tithing program is introduced. Virtual schooling, cottage schools, & homeschooling are other valid options large, non-affluent Catholic families should consider.
Just a PS: I was reading about the current birth-dearth in the rural area we lived in. In 1940 there were 100 births recorded in the county. In 2006 there were only 9.
“So right now there are only two workable solutions to expand catholic schools (1) a radical sacrifice of most families to save money to send their children to the catholic school or (2) some funding support from the government. One model for state funding is what has happened in the States of Arizona and Iowa.”
There is another solution. Here it is:
This quote by Bishop Ernest Primeau, former Bishop of Manchester, N.H. – taken from the foreword to the book: Are Parochial Schools the Answer? — by Mary Perkins Ryan, helps us to focus on her conclusion found in the last chapter of her book: “In trying to provide a total Catholic education for as many of our young people as possible, we have been neglecting to provide anything like an adequate religious formation for all those not in Catholic schools, and we have been neglecting the religious formation of adults.”
Mrs. Ryan suggests that the resources of the Church in the modern world could be better used where the public schools provide for general education. She suggests shifting the resources of the Church away from general education for the relatively few young people in Catholic Schools to the specific area of Christian formation – for both young people and adults.
Right, too few teaching clerics. Get the cloistered Nuns and Monks and Brothers into the classrooms. That shift, most important to educate our children in a spiritual setting, should decrease the need for higher-paid civilian educators.
We intended to send our kids to St. John Coleman in Kingston, NY. Funding for us was tough and my wife, thinking of college, focused on a broader education. In addition, Coleman did not offer extracurricular activities, sports, music, art, etc. Sadly, Coleman closed. Cardinal Tim Dolan may want to use an older model.
Morgan, surely you understand that the cloistered religious are already doing an important full time job?
No thanks. Homemschooling worked well for us, and appears to work well for many mothers who prefer to raise/educate their own little ones.
I really do not understand this huge push by the Church to gather all the Preschool/Elementary school age children into an institution, neatly grouped by age, away from their own mothers for six to eight hours a day. And what is left for the mothers to do during those hours alone? Go to work to earn money to pay the Catholic school teacher her salary, I suppose.
Mass religion –> mass education
If you were qualified to teach your own children, why not volunteer now as a teacher in the parish school?
“If I was qualified…”? No, I wasn’t qualified. Thank Heavens. If I had actually gotten that teaching degree back in ’96 at grad school I might not have had children at all, certainly not the ones God granted me, with the man I would not have met and married.
Volunteer? I should not be paid because…why exactly? I managed to teach two dyslexic children to read, one who is profoundly dyslexic–so profoundly afflicted the neuropsychologist opined that I wasn’t qualified to teach him, but neither were the school systems. So good luck! God put me in the right Home school program though. (Shout out to Director Debbie for mentioning All About Spelling by Marie Rippel.)
In any event, our parish does not have a school. We are one of those “out in the outer reaches” of the Diocese (Eparchy actually). Small, almost forgotten. Far, far more grey hair than not. I was speaking to a Public school mother and she notes that the system is breaking with DEI, CRT, and porn. A Public school friend is retiring and will not go back as a sub. He is done.
The once-biggest parish in the Roman diocese shut their elementary school for good back in 2021 I think. It might have been due to a lack of children.
I know you are a big proponent of Catholic/Diocesan/Jesuit schools–I call it “other schooling.” I submit to you that “other schooling” is in fact a large part of the reason women are no longer having many children.
I’d like to see the demographics on that. Public school mothers vs Parochial school mothers vs Home school mothers. Who is having children and how many? What are the divorce stats? Things of that nature.
Many Catholic school teachers are Catholic mothers who work in their children’s school in order to get tuition breaks. I was one of those.
The history of the Church’s ministry in both education and healthcare was started when wages were low and the nuns worked for very little. Our nuns taught for $25? per month and ran out of food on a regular basis, supported by farmer parishioners who brought in staples right off the farm. After the Catholic HS closed the kids went to the public high school and often were/are in the top 10 when they graduated.
A lot of it is the payroll costs that are borne partially by the parish and then some type of tuition arrangement. Many priests find it overwhelming to keep the church and schools both going, and that’s understandable. Our former priest used to say, “Catholics seem to be born with a sour lemon in their mouth.” Another one told the Bishop, as regarding his retirement parish assignments, ” I don’t care how many parishes you want me to cover, but please no more schools.”
Why the public schools don’t copy a lot of the C schools ideas I don’t understand.
After Vat II a flood of women abandoned their vocations as nuns and teachers. In the 1950 era we went to Catholic school for $2 a head per month, maxed at 5 kids.
The church did nothing to help Catholic families afford a Catholic school education after the massive outflow. But how many billions were spent on the sex abuse fiasco? Catholic schools became the ‘affordable’ private school resort for upper middle class nonCatholics. It seems half the students were there just for the good education at a discount while working class Catholics were ignored. Despite the examples of Wichita and Lincoln the USCCB does nothing to promote their examples.
Every parish should have an endowment fund for the support of the nearest Catholic school to pay tuition for Catholic students whose families faithfully attend Mass. The funds need to be isolated from the dioceses so that the bishops cannot recklessly misuse the money for sex abuse cases or other misbegotten schemes.
The Church should vigorously support traditional teaching orders of nuns such as the Dominican sisters in Ann Arbor and Nashville.
If there are 15 kids in a first grade class at $6k a kid and the teacher is making 35k where does all the money go?
We had 30+ kids per class, brown bagged it, most of the good sisters only had high school diplomas, we learned and we had far better scores than the public schools.
The Church has turned its back on her children. “Do you love Me? Feed my lambs.”
Your take is mine too. As an administrator, I know that the parish school has costs in addition to teacher salaries (indirect or hidden costs like–insurance, mortgage, facility upkeep/repair, utilities, ?tax? (I doubt that RC parish schools pay tax but maybe some do.) There is also the cost of equipment, supplies, and support staff salaries (i.e., principal, janitorial, grounds staff).
A number of grey-haired parishioners may not support funding parish schools, and these from both sides of the theological spectrum. Progressives don’t like supporting traditionally-oriented teaching, and the
traditionally oriented don’t appreciate being asked to support paradigm-shift ‘Catholic’ ‘teaching.’
I agree that Catholic schools ought not include students whose parents are neither Catholic nor Christian. In the name of ecumenism, Catholic minds and souls are exposed to either subtle, blatant, inadvertent, or intentional propaganda against the faith. Playgrounds are places where friendships are formed among once-good Catholic students and anti-Christian peers. It’s a war out there, and I for one am VERY glad my children are grown.
About the only other point that I want to make is that Catholic schools really need to be Catholic. No one will want to spend any money to get a cheap imitation of a bad secular school.
While as in my above comments I whole heartedly support authentic Catholic Education, the sad part is that Catholic Education in some Catholic Schools is not Catholic. Unfortunately in some cases the teaching and practicing the Catholic faith is minimized. Here in the NW suburbs of Chicago one Catholic parish, as I understand it, has gone foreword with a liberal agenda, teaching CRT and having mass only once a month for the school children. This kind of stuff needs to be stopped. First and foremost Catholic School education priority must be learning and practicing the faith. If it is not part of the school than I agree there is no sense to attending a Catholic School.
Your point is one that came immediately to my mind. Catholic schools must be authentically Catholic with the primary goal of preparing children for eternal life via a virtuous–yet temporally industrious and servile– life according to the gifts God has bestowed on them. However, I also considered the many families I have encountered as an educator who seriously cannot afford the Catholic tuition. For those open to life and with many children, they simply may not have the money even with significant sacrifice! This is the ultimate irony and disgrace of Catholic schooling. It is time that whole Archdioceses and Parishes prioritize genuine Catholic education. Moreover, retired educators might well consider teaching in Catholic schools for less than the current pay steps that mirror public systems.
This may be the reason for homeschooling, although I knew one homeschool family (Mormon) that decided to send their children to public school, so as to make sure everyone got educated, and the mother could have another baby.
And this is part of the problem. Folks will complain that public funds should not be used for religious education. Then too, public funds (be they $6K, $7K, $8K) will attract many to Catholic Schools (which have historically been better than the public counter parts) who have no interest in the Catholic faith–they may be Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Protestant, atheist, etc. Folks may eventually object to a Crucifix in the classroom, or who will be exempt from Wednesday morning Mass or Friday adoration. Or they may demand their own prayer rugs so they may pray to their own gods.
And the schools, in order to avoid losing students and laying off staff, will give in. Eventually, the parish school becomes simply another elite private school.
The problem is that in the past those whom you refer to as Catholic were actually Catholic.
The truth is that any undiscovered formal heretic/schismatic isn’t a Catholic and to almost the same effect (the same effect externally speaking) neither is a material heretic/schismatic. As such, we are actually talking about those who identify, but almost certainly ARE NOT actually Catholic.
The time you were referring to likely had religious sisters working for almost(?) nothing and Catholics who were true Catholics. And those Catholics put their money where their faith was – and where their children gained instruction.
In 1954, my parents were not “true” Catholics. They were not married in the Church, had never attended a Catholic school, and probably hadn’t been to Mass since their Confirmation. My attendance at the parish school made me a Catholic, gave me my vocation, AND made them practicing Catholics. The data tell us that still happens today.
This happened in Canada, but I would not be surprised if it has happened in the US as well.
JMJ. All the schools that have closed since the 50’s. Have you asked why doesn’t the Knights of Columbus support Catholic Schools? Look at the list of what they donate too. Ours uses the school bldg. for meetings, banquets, fundraisers. They donate to Protestant Habitat for Humanity. Most of the Members have children going to Public Schools. Raising money for a few Scholarships isn’t enough. Our Academy asked for help supplying supplies for new Teachers just out of College. Nothing from the Knights. We asked for help moving desks & furniture. Nothing. They only support the Parish Church but not the Academy because it’s not on their LIST. They actually tried to copy our fund raising & out schedule events on the same day. When we had an Athletic event, they would set up their BBQ in the parking lot. Again, they use our Facilities rent free!!! Why aren’t the Knights supporting our Catholic Schools?
I believe they do, at least in our area they do a lot. Here they have their own facilities, though.
If you were qualified to teach your own children, why not volunteer now as a teacher in the parish school?
The idea that parents need to just sacrifice more financially to send their kids to a school that is most likely nominally Catholic strikes me as tone deaf. The issue isn’t that parents don’t know how to sacrifice for their kids, it’s that they just literally can’t afford it. If you have 4 kids and send them all to Catholic school you’re looking at minimum 20k a year for K-8 and easily triple that for HS. The only time Catholic schools functioned properly in this country was when religious sisters and brothers, or priests taught the classes and the education was able to be provided for parishioners for little to no cost. It’s also debatable whether Catholic schools truly ever worked. The crop of kids who were educated in Catholic schools in the 1950s-1960s became the generation that left the Church in droves and did not hand on the faith to their own children. Was that because of the schools or a confluence of other factors? Hard to say, but many baby boomers talk disdainfully of their Catholic educations. If the faith isn’t being lived out at home it honestly does not matter much if they’re getting the faith at school.
Aside from the financials there is also the issue of whether or not parents should homeschool. If parents are to be the primary educators of their kids then why are they encouraged to send them off to be taught by teachers who probably are only nominally Catholic and don’t really understand the faith? Suggesting that people volunteer to teach for 8 hours a day 5 days a week in a school is patently absurd. If Catholic schools as an institution are worth saving (which is debatable) it will happen by an increase in vocations to the priesthood and consecrated religious life. It’s the absolute only way. No amount vouchers can save them.
I’m 100% for homeschooling with a consortium of the moms/dads offering classes when they are qualified. It was our experience that trust was very high among most all parents since together we planned and participated in many extracurricular activities (sports, field trips, music events, drama/plays/musical rehearsals and shows, etc.).
Many of us are still friends although many of our children have gone onto higher education and/or marriage.
My special ed son attended public school until I pulled him out because of lax morals among high school staff and mistreatment in grade school (requiring a lawyer and lots of $ to remedy the horrid situation). While the boy attended public school, I volunteered to teach in the “faith formation” program at our PNW NO diocesan parish. What did children learned from that program curriculum? The main takeaway from the middle school essays they and their parish school cohorts wrote: “Abortion is okay for some people, but others think it is not right.”
Another time, as a Legion of Mary member, I offered to discuss the rosary with the 5th grade parish school kids. After my little spiel, the teacher chimed in to claim that the rosary originated as a ‘counting’ tool, like an abacus. I was too stunned to counter that. She was the teacher, and I was a guest who had already engaged the students in its history (given by Our Lady to St. Dominic).
It takes a stout heart not to be disheartened at the state of education and the motivation of children and parents alike to trust anyone but themselves in any sort of secular school. There is barely a smidgeon more faith in trusting one’s precious gifts to the almost equally pernicious parochial curriculum/teaching in diocesan parish schools.
I know more than one family who literally pulled up roots and moved to other states to provide a more wholesome educational environment in which to expose their children. One left the diocesan high school and another—a Russian Orthodox gal whose parents had fled USSR—who the city secular school because of its Marxist propaganda her daughter was expected to espouse in her history class. Another left a high school which claims its tuition is so high because its college acceptance rate is likewise high.
As a traditional faithful Catholic, I pray for those parents who are like those Jesus said would suffer woe in the last days.
We keep meeting conservative Catholic families who have relocated to our area from places like California and Colorado. They describe themselves as political refugees. Our state is something like the 2nd poorest in the nation but our culture is very prolife, pro family, and pro faith. So some people will take a cut in income in order to move their children to a better environment.
Years ago a friend of mine in another state volunteered to teach CCD classes but wasn’t asked to come back the following year because she had talked about Purgatory and the CCD director thought it might frighten the children. You wonder if the concept of Hell was even mentioned in passing in the approved CCD curriculum? Good grief.
Or like our school who has had parents say their child should not be pulled out of classes to serve at a parishioner’s funeral because that would take time away from studies. (no thought that of the deceased supporting the school for the last 60 years).
Another complaining about the tuition and fees then posting online about their trip to Disney World. Another made the comment at a parents’ meeting that the only reason the church was there was for the school’s benefit.
There’s a lot of strange thinking out there, especially as the ‘blue ribbon for showing up generation’ comes into maturity.
“I’m 100% for homeschooling with a consortium of the moms/dads offering classes when they are qualified.”
Again that pesky word “qualified.” What does it mean exactly, and who is to determine who is “qualified” and who is not?
Good morning Mrs Kathryn.
I remember reading about a study done where elementary schools with accredited teachers and those without were compared and there was little difference in students’ academic performances .
There are so many homeschooling options, curriculums, and resources for parents these days that not being “qualified ” really doesn’t signify. Parents can choose how much responsibility for grading and teaching they wish to turn over to remote instructors, tutors, or homeschool cooperative classes.
Back in the day teenagers were qualified to teach grammar schools after they graduated from 8th Grade and had mastered that curriculum. Period. 14 and 15 year olds taught one room schools. That’s what McGuffey whose readers we used for homeschooling did. He began teaching at 14 if I remember correctly.
If you look at the McGuffey readers, the last one has material that today would be college level. That’s what was expected of 8th Graders back then. We’ve managed to drag out elementary school level curricula into high school and beyond and many of our children are still virtually illiterate in some subjects upon graduation.
What do you think? Here are some of my thoughts: 1) The person himself who aspires to teach should assessment his knowledge and confidence to teach. Does the teacher him/herself believe he/she is qualified? 2) What is one’s objective knowledge or training (either self-taught or formally taught)? Can one present evidence for one’s qualifications?
Next, what does the consortium think? Are there other members with background, interest, education or training the same field who could comment on one’s suitabilityy or appropriateness to teach?
Finally, is the person teaching open to observers (i.e., parents) joining in the class? If no, that person should not teach.
What is the person’s character? Who attests to that? Is he a valued church and community member? Is his family intact and happy? All members of the consortium should agree to a member’s ‘qualification’ so that all members can safely entrust their children’s time and minds to him.
What ideas do you have?
Mrscracker: I am currently reading a sci fi/fantasy novel that was published in 1982. 276 pages of tiny little print and no pictures. A “chick book,” but I am not sure of the age of the intended audience. High school? Certainly no one older than mid-twenties would be interested, but I would say the reading level would be considered post-college by today’s standards.
Merion: Oh, I was thinking you meant State certified. By consortium, do you mean “co-op.” That is the word we use here. There are lots of little co-ops to choose from in my area. We belonged to one, and I still teach at it. My “qualifications” are that no one else teaches what I teach, I have a student who wants to learn, and I work dirt cheap.
Our co-op requires a back-ground check with DHS and HSDLA membership, agreement to abide by co-op policies, etc.
Yup. I think even in the past 40 years reading skills & comprehension have taken a tumble & our vocabulary & media reflect that.
With all due respect to Fr. Stravinskas, Thomas Merton is barely a Catholic saint. His experience of the Marists during the inter-war period in Europe is not that of the 21st Century Catholic family.
The meaning of “Catholic” today? Thanks to the meanings demonstrated by Joe Biden and Francis. Incomplete sentences. Today on Fox News, a young woman presented herself as a “Catholic” physician who supported abortion rights because she’d seen too many coat-hanger abortions. She appeared to be not a day beyond her 50th birthday. Do you readers consider at least two glaring contradictions that doc offered? I submit she may have seen pictures of coat-hanger abortions but none during the years of RvW in the US.
Merton espouses the Marists. Today’s Marists have a web site. One of their proud projects is “Catholics for Climate Change.” Check them out. If you believe your children ought to be educated by them, let me know. Today’s Marists have heavy hands at the Univ. of Dayton. Seems as if there was one big controversy in the day (19702s-80s) when their philosophy/theology professors who were true Catholics either were asked to leave or were denied tenure because they dared teach Catholic philosophy-theology according to the Magisterium.
When someone wants to pontificate, he ought to have his facts in order.
First, I never canonized Merton; I simply shared his very germane insight into “public” education in France decades ago. My point: What would he say about the same today in the USA?
Second, the Marists do not own/operate the University of Dayton; it is a Marianist institution. Again, facts before pontification.
The quote of Merton endorses his view, does it not? I was questioning the validity of his view which arose from a far different ‘Catholic’ day and age, and the fact that Merton tended ecumenical, so questioning the weight of his judgments is prudential, from where I sit. I have read about 50% of his books.
My words about Marists and U. Dayton did not imply ownership or operation. I used the words ‘heavy hand.’ Surely the Marists knew or should have known about the 1960-1970 (NYT reported) ‘Catholic’ identity battles at Dayton, yet there is little evidence that any Marist involved in the University did much to mitigate the bleed of Catholic professors. Fact.
Thanks for putting me on a papal pedestal. I thought it was a soapbox.
Thank you for pointing out that Marists differ from Marianists.
One final comment, then I’m off this soapbox. Each year I attempted to enroll my special needs child in many different Catholic parochial schools in my diocese. I talked to everybody. I offered many of the schools a large endowment (enough to provide scholarships for 20 more children if you get the idea). NONE would accept my intellectually deficient child. NONE. I met with the Archdiocesan Superintendent of Schools. She suggested I had a Christian duty to sacrifice.
Hard. Very hard. Extremely hard. The majority of folks who represent 21st Century hierarchical Catholicism are pharisees without heart, without traits to recommend them.
When my younger children were in a Catholic school, I overheard the principal talking with someone about a admitting a child who had some sort of special needs issue. I forget his exact words but he in effect said: “This school is run as a business model not a charity.”
I just thought: “Wow.”
Not having the proper resources to teach a child with a disability is one thing. You wouldn’t want a child put into a learning environment without the right tools. Perhaps not every Catholic school teacher has the correct skills & training. But a “business model” first?
So sad. We often heard that response about teacher training and skills, and we argued that we weren’t asking for a teacher with special training. We wanted an environment where the atmosphere was social acceptance so as to give the child and his peers the benefit of ‘inclusive presence.’
Two articles on the subject:
Honestly, I think dyslexia should be fairly long hanging fruit. Orton-G phonics is simply not that hard, and all children would benefit from such instruction.
A Baptist school in our town tries to handle it in-house. We almost sent our youngest to that school but the regular class room teachers got a “Oh No! Not another dyslexic! look in their eyes” when we mentioned he had it during an open house.
One should be careful with McGuffey readers which subtly teach Calvinist ideas as well as civil secular religion. But a real Catholic knows how to counter this easily.
This is true.
Quite odd that presumably “conservative” Catholic parents would use the McGuffey readers. Their anti-Catholicism was one of the big reasons for the establishment of the Catholic school system!
That type of historical knowledge is apt not to be passed down, though. No one told me there were anti-Catholic. I was given the complete set (Mott Media version) as a middle schooler. I kept them and used them briefly in the early years of homeschooling, but they were not a suitable curriculum for my needs. Neither were the three “Catholic” versions I tried. I eventually ended up using WISE Guide (Sanseri) and All About Spelling (Rippel).
We used ABeka books and Mennonite readers also. Back in the day there were much less Catholic homeschooling resources to choose from.
I don’t remember specifically anti Catholic sentiment in any of the materials we used with the exception of an ABeka history book. In that case we simply skipped over the particular section.
The McGuffey readers are a great way to teach phonics and a little moral lesson thrown in for the bargain. I don’t doubt theres Protestant work ethics interspersed but we could do with a little of that these days I think.
I did not have enough knowledge of phonics at the time to work with McGuffey’s, although I think I could now. WISE Guide is Spaulding phonics based and Spell to Write and Read follows the Orton-G model. The three Catholic curricula I tried had phonics thrown in and came highly rated, but they were not explicit enough for our needs.
I’m very grateful there are so many homeschooling resources out there today for my daughter’s family .
To be honest, I relied quite a bit on our public library to save money homeschooling but it might be harder to find classic children’s literature and older films there these days. Libraries often have those in a box at the door for sale. If you’re lucky you can find some great discarded books for almost nothing but it’s still a shame they clear them off the shelves.
It’s amazing how much an intellectual peasant can learn from reading comments on this site.