An American homeschooler comments on the debate between public school vs homeschool and how this reflects the implosion of Catholic diocesan education. Sound familiar?redcardigan.blogspot.ie/2013/10/the-failure-of-catholic-education.html
It wouldn't be very nice or very just for me to assume that many or most of those Catholics who send their kids to public schools are doing so because they hate and fear homeschoolers and homeschooling, would it? It wouldn't even be nice of me to assume that there are enough Catholics who send their kids to public schools who think this way to write a scolding, warning, nagging sort of blog post about it all, would it?
Well, would it?
If you clicked on that link and read Simcha Fisher's post, you'll notice that she's using Matt Walsh's piece here as her jumping-off place. I don't know much about Matt Walsh, but having read through the piece I see a passionate criticism of public education of the sort that I see all the time, even from people whose kids are currently enrolled in public schools. There is nothing wrong with deciding that the system is broken; there is nothing inherently incoherent in deciding the system is broken and yet that in your small town or relatively sane state the damage done by federal education mandates and weird educational ideologies has been kept to a minimum. Both may be true, and if the second is true than your decision to make use of the local public schools is perfectly logical, if that's what works best for your family.
However, the fact that Catholic bloggers are even debating whether the Little (Weird) Town on the Homeschool Model of Catholic Education or the Lord of the Flies Public School Model of Catholic Education (with supplements by the parish religious ed. department) is better is proof of one big truth that tends to get overlooked: neither of these models would be necessary were it not for the sad failure of diocesan Catholic education in our times.
When I was a sophomore in high school, my parents committed an act of great sanity and lucidity by pulling all of their children out of our Catholic schools and commencing upon the grand adventure called Catholic homeschooling. They did this for one simple reason: as good Catholics, they had been brought up to believe that Catholic kids went to Catholic schools, full stop. Even with the rising costs of education, even with several moves across and around the country, even with a family that eventually grew to include nine children, my parents made tremendous and even heroic sacrifices to educate our family in the Catholic schools--only to learn, at a rather late date, that the schools in question were no longer authentically Catholic at all.
We didn't learn history or literature from a Catholic perspective. Religion class was weak and spotty, sometimes scheduled less frequently than gym. Our school Masses were few and far between, and we went whole years without being offered the chance to go to confession in our schools. Our science courses were taught from a secular humanist perspective that crossed the line from pure science into ideology all the time (some texts poked open fun at the "ancient" people and their "superstition" that a Divine Force was involved in setting the mechanisms of creation going). Our high school health class included lessons on how to use contraception and what kinds to buy--and when a few of us actual Catholics objected, the "Catholic" teacher snapped, "This is health. Take that stuff up with your religion teacher."
And for all that, my parents were doing without on a shoestring, one-income budget; and their money invested in "Catholic" education was fraudulently swindled away from them by these hucksters and harridans who handed out scorpions and screamed at us to call them bread.
I didn't choose to homeschool because I hate and fear public schools. I chose to homeschool because I take my duty as a Catholic parent to provide my children with a Catholic education very seriously. Perhaps Catholic schools are improving (though the stories I hear from those who use them aren't encouraging), but they remain ridiculously expensive where I live. Had I chosen, instead, to make use of the public schools my life would be harder, as I would have felt the need to create my own supplements to give my children a Catholic perspective in the humanities as well as supplemental Catholic ethics (especially in high school) to combat the dehumanizing sex education and the forays by the science texts into areas that properly belong to philosophy and about which science ought to keep its arrogant mouth shut. And that's before we even talk about the necessary entanglements with parish-based religious education programs, a subject which makes some Catholics weep openly and gnash their teeth, but which is properly saved for another blog post.
So for me, the easiest, simplest, best and most affordable way to make sure my kids are getting a Catholic education (not just an "education") was to homeschool them. Other people will choose the "public school and supplement" model. Still others may have actual not-horrible not-heretical Catholic schools in their areas to choose from, whose tuitions don't require Mom to stash the youngest kids in day care and get a full-time job in order to be able to afford the price. It's just not fair, though, to admit on the one hand that public schools are hardly perfect, are not a panacea, and do not fulfill, on their own, a parent's serious obligation to provide his children with a Catholic education, and then to insinuate on the other hand that many or most Catholics who homeschool make the decision out of disdain, disgust, and fear. Most of us are making that decision for the same reason the public-school families make theirs: the Catholic schools have failed us, and in the vacuum left behind, we're all still scrambling for workable solutions to the failed, but once-great, model of diocesan Catholic education.
[RED CARDIGAN IS THE BLOGGER: GEOFF APPEARS TO BE A PASSING ATHEIST TROLL. THEIR EXCHANGE BRINGS OUT AN IMPORTANT DISTINCTION]
We didn't learn history or literature from a Catholic perspective.
This is an interesting observation that I'd invite you to expand on a little bit. What exactly does it mean?
Do you exclude those parts of history that might portray Catholicism in a bad light, like the actions of the Inquisition against the conversos? Or does it mean that you present events like, for instance, the Crusades with a Catholic "spin", without necessarily taking into account the perspective of, say, Muslims in the Levant or German Jews?
Our science courses were taught from a secular humanist perspective that crossed the line from pure science into ideology all the time (some texts poked open fun at the "ancient" people and their "superstition" that a Divine Force was involved in setting the mechanisms of creation going).
As someone with a passing interest in the history of science, I'd be the last person to poke fun at ancient beliefs, no matter how bizarre (and if you read some of the pre-Socratics, you'll find some truly bizarre beliefs). But on the other hand, there are a lot of beliefs about the physical world that I would consider incidental to religious belief, but that Catholicism staked its reputation on, that turned out to be wrong. The heliocentric model is only the most well known of these.
I guess what kind of alarms me about your post is that it seems to me that there is an objective truth out there, about past events, about the nature of the universe, and that it is a truth that we can divine through empirical methods.
So is that what your reaction is against? Are you trying to teach your children an epistemology based on religious authority rather than empiricism? Because if that's the case, I think you do your children a disservice. One, moreover, that may bring some of them to resent religion as they grow older.
October 27, 2013 at 1:58 PM
Red Cardigan said...
Geoff, what I'm talking about is a bit simpler than that. To give an example, some history books out there talk about the founding of America without ever mentioning the different religious groups that came here seeking religious freedom or why those groups were unable to practice their faiths in their home countries; some books pretend that there was never any anti-Catholic prejudice in America, etc. I steer clear of any "triumphalist" histories that try to present Catholics as always in the right, but at the same time I'm driven to frustration by books (especially for the younger grades) which say things like "The Pilgrims came to America seeking freedom," without ever discussing what sort of freedom they thought was important. The thing is, you can't discuss history without getting into religion quite a bit, but many secular textbooks downplay the role of religion (all religion, not just Catholicism) generally in historical events while focusing on economic and political aspects of those events. When religion is brought up, it is usually as a negative thing that causes wars (which explains why so many educated people today are astonished to learn that in terms of sheer numbers far more people in the 20th century perished at the hands of atheism than of religion).
As for science, the Catholic Church has no trouble with science doing what science does, and neither do I. The kinds of books I had a problem with were the kinds that said things like "Because we now know that the universe was not created, science has given people a better understanding than the ancient people with their superstitious beliefs had..." etc. It is science's job to figure out *how* the universe came into being from a material perspective, but that's it. It is NOT science's job to dismiss the idea that there is a Creator, or to dabble in philosophy, any more than it is science's job to analyze poetry.
(And if the Church was really hung up on geocentrism to the point of "staking its reputation" on it, why did they have no problem at all with Copernicus?)
October 27, 2013 at 8:53 PM
I find it fascinating that some of the biggest cheerleaders of closing down the Catholic schools that are left are Catholic homeschoolers. Don't worry Erin, you will get your wish sooner rather than later.
October 28, 2013 at 4:01 PM
Elena LaVictoire said...
I read Steve Kellmeyer's book and it is excellent. I totally agree with his premise that Catholic Schools won't make it simply because by current design they simply can't.
October 28, 2013 at 6:51 PM
Red Cardigan said...
I don't want Catholic schools to close, MK. I want them to reform. I want them to kick government mandates to the curb and go back to offering authentic Catholic education, which used to be academically superior to what the public schools offered. I want them to figure out new, creative ways to offer this education in an affordable way so that Catholic schools won't just be ritzy private schools "in the Catholic tradition," which means almost nothing in terms of imparting faith and morals. And I'd like to see, instead of lists showing percentages of students who go on to receive four, six, or eight years of college education, lists showing how many students remain Catholic. That's one metric no Catholic school dares to share: the percent of graduates who are still Catholic within ten years of graduation. I have a feeling it's dismal.
October 28, 2013 at 6:59 PM...............
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