The Virtues of Catholic Schools
What do Nobel Laureates Elfreide Jelinek, Doris Lessing, Jane Addams, Emily Greene Balch, Nadine Gordimer, Mother Teresa and Aung San Suukyi, Heads of State Maria Lourdes de Pintasilgo, Hanna Suchocka, Yingluck Shinawatra, Mary Robinson, Mary McAlesse, Portia Simpson Miller, Dilma Rousseff and Jerry Brown, Condoleezza Rice, Phyllis Schlafly, Matt Leinert, Matt Barkley, Bernard Parks, Kenneth Hahn, Neil Clarke Warren, Ernesto Perez Ballardes and Jose Napoleon have in common?
They are all graduates of Catholic schools and colleges.
Catholic Schools around the world are based on specific guidelines. The emphasis on academics and self-discipline begins in preschool. The curriculum in Los Angeles, Chicago, Sao Paolo or Dublin is similar. It is in the tradition of a classical liberal arts education: demanding and comprehensive. English literature includes Plato, Chaucer, Homer, Byron, Keats, Faulkner, Melville, Milton, Shakespeare, Steinbeck and Twain.
A typical K-12 syllabus introduces mathematical concepts and logic in pre-school with a progression to calculus and philosophy in high school. To graduate four years each of math, English, science, foreign language and history are required.
A glance at the syllabus for the Jesuit High School in Carmichael, California, Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Minneapolis or the schools in the Archdiocese of Denver will dispel any notion of comparability with the public school. At Cristo Rey, the 9th grade curriculum includes English composition, algebra I or geometry, physical science, religion, principles of math and language, physical education/health and 20 hours of community service. In 12th grade, it includes English IV, Pre-calculus or calculus, physics, religion IV, government/economics in addition to community service, college counseling and internship.
American literature and world literature, American history and world history, biology and chemistry and Spanish I and II are included in 10th and 11th grade. B is an adequate grade. C is sub-standard. Any F must be repeated and passed. There are no social promotions.
We will review the data and discuss the reasons Catholic schools provide such a superb education. The hope is that those factors can be incorporated into the public school system and improve the students’ performance.
The development and the content of the curriculum, salaries and annual teacher performance reviews are the purview of the school superintendent, principal and faculty. As Cai Yuanpei, the founder of China’s modern education system counseled at the turn of the 20th century, education must be above politics. The NEA and CTA teachers unions have no foothold in the Catholic schools.
The main purpose of education is to inform and enlighten young minds, not to become the vehicle of liberal politics. Education scholars William Damon, Cornelius Riordan and Leonard Sax report that topics such as multiculturalism, gender politics and revisionist history account for 50% of the public school curriculum. No such indoctrination has a place in Catholic school classrooms. As an added bonus, tuition is often considerably less than that for public or private schools.
The following facts and statistics taken from the literature should persuade even inveterate sceptics. Sources are cited in the footnotes. 94% of Catholic school graduates in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee pursue higher education. In the Archdiocese of Brooklyn, 99% of students graduate within four years; 98% go on to college. More than 63% of these students are minorities .
Latino and African American students who attend Catholic schools are more likely to graduate from high school and more likely to graduate from college than their public school peers. More than 80% of students in the Archdiocese of Denver are minorities. 97% graduate from high school.
Compared with their public-school counterparts, more than twice as many minority Catholic-school graduates from urban areas finish college: 27 percent of the minority Catholic-school graduates finish college, while only 11 percent of minority public-school graduates receive their degrees.
Social class and status do not handicap a minority student’s academic performance in Catholic school. Multiply disadvantaged kids benefit most from Catholic schools. The poorer and more at-risk a student is, the greater the relative achievement gains compared to public school peers. A number of the Nobel Laureates and world heads of state come from poor, single parent or minority families .
Xerox CEO Ursula Burns, Heads of State Dame Perlette Louisy of St. Lucia, Portia Simpson Miller of Jamaica, Michaelle Jean of Canada, Dame Jennifer Smith of Bermuda and Nobel Laureates Toni Morrison and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf are all Black women who were raised in abject poverty, most in dysfunctional or single-parent homes who were educated in Catholic schools and colleges.
We do not advocate replacement of public schools by Catholic Schools but we strongly recommend their serious consideration by Catholic and non-Catholic parents alike. Non-Catholics now represent 25-33 percent of the student body in many large urban Archdioceses. The benefits from enrollment in all-girls Catholic schools and colleges have been compellingly documented in the previous paragraph .
The deliberate focus on and normalization of sexual promiscuity, abortion and illegitimacy in public schools is directly correlated with poor achievement and excessive dropouts. The virtue of catholic schools is its deliberate focus on academics, athletics and the traditional virtues such as morality, responsibility, continence and competition. Athletics is an important component of the curriculum. The list of professional athletes in basketball and baseball who are graduates of Catholic high schools and colleges is impressive. The three Heisman Trophy winners from Mater Dei High School in Corona del Mar and seven from Notre Dame, and the numbers of professional athletes who are graduates of Catholic schools is a Who’s Who of the NFL., NBA and Major League
The Catholic school curriculum is parochial. It is narrowly restricted to the rigorous classical model of the Three R’s, not gender politics, multiculturalism, social and sexual indoctrination and revisionist politics. It is the antithesis of the anti-intellectual, anti-American politicized curriculum in many of America’s public schools, especially in California.
Coupled with strong parental commitment, structure and discipline, this is the virtue of Catholic schools and the reason for their great success. It is the model that has existed in the United States since its founding (Harvard, Yale and Princeton were founded as Christian schools) and responsible for the enviable success of its education system.
When graduates from Catholic Schools can become Nobel Laureates, presidents and prime ministers and valedictorians at Harvard College, the results speak for themselves. Judge for yourself.
R. Claire Friend, MD, is the editor of the UC Irvine Quarterly Journal of Psychiatry. She is a retired psychiatrist and frequent commentator on the psychological dimensions of education and social welfare policies.
All-girls Catholic schools and colleges – Nobel Laureates
Emily Greene Balch
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Aung San Suukyi
All-girls Catholic schools and colleges – Heads of State
Maria Lourdes de Pintasilgo (Portugal)
Dilma Rousseff (Brazil)
Dr. Dame Hilda Louisa Bynoe (Grenada)
Michaelle Jean (Canada)
Hanna Suchocka (Poland)
Dame Pearlette Louisy (St. Lucia)
Dame Eugenia Charles (Dominica)
Yingluck Shinawatra (Taiwan)
Louise Agueta Lake-Tack (Antigua-Barbados)
Mary Robinson (Ireland)
Mary McAlesse (Ireland)
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Liberia)
Paula Cox (Bermuda)
Dame Jennifer Smith (Bermuda)
Portia Simpson-Miller (Jamaica)
Joyce Banda (Malawi)
Dame Elmira Minta Gordon (Belize)
Maria Philomena Libera-Peter (Dutch Antilles)
Luisa Diaz Diogo (Mozambique)
Graduates of Pepperdine University:
Neil Clark Warren
Ambassador Pierre-Richard Prosper
Graduates of University of San Diego:
Maj. Gen. Robert Bohn, USMC
Kenneth C. Koo
Carlos Bustamente, Mayor Tijuana
Graduates of Notre Dame
Ernesto Perez Ballardes (President of Panama)
Jose Napoleon Duarte (President of El Salvador)
Judge Andrew Napolitano
Graduates of Mater Dei High School