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Showing posts with label Catholic Education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Catholic Education. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Cardinal Newman Society, Working to Ensure Faithful and Orthodox Catholic Education

The Cardinal Newman Society has done extraordinary work to ensure that Catholic education, at all levels, is faithful to the Magisterium of the Church and preparing faithful and orthodox Catholic laymen and religious to carry out their calling in the salvific mission of the Church.  Please consider supporting this dynamic organization which is doing so much to promote and strengthen the Catholic identity of Catholic schools.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Death Of Catholic Universities In America

Catholic universities in America have lost sight of their institutional identities. Only direct intervention from the Vatican can reverse their decline.

From The Federalist
By Dominic Lynch

Catholic universities in America are typically regarded as offering a well-rounded education combined with one of the premier intellectual forces of the West: the Catholic Church, and its vast well of knowledge in almost every discipline. Unlike state-sponsored institutions, which can offer a quality education, Catholic universities have the advantage of a grounded and time-tested moral foundation.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Cardinal Newman Society Announces 2014 Catholic Schools of Excellence

Charleston's Bishop England High School, a 2014 School of Excellence
The Cardinal Newman Society has released the list of schools recognized by the Catholic Education Honor Roll as 2014 Schools of Excellence.  Comprising fewer than 5% of the Catholic high schools in the United States,  the schools, located in 26 states, "are marked by the integration of Catholic identity throughout all aspects of their programs and excellence in academics." 

Catholic Education Honor Roll:

2014 Schools of Excellence
Holy Rosary Academy, Anchorage

Saint Mary's Catholic High School, Phoenix

Saint Augustine Academy, Ventura Saint Joseph Academy, San Marcos Saint Michael’s Preparatory School, Silverado Saint Monica Academy, Pasadena
Holy Family High School, Broomfield
Archbishop Edward A. McCarthy High School, Southwest Ranches Belen Jesuit Preparatory School, Miami Rhodora J. Donahue Academy, Ave Maria
Holy Spirit Preparatory School, Atlanta Pinecrest Academy, Cumming
Bishop Chatard High School, Indianapolis Saint Joseph High School, South Bend Saint Theodore Guerin High School, Noblesville
St. James Academy, Lenexa
St. John's Catholic School, Beloit
Covington Latin School, Covington Holy Angels Academy, Louisville
Academy of Our Lady, Marrero John Paul the Great Academy, Lafayette Mount Carmel Academy, New Orleans
Trivium School, Lancaster
Mount de Sales Academy, Catonsville
Catholic Central High School, Grand Rapids Detroit Catholic Central High School, Novi Everest Collegiate High School, Clarkston Father Gabriel Richard High School, Ann Arbor Saint Francis High School, Traverse City West Catholic High School, Grand Rapids
Chesterton Academy, Edina Providence Academy, Plymouth Saint Agnes School, St. Paul
Notre Dame Regional High School, Cape Girardeau St. John Vianney High School, St. Louis St. Pius X High School, Festus St. Vincent High School, Perryville
Pius X High School, Lincoln
New Hampshire
Holy Family Academy, Manchester Mount Royal Academy, Sunapee
New York  
Cathedral Preparatory School and Seminary, Elmhurst Holy Cross Academy, Oneida The Montfort Academy, Mt. Vernon
The Lyceum, South Euclid
Aquinas Academy, Gibsonia Geibel Catholic Junior-Senior High School, Connellsville Oakland Catholic High School, Pittsburgh Our Lady of the Sacred Heart High School, Coraopolis Quigley Catholic High School, Baden Saint Joseph High School, Natrona Heights Serra Catholic High School, McKeesport Seton-La Salle Catholic High School, Pittsburgh
South Carolina  
Bishop England High School, Charleston St. Joseph’s Catholic School, Greenville
South Dakota  
O’Gorman High School, Sioux Falls
Knoxville Catholic High School, Knoxville Saint Cecilia Academy, Nashville
ntonian College Preparatory High School, San Antonio Bishop T.K. Gorman Regional Catholic School, Tyler Sacred Heart Catholic High School, Muenster Saint Ignatius College Preparatory School, Fort Worth The Atonement Academy, San Antonio The Highlands School, Irving
Bishop Denis J. O'Connell High School, Arlington Holy Family Academy, Manassas Paul VI Catholic High School, Fairfax Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School, Dumfries Seton School, Manassas
Catholic Memorial High School, Waukesha
Trinity Academy, Pewaukee
Xavier High School, Appleton
2014 High Schools Receiving Honorable Mention:
Beckman Catholic High School, Dyersville, IA
Bishop Carroll Catholic High School, Ebensburg, PA
John Paul II Catholic High School, New Braunfels, TX
Notre Dame Academy, Toledo, OH
Padua Academy, Wilmington, DE
Saint Mary's Springs Academy High School, Fond du Lac, WI
St. John Paul II High School, Corpus Christi, TX
St. Pius X High School, Kansas City, MO
Trinity Catholic High School, Ocala, FL

Saturday, May 17, 2014

U.S. Bishops Acknowledge Common Core Concerns, Affirm Importance of Catholic Mission in Schools

I have always been baffled by the determination of some Catholic school administrators to align their curricula and standards with those of failing government schools.  They will cite the high degree of flow between the two systems.  However, in many inner-cities, parents work two and three jobs to ensure that their children have the advantage of a quality, Catholic education.  If Catholic school administrators would devote themselves to the school choice movement, to electing school choice advocates to their state legislatures, to building endowments and scholarship funds for their schools, and to new management models that keep tuition costs down, that traffic between school systems would all be in one direction.

Thanks to the work of The Cardinal Newman Society, among others, it is gratifying to see the American bishops beginning to recognize how insidious are the Common Core standards and the attempt to nationalize the American public school systems.

From Catholic Education Daily
By Kelly Conroy
“Catholic schools must consider standards that support the mission and purpose of the school as a Catholic institution,” states the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Secretariat of Catholic Education in a recent document answering frequently asked questions (FAQ) about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

In the FAQ, the bishops acknowledge the “growing concerns about the effect of these standards on Catholic schools in our country.”

While the bishops recognize the right of government to assist in education, they assert that the Common Core was developed for a “public school audience” and is “of its nature incomplete as it pertains to Catholic schools.”

“As our world becomes increasingly secularized,” the FAQ says, “it will be a task of the Church through an appropriate education to help parents and families sift through the realities and difficulties of the culture and provide a solid foundation and basis for living as disciples of Jesus Christ.”

The bishops strongly affirm the role of parents as the “first educators of their children as a God-given responsibility.”  It follows that, “Parents possess the fundamental right to choose the formative tools that support their convictions and fulfill their duty as the first educators.”

The Church aids parents in forming their children by establishing Catholic schools—and local bishops “employ… the gifts and talents of parents and the professional educational community at all stages of establishing and operating Catholic schools at the local level.”

In response to concerns voiced by Catholic parents over the Common Core, The Cardinal Newman Society developed Catholic Is Our Core.  The project provides Catholic parents, educators and Church leaders with guidance and resources in exploring the Common Core and concerns about its potential impact on Catholic schools and students.  The Newman Society has encouraged all involved in the implementation of the Common Core to pause until the standards are thoroughly and rigorously evaluated.

The bishops, too, emphasize the importance of cautiously evaluating the Common Core.  The FAQ states that the standards “should be neither adopted nor rejected without review, study, consultation, discussion and caution.”

The document dispels the misconception that Catholic schools are required to adopt the standards, while acknowledging that some schools have chosen to adopt or adapt all or part of the standards.

Following the principle of subsidiarity, the bishops place the responsibility to make decisions about the standards at the local diocesan level. Subsidiarity has also been a significant concern of teachers and especially parents, who note that as the primary educators of their children, they should be involved in decisions about the Common Core and the direction of Catholic schools.

Ultimately, the latest education trend should not be allowed to hinder schools from achieving the “aims of a true education,” according the FAQ.

“[T]he Church freely establishes schools that intentionally promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the purpose of forming Christian men and women to live well now so as to be able to live with God for all eternity,” the bishops state.

Catholic Education Daily is an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society. Click here for email updates and free online membership with The Cardinal Newman Society.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Phyllis Schlafly: Common Core a Threat to Catholic Schools

Editor's note:  We are perplexed by Catholic school administrators who eagerly align  their pedagogy, curricula and standards to those of the public school establishment - an establishment that is mediocre at its best and utterly fails in America's inner-cities, where Catholic schools offer the poor a lifeline and hope for a better life.  These Catholic school administrators insist that their compliance is necessary due to the many transfers that occur between the government and parochial systems; but why would so many parents eschew "free" education for tuition payments were they satisfied with government-issue schooling? We suspect the real answer is that some bishops and diocesan education officials are willing to accept shackles in return for government shekels.

The valiant Phyllis Schlafly, President of Eagle Forum, has written the following letter to key leaders of the Catholic hierarchy about a government-corporate alliance to implement Common Core standards in public and private schools, including Catholic schools. It is reprinted here with permission of the author.

Your Excellency,

I write today to share with you our significant concerns about a troubling development in our Catholic schools and to seek your prayerful guidance about this issue.

Under the guise of reforming the nation’s failing public schools, President Obama’s Department of Education offered states $4.35 billion in stimulus funds in a grant competition called Race to the Top in 2010.  In order to compete for the funds, let alone receive them, states had to agree to adhere to the only set of national academic standards then under development by a private organization funded largely by Bill Gates.

Governors of cash-strapped states were only too eager for the opportunity to supplement their budgets regardless of the quality of the standards.  In fact, the standards were not even completed until after the grant applications were due.  As a further inducement to apply for the funds, states were offered waivers of the Bush era No Child Left Behind law and were also warned that failure to adopt the new standards could cost poor districts their Title 1 funds.  One must wonder why allegedly superior academic standards necessitated such underhanded tactics.

The new national standards for Mathematics and English Language Arts, called Common Core, were adopted by forty-five states giving an appearance of national unanimity.  This facade crumbles once you know the standards were approved not by the people of these 45 states or their elected representatives but by governors and state boards of education officials.  Neither the state legislatures nor the voters ever knew about this radical change in their children’s education until this spring (more than two years after they were adopted).

As the standards began to be implemented during the 2012-2013 school year parents noticed disturbing changes in homework, textbooks, and tests.  Suddenly, Euclidian geometry was displaced, children were instructed to add in columns from left to right, and “conceptual” math replaced fundamentals.  In language arts, “close reading” strategies forced students to read texts “in a vacuum” or without the encumbrance of what was deemed “privileged information.” Furthermore, classical literature was dramatically reduced in favor of reading “informational texts” like computer manuals.  The stated goal of the new standards, in both Math and English, is to make students “college and career ready” by focusing on “21st century skills.”

Although Common Core was designed specifically to address public school failings, the standards are impacting Catholic schools as well.  Many Catholic schools have decided to adopt the Common Core in a misguided attempt to remain “competitive.”  This rationale makes little sense as Catholic schools have long enjoyed a superior academic record to the public schools. This is due not only to a faith-filled learning environment and the dedication of good teachers but because they have had the freedom to employ time-honored teaching methods only sporadically seen in the public schools. With a tradition that includes Cardinal Newman, St. Anselm, and Thomas Aquinas why would we ever consider adopting the latest public school fad in education?

Catholic educators who propose to “adapt” the Common Core to the Catholic model forget the purpose of Catholic education.  The mission of the Catholic school is to prepare students for eternal life with God while its secondary goal is to prepare them for temporal work.  They accomplish this by pursuing Truth and by seeking to acquire Knowledge for its own sake.  In contrast, the goal of Common Core is the narrow training of students to become mere functionaries educated solely for earthly success.  Catholic educators should be leery of any standards that create automatons rather than humane individuals.

In the United States, Christians in general and the Catholic Church in particular have been under siege over the past five years.  In light of the HHS mandate, the IRS targeting of faith organizations, the active promotion of gay marriage, and other federal efforts designed to dismantle moral society we cannot remain complacent as this administration takes aim at our children.  Just a few weeks ago the president condemned Catholic education in Ireland calling it “divisive.”  Evil is dangerously palatable when hidden in the stew of “good intentions,” and the Church should be particularly cautious about accepting anything at face value from this federal government.  Clear Church teaching on the principle of subsidiarity demands that we guard jealously the local control of our children’s education.

Thus far, only math and language arts standards have been introduced.  We shudder to think of the challenges to the faith that will be posed when the standards for social studies, history, science, and health are released. Because it is impossible to totally remove personal bias and opinion from the development of any set of standards, and because we understand that standards drive curriculum, we must be especially vigilant in examining new standards before they are implemented by our schools.

In addition to a long list of academic worries with Common Core we have additional privacy concerns related to the onerous data collection requirements that are part of the system. The idea behind the federal data collection mandate is to track students from pre-school through their careers so as to determine whether the standards are succeeding in making students “career ready.” While the initial goal may be laudable, there are serious concerns about maintaining the privacy of minors. The federal government has proposed gathering over 400 personally identifiable data points on each student, and whereas that information could have previously been considered “safe,” the federal government’s changes to FERPA in January, 2012 now make it possible for school officials to share private data without parental consent. Once unscrupulous school officials realize they can sell private data to the highest bidder all privacy will be in jeopardy.

The threat posed by Common Core to the Catholic schools comes as they struggle to compete against public charter schools, home schooling, and other innovative models of education. Sadly, Catholic Schools can no longer count on welcoming the children of the parish as many parishioners no longer feel obligated to send their children to parochial schools. As our Catholic schools search for ways to attract new students, they would do well to reject the servile training model of the public schools rather than seeking to imitate it.

My humble request is that you investigate the dangers of Common Core to Catholic education.  Please consider the concerns of a growing number of parents around the country.  More than a dozen state legislatures have now taken some action to review, defund, or repeal Common Core now that parents and legislators have learned the details of this program.  In April, Indiana became the first state to suspend Common Core led by the efforts of two Catholic school mothers.  Your sheep ask for the protection of their shepherd. Your sheep are asking to be fed. The laity needs to hear from the bishops on this very important issue.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Marxist "Community Organizer" Calls Catholic Schools "Divisive"


The most divisive President in American history - a militant, Marxist thug - offended Catholics throughout the world, particularly those involved with America's largest, successful school system - by lecturing the people of Northern Ireland about his perceptions of religious education as "divisive."  Better for the likes of Obama that we should all be "dumbed down," unable to call on history to recognize tyranny, formed into compliant Obamunists who have not read America's founding documents, who haven't a clue about unalienable rights that belong to the children of God, who are unable to engage in critical thinking and logic, who have their minds filled with popular "culture," and who leave decision making to political elites, like Obama, who know what is best for them.  

Since he knows so much about education, why do his own government schools rank below those of most industrialized nations, including those to whom he directed his condescending remarks?

We ask again, when will the Congress of the United States remove this illegitimate "President" who has done anything but "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States"?

We hope that Irish Catholic and Protestant educators will make haste to visit the Chicago Public School System so that they can see first-hand the vision Obama has for them. 

A report from The Scottish Catholic Observer follows.

US President undermines Catholic schools after Vatican Prefect praised them

The US President has made an alarming call for an end to Catholic education in Northern Ireland in spite of the fact that Archbishop Gerhard Müller told Scots that Catholic education was 'a critical component of the Church.’

President Barack Obama (above), repeated the oft disproved claim that Catholic education increases division in front of an audience of 2000 young people, including many Catholics, at Belfast’s Waterfront hall when he arrived in the country this morning.

“If towns remain divided—if Catholics have their schools and buildings and Protestants have theirs, if we can’t see ourselves in one another and fear or resentment are allowed to harden—that too encourages division and discourages cooperation,” the US president said.

The US politician made the unfounded claim despite a top Vatican official spelling out the undeniable good done by Catholic education in a speech in Glasgow on Saturday and in his homily at Mass on Friday.
Archbishop Gerhard Müller (below), prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, told an audience in Scotland that Catholic education provided a rare place where ‘intellectual training, moral discipline and religious commitment would come together’ while giving the presitigous Cardinal Winning Lecture on Saturday to officially launch the St Andrews Foundation for Catholic teacher education at Glasgow University. During Mass at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Glasgow, on Friday night he said that ‘the Catholic school is vitally important … a critical component of the Church,’ adding that Catholic education provides young people with a wonderful opportunity to ‘grow up with Jesus.’

Mr Obama is in Northern Ireland to take part in the two day G8 Summit at the Lough Erne resort in Enneskillen.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral to be Restored; Will Cost $175 Million Over 5 Years

It has just been reported that New York's Saint Patrick's Cathedral will undergo a $175 million restoration over the course of 5 years.

I have a great deal of affection for the magnificent St. Patrick's Cathedral; it is where my grandparents were married. It was built for the greater glory of God by generations of poor immigrants, and it is an unintended monument to their courage and faith. One feels in St. Patrick's Cathedral an ineffable sense of the sacred, a connection to the divine, not always apparent even in the most august churches and cathedrals. It is truly the heart and center of the city.   We should rejoice that this great prayer in stone will once again gleam the way it did on the day of its dedication. However, if it is possible for the New York Archdiocese to raise $175 million for the completion of this project, it should be possible to raise sufficient money to endow the schools and hospitals of this and other dioceses before any more are lost.

As we have written previously, the parochial schools of the New York Archdiocese and its neighbors are also the legacy of saints - thousands of dedicated religious sisters, brothers and priests gave their entire, holy lives.  And those institutions were also built with the contributions of a laity that was far poorer than that of today. It was these institutions that formed the Church militant and ensured that the culture was transformed by the living God and His Word. By the time Saint Patrick's Cathedral was built in the nineteenth century, three successive Councils of Baltimore had not only affirmed the importance of formation in Catholic schools, they committed themselves to building a massive parallel school system. The bishops agreed that every parish should have a tuition-free Catholic school, supported by the whole parish, and instructed parents that they “must send their children to such schools unless the bishop should judge the reason for sending them elsewhere to be sufficient.” What meaning will a great gleaming cathedral have, if no one remembers why and for Whose glory it was first built?

We have great hope and expectations for New York's new Cardinal Archbishop. He is a man whose intellect is as large as his very buoyant and good heart. As the scholarly new president of the US Conference of Catholic bishops, we hope he will restore in our day the dedication that the Cathedral's builders also had to a vibrant school system which forms whole persons in the faith, and through them transforms the world.

Friday, March 16, 2012

New Cardinal Newman School Planned in Columbia

It is great to see authentically Catholic schools flourishing in South Carolina.  One New Jersey Archbishop we know of seems intent on eliminating Catholic education entirely in his diocese.  He publishes an annual list of all the schools that are to be closed  - there are eight on the list for 2012.  But here in South Carolina, concerned Catholics recognize Catholic schools as a necessary extension of the Catholic formation that occurs in the home.  They are also seedbeds for future vocations to religious life and the priesthood.  Finally, as the Holy Father has said, Catholic schools are faith communities proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ and ensure "that His name continues to resound throughout the world."

School leaders have just completed plans for a new and larger Cardinal Newman School to serve South Carolina's Midlands.  The Catholic Miscellany reports:

COLUMBIA—Cardinal Newman School is one step closer to the long-time dream of a new campus.

In early February, school leaders announced they had completed phase one of a long-term fundraising campaign for a new school located on about 50 acres the diocese has purchased off Alpine Road in Northeast Columbia.
The new location would provide more space for growth and parking than the school’s current one off Forest Drive in Columbia, where traffic has increased dramatically over the years. Cardinal Newman has occupied the property since 1961.

The school has raised $2.79 million so far, surpassing the project’s original phase one goal of $2.5 million.

The diocese gave permission for school officials to meet with county officials to plan tree clearing and other preliminary work, which could begin later this year. Plans for the new school and campus include expanded classroom space, a performing arts center, a chapel and expanded athletic facilities.

At an appreciation dinner for about 100 of the school’s supporters held in early February, Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone praised their commitment to Cardinal Newman and its of providing a good education grounded in church teachings and values.

He said plans for the new campus are important evidence of the growth and strength of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Charleston, which stands in stark contrast to recent school closings and consolidations in many dioceses in the Northeast and Midwest.

“This is an exciting time for us because we’re not in a downsizing situation, instead we’re building,” the bishop said. “What you’re doing here is a sign of the future,” he said. “It’s wonderful to see people enthusiastically supporting your need for a new campus and supporting Catholic education because we offer something the best public schools can’t offer. It involves putting Jesus Christ at the center of all we do. I can’t wait until I can
walk through the front door of that new building on your new campus.”

The diocese has signed a contract with JHS Architects and Chao Engineering of Columbia who will soon begin plans for the project.

Cardinal Newman principal Jacqualine Kasprowski said the school will eventually start aggressively marketing the Forest Drive property to prospective buyers and research financing to cover costs for the rest of the project.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

American Cardinal Denounces 'Catholic in name only' Colleges

Any Catholic college or university "at which Jesus Christ alive in His Church is not taught, encountered in the Sacred Liturgy and its extension through prayer and devotion, and followed in a life of virtue is not worthy of the name."

Cardinal Raymond Burke,  the American who serves as chief justice of the universal Church, recently addressed The Thomas More College of Liberal Arts on the importance of vibrant and authentic Catholic higher education:
The Importance of the Catholic University to Society and the Church
My first reflection concerns the importance of the Catholic university to society and the Church. The Declaration on Christian Education, Gravissimum Educationis, of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council underlines the importance which the Church has consistently assigned to Catholic higher education, in order that “the convergence of faith and reason in the one truth may be seen more clearly.” It is sufficient to consider the challenges of a lifetime as a member of the Church and a citizen of the nation, and the many and significant fields of human endeavor for which the university student prepares himself to know the importance of his receiving a complete education, that is, an education in which the convergence of faith and reason in the pursuit of the one truth is consistently taught and exemplified. Pope Benedict XVI gives clear expression to the irreplaceable service of Catholic higher education for the attainment of the necessary unity of faith and reason. In his meeting with Catholic Educators at The Catholic University of America, on April 17, 2008, addressing the fundamental Catholic identity of the Catholic university, he reminded the educators:
Clearly, then, Catholic identity is not dependent upon statistics. Neither can it be equated simply with orthodoxy of course content. It demands and inspires much more: namely, that each and every aspect of your learning communities reverberates within the ecclesial life of faith. Only in faith can truth become incarnate and reason truly human, capable of directing the will along the path of freedom (cf. Spe Salvi, 23). In this way our institutions make a vital contribution to the mission of the Church and truly serve society. They become places in which God’s active presence in human affairs is recognized and in which every young person discovers the joy of entering into Christ’s “being for others” (cf. ibid., 28).
In a particular way, the Catholic university which is true to her identity will help students to be strong in giving an account of their faith in their vocation in life, whether it be the married life, the dedicated single life, the consecrated life or the ordained priesthood, and in whatever field of human endeavor they engage, resisting the secularist dictatorship which would exclude all religious discourse from the professions and from public life in general.

Quoting the Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman, the Venerable Pope John Paul II underlined the importance of the service of the Catholic university to the Church and society, in general, in his Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae with these words:
It is the honour and responsibility of a Catholic University to consecrate itself without reserve to the cause of truth. This is its way of serving at one and the same time both the dignity of man and the good of the Church, which has “an intimate conviction that the truth is (its) real ally … and that knowledge and reason are sure ministers to faith”. Without in any way neglecting the acquisition of useful knowledge, a Catholic University is distinguished by its free search for the whole truth about nature, man and God. The present age is in urgent need of this kind of disinterested service, namely of proclaiming the meaning of truth, that fundamental value without which freedom, justice and human dignity are extinguished.
The fact that the Catholic university had its birth from “the heart of the Church,” to quote the beginning of the same Apostolic Constitution, demonstrates the importance in which the Church has always held higher education. During various periods of the Church’s history, the service of the Catholic university has been critical to meeting the challenges of the time. In a society which is marked by a virulent secularism which threatens the integrity of every aspect of human endeavor and service, for example, medicine, law, government and higher education itself, the service of the Catholic university is more needed than ever. How tragic that the very secularism which the Catholic university should be helping its students to battle and overcome has entered into several Catholic universities, leading to the grievous compromise of their high mission.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Catholic Schools Week: New Models for Saving Needed Schools

As we have noted before, we believe that Catholic schools play an extraordinary role in America's inner-cities and suburbs, where in many cases more than half of all students who enter public high schools fail to graduate, and very few of those who do manage to graduate can be considered well educated. Catholic schools are also irreplaceable in the formation of counter-cultural Catholics, and their closing and consolidation is a tragic loss to both the Church and the larger society they serve.

The column below, from today's Wall Street Journal, mentions a new model where "lay boards raise money, build facilities, and actually run the place," and bishops ensure that the school provides an "authentic Catholic education." We have much more confidence in Catholic laymen ensuring financially viable institutions, than we do in bishops ensuring "authentically Catholic" schools. Indeed, many Catholics have withdrawn their support and their children from Catholic schools because in too many cases the culture and curriculum has differed so little from that of public schools. We have seen in the past week that the American bishops have even failed to ensure the orthodoxy of their own staff at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Nevertheless, the saving of Catholic schools, a legacy of American saints, is a work that should engage every Catholic layman concerned not only about one's own children, but the future of the Church and the world in which we live.

Down but Not Out in Catholic Suburbia

Inner-city parochial schools are not the only ones struggling.

From The Wall Street Journal
By William McGurn
Tim Busch has an answer to the epidemic of closing Catholic schools. And it has nothing to do with vouchers.

It couldn't come at a more critical moment. Over the next few days, nearly 2.2 million students and their families will celebrate Catholic Schools Week. Though the Catholic school system remains America's largest alternative to public education, the number of both schools and students is roughly half what they were at their peak in the mid-1960s. According to the National Catholic Education Association, the trend continued last year, with 162 Catholic schools consolidating or closing against only 31 new openings.

Amid the gloom Mr. Busch offers a prescription for revival: End the financial dependence on parish or diocese. Build attractive facilities. And compete for students.

If that sounds like a business formula, it is. Mr. Busch is a good friend I came to know through Legatus, an association of Catholic CEOs. Spend any time around him, and you'll find he believes that America needs Catholic schools more than ever, and that they can compete with the best. To prove it, he's helped start up two privately run Catholic schools—St. Anne elementary school and JSerra high school, both in southern California.

Now, there are plenty of upscale Catholic schools with waiting lists—especially those run by religious orders. But here's a fact that gets little mention: a Catholic education is in danger of becoming a luxury for the middle class. It's hard to be optimistic about the future of Catholic schools in our inner cities if Catholics cannot make a go of these schools in the suburbs, where most Catholics live.

Do the math. In my area of New Jersey, for example, a Catholic high school whose tuition clocks in at $15,000 a year is deemed a bargain. For a family with three or four kids, the total tuition can top $3,000 a month. Young middle-class families struggling with a new mortgage and high property taxes can find themselves squeezed: not wealthy enough to pay, not poor enough for aid.

In Mr. Busch's case, he says he got the idea for starting up St. Anne after he and his wife went looking for a Catholic school for their first child—and were depressed by the dilapidated facilities they found at many schools. Ultimately he and his partners settled on a model where parents take responsibility for operating the school, with the diocese ensuring the teachings are authentically Catholic. It's a division of responsibility much in line with Vatican II, freeing up pastors to be pastors while tapping into the financial, legal, and business abilities of lay people.

In some ways, it's liberating for both. Schools replace lay boards that merely advised a pastor or bishop with lay boards that raise money, build facilities, and actually run the place. The appeal to a bishop is this: We'll help you provide an authentic Catholic education to more children—and it won't cost you a dime.

For those who complain that such schools serve only the rich, Mr. Busch says that financially stable schools have more wherewithal to offer those in need (even without endowments—the next step—St. Anne and JSerra have more than 10% of their students on financial assistance). He further points out that need is by no means limited to money. "Some children have wealth," he says. "But having wealth does not insulate you from problems like divorce, substance abuse, loneliness, a culture saturated in sex, and so on. These kids need the Catholic message as much as everyone."

Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson, N.J., agrees. "Catholic education is such a value both for Catholics and for society that we want it to be accessible and affordable for all who see its intrinsic value . . . . We are fortunate that many lay people are committed to this cause—and are helping us 'think outside the box' so that Catholic schools will thrive in this new decade and beyond."

Mr. Busch's privately run Catholic schools, of course, are not the only new model showing promise. The 24 Jesuit-based Cristo Rey high schools across the country do a terrific job through an innovative work-study program. The bishop and his flock in Wichita, Kan., embraced a stewardship model that calls upon all parishioners to give 8% of their gross income, which allows the diocese to make all its Catholic schools tuition free. And Catholic universities such as Notre Dame and Boston College are reaching out to help run Catholic elementary and high schools.

"We can't wait for vouchers, and we can't look to the old model of relying on our pastors and bishops to come up with the money and answers," says Mr. Busch. "If we want Catholic schools for our children and our society, we have to adopt new models that let us compete."

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Blessings Of A Catholic Education

The Lyceum, providing excellent Catholic classical education in Cleveland, Ohio.

From The Bulletin
By Andrew T. Seeley, Ph.D.

Next week Catholics around the country will be taking time to celebrate the blessings their schools have been, not only for the Catholic Church, but for our nation. Catholic schools have served millions students of many faiths. From the earliest schools established in Florida and California by Spanish missionaries, to the diocesan system begun by Bishop St. John Neumann in Philadelphia, to the schools founded by the Jesuits and other religious orders, Catholic schools have provided students of diverse backgrounds a strong education in a religious environment marked by charity, joy and commitment to the truth. And thanks to the great personal sacrifices of educators and church members, Catholic schools have served the poor and immigrants in a particularly admirable way throughout the years.

Jesus told his followers that they should be like “the head of a household who can bring from his store both the new and the old.” Over the last quarter of a century, schools like Regina Coeli Academy in Wyndmoor and Regina Angelorum in Wynnewood have done just this by embracing what has become known as “classical education.”

Classical schools take for their model the kind of education that formed great men such as Benjamin Franklin and William Shakespeare. Schools at that time had one great goal: to pass on to their students the wisdom and glory of the past so that they could do great things themselves.

As young men, they learned to understand and appreciate the works of Homer, Sophocles, Virgil, and Cicero. Anyone who has read the correspondence of men like Adams or public letters such as the Federalist Papers are frequently struck by how much our Founding Fathers drew on the wisdom of the past in bringing forth a “new nation conceived in liberty.”

This view of the past is out of step with modern assumptions, but all the more necessary because of that. Classical education begins from an admiration of the wisdom and achievements of the past 3,000 years. Our future will be brighter if our young learn about anger and pity from Achilles and Hector, sin and purgation from Dante, the strength of virtue and the weakness of corruption from the Roman Republic, the suffering of old age from King Lear, fidelity and leadership from George Washington.

By contrast, today’s young people are not far removed from thinking that people lived in a black-and-white world until the advent of color television! Encouraged by progressive theories of education, they finish with just enough knowledge of the past to wonder at its ignorance, intolerance and prejudice. Bach might be a name to them, but his fame in the musical world utterly incomprehensible.

Classical education gives students a great deal of confidence, the confidence that, though evil has always existed, so much that is good and true and beautiful has flourished and endured. This is a firm foundation on which to base the work that needs to be done in bettering the world as it is now.

The classical form of education never leaves students in the past; rather, it gives students the tools they need to make today’s world better. “The Well-Trained Mind” is one way to express the classical devotion to improving the most important strengths of young people. Classical schools work to develop retentive memories, clear thinking, fertile imaginations. Students are trained in the Trivium — the arts of grammar, logic and rhetoric — that gives them the power to express their ideas forcefully, beautifully, persuasively.

Catholic classical schools add to this by additionally infusing and handing down to its students Catholic culture. Catholics have a lot to be proud of in their cultural heritage: works of art, thought and imagination, and true, heroic stories of saints from throughout history. Students in Catholic classical schools come to know St. Augustine and St. Monica, his mother; the role the Benedictines played in forming Christian Europe from the remnants of great Rome and the barbarian hordes that destroyed it; St. Thomas Aquinas and his great labor to explain and defend the truths of the Catholic Faith; St. Philip Neri, the Apostle of Joy, who renewed sanctity in the Church during the Catholic Counter-Reformation; St. Junipero Serra and the great work of bringing the Gospel to the Americas.

They become familiar with the great works of Catholic art, music and literature: Gothic cathedrals, Gregorian chant, medieval icons, Palestrina’s motets, Mozart’s symphonies and operas; and so much else. They become proud of the Church that has always encouraged the life of the mind, brought forth the works of Copernicus and Galileo, and that founded the great universities of Europe and elementary and high schools throughout North America.

Not only is it fitting this week to celebrate the past and current educational achievements of Catholic schools, but also to celebrate the emerging of Catholic classical schools and their contribution to our communities and nation.

Andrew T. Seeley, Ph.D. is executive director of The Institute for Catholic Liberal Education and a tutor at Thomas Aquinas College in California. For more information, visit,

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Richard Dawkins believes that Christianity is an intellectual vacancy. That's probably because he has never visited the astonishing Thomas Aquinas College, says Marc Sidwell.
"I look up now, past a rounded tree which quivers with bird-life, and I see a few of the students. Once again, it's a kind of shock to gaze upon them."
It is unfashionable to acknowledge that good ideas come from America. Thirty years ago Christopher Derrick discovered Thomas Aquinas College in Southern California, and could not conceal his wonder. Here was a community of learning unlike anything left in Europe. He shared his delight in Escape from Scepticism: Liberal Education as if Truth Mattered. Stumbling on his account last year while researching a new history of liberal education, I, too, was exhilarated. The decades have changed nothing; this college is as important as ever.

Thomas Aquinas College is a Great Books school. Its students engage directly with the profound thinkers that define Western civilisation: St. Thomas Aquinas, Dante, Euclid, Plato and Shakespeare, to name only a few. Classes employ the Socratic method of dialogue. The curriculum is stretching, yet not impossibly demanding. Most important of all, the college is centered on the faculty's profession of Catholic faith. Beginning in wonder, the course aims at wisdom.

"What struck me first was the extreme happiness of the students," wrote Derrick. That still appears to hold true. The discovery of intellectual power in the context of an intellectually rigorous faith looks far more enjoyable than the usual campus free-for-all. For what Thomas Aquinas College rejects is the easy relativism that Pope Benedict XVI has so roundly denounced. Assured of the existence of truth, the mind is freed to engage with the great conversation of the Western mind.

Thomas Aquinas College is a modern exemplar of a great tradition. Liberal education stretches back to the birth of our civlisation-a golden thread of intellectual freedom. It begins in 5th century Athens, as the education due to a free man. Faith and reason intertwined in the Catholic Church, carrying our civilisation forward after the fall of Rome. Now men spoke of universal freedom and therefore a universal education. Preserved in the Benedictine orders, transmitted by schoolmaster-priests, it was the Christian liberal educators who kept the life of the mind alive through centuries of uncertainty and civil strife.

It is extraordinary that the vital educational role of the Church is now so underappreciated. Only last year, suspicion of Catholic schools was common in the Press even as a survey demonstrated their above-average standards and their excellent work towards producing well-rounded future citizens.

Such excellence should come as no surprise. St. Thomas Aquinas, the doctor angelicus, is proof of the high value Catholicism has always placed upon reasoned enquiry into creation. Yet the sceptics like Richard Dawkins continue to sneer at Christianity as an intellectual vacancy. They misquote Tertullian as "I believe because it is absurd" and do not know St. Anselm of Canterbury's Credo ut intelligam. ("I believe in order to understand").

Recently, this teaching has been reaffirmed. Pope John Paul II published Fides et Ratio in 1998, which opens with a ringing endorsement: "Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth."

Only last year His Holiness Benedict XVI used his Regensburg address to say that "the encounter between the biblical message and Greek thought did not happen by chance."

Even while Rome speaks, the ideal of a liberal education is almost lost from British discourse. Thirty years after Christopher Derrick's epiphany in Santa Paula, it seems little has changed at home. Instead, the exchange runs the other way. Two British students and one Irish citizen are currently enjoying the Californian sun, not the first to accept the 6000-mile journey as the price of an education no longer available at home.

Today, Thomas Aquinas College is more confident than ever. For 30 years, its graduates have gone out into the world and proven their ability to excel in all fields. One American alumnus runs a network of pre-schools in London. When Christopher Derrick visited, only six years after its founding, there were 33 students. Today, there are ten times as many, and a growing waiting list. For the last three years, the college has been in the top 10 conservative colleges in America.

"The human mind is ordered to truth," says college president, Dr. Thomas E. Dillon, who was a member of the teaching faculty at the time of Derrick's original visit. He notes the Vatican's recent emphasis on this teaching and adds: "If anything, the mission and character of Thomas Aquinas College is more relevant now than it was in 1977."

A liberal education is not exclusively a Catholic prerogative. Protestant and secular schools all do fine work in this great tradition-again, now largely in America. Yet it remains true that the Catholic Church has played the greatest role, and is most likely to be in the vanguard of any revival. To me, an Anglican, it seems tragic that Britain, once the last bulwark of liberal education, should choose to neglect its heritage.

Perhaps foolishly, I find myself inspired by the great unbuilt British college, the College of Light. In 1641 Jan Comenius was invited to London by the Long Parliament to establish the Collegium Lucis: the last moment when scientific thought and Christian faith might have united in a modern British institution. Civil war intervened, and the Royal Society was established instead, without Comenius's (admittedly heterodox) faith.

America, they say, is always a few decades ahead. That makes it high time for Britain to catch up with the principles of Thomas Aquinas College. Meanwhile, the Californians join Pope Benedict in his prayer on the recent feast of St. Thomas Aquinas: "Let us pray that Christians, especially those who work in an academic and cultural context, are able to express the reasonableness of their faith and witness to it in a dialogue inspired by love."

Marc Sidwell is a Research Fellow of the New Culture Forum and a freelance author. He writes articles on liberal education for the Social Affairs Unit and is currently editing a liberal education reader from Plato to the present day.

(This article first appeared in the May 2007 issue of The Catholic Herald of London.