Matt Archbold graduated from Saint Joseph’s University in 1995. He is a former journalist who left the newspaper business to raise his five children. He writes for the Creative Minority Report.
I have been looking at different Catholic high schools for my 8th grader. So we went on the tours and she “shadowed” (which is to say, attended for a day) at several schools and I met many people in the administration. I have to say, that as someone who is concerned about Catholic education the results have been a bit disheartening.
The first tour I went on, the first person the school had everyone meet was an elderly nun in a wheelchair. Nice woman. I’m still unsure what her responsibilities at the school were but she was very nice. Other than her I don’t think there was anything else there to indicate the school was Catholic at all except the crucifixes on the classroom walls. We were given a tour by two students who showed my daughter the gym and the weight room for about a half an hour and we passed by the library and the chapel as if they didn’t exist. We just so happened to pass the chapel, however, as the chaplain was going in. I asked him about the frequency of students attending Mass and I still haven’t worked out what he said. I’d have to assume not often.
Downstairs, all the clubs were gathered in the cafeteria. While all the clubs had students and parents waiting there to answer questions, the one club that didn’t have anybody there was the Respect Life club. That told me plenty.
At the next school, the president of the school was a real affable guy. When I asked him about infusing faith in academics he actually said, “we have all that stuff.” Seriously. And I’m pretty sure he meant that to be assuring. On the other hand to be fair, the students said a prayer at the beginning of every class. That was a little comforting.
At one of the other schools where my daughter “shadowed,” a theology teacher showed “Frosty the Snowman” as a lesson on a Catholic understanding of friendship. You know, that might be ok for third graders but not high school. Come on. It’s not like the Catholic Church hasn’t had anything to say about loving one’s neighbor and all. We shouldn’t have to depend on Frosty for that.
The final school we looked at was not an archdiocesan school. It was a private Catholic school founded by an order of nuns. I knew nothing about it but figured we’d take a look. I told my pastor that we were checking it out and he flatly told us that if we sent our daughter there for school he would lay down in the driveway to prevent us from going there. He said even if we ran him over and didn’t kill him, he’d park himself at the bottom of my driveway in his wheelchair the next day. I told him that was enough of a review for us and thanked him for his subtlety.
I have to assume that many of you are going through similar issues. It’s pretty darn depressing out there folks.