Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Catholic Education: the Existential Crisis

American Catholic education is suffering an existential crisis. It has lost its purpose and has taken on the identity of secular schools. Parents seem to be satisfied if the students perform better on standardized tests than public schools. Many principals and school board members only desire to offer a good college preparatory program with a few token religion classes. Catholic schools do not exist for standardized tests nor for college preparation, if they only serve this purpose than perhaps we should call them post-Catholic or secular-religious schools. Fr Harden famously stated that the quickest way for our children to lose their faith is to send them to a Catholic school. To overcome this cultural reduction, he suggested that parents become educators and turn to home schooling as a way to provide a better education and give children opportunities to deepen and maintain their faith. I believe in home schooling, but I also believe that Catholic education can come to exist again if it can see where it has given into philosophic worldviews that directly oppose the faith. It can again introduce children to Christ and to reality. Catholic schools seem to have succumbed to cultural reductions that wish to make children good consumers and, unfortunately, are adapted to mediocre thought. Let’s be honest, even on the issues that matter to parents who use materialistic ideas to judge education, our schools are failing. The first priority should be religious formation and to provide a comprehensive introduction to reality in its fullness. We have to be strong enough to challenge the nihilistic environment of contemporary American culture and ignore standardized tests. It is time to stop bowing to accreditation agencies that have integrated this reduction which is so deeply present in our society. We have to give parents a primary role in the education process which means that teachers must be more open and realize that their primary task is to serve the family. Catholic teachers are not educational bureaucrats, they are witnesses and they must continually renew their faith and keep their personal desire for reality alive. If we allow Catholic schools to be defined by secular society, they will serve a nihilistic purpose and further destroy what is left of Western civilization. To everyone involved in Catholic education, it is time to reexamine your ideas and overcome all the ideologies that seek to destroy the Christian proposal that we find in our culture. Let’s renew Catholic education and again propose Christ.

See Fr. Giussani’s Teaching: Introduction to Reality in Its Totality

The Risk of Educating: An Address by Christopher Bacich

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