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Not All Faithful Catholics Attend Catholic Schools

Much like the debate on Attachment Parenting, the discussion of Catholic school vs. public school vs. home school can hit some nerves. On his blog, Rich Leonardi laments the rising tuition at Catholic schools and how it is making a Catholic education unaffordable for so many families. One response was from a well-meaning gentleman named John who described the significant sacrifices he and his family made in order to afford the tuition for their five children. While his story is admirable I detected an underlying message of “If you are really Catholic, you will make the sacrifices.” I don’t know that John was really trying to send that message but a following anonymous poster certainly was:

If you can drive demand you should be able to lower cost. Applying some praise to the "Johns" of the world and some Catholic guilt to the parents sending kids to the public schools is certainly in bounds.

Or how about this response:

On the margins cases exist where the public school is the better fit - learning disability, opportunity to attend a magnet school (fine arts, etc.), severe financial distress.

However, by and large my experience has been that folks are unwilling to give up the pro team tickets or the once a month to Saks. There could be some great family bonding going on during these trips - but there is no harm in asking these folks to seriously think about this choice.
Less a question of fairness – more one of does the shoe fit.

That being said the chance a sermon will ever challenge someone to value a Catholic education over pro sports tickets is as unlikely as one gently questioning voting for a pro-abortion candidate. As such, this is by and large a mute issue.

Excuse me? Catholic guilt for sending my children to public schools? I don’t think so. My response to “anonymous” in the com box was:

I think you are being very unfair by insinuating that Catholic parents should feel guilty for not sending their children to Catholic schools. It is incorrect to assume that Catholic parents who utilize public schools are too lazy to sacrifice and just don't value their faith enough to send their children to Catholic schools. It is this very attitude that turns the parish CCD program into an afterthought of parish religious education because "Those families aren't really Catholic or they would send their children to Catholic schools." The truth is faithful Catholics choose public schools for very legitimate reasons. This parental decision should be respected and supported.

I might also add that over the last twenty years I have had children in public schools, private secular schools, and Catholic schools depending on the military assignment and the family circumstances. I never found that I was more likely to find more faithful Catholic families or more Cafeteria Catholic families in one setting than the other. The only group I have seen that seems to be more consistently faithful is the Catholic home schoolers.

In spite of this reality, the parish perception persists that the “real Catholic families support the Catholic schools.” Of course, this brings me back to my never-ending rant that when a parish has a parish school the CCD program gets short changed. I suppose I shouldn’t say never-ending rant. I am seeing hints of progress in my own parish. But as long as the bias that public school families are somehow “second-class Catholics” remains ingrained in our parish communities, the struggle will continue.


Anonymous said…
Have you read "Designed to Fail, Catholic Education in America" by Steve Kellmeyer? If you have, what are your thoughts about it?

Catholic Mom said…
I have not read this. However, it looks like a title I should investigate. Thanks.
Anonymous said…
Please read it! I found it on Amazon. It is very interesting.

Michelle said…
I chose to homeschool because the Catholic school belonging to my parish was not so very Catholic. Religion was just one more subject. Your teacher was not necessarily Catholic, and if (s)he was, there was no guarantee that (s)he was on board with the teachings of the Church. They attended daily mass on Holy Days of Obligation, but no other day.

There was a private Catholic school in the area that I heard, after I had begun homeschooling, was very good and had an authentic Catholic culture. It would have meant a half-hour commute in traffic, and I had already grown accumstomed to homeschool.

I think those who think everyone should use Catholic schools are in areas where the schools are good. They need to realize that this is not the case throughout the country. And even if it were, it is sad to think that people feel that name-calling and criticizing are acceptable Christian behaviors towards those who choose otherwise.
Anonymous said…
When my oldest two children attended our parish school, I too, was guilty of feeling superior to the public school parents. I just knew that we were doing what was right. But God had other plans for us. My third child had a severe learning disability and the parish school could not help her. I reluctantly enrolled her in our local public school's "early intervention program". I was immediately floored by the dedication of the staff and the loving acceptance of our daughter. And, to top that off, they were able to help her! She thrived there, and continues to thrive. In fact, I saw more Christian charity at the public school than I did with my parish school. So, we withdrew the older two children and sent them to the public school. I began homeschooling my children in religious education. Sometimes you don't know what you are missing until you find it somewhere else.
Anonymous said…
Good comments here!
I teach at a private Catholic school. One of my observations is that we definitely do have a small number of parents who seem to feel that they are sending their kids to Catholic school "that religion thing" is taken care of. I feel like they are here for the power of prestige.
They are here to be able to take family vacations whenever they please because, after all, they are PAYING for this education and they shouldn't have those pesky attendance rules. Unfortunately, the select (very wealthy) few do get special treatment. (Our executive director's kids being in that category).
Sorry to post anonymously but I could lose my job if this was traced back to me.

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