Happy National Catholic Schools Week! As we celebrate the achievements of our Catholic schools here in Nashville and across the nation, I thought you might be interested in my “Top Ten Reasons to Choose Catholic Schools” (or keep your kids there!):
10. Academics—Extensive research over the last three decades indicates that students from Catholic schools score very well compared to students in other systems, even when relevant demographic characteristics of the students are controlled, such as educational level of parents and family income. Students in our diocese score consistently higher, by a wide margin, than the national averages.
9. Positive Effects on Minorities—The differences in outcomes are even more pronounced for minority students attending Catholic schools compared to private schools, according to Dr. William Sander, an economics professor at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois in his book, Catholic Schools: Private and Social Effects (Boston, MA: Kluwer Academic Publishers, November 2000). “African-Americans and Hispanics have gained the most from Catholic schooling," wrote Sander. "They have substantially higher levels of educational attainment and academic achievement when they attended Catholic schools."
8. Organizational Structure: A basic tenet of Catholic social teaching is that things ought to be handled at the lowest level possible, known as the “principle of subsidiarity.” Thus dioceses delegate tremendous authority and responsibility to local principals and school boards, allowing them to establish policies and procedures that work for each school. This, in turn, gives the school community a real sense of ownership for the school, with the ability to affect change where change is needed. This principle also allows Catholic schools to keep costs down, as more monies go directly into instruction when compared to systems with large central office bureaucracies.
7. Combatting Religious Amnesia--We live in a world that has grown immune to a sense of wonder and God’s active presence in our lives. Catholic schools help children (and their parents!) develop a sacramental world view in which God’s love and guidance are interpreted and invoked for the routine events of our lives. “Let us remember that we are in the presence of God” serves as the context for all Catholic schooling.
6. Understanding our Intellectual Tradition—Beyond the common prayers, songs and vocabulary, students in Catholic high schools are given a glimpse into an impressive intellectual tradition as shaped by some of the greatest minds of our Western heritage. They begin to see Catholic theology as a whole cloth, rather than as a series of fragmented teachings or series of isolated propositions.
5. Service to Others— The more affluent we become, the less inclined we are to empathize with the needs of the less fortunate. Catholic schools give students myriad opportunities for service, helping students live out the gospel enjoinder that “Whatsoever you do to the least of them, you do unto me”.
4. Credible Role Models: Though there are extraordinary Christians who teach and work in other school systems, they are not allowed to make their faith explicit to their kids, nor show the direct connection between their faith, what they do and why. When teenage boys watch their coaches worship with them at school Masses, for example, they sense that being Christian isn’t just a feminine thing (always their suspicion) in a way that trumps all preaching.
3. Development of a Catholic World View—The Catholic faith is not designed to be a “Sunday thing” but a way of life. Prayer and opportunities for worship are so commonplace in Catholic schools (morning announcements, before games, before class, before tests, during weekly masses, etc.) that they become “natural,” almost unnoticed, like breathing.
2. An Integrated Family Life--Catholic schools offer their families the chance for an integrated life—where school, the practice of faith, the extra-curricular life of our children, who their friends are, who OUR friends are, and the experiences we share together, can all become part of a whole, and not remain distinct, disconnected fragments that we must juggle. Given the centrifugal forces confronting our families, this integration is a great blessing.
1. Catholic Religious Identity and Long Term Practice of Faith—Through common songs, prayers and liturgical practices learned in Catholic schools, students become united in a common vocabulary, memory and tradition that bind them to a community life. In a recent study, “millennials” who attend Catholic elementary school or high school are almost seven and eight times more likely, respectively, to attend Sunday Mass each week than those who attend neither. (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, Georgetown University, June 2014).
Please help us celebrate Catholic Schools Week by praying for our students, teachers, pastors and principals, that we may remain faithful to our fundamental calling to lead students to Christ. If you’re a parent of young children, please consider us for your child! If you’re already a parent in our school, be an ambassador—what you say to your friends and co-workers means much more than what we say about ourselves in promotional materials! And if your children are grown or you don’t have kids, consider giving the gift of a Catholic education to a grandchild, family member, neighbor or friend by assisting his or her family with tuition. You will make, literally, an eternal difference in that child’s life!
Happy Catholic Schools Week, everyone!