Thinking about Catholic Schools

There sometimes seems to me to be a connection between the student of a Catholic School, and the Marines. Both veterans of these institutions take an inordinate pride in their experiences, both have “Drill Sergeants” or at least the Catholic School alumnae believe that their experiences are the equivalent of that taking place on Paris Island. What no one seems to be able to do, is explain what it is about Catholic Schools that works.

How do we know it works? Those of us who went to Catholic Schools, and I was one of them, learned. We read. We did Mathematics. We did those interminable English grammar diagrams that kept going and going until our sanity was gone. We were given computer training but in my case, that was typing. We learned to be responsible and respectful. There was a bit of fear in my experience in a Catholic School. The nun’s work ethic and commitment to excellence, meant that, if you wanted them to like you, you had to have a work ethic too, you had to do your homework neatly and you had to respect them.

It was not easy to understand a woman who gave up having children to having God in their daily lives. Today, most teachers in the Catholic schools are our neighbors, not nuns. But, they have God in their daily lives and that makes for a more complete experience. God was not easy to understand, and as often as I tried, I never got to morning Mass on time. They do not have morning Mass anymore. There are not enough priests. Besides, I was too busy living my life to worry about another one. I spent the better part of the 5th. and all of the 6th. grade at a Catholic school. I did learn those things mentioned before, but I also learned respect. That has done me well throughout my life. I know that you do not do something to someone that you would not want to have done to yourself.

So, what is the co-relation between the Marines and a Catholic school child? There really isn’t one. Except that we children, taught in a Catholic school, were responsible for ourselves. What is the beauty of a Catholic school? Nowhere in my many years of attending school have I seen individual teachers work harder than in the Catholic schools that I attended or taught at, and I have extensive experience in both public and Catholic schools. I grew up as the Superintendent’s son. That was not true in a Catholic school. They did not care who my father was or what he did for a job.

I loved the freedom of Catholic schools, as a student and as a teacher. I loved my father, but having his employees as your teachers everyday really did you in sometimes. They told me I could not learn history, but I loved the subject ever since I was introduced to it as a 6th. grader. That was in my Catholic school. They told me that I was too compulsive and outspoken. But my nun in the Catholic school never even hinted at such a weakness. I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a Catholic school student. When I could, as a principal of a Catholic school, I transfered my son into the school and he blossomed, despite the fact that he would not know a nun as a teacher. I believed that there was goodness in all of my teachers, laiety and religious. By the 6th. grade my white and black Habited nun passed me with flying colors and I was prepared to study in junior high school. Catholic schools taught me to think.

Given the option, I would rather have continued teaching in Catholic schools. I got paid twice as much to teach in public schools and I had a young family. Why do I prefer the other? Largely because of the respect you are taught. And, I never thought that I would become a priest but I enjoyed being able to pray during school time.

Catholic schools seem to be built in bedrock, not sand. It is the Bible, not Abraham Lincoln, who first stated that a house split in two could not stand. I recently found one of my public school mothers who had been my student and she told me that her Kindergartner was going to a Catholic school because he needed the discipline. That goes along with the respect that is expected and taught. This is Catholic Schools Week, your week to be different and introduce your child to both God and self-respect. I urge you since I was a Catholic school student, a Catholic school teacher, and a Catholic school principal, to think long and hard about whether or not your child might be better off with a curriculum that has a guiding light. We have difficulty dealing with God and our children’s relationship with him. Catholic schools just painlessly introduce God to classes everyday. In the next section of this article, I will tell you more specifically how to enroll your student in their class at St. Margaret’s School. And, you do not have to be Catholic to use a Catholic school education. I know many Protestants and Orthodox families who sent their child or children to their local Catholic school. Nothing bad happened and the children did not lose their faith.

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