September 29, 2005

Catholic School Education

Amy (who was recently christened by Andrew Sullivan as an 'arch-conservative', which is really defining arch-conservatism down) posted some serious truth-telling (go and read the whole thing) regarding education and our battle with materialism:

When the Church becomes a bureaucracy and a business with human resources managers, hiring committees, and so on, it is a competely different, somewhat distant feel from a community that produces religious vocations and lay people to do these works of mercy in the world. There's less of an urgency, less of a connection between these works of mercy and the people. There are fewer ties, less of a sense that they are of us, doing work on our behalf, and that we owe them our support in their living out the Gospel. Professionalization is the death of everything, in my opinion.

Catholics don't give...partly because we haven't yet absorbed this new paradigm, that running a school or even a parish costs bunches of money. Even though we, as individuals, grapple with rising energy and health care costs in our own homes, we haven't quite grasped that institutions are feeling it too, big time... Part of the problem is the simple attraction of materialism. People who don't blink about dropping 75 bucks on dinner Saturday night think that it's not worth it to them to drop more than ten bucks in the collection plate on Sunday morning. Why? That's not a financial problem - it's a spiritual one, and one that all of us, living in this prosperous nation, share.
Some historical background on American parochial education, from Thomas E. Woods' The Church Confronts Modernity:
One of the primary sources of division between the parties ['Americanist' versus more traditionalist] involved the question of education. As the nineteenth century progressed, it was becoming clear to Catholics and to Christians in general that the country was moving toward a secular curriculum and ethos in the system of public education. Christians were therefore faced with a critical choice. They could send their children to public schools and supplement the secular education that they received with religious education in the home or in a church setting, or they could establish a network fo schools of their own. As we know, the Catholic Church decided on the latter course of action, though our familiarity with the Catholic school system has perhaps served to obscure the staggering amount of effort and expense that the undertaking entailed.

The reason that Catholics had chosen to establish their own schools was that in the current climate the state schools tended "to eliminate religion from the minds and hearts of the youth of the country." ...As we shall see, Farther Thomas Edward Shields, the most influential Catholic educational theorist of the Progressive Era and a man who is routinely and rather carelessly described by historians as a "progressive", could not have objected more forcefully to the suggestion that religious education could be treated as a mere adjunct to the rest of the material the child was learning.)

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