Sep 3, 2014
In the late second century, Cyril of Alexandria established a catechetical school in Egypt, the first of its kind. In addition to theology and philosophy, its curriculum included science, mathematics, logic, Greek and Roman literature, and the arts. The best and brightest pedagogues were invited to teach there. The so-called dark Middle Ages were not as dark as skeptics would have us believe. The facts report that the Church established universities and centers of learning and of attracting prominent scholars to lecture there.
Early in this country’s history, the Franciscan and Dominican friars sought to evangelize those whom they found in native America. In colonial days when the anti-Catholic bias was actively in play, there were no schools to serve Catholics who had transplanted themselves to a new country. Today, the Church teaches 3 million students a day in its more than 250 colleges and universities, in its more than 1,200 high schools, and its more than 5,000 elementary school.
Despite the rising costs of Catholic education, studies consistently find that Catholic-school students do better than their public-school counterparts in reading, writing, verbal skills, and mathematics. However, education in art and music remains a pressing need that must be addressed. The drop-out rates are lower than those in public schools. This success is due in large measure to the cooperation among educators, administrators, and families of students.
At the beginning of this new school year, every student, whether in a school overtly Catholic or in a public or charter school, must again grapple with perennial questions of life. Why am I here? How shall I live? What gives meaning to my life? What is the purpose of my studies—to get a degree, earn a fine name, a fine position? Then, what? What does God expect of me? In non-sectarian schools, these questions are only implied lest they be interpreted as religiously-motivated. Additional questions confront teachers: Why have I chosen the profession of teaching? Is it a job? Or, is it a vocation with the splendid responsibility of forming human beings in the best way I know? Aren’t our students temples of God, unfinished symphonies, gardens of budding flowers? Aren’t they God’s works of art in-the-making even when they misbehave?