Monday, July 4, 2011

Guest post by Stacy: Is there an eclipse of reason in education?





Thank you to the lovely Stacy Trasancos, at Accepting Abundance, for today's guest post!



Eclipse: “Absence, cessation, or deprivation of light.”
Reason: “To think something through.”
I never knew what a parochial school was until our kids entered a small private Catholic school about six years ago. I had no idea about the history of the university and no clue what the “Ph” in Ph.D. really meant even as I proudly appended the title to my name. Then I became Catholic and my eyes were opened. 
I grew up in Texas in the 1970s and 1980s and I remember that history class was a joke, usually taught by a coach with more important things to do, and although I loved learning, it seemed the ultimate end in all classes was to make good grades. Why? So you can go to college. Why? So you can get a job. 
When I taught high school in Texas in the 1990s it was the same. Teachers had to submit lesson plans for specific state-directed objectives. Grading had to reflect a bell curve and students had to pass standardized exams. Funding and grades were the metrics to show that people were learning. Why? College and a job. The cultural message was also that women could be anything a man could be and so they should not settle for baking cookies and just being a housewife.
When my own daughter started Kindergarten in Pennsylvania, I began graduate school; I was living out the “get a job” mentality. I thought it was great that my daughter could get bussed off to school for “free” and I didn’t have to worry about anything. It was no different when my son started school in 2000 in Virginia. I even availed myself of the school lunches and after-school programs so I could work long hours at my VIP job, which I worked my whole life to achieve. 
Then in 2004 I began conversion to Catholicism, and little by little life started making more sense. For one, I realized children matter much more than careers. We began homeschooling in Massachusetts and continued for four years. As I changed, I also started to understand learning and education in a new light, not as something to get a job but as something to complete yourself, to know yourself, to understand your world.
When my daughter wanted to go back to public school for her junior year so she could experience a senior year graduation, we let her. She took the state standardized tests and maxed out the score. She made good grades. She was even inducted into the National Honor Society, successful by all objective measures. Then in April, after she had nearly completed her whole junior year, an administrator called to tell us she could not graduate the next year because she needed 24 credits to graduate. They literally wanted her to go to high school for four years and graduate at age 20. Needless to say, she got her GED and quit. We pounded on the school board for two years and got the senseless rule changed, but that experience really landed home the idea that public school is not about learning, but about an over-reliance on numbers and money. 
Eventually my son, weary of three baby sisters, wanted to end homeschooling. My husband suggested parochial school, and that’s when my eyes were fully opened. To enroll, the parents had to bring the student for an interview. The building was 100 years old and walking into it felt like stepping back in time, in stark contrast to the city’s new $50 million vocational high school that appears to be a glamorous shopping mall. Anyway…
When we met the principal, she showed genuine interest in my son and his spiritual development, in our family as a whole, and in introducing us to everyone else. The school was much like homeschooling, only in a bigger family. He started the next day because he said he wanted to, and so the principal even gave him uniforms from the recycled clothing closet to spare us a hasty trip to the uniform store.
Six years later we are preparing for the fifth child to enter that same school. It is a much fuller experience than what I experienced in four different states as a student, a teacher and a parent over the span of nearly 30 years. It’s not so much that it is a Catholic private school as it is the approach Catholics in general take towards education, wherever their kids go for instruction. 
The education is basic, chalkboard style “learn-to-take-pride-in-your-work” and “you-get-what-get-and-you-don’t-get-upset” kind of stuff.  It is practical, solid and no-nonsense, grounded in reason and wisdom. The children read the classics, learn to sing and dance, and being rude is a serious offense. Everyone is expected to take care of things, including the old building (which is paid for). The teachers spend as much time educating the children about moral responsibility as they do teaching them how to read, write and do arithmetic. 
I’ve never known a single student who dropped out or graduated unable to read, and the teens actually look me in the eyes and open doors for me when I visit. They engage, and can speak about a range of issues. The baby in my arms is usually grabbed and passed around by giggling adolescent girls and curious boys. 
Sure people will say that the school is excellent because it’s private and there’s lots of money. Nope. I dug up some numbers regarding the cost. The state spends four times as much to educate a single student as we do. It is worth noting that many students at our school are not Catholic or do not have the money for tuition. The Church welcomes them anyway with whatever they can afford, and Catholics share the rest of the bill.
In the US, Catholics educated 2.1 million students in the 2009-2010 school year with our own 10 billion dollars, thus saving the American taxpayer over $22 billion dollars in education expenses. The average cost per student was $4,800. The public schools spend over twice this much, $10,400 per student. And even though we educate kids at less than half the cost, Catholic education stands head and shoulders above every other form of education that we have in this country. The national Catholic school graduation rate is 99.1% of high school students.  Of these graduates, 84.7% go on to college, compared to 44.1% of public school graduates. 
Regarding the university, well, I’ve learned that is a Catholic idea too. In the words of Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman, a university is a “place of teaching universal knowledge.”  The word comes from the Latin word “universitas” which means community, corporation, totality – universality. Catholic means universal, whole, united, too. Catholics are big on wholeness and unity!
Catholics, in medieval times, started the first universities to pass on knowledge. The earliest universities were developed under the aegis of the Church in Western Europe.  It was only later that the state took over education. Just like I’ve met impressive children with Catholic educations, I’ve met impressive college graduates, too, from traditional Catholic universities, at least half of whom are young women either happily raising a family or looking forward to it. The men and women are versed in the richness of history and the classics, and they present themselves with a sense of dignity and propriety. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a Catholic-educated child refer to me by my first name.
As to philosophy, although most college students today don’t know what that word really means, the classical meaning of the word dating back to ancient Greece is a “love of wisdom.” In early universities, all reasoned discourse and knowledge was philosophy. Education is supposed to be about answering ultimate questions, the search for a worldview, the search to know the important things in life that we need to seek and to strive for as human beings.  It is the development of the self in relation to what has come before, what comes after and all that exists in the present. 
Comparing the truncated, superficial (and expensive) education in our country today with the ancient wisdom of the Church leaves me with the ominous sense that education in the US has experienced an eclipse of reason. I wonder how long it will take people to realize that, just like love, when knowledge is pursued without seeking higher transcendental ends where we are eternally responsible for our actions, the result is never satisfying or sustainable. An economic system can only sustain so many people making grades for the sole sake of getting a job, people who do not possess the foundation of understanding and wisdom to know why they should work in the first place, or what truth they are working toward.

“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”   Fides et Ratio




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53 comments:

  1. This is a great article. I have been doing a lot of research as a new homeschooler into classical education, and indeed it seems impossible or at least highly undesirable to separate academics from religious education.
    It is also amazing to see the results that were once expected in one-room schoolhouses and other similar "low budget" methods, possibly because students actually valued their education and educators, parents, and students understood that achievement was related to hard work, and not the amount of money thrown at the school.

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  2. Great post, Stacy! Does this mean we can call you "Dr. Stacy" again? ;)

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  3. Great post, Stacy! Can you go more into what you think the specific problems and solutions are for public schools? Perhaps getting rid of teachers unions?!?

    Also, no one has mentioned this from the last post yet (that I've seen), but for anyone who defends spending more, more, and more money on public schools, as if that's the problem, how do you explain the fact that the Washington, DC public schools spend the most amount of money per student yet have nearly the worst results in the country? I have yet to hear a liberal defend that.

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  4. Thank you Monica. I have come to realize that I cannot separate my religion from anything. I wish I had known about classical education when I homeschooled.

    Fidelio - - NO! :-)

    Nicole, I definitely think teacher unions are useless. Get rid of the NEA. Amen.

    When we had the terrible experience with public schools here in MA with my daughter, I dug up the annual budgets for the school district. There were as many administrators on the payroll as teachers. Administrators make more money than teachers. Yet when the school board wanted to make cuts, they closed schools and fired teachers...and built a $50 million vocational (where kids go when they don't want to do academics) high school that was hailed the best in the nation.

    Before anyone says that teacher unions are necessary to protect teachers from being fired like that...I think the bigger problem is the administrators. Administrators also are required to run unions. I don't get the impression they are looking out for kids and teachers.

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  5. Great post! Although I have to say that I think that it sometimes depends on where you are - I went to public school and I had a friend whose brothers went to the all boys Catholic school and she and her sisters went to our public school - because it was better than the other Catholic schools in the area that were an option to her. The Catholic school had more girls pregnant in my year than my public school did, and from the few people I knew that graduated from the Catholic school - they are no longer practicing the faith. While I got a great "normal" education at public school, I did miss out on the spiritual and moral teaching - but I'm not really sure they got that at the Catholic schools in my area either.

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  6. Answer: over a century now. Next question?

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  7. Great post, Stacy! Thanks, Leila, for having her on!

    I taught in 3 Catholic schools over a period of 7 years. (We're military, thus move a lot!) I'm thrilled your experience with Catholic schools was so positive. Unfortunately that's not always the case. Some Catholic schools seem to fall into the same trap- nice building and new books make for a good education. It's definitely a case by case situation.

    AMEN to your statistics about spending money. How much more do we spend now than in 1950? Do we have better results? Newark spends about $22,000 per student and only about half graduate.

    For the 1951-52 school year, the average cost per student was $1,408- adjusting for inflation. (Without the inflation adjustment, it was $246.) In 1995, the cost per student was $6,084. (http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d95/dtab163.asp) We also know the average cost of a private elementary school is less than $2500 while the average public elementary school spends $6,857 per student. We keep throwing money at the problem, but that’s not buying us a solution. Education is in a crisis, no doubt, but spending more money- or even maintaining status quo- is not necessarily the answer.

    My experience of seven years in the classroom showed me that technology is over-rated, expensive workbooks are a waste of time and resources, and the library is a teacher's best friend. For example, my reading program didn't use text books- but I checked out TONS of books from the library each week. My phonics program (Spalding!) required students have plenty of paper and pencils- otherwise the materials were reused every year. I abhor workbooks and refused to use them at all. I found plenty of ways to cut costs. And I'm not alone- again, I point to the difference in the cost of private versus public school education. Who (almost always) provides the better education? Private school- and for less than half the cost. Competition and accountability (both financial and customer) breed success.

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  8. I think a key element that hasn't been mentioned yet is parental involvement. Whether one choose PS, Catholic or other private school, or homeschool, the biggest key to a student's success is parents who realize that they (the parents) are ultimately responsible for their children's education.

    Schools have kids for longer and longer hours, are teaching things like hygiene and health, manners and good behavior, "values", etc, that really are a parent's domain. In an ideal world, a well-behaved and motivated student arrives at school and can simply learn the academic material presented by someone who is trained to instill that knowledge to a younger generation. But my brief (1 year) teaching experience shows that AT LEAST half the time was spent in "classroom management".

    When this burden of discipline is placed on teachers, and curriculums are modified to "teach to the test" it's going to be a disaster, no matter what.

    I wonder if Stacy's satisfaction with her Catholic school has to do with it being located in a strong parish with motivated parents and well-disciplined children? I also had a bad Catholic school experience, but my former school is now under the guidance of a new young and dynamic priest, and he has brought in the Dominican nuns, and I hear the school has really turned around.

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  9. Thank you, Stacy! You are wonderful and I am so interested in more of you insights, and more from those here who have taught. And I'd agree that there are problems in many Catholic schools, too. Depending on the diocese and how far the schools have strayed from an authentic Catholic model.

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  10. Liesl, Lauren and Monica, yes sadly there are Catholic institutions that forget their Catholic identity. I think they may be even worse than schools who don't pretend to be religious at all. I'm still learning about Catholicism (I only thought I knew it all a few years ago.) If our parochial school stopped following Catholic teaching, I would not support them either. That's a good point. It would be like feeding the beast.

    Lauren, $22,000??? That's more than many colleges. Yikes. We need a second grade teacher next year. (wink, wink)

    I agree Monica about teaching to the test. It's an over-reliance on numbers, quantities, over quality.

    When I first wrote that for Leila, I realized I was giving the Catholic school all the credit when really it was bigger than that. It's "Catholic education" that is responsible, the approach of wholeness and unity between faith and reason, and it can be achieved a number of ways even if kids are in public school and parents provide the rest to make it complete.

    Having homeschooled for only 4 years, I do now feel like we homeschool no matter where our kids go for instruction.

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  11. One more little point- abolish the dept of education!!!! Goodbye "No child left behind!" Return control and accountability to the states and local governments!

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  12. Tito, thank you!

    Lauren, I don't know who said it first but this is also true of US schools today:

    "No child's behind left alone."

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  13. The difference between Catholic and public education is God. With God, you are part of a family. Your class is like a family (that doesn't mean every day is perfect, but it's a family). Your education is provded within God's framework, and because of that it is fundamentally meaningful. Public schools are just a collection of individuals, and as our public schools become more and more secularized, the emphasis is more and more on grades-to-get-jobs.

    Oh yeah, and at my Catholic school, we had recess, while public schools had PE. Recess is a lot more fun and healthy for a kid than PE, and we all know it! ;)

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  14. I wish our Catholic schools were like that. I am a public school teacher in a small district, so we are a lot friendlier and more family-oriented than many of the larger districts (for which I have also worked). In my family's case I would rather have my kids in the public school where I can tell them "God's not allowed to be taught here so you have to be salt and light to the world" than have them in the Catholic schools where they learn to mumble through readings as fast as they can, learn NOT to sing at Mass because it's not cool, learn that you have to play sports to fit in, and learn that the only reason to go to Mass is to get out of math class.

    All that being said, I totally agree with Lauren about getting rid of the Dept. of Education. We definitely need more local control. I would also like to see teacher's unions gone. They have probably done the most to undermine the success of our public schools today.

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  15. Dear Stacy, thank you for this great article! I've also had similar experiences whilst helping to manage my youngest sibling's education. The public educational arrangement is appalling. Unfortunately, I am convinced there is no saving it. On another note, I am wondering if the Catholic school you describe is in MA? I'm a fellow MA resident and I'd love to have more information about this school. If you'd rather not say here, just let me know and I'll send you my e-mail.

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  16. Fides et Ratio
    and
    Ora et labora

    That about sums it up.

    Very nice post.

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  17. Laura- I used to have a similar phrase, "Laborare est orare, et orare est laborare" hanging in my first grade classroom. We talked about it often!

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  18. I go to a private Quaker school (which is also another kind of good school, we read classic books, and volunteer also) and my brother goes to public school. There are big differences.

    I think that it depends on the teacher, how good the teacher is makes a big difference. Whether or not there is a smart board in the room does not make a big difference.

    I have actually heard of public school having more fancy technology then my school, and I am like ¿why is that necessary?

    The only thing is, the schools also use the money to give free meals to homeless students, and tutoring to struggling students.

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  19. This is a great post, Stacy. You and I think alike so much it's scary! :^)=) Declining education has been one of my obsessions for years; we're pouring more and more money into public schools and getting less and less out of them. Thanks for bringing the problem into sharper focus!

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  20. Great post! As the father of two boys, one who went to public school and one to Catholic school I attest that the difference is between day and night.

    We need to support our remaining Catholic schools.

    -Theo
    http://www.vivificat.org

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  21. Growing up in a Catholic school definitely has its advantages as we learn important values to keep in our lives. But it would be hard to generalize about this for all Catholic schools because each has its own flaws. I think this is only one factor on a child's development, we have to consider their family life at home, friends, community, and individual personalities.

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  22. Okay. I agree with most everything in your article and I think most of it true. However, as some have already pointed out that not all Catholic schools live up to this ideal. The Catholic high school here in the town we live is equally as appalling as at least 2 out of 3 public high school, mainly because, despite being run by dominicans, it has found it's niche with the wealthy non-catholic's of the area and caters to them in big and unfortunate ways. Faithful Catholic's in this town are better off either homeschooling through high school or sending their children to the Lutheran High School.

    However, my main critique is the money. Now, let me explain. I do NOT think that giving more money to the public schools is going to solve anything. But that's not because more money per student (in many poorer systems) couldn't and wouldn't be helpful in furthering their educating. In the right hands, meaning honest administrations and honest faculty who don't have to be concerned about meeting test scores and following ridiculously laid out curriculum, can and will find good ways of using that money to the best advantage, and the children will have access to those learning environments.

    The problem, therefore, is not that more money is not useful and cannot benefit the children. The problem is that the Public School System cannot effectively manage the money they do get in the same way that most, though not all, Catholic schools can.

    Most Catholic Schools are able to effectively use the money they do have in order to best educate their students. But in most cases, if they had more money there could be many other things that the schools could do for the benefit of the students and the betterment their education.

    It's more about the management and effective use of money, than the money itself. Most Catholic schools are just better at it, then the Public Schools. Probably because they don't usually have micromanaging oversight that public schools systems think they need in order to keep everything under control (for example most Superindintendents for Catholic schools do not control the school budgets, because the dioceses don't control the school budgets, those are parish related)

    Does this make sense?

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  23. Local control -- sounds good and is certainly the American tradition. But It is at the root of much of the problem. We have suffered from embarrassingly low scores in international comparative tests long before the Dept of Education achieved its distinctly limited sway. Why? Well, as one Dallas educator put it 40 years ago, "because they don't test for baton twirling."

    The truth is that, outside a few wealthy suburbs and districts near major universities, most local school directors have a very limited idea of what a superior education consists. And the countries that best us in these competitions generally pay teachers well, recruit them from much further up the academic chain, and, perhaps most important, have national secondary education completion tests that reflect demanding standards. I know that my British and French friends complain that the A-levels and the "Bac" are not what they were, but I very much doubt that any American superintendent would dare submit his charges to the equivalent of such exams. My sons were partially schooled in the UK, and I know that the General Certificate exams (the old "O-levels") taken at 16 are much more demanding than anything required in the US.

    I graduated from a ordinary high school in the south-west 50 years ago: generally well taught by devoted women most of whose equivalents nowadays would opt for distinctly better paid and more appreciated professions. Of course the football coach taught history, with the results that almost always flow therefrom. But when I went away to Georgetown, suddenly discovered what a high school education could provide -- not least from a Regis graduate (NYC) who had had 4 years of French, 4 years of Latin, and 3 years of Greek. In my own high school, to pick a salient example, we had two years of badly taught Spanish. We happily had two years of well-taught Latin, but that long disappeared from the program -- to absolutely no popular objection. And when I returned home last year, I discovered that scarce resources were being spent not to upgrade the distinctly "average" academic program (bring back Latin, anyone? four years of Spanish or French, anyone?), but to upgrade the football stadium.

    Some (not by any means all) Catholic schools, drawing on on the intellectual traditions of particular orders or the larger culture of the Church, offer exceptions to this dismal record, and I would almost always choose to send my children to such if the option were available. But reform of the public system remains a challenge we cannot ignore if we are to reassert our economic competitiveness -- to say nothing of the fostering of an educated elite to provide this country with competent leadership in all sorts of areas. Catholics should have a major role to play in this effort, but do not be misled. It will require swimming up stream against a strong popular/populist current; little in our society or culture will be supportive of the effort.

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  24. I went to both Catholic schools and public schools...spent about half my time in each and in several states including MN, NJ, LA, and FL. My parents always chose the "best" school districts whenever we'd relocate. (not an army brat!)

    I would have to agree that parental involvement is the biggest factor in a child's education. Are parents who send their children to private school generally more involved in their child's education?

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  25. Also, I'm going back and forth right now about whether I want to start home-schooling...I am overwhelmed and don't know where to start! Where can I get classical education textbooks and what sort of program should I follow, etc.? I have found some support in the area and friended a few people on facebook but I feel completely lost...help?

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  26. I think it would be good if people stopped using the terms "parochial" and "private" interchangeably when referring to Catholic schools in this country. To be sure there are some Catholic schools that also fit the definition of a private school. These are usually high schools and are owned and operated by Religious Orders. When most people refer to a Catholic school, however, they are thinking of a parochial school, that is to say an elementary school operated by a parish (hence the word parochial). These are not, strictly speaking, private schools. I've never liked it when parents referred to them as such. I understand that most people mean the term private to indicate it is not a public school. However, private schools usually charge very high tuitions and may exclude students based on their religious affiliation and gender. Parochial schools may not. The term "private school" conjures up the notion of something exclusive and elitist. Parochial schools are neither of those things. They are for everyone. It is not fair or correct to refer to Catholic parochial schools as "private" schools.

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  27. Bethany- excellent points

    Manda- I wrote about our decision to home-school here: http://cheerfullychaotic.blogspot.com/2010/08/homeschooling-discernment-series-guest.html The classical approach we will take is Mother of Divine Grace, which you can find here: http://www.motherofdivinegrace.org/

    Hope that helps!

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  28. Bethany,

    The problem is that the Public School System cannot effectively manage the money they do get in the same way that most, though not all, Catholic schools can.

    Bingo! That's what I think too. The problem is the mismanagement of funds.

    That's sad about your local Catholic schools. What are your ideas for addressing this problem? I didn't always pay attention to it, but I'm starting to see that I not only have an obligation to make sure my kids are taught the truth, without compromise, I'm obligated to be involved in my own community for all kids.

    I'm wondering if more us might try to get on local school boards, or at least be more involved with them, public and Catholic.

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  29. Henry, thank you for your insight.

    Fr. Selvester, point taken! Parochial schools are not private schools. They are parochial. There is a distinction between the two. Thank you, that had not occurred to me but it makes so much sense.

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  30. Sara,

    Email me anytime at stacytrasancos@msn.com and I'd love to discuss it more.

    We are in the Worcester Diocese and I would feel comfortable sending our kids to any of the parochial schools in the diocese.

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  31. My daughter is in public school, but so far I'm very satisfied. She has learning disabilities and they've been very proactive and communicative in helping us navigate the IEP process. We've been very happy with her experience so far, and she loves going to school.

    On the flip side, my BIL and SIL had a very bad experience with their daughter's kindergarten (same district, different school). My niece is very bright but very spirited; I think her official diagnosis is ADHD. Rather than working with them, though, the school and teacher refused to work with them (to the point of not reliably giving my niece prescribed medication) and essentially told them, "We don't want her back next year."

    They're on the waiting list for a very reputable charter school in the area, but in the meantime they switched her to a different public school and she's thriving.

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  32. Manda,

    Are parents who send their children to private school generally more involved in their child's education?

    I have thought about this. I've met some parents who sent their kids to expensive private schools and it seemed more like a status symbol. The parents sort of seemed more involved, but they were also very busy with their careers and such. Just generalizing of course...

    There's a private school in our area that costs upwards of $30,000 a year and on several occasions I've found myself in the company of groups of such students who (I'm trying to be charitable) were, frankly, arrogant and not all that pleasing to be around.

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  33. Nice article.

    Frustratingly, Catholics who have big families (or even smaller ones, 3,4 kids) cannot always afford the price tag of Catholic schools. I prefer my kids attend Catholic schooling (as the focus is on the virtuous life right along w/ academics) yet we're in a spot right now trying to discern where to send our eldest. Tuition is very high. And it's economic crunch time.

    Even if the parish offers help financially, which I know they have for others in the same spot, I don't know I'd feel right accepting it. Pride, maybe?
    How much help is acceptable to ask for/accept? Regardless, it still won’t solve the future dilemma for sending my younger children to that same Catholic school, as the "discount" just isn't that much off for siblings.

    Discernment, discernment. St. Sylvia, pray for us all.

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  34. Stacy, I went to school with so many (again, charitable;) wealthy, arrogant kids in Catholic school. The Catholic schools in the area where I live now are VERY expensive (12000+/yr/student) which, if you ask me, discourages large Catholic families from attending. I understand financial aid is available but why is the price tag so high to begin with? Seems elitist?

    Lauren, I ordered Laura Berquist's 4th grade syllabus and finally feel like I have a decent starting point, so thank you! The curriculum seems respectable and broad!

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  35. Manda and Nubby,

    I'm not saying this to tell you what to do, but rather because someone said it to me and I'm slowly (stubbornly?) changing my views.

    Someone I know who is a medical school professor and associated with NCBC told me that Catholics have an obligation to make sure that children are taught the Truth, not just our children but all children. He doesn't even have children but served on his local diocese school board for 10 years.

    What he said is true. It's not enough to notice problems and figure out what to do with our kids, we have to be involved for the sake of the Church.

    It takes courage and I don't have a lot of it, but (to switch to another issue) when I did get the courage up to go talk to our Bishop's office about a counselor pushing me to have an abortion in our Catholic hospital, I was SO glad I did. Now the hospital is implementing a new NFP office to combat the OB/GYN's who have morphed over the years and dispense contraception. Pray, get involved, be courageous!

    And pray some more.

    If your schools are poor or over-priced in your diocese, why not pick up the phone or schedule an appointment with someone and let them know? That's the principle of subsidiarity. Our Bishops and priest need to hear from us, and they need our support. If something's not right and we know about it, we are supposed to speak up at the local level.

    It hit me on the head like a brick...duh, priests don't go to gynecological offices. It's the same with education. They need to hear from parents.

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  36. *By "poor" I meant "not doing a good job."

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  37. Please don’t misunderstand. My comment wasn’t meant with a helpless tone, if that’s how it came across. Myself, my family are definitely involved in the parish life, various ministries. And I agree with teaching all kids the truth, not just my own. To be sure, we’re going to meet with the principal to discuss finances. I don’t plan on complaining to him, rather we’re seeking our options financially. I agree, discernment is the key.

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  38. Sorry Nubby, "helpless" is not a word I'd ever put anywhere near your name. :-)

    I didn't mean to make it sound so simple either..."pick up the phone, problem solved." I think I'm mostly struggling myself how much to get involved. I don't really want to be on a school board someday, but like you said, "Discern." Always, huh?

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  39. Manda- there are a couple of things you can read about Classical education- first, google "The Lost tools of learning", then borrow The Well-Trained Mind, which is a homeschooler's guide to Classical ed. Charlotte Mason also is a good thing to google, as she also used classical education in her schools.

    There are a few Catholic schools which have adopted CLassical Education as well, with excellent results. I have to run right now, but I'll come back and try to post a few links to articles.

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  40. Gotcha. I think the irony of the situation is that there’s this great love of life and big families in our faith, and yet when it comes to Catholic schooling, who can afford it for a family of 3 kids and up and still put food on the table? Sacrifice, yes. Good stewardship, yes. But reality is ... the more kids you have and want to send, the more $ it costs a family, even w/ that discount.

    I will find out more after my meeting, hoping for clarity and info that will nail down our decision.

    Thanks for the encouragement.

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  41. Manda- I'm thrilled!!!! I'm so glad you find the program as excellent as I do. I can hardly wait for my 9 month old to be able to use it! :)

    Monica suggested "The Lost Tools of Learning" and I agree, it is an excellent book. In fact, Laura Berquist references that book.

    Again, such a great post and conversation starter, Stacy!

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  42. Thank you for an excellent post.

    I'm an adult convert to Catholicism and honestly I was SHOCKED at the trouble we ran into at the local parish schools. Now granted, I was in a upper middle class suburb of Washington D.C with a supposedly "excellent" public school, so my experiences may not have been typical. What I ran into was a "great" Parishes, but Catholic schools (with Religious Sisters as their principals!) that were really not "cool" with teaching the Roman Catholic faith.

    I'm just wondering how many of my experiences were typical.

    Number 1: No tuition breaks for children of large families. We have 4 kids ages 8 to 9 months. I think we qualified for 50% tuition break for only when my fourth kid reached elementary school aged kid. That meant elementary education would cost us $17,500 a year.

    As a result, all large families I knew in my parish home schooled. The only Catholics who went to the parish school had 2 (or less) kids.

    Now I know Mom's like my buddy Lauren suffer from infertility, so I'm not judging any individual families.

    In general, however, finances caused a big problem with my parish Catholic School. When you make it impossible for large families to send their kids to the parish school you are "self-selecting" big time. It means that (in general) the Moms that tend to go to Daily Mass are not the ones on the PTA. Meanwhile, the Moms that have 1.5 kids and the Merecedes Benz in the parking lot ARE the ones running the Catholic School PTA. The school culture really is impacted by that "small family/desiring worldly success" attitude.

    It would be interesting to see if my individual experiences are typical and also to see what things we could do to "knit together" the parish so there isn't such a division between parish parents, home-schooling parents, public school parents.

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  43. That's sad about your local Catholic schools. What are your ideas for addressing this problem? I didn't always pay attention to it, but I'm starting to see that I not only have an obligation to make sure my kids are taught the truth, without compromise, I'm obligated to be involved in my own community for all kids.

    To be perfectly honest, there a slight bit of irony behind this particular situation, even aside from the fact that my oldest turns 10, today, and obviously a good 4 years away from beginning high school.

    The irony lies in the fact that my husband is director for the office of catechesis and director of catechetical ministries for our diocese. He actually oversees the superintendent, the Catholic schools and religious education, among other things. He even feels somewhat helpless when it comes to dealing with this high school. An order of Dominican nuns runs the high school, so without a direct word from the Bishop, the diocese has no real control over the school (not that they have much control to begin with, the schools don't need micromanagers).

    That being said, this particular school has found that they are able to attract the non-Catholic wealthy, elite of the area by promoting their sports program rather than their Catholic identity. In fact that was one area my husband was able to put his foot down. No more Sunday games and modest apparel for the cheerleaders.

    A friend who was just let go from the Theology/Religion department was so frustrated because everything he wanted to do with his sacraments class was met with negative conflict, because it might make the kids think (the administration used different words to smooth it over, but this essentially the mindset)

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  44. The funny thing is, I'm running into the same problem with my high school alma mater. They recently released a 5 year plan for the school and with the exception of briefly mentioning following the service and academic oriented tradition of the order which runs the school (Jesuits), they make NO mention of Catholic identity, faithfulness to the Magisterium, or authentic Catholic teaching. I wasn't Catholic when I went there, I went there because it was the top high school in the state and I hated the public school I was in (culture shock when I moved into that school during my freshman year, but that's a whole other story). But as far as authentic Catholic teaching, it didn't exist, but it did have quality teachers who were willing to go above and beyond the minimum to make sure the students succeeded. Not there aren't teachers out in the Public Schools who are like that, but I think they are more concentrated together in the Catholic Schools.

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  45. Statistics are are mess when referring to education unless all demographics are considered. I was gathering information for a debate over a homeschooling law earlier this year. Doing my own research, I found that the factor is family income. Schools with a higher family income level perform better - regardless of religious affiliation, public, or homeschooling.

    The other issue that goes hand in hand with family income is family participation. If family is involved in the education of their children grades are higher. In lower income homes parents don't have the energy or education themselves to help, or they simply don't understand the need for formal education and focus on what they would consider "street skills." This explains why the high cost of D.C. education results in poor grades, D.C. has low income levels (most top paid employees living outside the city limits). This is seen throughout most large cities.

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  46. If you look beyond the statistics, you can see that the real determining factor is parent involvement/encouragement. Yes, income does show the disparity, but people with higher incomes are more likely to think education is important because they themselves probably have their education to thank for their good economic health, and they're therefore more likely to encourage their kids to do well. I've seen this myself in elementary school. My (public) school was right next to assisted housing, and many kids (more than you'd expect in this day and age) who attended my school had parents who were completely and totally illiterate. When forms were sent home with the kids, their parents had to come in and have it read to them so they could draw an X for their name. But in my experience, it was these parents who were ALWAYS there for school events, ALWAYS sent their kids for the extra learning opportunities, if they could afford them (the school had cheap weekend programs that were usually science or math workshops about once a month, if I recall), and (which I think is probably the most important point) ALWAYS backed up the teacher if the kids got in trouble. And their kids, on the whole, did very well.

    And regarding many above posters, No Child Left Behind totally needs to be abolished. While the idea that all kids can perform at least average in class is sweet, it's unrealistic. Some kids are never going to understand Algebra II (now a state requirement in Florida). Some kids are never going to understand Physics or be able to analyze Byron. The beautiful thing is that, after they receive their high-school diploma, they will probably never need to.

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  47. Schools with a higher family income level perform better - regardless of religious affiliation, public, or homeschooling.

    Yeah but part of me has to wonder, how much is it that the majority of students are really performing better, and how much of it is that parents with a lot of money, hold a lot of weight within a school system, public or private. How many of these parents are manipulating the schools to "ease up" on grading or demanding their children be allowed to retest or simply be given less challenging work so that they're children will "succeed" and "not feel bad about themselves."

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  48. "Some kids are never going to understand Physics or be able to analyze Byron. The beautiful thing is that, after they receive their high-school diploma, they will probably never need to."

    I find this to be a terribly sad statement about our modern lives. Gone are the days when ordinary people might sit around and discuss extraordinary things (at whatever level their inborn intelligence allows them). Instead we all sit around and discuss our favorite TV show.

    When the education we receive is seen to be almost completely unrelated to our "real life", it's not a surprise that students are not motivated to achieve, and their parents are baffled when pressed to even give their children a reason as to why they should.

    Is materialism the only motivation left for intellectual development?

    How could you ever describe this as beautiful?

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  49. Ru,

    I think what you are describing goes deeper than just parental involvement. Why do they value raising their children well, why do they value being there for them as they grow up?

    How sad it is that the so-called "war on poverty" has more created poor people, and not really helped them. People became dependent on the state, and therefore not productive, and therefore unable to appreciate why their children needed a good education. That's my take on it. I taught for a brief time with a teen parent program funded by the state and there were teen mothers who were third generation welfare recipients. Welfare (which I support for those who need it) is supposed to help you until you can help yourself. It's not supposed to be the family business. Some of those girls spent more time working the system than learning math. It was frustrating.

    I do think kids need to learn to analyze literature and learn complex math and physics. It enriches their lives. Kids will use it if they understand it. Imagine all the wasted potential if we don't teach kids why they need to know these things.

    My $0.02

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  50. I wish more Catholic schools were like the one you send your children to Stacy, but sadly we are sorely lacking those around here. And Fr. made an excellent point with the distinction between private and parochial schools. Great post Stacy!

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  51. Monica, so true. I know I push my kids' awesome classical education (public charter!) all the time, but anyone who hasn't seen it should check it out:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_FeNykOA4Cg&feature=player_embedded

    There is a Great Hearts school in an underprivileged neighborhood, and the kids there are getting something they never would in a regular public school in their area.

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