“Should I send my child to a Catholic School?”
This question perhaps comes into the mind and heart of a non-Catholic parent wondering if they should send their child to a Catholic school.
It is likely that if you were to ask a Catholic friend this question, and you were looking for an actual reason, they would struggle coming up with an answer. Most would probably make reference to the high academic standards of the school, while minimizing the religion classes to “boring” or “watered down.”
I, a Catholic, also have struggled with how to answer this question myself. Hoping for watered down theology never seems to be a well-placed hope for a Christian. Settling for having your child sit through a few boring lectures on morality probably does not satisfy either, no matter what your spiritual outlook might be. I have spent a lot of time thinking about this question and want to attempt an answer.
Not just a mind
The fact that a Catholic School, like Mount de Sales, excels in its academic programs is almost a given. Ample research and various brochures attest to the rigorous, yet formative, intellectual standards to which students are exposed.
High GPAs and an overwhelming amount of colleges attended are badges Catholic schools wear proudly! They catch our eyes, and they are what students should strive for!
The question then arises…
“What environment is my child exposed to during their studies?”
While excelling in mathematics, an excellent achievement, a child being reduced to a number is not the desire of any parent. We want our child to be shaped, loved as a person not just a mind. This is where the Catholic nature of the school could be a comfort, not an obstacle.
Catholic school values
The goal of every Catholic school is to radiate the love of Jesus Christ. The values of the Gospel are the same for any Christian, because they are based on the same Jesus.
The inherent dignity of every individual student is not just typed into the school’s mission statement but taught in classrooms and expressed by every teacher! Their goal is to have the student encounter God, Who is Goodness and Love, and to recognize they are made in His image. The exposure to particularly Catholic styles of worship and thought are not intended for the conversion of the student, but as an insight into Christian experience that traces its roots back two thousand years.
The Catholic school approach to academics is unique, not only in outstanding achievements, but also by the light that our theology courses shine on all of our other courses. Our theology courses do not strive to present Jesus as just an academic subject. What they do is actually reveal the beautiful and important aspects of all academics to the student.
We strive to show academics as important and that they are actually holy. God made the world and that world shines with God’s fingerprints. Studying those fingerprints (the different sciences) might just point us to God. When we see that they are God’s fingerprints, we also might begin to take them a little more seriously than we did before!
What we want for our children
For our children, we want academic achievement, we want livelihoods, but most importantly we want lives!
We want them to be smart but also wise, both to who they are and why they are important. The Catholic school helps the students gain this wisdom by exploring, not only the typical school courses in depth with the student, but by allowing the student to encounter Christ through their studies!
Of course, all of my thoughts here only show a way to view Catholic education, not solutions to particular questions that a parent might have. These questions are good, and should be brought to the teachers of the Catholic school, especially those who teach theology. The teachers want to express what they teach not only to the students, but also to you!
It is this emphasis not on academic learning alone, but on the insight into the potential for happiness and greatness of each student that should encourage non-Catholic parents to send their children to a Catholic school.
By Patrick Tunnell, Upper School Instructor in Theology 2 and Faith and Reason