Dear Patheos Bloggers, The Revolution Has Already Begun

In the past few days, prominent bloggers over at the Patheos Catholic portal have been stirring the educational pot and, essentially, staging a catechetical coup. 

Joanne McPortland started it off:

“Our catechesis fails not because of our methods or our teachers or our educational philosophy, but because we have been—for as many decades as I can remember in my own life, and long prior to that in ancestral memory—catechizing the wrong damn people.

Our whole formational structure is and has ever been concentrated on children. What formation opportunities most adults—that is, Catholics not engaged in regular liturgical or catechetical or outreach ministries–encounter in the average parish consist of extensions of the parenting of children: sacramental preparation for Marriage, Baptism, First Confession and First Communion, Confirmation, and the occasional intergenerational catechetical activity. There may be adult workshops and classes on a variety of topics related to family life, but they’re rarely attended by those not already in the ministerial loop.” (Read on)

Elizabeth Scalia confirmed and linked to the rest. of. the. posse. and the next thing you know, a revolution had begun!

Here’s the thing, the Catholic education revolution has already been in full swing for a while. Grassroots groups who grew weary of the untrustworthy public sectors and the secularizing Catholic classrooms mobilized and established a highly effective and refreshingly independent homeschool model.

The results: their highly productive, academically advanced and spiritually strong children are not only being sought after by colleges and getting more options for scholarships, but they are also maintaining stronger relationships with their family and, most importantly, their faith than their public/Catholic school counterparts.

If we aren’t careful, the momentum of the homeschooling movement has the possibility of leveling Catholic schools intrinsically. 

If the Catholic school system wishes to survive, they’ll have to address the following threats immediately:

The Common Core

Kudos to the Diocese of Green Bay for denouncing the Common Core. Homeschooling parents get to do this without a blink of an eye but Catholic schools simply have to consider the benefits of federal policies for many reasons: future textbooks are designed to fit national/state standards, professional development in general will be focused on teacher submission to such mandates, standardized testing, college entry exams, etc. all have some stake in what the government requires of the publicly educated majority.

The minority Catholic schools must then do one of two things: they either have their students walk side-by-side in uniformity with public school powers, or go against the grain to invent something more potent, more personal for their stakeholders. The former follows suit by adopting the common core, the latter expands on their God-given gifts of creativity and unity by teaching to each child’s core.

High Tuition in a Struggling Economy

The number one comment that I receive from families who are on the fence when choosing a Catholic school and homeschooling their oldest children is “I would love to send them to a good Catholic school, but there is no way we could afford it.” 

I sympathize with them because they’re right. The average cost for tuition at the local Catholic High school in my diocese is only $700 less than the top public 4-year University in the region. Most Catholic families, especially if they have more than a few children, are busy trying to save for their children’s collegiate future and don’t have the time or economic stability to keep them in Catholic schools. Thus, only the economic elite can manage to remain educated in a Catholic environment.

Homeschooling parents do not have this problem. They live simply and, while cultivating a strong family culture, they save on childcare and their high school aged students are able to get jobs during regular school hours which increases their possibilities of paying for college.

The Loss of Community

The Catholic school was once a cultural centerpiece for neighborhoods because they they were based in small communities in which everyone looked after one another. In her post, Elizabeth Scalia reiterates this point,

“Catholic families used to practice the faith in a world that did not diverge very wildly from its own moral teachings. Often, they lived in whole neighborhoods full of Catholics and the kids were educated in the faith at school, by religious sisters and brothers. If Catholics in general had a 50/50 handle on how much of their faith was catechetical and how much was cultural, they at least got the essentials, especially the most fundamental of them.” (Read on)

Go to any homeschooling community meeting and you can plainly see this same picture of Catholic unity before your eyes. They are parents who might not live in the same block, but who have a strong sense of community because their children are being socialized both catechetically and culturally by those whom they trust and have frequent contact with.

If Catholic schools wish to imitate the strong hold that homeschooling parents have, they must find a way to reach beyond the children under their classroom roofs and inspire the families of the parish to willingly participate in fruitful projects.

Low Teacher Pay

The average pay for a Catholic school teacher is at/slightly above the poverty line.

This is actually a common strand between Catholic schools and homeschooling parents. Having to live off the income of only one parent so that the other can stay home and educate the children is difficult. However, odds are that just about every other job that requires a degree will pay more than a Catholic school teacher.

Lack of a “Global” Education

One of the more recent phenomena of education is the implementation of language immersion programs. In these programs, students learn content in a language other than their native languages and studies have shown that their cognitive and academic abilities are extremely higher than their monolingual peers.

On top of the academic advantages, immersion students are more “global” in that they are able to interact with more people and understand the differences that exist between various cultures.

Have you ever heard of a Catholic school in the U.S. investing in a language other than Latin? I’ve argued for this before and as usual, the Catholic schools are taking their time to assess the quality of these types of programs over a long period of time to test their effectiveness.

It is time. The proof is there. The world needs to be evangelized and if we don’t speak their language and understand its core beliefs, we will never be able to transform it into the Kingdom we hope to present to Christ upon His return.

So, as you can see, the Catholic homeschooling population has already stepped onto the front lines to battle for the souls of their children and the honor of our faith. It would be in our Catholic schools’ greatest interest to follow their lead and prepare the cavalry well if we as a unified Church desire to take on the world and conquer it with truth and charity through educational virtue.

Your move, Catholic schools. Make us proud. 

Author: TJ Burdick

TJ Burdick is the lead author of One Body, Many Blogs, Advice for Christian Bloggers. He is also a school teacher by trade, a lay Catholic by grace and a husband and father of two by vocation. He writes to help support Catholic charities and to put food on the table for his family as his teaching wages are very humble. When he is not enjoying time with his family, you can find him planning his next big lesson or locked inside an adoration chapel. You can find more of his work at @ tjburdick.com.

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