Why a Catholic Education?
When families can enroll their child in a free public school or spend money on other area private schools, they might overlook an exceptional option that promises more than just superior academics and competitive athletics. Catholic schools excel in both those areas but they offer something that other schools cannot simply because of their smaller size and Christian mission: they challenge and cherish each young person in an intentional and personal way. And, most importantly, they issue more than a diploma on graduation day.
Pope Francis inspired when he said, “Our generation will show that it can rise to the promise found in each young person when we know how to give them space. This means that we have to create the material and spiritual conditions for their full development; to give them a solid basis on which to build their lives; to guarantee their safety and their education to be everything they can be.“ (World Youth Day, 2013)
How do we best create these “material and spiritual” conditions? How do we provide children a solid basis upon which to build their lives? By encouraging them to access Catholic education.
Never before has a young generation needed Catholic education more than it does now. Young people of all ages- preschool age to young adults- are discovering a different world than their parents. Media, technology, the Internet represent three massive shifts in the way children now acquire information. Implementing and integrating technological tools into the classroom is part and parcel to providing an education that guarantees students the necessary competencies to comfortably whirl in a global world. And we are proud that Catholic schools continue to outperform public schools in technology and engineering assessments.* But ensuring that each child has the academic preparedness to succeed at the next level is only part of the journey. Testing the mind and challenging the body are two vital pieces to a child’s formation, yes. But it is the third piece of the pie- the development of the child’s character, his/her core- that successfully serves the child time and time again throughout the course of his/her life.
Gen Z’ers are growing up in a world with two lives, both equally as real: digital (through social media) and analog (in person.) In their digital lives, they try and maintain an image. They paint pictures of their lives and their selves through social media posts. They scale their attractiveness against who and what they see on Instagram, VSCO, etc. They’re tempted to judge their human value on the number of “likes” or “followers” (invisible disciples some of whom they have never met in real life.) They “meet” their peers online, communicate feelings with emoticons, and dialogue by abbreviated language.
The impact of digital technologies on children’s emotional well-being, particularly regarding fear, anxiety, and depression, is a growing concern. Digital media use has contributed to their lack of emotion-regulations skills which causes anxiety. Their social behaviors (once characterized by gathering at the mall or going to parties) has been widely supplanted with staying home and engaging in around-the-clock social media use. This avoidance of social interaction leads to their feeling inadequately connected, which can lead to further anxiety and depression. And, of course, everyone knows the dangers involved with cyberbullying and related behavior that are linked with digital media use and depression.
Digital media use isn’t going away. But ensuring that each child is instructed in proper balance, reminded of their God-given intrinsic value, and supported during the school day is more vital than ever for their overall health.
Catholic schools challenge and cherish each child in a very personalized way. They provide a culture of trust, compassion and positivity. Young people must feel safe in order to learn- safe to be him/herself, safe to follow a yet unexplored interest, safe to voice an unpopular opinion. Developing minds needs to express their youthful idealism in a way that is nurtured and encouraged. The mission of Catholic schools is to remind children that their voice is their best and most powerful communication tool, not just in the classroom but in the world. And that each of them is being called to a greater purpose.
Catholic schools provide more than just superior academics. In a world of increasing societal tumult, they also offer children a place of stability and a positive self-perception. Small class size and intentional attentiveness to each student helps young people navigate through unparalleled adolescent challenges; it prepares them for a future not yet designed but one that clearly seems poised to challenge them to adapt quickly to new and innovative career choices.
One of the prevailing untrue myths surrounding Catholic education is that it is not affordable. It is! Catholic schools go to great lengths to open their doors to every family who seeks admission. Encouraging families to pick up the phone or knock on the door is the challenge. Without an inquiry, there can be no conversation.
An earnest dialogue can lead to a lifelong positive outcome. Like other schools, Catholic schools’ alumni databases are chock full with stories of achievements, accomplishments, and successes. And not just success stories as defined by annual income or post-graduate degrees (although these are many). The criteria for "success" for Catholic school graduates is also measured by their understanding of morals, values, and virtues. Classroom conversations around doctrine, precepts, and principles prepare students to live a life of integrity and to choose equilibrium over chaos. On graduation day, each student will have been introduced to a faith that will comfort them in times of trial and provide them hope in times of despair. And they will have been reminded at every level of their innate value and their inherent worth.
With all the many options, why invest in a Catholic education? Because when the last school bell rings, Catholic school graduates walk away with more than just a swinging tassel that acknowledges their passing GPA. Their minds will have triumphed over rigorous academics, their bodies will have leapt through personal challenges, and, most importantly, their souls will have been recognized and cherished as uniquely designed gifts.
In other words, each child will have encountered God's infinite love.
And that is a return on investment unlike any other.
*(National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Technology and Engineering Literacy (TEL), April 2019.)
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