Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Catholic School Values

I don't know if this will come out right, but here goes. My kids go to a decent Catholic school. They go to Mass twice a week and are reasonably well-prepared (by they school - I do my part as their primary catechist) to receive the Sacraments. It's not like it's a "bad" place.

But having said that, it's not like it's a great place either. What I've found in four years there, is that aside from the opportunity to go to Mass, there is little to identify the school as something special. In fact, the local public school seems to be more family-focused than our Catholic school! A couple of examples:

We always start on a Wednesday. For decades, those first three days were half-days. But for the last two, they've switched to full days. I don't care so much that they changed it, as I do why they changed it. The principal made the decision because she had so many parents complaining that they had to rearrange work schedules to accomodate their own children. Now, I understand that in some families, both parents have to work. But this is just one more way that we've changed our identity to accomodate those with secular values. While some of the families have to do it to get by, many others just do it drive a Lexus, or "keep my sanity".

Another thing is the way that parents are pushed away from the school. At the public school, parent-helpers are invited in to assist the teachers with class parties and projects. Not at our Catholic school! Parties are off limits for parents. One teacher explained that some of the kids would get upset that their mom had to work and couldn't be there. So we don't let any come?! At what point is the kid going to have to understand that either mom is making a sacrifice to serve the family in another way, or that she just would prefer the extra cash that comes in from that second job? We make sacrifices so that my wife can stay home, partly to be available for these kinds of things. As a convert, I thought we were trying to live out traditional, Catholic values. And again, I make a distinction between those that must work and those that choose to.

At a recent "Mother's Club" meeting, the audience was reminded that Christmas break would be a little longer this year, a full two weeks. The response? A collective groan. I don't get it. What kind of mother wouldnt' want to have that extra time with their children? Instead, they sit around and complain about it. These are the same moms who want to be "involved" in everything, and compete to sign up for room mother, and have their name linked with as much as they can, but when it comes down to it, they only want the school to offer activities that suit their schedule, and complain when they have to slip back into the role of parent. It's funny, only a few are available to assist with the Reading Program, but when a field trip pops up, all of a sudden everyone is able to get off of work and expects that they and their clicque will be the chosen few who get to chaperone.

I've been on the parish Board of Education for five years now, but that's just an exercise in futility. In two years as Chair, I couldn't enlist another soul to help make some minor changes. The principal runs the school, which she usually does a good job of. Kind of like a benevolent dictator. But that just means there's no accountability. The pastor thinks she does a great job, so he doesn't seem to question anything.

I guess I just need to get over it, or be more patient. And believe me, I try. But it's just when I see some of these simple, basic things - about putting family first, or not watering down sacramental prep - I just have a hard time with it. Maybe that's just something converts have to learn to accept. I hope not.


a thorn in the pew said...

I am dealing with a similar situation. We live quite far from the chilren's school and the money and drive time are definately a sacrifice. While I realize it is one of the "better" catholic schools, my youngest, in 2nd grade has not even started prep for first confession and first communion. This disturbs me greatly. As a child(granted, in the 70's) we started prep for our sacraments at the begining of the school year. I will be using the Baltimore for a prep for her because the school is failing on my part. I don't complain. I did it once and felt like I was being a pain so I suck it up. The principal is very good and salt of the earth. But he cannot battle every issue, he is only one person. So we may be homeschooling next year. Not because it is most desired, because we have totally run out of options and the schools here have totally lost their Catholic identity. Why pay for that? We are behind on bills, student loans and car payments trying to scrape the $ together for tuition and I feel I am doing most of the religious prepe for my kids, myself. I do not think we are alone.

Joe Schriner said...

The "collective groan" you heard from parents not wanting more time with their kids is typical these days. Kids are, often, being raised in front of TV, in front of computers... and I recently read that the amount of "quality parent/child time" each day is: eight minutes. If we don't heal the family, we're not going to heal the country... Also, I am a Campaign 2012 presidential candidate (already declared) who has developed a whole platform based on the essence of Catholic Social Teaching The time to get behind our campaign would be now, so it is viable in the year 2012. Ref: I view Joe Schriner as a fervent pro-life candidate willing to make great sacrifices for the moral betterment of our society." --Fr. Micael Scanlan, Franciscan University

Anonymous said...

But your local public school in Campbell County does a better job? In this post the school is OK, in another you violate the tenant of lying by saying meth and cocaine are in the Campbell County Schools.... Bet we can call you a hypocrite!