Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Catholic Schools Matter, Folks

I don't believe I ever set foot in a Catholic school before I arrived at Saint John Bosco in August 2008 to teach there, but I very quickly realized that it was a very different environment from anything I had experienced before. ACE's very existence is predicated on the idea that Catholic schools are vital to the welfare of the country, never mind the well-fare of Catholic children. It was often said that our objective was not to take over public schools, but to fill a need public schools could not -- we aren't necessarily better, we're different.

Deacon Greg posted snippet of a New York Times article taking a look at the current crisis Catholic schools are facing and the measures being taken to stem this particular tide. Not surprisingly, Notre Dame's expansive work in this field came up, as did ACE's legendary founder, mentioned here before, Fr. Scully.

The Archdiocese of Washington was so desperate to save seven struggling parochial schools last year that it opted for a solution that shook Catholic educators to the core. It took down the crucifixes, hauled away the statues of the Virgin Mary, and — in its own word — “converted” the schools in the nation’s capital into city charter schools.

The Washington choice seemed to limn in its most extreme form the predicament facing Catholic education: How to maintain a Catholic school tradition of no-frills educational rigor, religious teaching and character-building — a system that has helped shape generations of America’s striving classes since the turn of the last century — when Catholics are no longer signing up their children.

“It was taken for granted for a long time that Catholic schools would always be there,” said Dr. Karen M. Ristau, president of the National Catholic Educational Association, a lobbying group. “People are beginning to realize that this is a false assumption.”

The Rev. Timothy R. Scully, who led the Notre Dame task force study widely credited with igniting the current self-examination, was more blunt.

“There is a window open, and we may have a chance to reverse the trend of decline,” he said. “But I’m not sure how long it will remain open.”

The rest.

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