Why Catholic Schools Matter | National Review

Why Catholic Schools Matter | National Review


A worker at Leo Catholic High School is silhouetted against the stained glass windows at the school in Chicago, Ill., February 14, 2013. (Jim Young/Reuters)

Today, Ashley McGuire, a senior fellow with the Catholic Association, has penned a tribute to Catholic schools, using the occasion of Catholic Schools Week to affirm their pandemic-era value. As I have also pointed out (focusing on Chicago), Catholic schools have labored mightily to continue to provide a quality education for students amid challenges (some self-imposed) to which their public-school counterparts have often proved unequal. As McGuire writes:

. . . what Catholic schools have done for the millions of children who are lucky enough to attend them isn’t just about keeping kids at their desks. These schools have been ports in a storm, offering children a place to be children even amid the lockdown protocols that have robbed kids of their childhood. The Catholic-school mission as stated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop is to educate “the whole person.” Catholic schools have stayed true to this ideal and have proved to be a place where children can flourish in a holistic way despite the death and disease and fear swirling around them.

As a proud product of Catholic schooling (first through twelfth grade), I endorse this message, even if the circumstances of my own education were somewhat different. Catholic schools formed me, spiritually, morally, and academically, into the person I am today.

Given the origin of the word, it seems almost ridiculous to say, but there was always something a bit countercultural about attending Catholic school. To attend Catholic school is to be willingly shaped by an institution whose values often clash with those of the culture at large, and that enforce certain norms and expectations — uniforms! — others would bristle at. At its best, the result of such instruction is to create a fully realized soul capable of intelligent and reverent living in a world that can be hostile to both.

This is not to say Catholic schools don’t face serious challenges; they do. Enrollment in such institutions has declined seriously since the mid 1960s: from more than 5 million then to about 1.6 million today. In the face of such challenges, however, Catholic schools will not survive and thrive not by succumbing to modern mores. They should draw on the same strengths that have distinguished them from their beginning. As Thomas W. Carroll, superintendent of schools and secretary of education for the Archdiocese of Boston, put it in a recent video: “The answer is not for Catholic schools to imitate public schools.” Instead, we must “put the Catholic back in Catholic schools.” More here, via Edify:

If Catholic schools can embody this spirit, then whatever challenges they face, they will continue to provide to students the same kind of instruction from which I and so many others have benefited.

Jack Butler is submissions editor at National Review Online.





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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.