Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Problem with Catholic Schools is they are Just Barely Catholic!

I remember being a happy little Catholic girl going to Sunday School classes at St. John's Church in Davison, MI.  I'm not sure what text book we used but I remember looking at the pictures and being filled with awe and wonder about God.

God was great - he filled the whole universe, and yet he was in the tiny host of bread.  He was everywhere and knew everything including that was in my mind.  He knew what I did and what I was going to do. I cried when I heard the story of the crucifixion and I regretted all of my little sins before my first confession.  I was learning authentic Catholicism and I felt authentic reverence and devotion.

Once I entered the day school I learned even more - bible history from Adam and Eve all the way through Moses.  We read the stories, drew pictures and even had some art projects to enhance the stories we were learning. And I was loving it and looking forward to what we would learn next year.

But that never happened.  In fourth grade we didn't pick up after the story of Moses.  I don't remember much of anything we learned. It was 1968.  I thought maybe we'd pick up the threads in Jr. High and High School but that didn't happen either. We had daily religion class but I couldn't tell you what we learned and there was a general sense in my classmates and me that religion class was a good way to get an A to boost an otherwise less-than-stellar report card.

When I got to High School, religion class was a necessary evil - a required course that filled up my schedule and prevented me from taking Latin, or another honors course.  The one highlight that stands out in my high school religion career was reading the Last Temptation of Christ.  At least that was something substantial - even if it was heretical.




In 2006 I blogged:I grew up in the 1970s, came of age in the late 70s and lived my early adult life in the 1980s. We had all of the touchy, feely, "spiritual," experiential crapola that passed itself off as religion class masquerading under "the spirit of Vatican II." It didn't make us strong Christians or keep us in our Catholic faith. Instead we subscribed to the Jesus is my buddy, I'm OK, You're OK, lukewarm deadness that went with a faith that we weren't prepared to understand and had no clue about how to defend, let alone live. My sister left the church for a time, many of my classmates left too. I read my alumni news letter and I am not even clear any more if it is a Catholic School any more, if it ever was. I've met more than my share of bitter ex-Catholics on the internet and in real life. It doesn't take more than a few minutes to determine that their Catholic faith died because it wasn't taught logically or intellectually and most of them never saw it lived, not really. Not authentically.


When God brought Mr. Pete and me back to our Catholic church He chose to let us have a taste of the St. Paul experience. We were assailed with the usual questions about Catholicism. You know, the usual, "Why do Catholics worship Mary", "Why do you all your priests Father when the bible says not to," "Where is (fill in the blank) in the bible." We literally stood there with our eyes glazed over and our mouths open because we didn't have a clue. Bombarding us with these questions over and over again was like shooting fish in a barrel - it was too easy to expose us for the ignorant post-Vatican II imbecilic offspring that we were.


But somehow, the Holy Spirit gave us enough common sense to figure out that maybe WE didn't know the answers, but that didn't mean that there weren't logical explanations for why the Catholic Church taught these things. We finally had enough curiosity and motivation to investigate and figure out what they were. It was logical and intellectual teaching that drove us to our knees and brought us back to the faith.
That's what I wanted for my kids. That's why we homeschooled them. but it's more than that. It's having them see their parents go to mass every week, seeing their father teach Sunday School, celebrating the liturgical year with all of the feasting and fasting, learning their prayers, seeing first hand their parents being open to new life and the struggles and joys that go with that. THAT's what makes kids strong in their faith. That's what gives them the strength to hang on and seek out that faith when they are struggling with real life during their adult years.


I wrote this in 2009. The clip doesn't work any more.  I think the owner finally figured out that I had used it as an example to berate my former school, (Luke M. Powers Catholic High School) instead of singing its praises.

The results of the reprehensible lack of faith formation has been dire.  A man from the class of 1978 wrote this in an e-mail loop discussion:

It seems very clear to me that we humans are designed to have sex. I suspect the reservations against pre-marital sex were originally to protect the offspring and to ensure that they would be cared for by a family rather than a single (i.e. 1/2 the resources) parent. Later - I suspect that having as many children as possible was simply a way to increase a churches membership numbers and maybe the amount of money that people would tithe to the church.


Having sex for enjoyment - without the likelihood of conception is a wonderful thing. I recommend it to all of you as often as possible. I suggest that you might want to free yourself of the ridiculous idea that sex is only for creation - because we all know that that is not truly the case. Besides - most of us are Catholic and may believe this way why? Simply because we were born into a family that was Catholic. No real conscious decision was made by most of us (Marja is a notable exception and while we seldom agree - I admire her for making a conscious decision about her religious affiliation) - and yet some of us will defend (to the death) the notion that by pure chance - they were born into the "true" and correct religion. A one in two thousand chance that some members of all 2000 religions are convinced of. Think about this with an open mind. That is what Powers taught us to do......


Now go have sex - and don't forget the contraceptives....




My own class of 1977 is no better:
From a FB friend -
Fed up with the church. The diocese decided not to rubber stamp the anullment(sic). We are waiting to here(sic) how much longer they want to drag this out, so after 54 years of attending Catholic church, teaching CCD, and volunteering for other things, the church is saying they don't want me anymore if I get married. Time to start looking for another church.

and other former classmates started piping up:
They excommunicated my Aunt for marrying a divorced man. I haven't gone to a Catholic Church in 30 years. They don't even know it. I don't like organized Religion, neither did Jesus. I go to a non-denominational church. Better!


and
The Catholic church has no shortage of reasons to leave it...from child abuse, to financial scandals, to discrimination against women. The good news is the new Pope has shown promise in bringing the church into the 21st century....buts its long overdue. My personal opinion is why would you put aside your own happiness for an organization full of hypocrisy and that clearly is decades behind the times....Life's way too short for that. But you don't have to leave......get married at the courthouse.........or better yet in Vegas! or Hawaii...... I'm pretty sure you won't be the first in the congregation. And if The Church is bold/hypocritical enough to actually say something....then they deserve a one finger salute on the way out the door. As our wise young niece posted yesterday......"In the end, people will judge you anyway. Don't live your life impressing others. Live your life impressing yourself."


Except for a minority of us, my generation was lost to the faith. So I started wondering, if generations of Catholic kids lost the faith after Vatican II, why and how do Catholic Schools still exist?  Who was sending their children there?

Funny thing that nostalgia - parents may have lost their faith but they still wanted their kids to have a "Catholic Education" - which is short hand for "Not in the public schools and able to pass their ACTs and SATs and get into a good college."  Sports, especially football, is another big reason that the people I have talked to over the years have continued to send their kids to Catholic Schools.

But maybe nostalgia and sports aren't going to be enough to save Catholic schools. Steve Skellmeyer writes on his blog: 

Catholic schools are losing 500,000 students every ten years. Given that the system currently enrolls 2 million students, the problem is obvious. If that trend continues, the entire Catholic school system will be gone in four decades. Entirely. Gone.
"Recent studies laud homeschoolers’ academic success, noting their significantly higher ACT-Composite scores as high schoolers and higher grade point averages as college students. Yet surprisingly, the average expenditure for the education of a homeschooled child, per year, is $500 to $600, compared to an average expenditure of $10,000 per child, per year, for public school students."  Education News, May 2012
"Per pupil cost is 5% of public school ($500 vs. $10,000) and 10% of Catholic school ($500 vs. $5000). Burgeoning Internet resources and on-line courses will only improve the cost numbers. It is nearly 75% more effective than public school in educational outcome, and 35% more effective than Catholic schools."  Kellmeyer, August 2009
Stop throwing money down the rathole of Catholic brick and mortar schools.


What I keep wondering is,why do parents continue to pay tuition when they can get the same result at the local public school FOR FREE?  Public school  kids are able to go onto higher institutionalized learning, with the same standards and norms of their secular peers regarding premarital sex,  contraception, abortion, same sex marriage, with little if any attachment to true Catholic teaching - other than radicalized idea of higher taxes to support social programs under the banner of Social Justice Teaching.

On a personal note, I know of two graduates from a local Catholic High school who were very proudly pregnant before marriage - one is now the icon of America as a single mom.  The other threw all old fashioned notions of scandal aside and had the full treatment with baby/wedding shower, white maternity bridal gown and big church wedding.

An even greater majority of the young Catholics on Facebook from my area were happy to put this image in their FB pages last week in support of "marriage equality."
 

One student I tried to engage in a discussion about what the church teaches and why.  After spending quite a time with this individual, giving links to information and further reading, the student pulled out of the discussion and then wrote, " "Some Catholics in this world are completely out of their freaking minds!"


That same student posted this photo on Facebook. All in good fun? perhaps.  But it's not exactly the  reverence and dignity I would think one would come away with after several years of formal Catholic Education - but then neither are the other values they are tossing away regularly.
whoscrazynow

I don't know what the answer is. I have friends who struggle to send their kids to these schools. I know homeschoolers who deliberately send their kids to these Catholic schools in high school because they don't feel qualified to teach them.  And God knows I have had enough problems with my own children - but I don't pay thousands of dollars over many years in tuition to buy trouble. I assure you, it's available through homeschooling or the public school system for a lot less!



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5 comments:

Janette said...

There are seven schools in my dd's area (within 20 miles). Only one is fully Catholic in curriculum. The rest are private"catholic"schools. She and I spent a great deal of time speaking to kids from the school. Yup, they were being taught Catholic doctrine. The school is under 10 years old, formed by homeschooling parents AND is by far the largest- 790 students K-8.
Is it worth a boat load of money to send my grandson to Catholic elementary school when the school district that he is placed in is one of the best in the nation? If there is a need to place money in good places- then the religious base of my grandson is worth every penny.
But then---does having Catholic doctrine taught to you mean that you will fully embrace the Catholic Church as an adult---no matter where you are taught? I don't see much evidence of it. I do know that most of the active young adult Catholics (20-35 yr old) were either homeschooled with a great Catholic curriculum (plus participating parents in the pew) or went to Catholic elementary schools. The Catholic High schools rarely turn out Catholic adults.
A totally unscientific look at my children's generational friends.
Now that half of your children have grown into adulthood- what is your take? What keeps a kid Catholic? Is the base the most important thing (as you pointed out that your base was strong and you returned ---as was mine). What about the generation of our Grandchildren? Who will step up for them?
These are the questions that keep me up at night.

Mary said...

I find it frustrating to hear former classmates of mine spout things they supposedly heard and saw in class (nuns hitting kids, being told everything they think is a mortal sin, etc.), when I sat right beside them and none of this ever happened!!!

Actually, our religious training was pretty squishy. I'm not sure what their problem actually is.

I try to keep the lines of communication open with my kids about morality, and I also point out the fallacies the "other side" spouts. They're too young to tell if the Catholicism "took" (they're 10, 12, and 16--so far, none of them complain about going to Church).

Elena LaVictoire said...

I don't know what to think Janette. Calvin is not living his Catholic faith, but don't knock the Catholic Church in front of him because he will absolutely defend Her!! He has even defended Catholic Doctrine on Facebook with scripture - which blows my mind! So I think he will come back sooner rather than later. Son #2 is also having his problems living the faith- yet he goes to church every week. Son #3 is still in high school and Catholic bashing makes him angry - I'm not sure what he's going to do with that but it is interesting to me how deeply he upset he gets with that.

I think what kept me and Mr. Pete Catholic was our parents - my mother's quiet but determined steadfastness in her faith and her fine example. I just hope that I have been as good as she was in that regard!

RAnn said...

First of all, I disagree with the idea that homeschooling only costs $500/year. It only costs $500/year if homeschooling doesn't change Mom's employment status, and I suspect there are relatively few families for whom that would be true--in other words Mom's lost income has to be factored into the equation unless she would be earning the same amount with or without homeschooling.

Do Catholic schools help keep kids Catholic? Honestly, I don't know. I don't think they turn kids into Catholics but part of what I am paying for is to have my beliefs reinforced and taught to my daughter, who is in our parish school. I think the school does a good job of teaching religion and they take the kids to mass weekly besides having other events like Stations of the Cross, May Crowning, Balloon Rosary, etc. They take them to confession a couple of times a year too. However, despite the fact that the majority of the kids in her class live near the school,and are at least nominally Catholic, only about 25% are the children of registered supporting parishioners (registering and donating about $300/year gets you about a $300/year/child reduction in tuition). Maybe some of her class regularly attend mass in other parishes. Maybe some just don't register but attend mass regularly at masses we don't attend so I never see them. However, with all that being said, I'd be real surprised if the majority of her classmates were from families that are Catholic in any more than a cultural sense. I don't think it does much good to teach the kids that the Church says x ( like you have to go to mass every Sunday) when the parents live y (Sundays are for sleeping and sports).

As far as Catholic high schools, well, let's just say that from what I saw taught in my son's high school religion class, if religion was the reason I was sending him there, we would have left sooner than we did.

Elena LaVictoire said...

Good point about the income thing Ruth. I always worked out of the house once I started having babies so i didn't consider that. I do know some moms who work as nurses on weekends and evenings while they homeschooled, mainly for the benefits.

I definitely don't think Catholic schools are turning kids Catholic - LeBron James is a prime example - and a graduate of St. Vincent's in Akron, OH.

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