18 June 2015

A Complete Education: It's Catholic

In an article titled “The Goal of Classical Education is Truth” and published a few months ago in Crisis magazine, author and educator Tom Jay makes an important admission – a confession, really – when he writes, “Yet, one thing we may not do, since we are not a Catholic academy, is link the pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty to the One Who is truth, goodness, and beauty. The full reformation and redemption of education in America can only be accomplished through a Catholic academy...”

To what is he referring when he writes about the “one thing we may not do”? He refers to the so-called “classical academies” which are popping up as charter schools. And why are these charter schools unable to make the link between the truth which they strive to teach, with the God Who is Truth? It is because charter schools are public schools.

There are parents who are enticed by these public charter schools, and understandably so. After all, they’re free, aren’t they? Well...yes...they are free in the sense that they are paid for by money which has been filtered through the government, with all the attached government restrictions about any mention of God and the Faith.

“But I can teach my kids their religion, and the school can teach them everything else,” is the response of many parents. Of course parents can teach religion to their children – and not only can they, but they should be teaching the Faith to their children – it is a great part of their parental responsibility! No, the bigger issue with a school which must exclude God and the Faith from what is taught, is that it is impossible to teach the full truth without God and the Faith being in the mix.

If you were required to eat food which had most of the vitamins and all the flavor boiled out of it before you ate it, would you think you were receiving a healthy diet? Probably not. If your child is being taught history and literature and the great thoughts of mankind, with all reference to God and to the revealed and living Catholic faith being eliminated, would that be a complete and balanced education? Definitely not. And even with conscientious parents filling in the gaps, it’s a bit like trying to add a missing ingredient after a cake has come out of the oven.

There is a short document with a long name which came out of the Second Vatican Council. It is called Gravissimum educationis and it was promulgated on October 28, 1965 by Pope Paul VI, following approval by the assembled bishops.

It is an important document because it contains the Church’s teaching about education – particularly the essential place of Catholic schools – and it discusses the combined responsibilities of the Church and of parents.

It begins by stating the universal right of everyone to receive an education, and this right is extended to the Faithful in a special way, in that it should be a Christian education. The Council Fathers make it clear that parents are to be recognized as “the primary and principal educators” with the particular responsibility of creating “a family atmosphere animated by love and respect for God and man, in which the well-rounded personal and social education of children is fostered.” In fact, the document states that “the family is the first school of the social virtues that every society needs.”

The Council Fathers then observe that the family “which has the primary duty of imparting education needs the help of the whole community.” As parents carry out the duty of educating their children, they entrust a share of this work to others who can assist them, and it is made clear that “in a special way, the duty of educating belongs to the Church, not merely because she must be recognized as a human society capable of educating, but especially because she has the responsibility of announcing the way of salvation to all men, of communicating the life of Christ to those who believe, and, in her unfailing solicitude, of assisting men to be able to come to the fullness of this life.” In fact, the bishops make it clear that “the Church is bound as a mother to give to these children of hers an education by which their whole life can be imbued with the spirit of Christ...”

In this sacred duty of the Church to assist parents with the education of their children, the Council Fathers state that “among all educational instruments the school has a special importance.”

The bishops go on to say: “The Council also reminds Catholic parents of the duty of entrusting their children to Catholic schools wherever and whenever it is possible and of supporting these schools to the best of their ability and of cooperating with them for the education of their children.”

When it comes to the education of our precious children, there is no such thing as “free.” There is always a price to be extracted, and that price must not be at the expense of the fullness of Truth. Giving our children a Catholic education in a school which includes daily participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, with ready access to a priest for the Sacrament of Confession as well as spiritual counsel, all in a setting in which God is not an external Unmentionable, but rather is the daily Presence which animates all that we do and say, is something that truly is priceless – that is, without price.