Every day we experience sloppy performance in manual, clerical, and bureaucratic work. "Much of it is slow, late, inaccurate, and inefficient, either from lack of training or from lack of caring or both." Why bother? Why knock yourself out?
Tuchman concedes that America has some superb schools, public and private, but the dominant tendency in them is toward non-quality. "Education for the majority has deteriorated for want of demanding effort." Put another way, we settle for less when we should be aiming for more. Again, why knock yourself out?
A prevailing attitude has seeped in to both teaching and learning. Children, it is argued, should not be corrected for fear of harming their self-esteem. Competition is bad. Learning must be fun. Students must be allowed to study whatever they like; therefore, courses are listed as electives. Read the curriculum, and you will see how little is required by way of substance. Children are permitted to fritter away their time instead of learning the discipline of studying.
More in The Way of Beauty
Quality in Teaching the Catholic Faith
The Church will not have an intelligent, well-informed, and devout adult membership if we do not proclaim the beauty of the faith to our students, and to others, for that matter. And it is beautiful: the beauty of men and women as images of God, the beauty of prayer and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and through him the Father and the Holy Spirit, the beauty of our Creed and sacraments, especially Eucharist and Reconciliation, the beauty of living the liturgical year, the church's 'year of grace,' lifelong devotion to the Mother of God and St. Joseph who willingly assumed their roles in the history of our redemption. Our children must be taught personal piety that is integrated within the Body of Christ.
"Why can't the English teach their children how to speak?"
In the musical, "My Fair Lady," there is a song that pokes fun at those whose native language is English: While the English can't teach their children how to speak, "the Scots and the Irish leave you close to tears. There are even places where English completely disappears. In American, they haven't used it in years!"
The next privilege in providing a quality education to our students is to teach them good communication skills. Developing a love for reading makes their world grow larger. The mechanics of proper speaking and writing are more essential than ever at a time when proper English is well under assault in social media. What does it mean to be well spoken? It includes proper diction, the choice and use of grammatically-correct words and phrases in speech and writing. Clear enunciation avoids swallowing words and garbled speech, as so many do on television news programs. Teaching quality communication skills will prove to be a gift for the future success of our students.
In the musical, "My Fair Lady," Professor Henry Higgins places marbles in the mouth of Eliza Doolittle to improve her pronunciation from unintelligible cockney to that of an English lady.
His action recalls the fourth-century orator Demosthenes, who as a young man, suffered from a speech impediment. It may have been a stutter or an inability to pronounce the "r" sound, or both. He devised a series of exercises for himself to improve his speech by practicing with stones in his mouth. This forced him to work extra hard at getting the sounds out with clear diction. When his diction became clearer, he discarded the stones and found he was able to enunciate must more effectively than before. He also practiced reciting speeches over the roar of the ocean waves.
(Column continues below)
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Professor Higgins prods Eliza, entreats Eliza: "Think of what you're trying to accomplish. Think of what you're dealing with-the majesty and grandeur of the English language-the language of Shakespeare and Milton. It's the greatest possession we have. The noblest thoughts that ever flowed through the hearts of men are contained in its extraordinary imaginative and musical mixture of sounds. And that's what you've set out to conquer, Eliza. And conquer you will."
And conquer she did. Eliza Doolittle was transformed from a common flower girl with a Cockney accent into a radiant "Hungarian princess" who spoke beautifully and impressed the dignitaries at the ball.
Hard work, a labor of love, and a new life for Eliza and for Henry.
This article is part of a series on Catholic education. To read the first part of this series, click here.