library books

Selected Reading List for Catholic K-12 Schools

Updated February 27, 2019

The following reading list is offered for use with The Cardinal Newman Society’s Literature, Library, and Media Guide for Catholic Educators.

The authors assembled this list based on their experience as educators and Catholic school administrators, and by consulting sources including schools recognized by The Cardinal Newman Society’s Catholic Education Honor Roll for their commitment to strong Catholic identity. The list suggests options for Catholic educators, but it is not exhaustive of all possible literature that might be suitable for Catholic education. Many factors must be considered when deciding which particular works should be included in a curriculum.

This list may be adopted in whole or in part by educators.

 

K-4

K-4 Fiction- General

Adapted Greek and Roman Myths

Aesop’s Fables

Bible Stories

Poetry

Folk tales

Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes

Selected Fairy Tales from Grimm

Selected Fairy Tales from Hans Christian Andersen

K-4 Titles

Adapted Greek and Roman Myths

Aesop’s Fables

A Book of Nonsense (Lear)

A Pair of Red Clogs (Matsuno)

A Seed is Sleeping (Aston)

Alexander & the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Viorst)

An Egg is Quiet (Aston)

Andy and the Circus (Daugherty)

Angus and the Ducks (Flack)

Before I Was Me (Fraser)

Blueberries for Sal (McCloskey)

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (Martin)

Caps for Sale (Slobodkina)

Charlotte’s Web (White)

Clown of God (de Paolo)

Cranberry Thanksgiving (Devlin)

Curious George Series (Rey)

Favorite Uncle Remus (Harris)

Frog and Toad Series (Lobel)

Harold and the Purple Crayon (Johnson)

Heavenly Hosts: Eucharistic Miracles for Kids (Swegart)

If You Give A Mouse A Cookie (Numeroff)

Lentil (McCloskey)

Madeline (Bemelmans)

Make Way for Ducklings (McCloskey)

Mama, Do you Love Me? (Joosse)

Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel (Burton)

Millions of Cats (Gag)

Mirette on the High Wire (McCully)

Molly McBride and the Purple Habit (Schoonover – Egolf)

Mr. Popper’s Penguins (Atwater)

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH Series (O’Brien)

Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters (Steptoe)

Nate The Great series (Sharmat)

Owl Moon (Yolen)

Papa Piccolo (Talley)

Peppe the Lamplighter (Barton)

Peter Pan (Barrie)

Rikki Tikki Tavi (Kipling)

Roses in the Snow: A Tale of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary (Jackson & Kadar-Kallen)

Saints Chronicles Series (Milgrom & Davis)

St. Clare of Assisi Runaway Rich Girl (Hee-ju)

St. George and the Dragon (Hodges)

Storm in the Night (Stolz)

The Animal Hedge (Fleishman)

The Blue Fairy Book; The Red Fairy Book (Lang)

The Bobbsey Twins (Hope)

The Children’s Book of Virtues (Bennett)

The Elves and the Shoemaker (Galdone)

The Five Chinese Brothers (Bishop & Wiese)

The Quiltmaker’s Gift (Brumbeau)

The Little Engine That Could (Piper)

The Little Flower: A Parable of Saint Therese of Lisieux (Arganbright & Arvidson)

The Little House in the Woods (Wilder)

The Moffats (Estes)

The Mystery at Midnight (Hendey)

The Princess and the Kiss (Bishop)

The Snowy Day (Keats)

The Story About Ping (Fleck & Wiese)

The Story of Ferdinand (Leaf)

The Story of Peter Rabbit (Potter)

The Trumpet of the Swan (White)

The Velveteen Rabbit (Williams)

The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Carle)

The Wind in the Willows (Grahame)

Treasure Box Set (Maryknoll Sisters)

Wee Gillis (Leaf)

Where the Wild Things Are (Sendak)

Winnie the Pooh (Milne)

Grades 5-8

Grades 5-8 Fiction Titles

7 Riddles to Nowhere (Cattapan)

A Horse and the Boy (Lewis)

A Christmas Carol (Dickens)

A Story of Joan of Arc (Earnest)

A Wrinkle in Time (L’Engle)

Ablaze: Stories of Daring Teen Saints (Swaim)

Adam of the Road (Gray)

Amos Fortune, Free Man (Yates)

Anne of Geen Gables (Montgomery)

Around the World in Eighty Days (Verne)

Beowulf: A New Telling (Nye)

Black Beauty (Sewell)

Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of the Iliad (Lee)

Blessed Marie of New France (Windeatt)

Break in the Basilica (Ahern)

Caddie Woodlawn (Brink)

Captain Courageous (Kipling)

Cyrano de Bergerac (Rostand)

Death Comes for the Archbishop (Cather)

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Stevenson)

Fingal’s Quest (Pollard)

Freckles (Porter)

Hans Brinker (Dodge)

Heidi (Spyri)

Hero of the Hills (Windeatt)

Holy Twins: Benedict and Scholastica (Norris)

Homer Price (McCloskey)

I Am David (Holm)

I, Juan de Pareja (de Trevino)

If All the Swords in England (Willard)

Johnny Tremain (Forbes)

Journey to the Center of the Earth (Verne)

Kidnapped (Stevenson)

King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table (Green)

Kon-Tiki (Heyerdahl)

Lay Siege to Heaven (de Wohl)

Legend of Sleepy Hollow (Irving)

Leif the Lucky (D’Aulaire)

Lilies of the Field (Barrett)

Little House in the Big Woods (Wilder)

Little Women; Little Men (Alcott)

Log of a Cowboy (Adams)

Lost in St. Peter’s Tomb (Ahern)

Madeline Takes Command (Brill & Adams)

Midshipman Easy; Masterman Ready (Marryat)

Misty of Chincoteague (Henry)

My Antonia (Cather)

My Side of the Mountain (George)

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Douglass)

Old Yeller (Gipson)

Our Town (Wilder)

Outlaws of Ravenhurst (Wallace)

Patron Saint of First Communicants (Windeatt)

Penrod and others (Tarkington)

Pied Piper of Hamlin (Browning)

Pygmalion (Shaw)

Radiate: More Stories of Daring Teen Saints (Swaim)

Redwall series (Jacques)

Rip Van Winkle (Irving)

Robin Hood (Pyle)

Robinson Crusoe (Defoe)

Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry (Taylor)

Saint Catherine of Siena (Forbes)

Saint Dominic (Windeatt)

Saint Hyacinth of Poland (Windeatt)

Saint John Masias (Windeatt)

Saint Martin de Porres (Windeatt)

Saint Monica (Forbes)

Saint Rose of Lima (Windeatt)

Saint Thomas Aquinas (Windeatt)

Sarah Plain and Tall (Wilder)

Secrets of Siena (Ahern)

Son of Charlemagne (Willard)

St. Benedict, Hero of the Hills (Windeatt)

St. Joan, The Girl Soldier (De Wohl)

St. Patrick (Tompert)

St. Thomas Aquinas for Children (Maritain)

Story of a Bad Boy (Aldrich)

Swallows and Amazons (Ransome)

Swiss Family Robinson (Wyss)

Tales of King Arthur (Talbott)

Tanglewood Tales (Hawthorne)

Tarzan Series (Burroughs)

The Adventures of Robin Hood (Green)

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Doyle)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Twain)

The Black Arrow (Stephenson)

The Black Cauldron (Alexander)

The Blood Red Crescent (Garnett)

The Boxcar Children (Warner)

The Bronze Bow (Speare)

The Call of the Wild (London)

The Children of Fatima (Windeatt)

The Children’s Homer (Colum)

The Chronicles of Narnia (Lewis)

The Crucible (Miller)

The Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkein)

The Hiding Place (ten Bloom)

The Hobbit (Tolkien)

The Hound of the Baskervilles (Doyle)

The Innocence of Father Brown [or others] (Chesterton)

The Island of the Blue Dolphins (O’Dell)

The Jungle Book (Kipling)

The Lord of the Rings (Tolkien)

The Last Battle (Lewis)

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (Irving)

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (Lewis)

The Little Flower (Windeatt)

The Living Wood (De Wohl)

The Miracle Worker (Gibson)

The Miraculous Medal (Windeatt)

The Phantom Tollbooth (Juster)

The Pearl (Steinbeck)

The Ransom of Red Chief and other short stories (O. Henry)

The Railway Children (Nesbit)

The Red Badge of Courage (Crane)

The Red Keep (French)

The Restless Flame (de Wohl)

The Secret Garden (Burnett)

The Song at the Scaffold (Von le Fort)

The Spear: A Novel of the Crucifixion (De Wohl)

The Story of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Walsh)

The Story of Rolf and the Viking Bow (French)

The Swiss Family Robinson (Wyss)

The Tale of Despereaux (DeCamillo)

The Trumpeter of Krakow (Kelly)

The Twenty-One Balloons (Du Bois)

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Lewis)

The Wanderings of Odysseus: The Story of the Odyssey (Lee)

The Weight of the Mass (Nobisso)

The White Stag (Seredy)

The Wind in the Willows (Grahame)

The Winged Watchman (van Stockum)

The Witch of Blackbird Pond (Speare)

The Yearling (Rawlings)

Thomas Aquinas & the Preaching Beggars (Larnen & Lomask)

Tommy Playfair (Finn)

Treasure Island (Stevenson)

Trumpeter of Krakow (Kelly)

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (Verne)

Two Years Before the Mast (Dana)

Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Stowe)

Westward Ho (Kingsley)

Where the Red Fern Grows (Rawls)

White Fang (London)

Will Wilder Series (Arroyo)

 Grades 9-12

Grades 9-12 Non-Fiction Titles (original or in translation)

Autobiography (Franklin)

Democracy in America, [selections] (de Tocqueville)

Forget Not Love: The Passion of Maximilian Kolbe (Frossad)

Funeral Oration (Pericles)

Harvard Address and/or Nobel Prize acceptance speech (Solzhenitsyn)

I Have a Dream (King)

Night (Wiesel)

Poetics, Ethics [excerpts] (Aristotle)

Self-Reliance (Emerson)

Slave Narratives (Douglass, Jacobs)

The Apology, Dialogues, Republic [excerpts] (Plato)

The Communist Manifesto (Marx)

The Declaration of Independence

The Federalist Papers [selections] (Hamilton, et. al)

The Gettysburg Address (Lincoln)

The Gulag Archipelago [abridged] (Solzhenitsyn)

The Histories [selections] (Herodotus)

The Magna Carta

The Prince (Machiavelli)

The Rights of Man (Paine)

The Rule of St. Benedict

The Social Contract (Rousseau)

The United States Constitution

Treatise on Law and excerpts from other works (Aquinas)

Grades 9-12 Fiction Titles

A Man for All Seasons (Bolt)

A Voyage Round the World (Dampier)

Aeneid [excerpts] (Virgil)

All Quiet on the Western Front (Remarque)

An Enemy of the People (Ibsen)

And Then There Were None (Christi)

Animal Farm and/or 1984 (Orwell)

Beowulf (trans. Tolkien)

Billy Budd, Bartleby the Scrivener, and other short stories (Melville)

Brideshead Revisited (Waugh)

Brothers Karamazov or Crime and Punishment (Dostoyevsky)

Canterbury Tales [excerpts] (Chaucer)

Come Rack! Come Rope! (Benson)

Death Comes for the Archbishop (Cather)

Death of a Salesman (Miller)

Diary of a Country Priest (Bernanos)

Doctor Faustus (Marlow)

Doctor Zhivago (Pasternak)

Don Quixote (Cervantes)

El Cid (Racine)

Forget Not Love: The Passion of Maximilian Kolbe (Frossad)

Frankenstein (Shelley)

Great Expectations, David Copperfield, or A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)

Gulliver’s Travels (Swift)

Hamlet, Macbeth, and if possible King Lear and others (Shakespeare)

Huckleberry Finn (Twain)

Hunchback of Notre Dame (Hugo)

Jane Eyre (Bronte)

Joan of Arc (Twain)

Kim (Kipling)

Lieutenant Hornblower Series (Forester)

Le Morte D’Arthur (Malory)

Les Miserables (Hugo)

Lord Jim (Conrad)

Lorna Doone (Blackmore)

Man in the Iron Mask (Dumas)

Metamorphoses [excerpts] (Ovid)

Mill on the Floss [others] (Eliot)

Moonstone [and others] (Collins)

My Antonia (Cather)

Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, or Antigone (Sophocles)

Old Man and the Sea (Hemingway)

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Solzhenitsyn)

Oresteia (Aeschylus) and/or Andromache or Medea (Euripides)

Paradise Lost [excerpts] (Milton)

Portrait of Lady or The American (James)

Pride and Prejudice (Austen)

Quo Vadis (Sienkiewicz)

Red Badge of Courage (Crane)

Sense and Sensibility or Persuasion, or Emma (Austen)

Short Stories (Poe)

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (anonymous)

Stories (Chekhov)

The Betrothed (Manzoni)

The Chosen (Potock)

The Cloister and the Hearth (Reade)

The Count of Monte Cristo (Dumas)

The Divine Comedy [excerpts] (Dante)

The Epic of Gilgamesh (anonymous)

The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)

The Heart of Darkness (Conrad)

The Hoosier Schoolmaster (Eggleston)

The Iliad [excerpts] (Homer)

The Invisible Man (Wells)

The Longest Day (Ryan)

The Man Who Was Thursday (Chesterton)

The Mayor of Casterbridge (Hardy)

The Odyssey [excerpts or full] (Homer)

The Open Boat (Crane)

The Picture of Dorian Gray (Wilde)

The Prince (Machiavelli)

The Prisoner of Zenda (Hawkins)

The Scarlet Letter (Hawthorne)

The Scarlet Pimpernel (Orczy)

The Song of Roland (anonymous)

The Three Musketeers (Dumas)

The Thirty Nine Steps (Buchanan)

The Time Machine (Wells)

The Virginian (Wister)

To Kill a Mockingbird (Lee)

Tom Brown’s School Days; Tom Brown at Oxford (Hughes)

Trilby (Du Maurier)

Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Stowe)

Up From Slavery (Washington)

Vanity Fair (Thackeray)

Wuthering Heights (Bronte)

Authors

Catholic Authors:

George Bernanos, Laura Berquist, G.K. Chesterton, Louis DeWohl, Shusaku Endo, Graham Greene, Victor Hugo, Mary Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, Sigrid Undset, Evelyn Waugh

Other Authors:

Jane Austin, James Fenimore Cooper, Charles Dickens, Washington Irving, Rudyard Kipling, Herman Melville, Sir Walter Scott, William Shakespeare

Poets

Matthew Arnold, W.H. Auden, Hilaire Belloc, William Blake, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Browning, Lord Byron, G.K. Chesterton, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Richard Crashaw, Emily Dickenson, John Donne, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, A.E. Hausman, George Herbert, Gerard Manley Hopkins, John Keats, Joyce Kilmer, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Andrew Marvell, Alexander Pope, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Siegfried Sassoon, William Shakespeare, Percy Shelley, Robert Southwell, Edmund Spenser, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Dylan Thomas, Francis Thompson, William Wordsworth, William Butler Yeats

Spiritual Classics

Confessions [excerpts] (St. Augustine of Hippo)

Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, or The Abolition of Man (Lewis)

Selections from: The Documents of Vatican II, The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Veritatis Splendor, Humanae Vitae

Story of a Soul (St. Therese of Lisieux)

Summa Theologica [excerpts] (St. Thomas Aquinas)

The Bible

The Desert Fathers [excerpts]

The Imitation of Christ [excerpts] (Thomas a Kempis)

The Introduction to the Devout Life [excerpts] (St. Francis de Sales)

Additional Reading Lists:

Institute for Excellence in Writing, (n.d.). Books for boys and other children who would rather make forts all day. Retrieve at https://iew.com/sites/default/files/videocourse/fileattachment/TB-Resources.pdf

apple on desks

3 Eye-Opening Lessons for Catholics under Common Core

It’s been five years since controversy peaked over the Common Core State Standards and their use in Catholic schools. What have we learned?

By 2013 the Common Core was being adopted rapidly by Catholic schools and dioceses across the country, prompting deep concern among Catholic families. The Cardinal Newman Society launched its Catholic Is Our Core initiative to press for authentically Catholic standards. Urgent meetings with Catholic education leaders and bishops were convened to explain why the Common Core was the wrong approach for Catholic schools.

Thanks be to God, shortly thereafter the U.S. bishops’ conference advised dioceses to “review, study, consultation, discussion and caution,” noting that the Common Core was “incomplete” and not designed for Catholic schools.

Today, many dioceses have moved toward genuinely Catholic standards for their schools, but the Common Core has never been fully rooted out of Catholic education. It continues to impact testing, curriculum, and textbooks in many dioceses—although the impact varies and is never quite clear.

While the experience has been messy, hopefully it has given new insight to Catholics and Church leaders and reminded educators of the primary mission of Catholic education. Here are three key lessons that have emerged:

1. The Common Core seems unable to live up to its promises.

National test data suggest that the Common Core has failed thus far to live up to its promise of strengthening student achievement in math and language arts, even in public schools.

In an analysis of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) published this week by Denise Donohue, deputy director of K-12 education programs for the Cardinal Newman Society, she finds, “Neither public nor Catholic schools experienced the upswing that was promised by the authors of the Common Core Standards.”

Public school scores from 2009 (pre-CCSS) to 2017 (post-CCSS) are relatively the same and are categorized in the “basic” range on the academic standards scale for the NAEP, whereas Catholic school 8th grade math scores have slid three points in the pre-test/post-test scenario (297 in 2009 to 294 in 2017). Interestingly, the cut-off for “proficient” according to the NAEP literature is a score of 299, leaving Catholic schools that much more to attain before reaching the mark. Meanwhile, the opportunity costs are unknown. Perhaps Catholic schools’ 8th grade math and reading scores might have continued their positive upward trend before the onset of the CCSS.

The U.S. Education Department’s NAEP, Donohue observes, has never been re-aligned to the Common Core like many state tests, so it is a good measure of pre- and post-Common Core achievement. International benchmarking tests also indicate that American students have not made any substantial progress relative to other nations, Donohue finds.

2. Catholic education needs Catholic standards.

Aside from the impact of the Common Core on secular education, the standards are simply wrong for Catholic schools. As the U.S. bishops conference declared in 2014:

Catholic schools must consider standards that support the mission and purpose of the school as a Catholic institution. Attempts to compartmentalize the religious and the secular in Catholic schools reflect a relativistic perspective by suggesting that faith is merely a private matter and does not have a significant bearing on how reality as a whole should be understood. Such attempts are at odds with the integral approach to education that is a hallmark of Catholic schools. Standards that support an appropriate integration should be encouraged.

The Common Core controversy helped many Catholics become aware that dioceses around the country had been relying heavily on secular state standards for many years. That is how the Common Core was initially adopted by Catholic schools without due caution and analysis. When the standards were adopted by states, dioceses quickly and voluntarily followed suit.

Now there is a greater realization that authentically Catholic standards are needed. Many dioceses have made great progress in this direction, such as the Diocese of Grand Rapids and the Diocese of Venice, which both work from the faithful Catholic Curriculum Standards published in 2016 to provide Catholic schools with an alternative.

3. Parents are the primary educators.

Many national, state and local organizations produced important analyses of the Common Core that ultimately halted its spread in Catholic schools. But it was parents who had the most important and influential voice—some voting with their feet and turning to independent Catholic schools and homeschooling.

The Common Core experience has helped remind Catholic bishops, educators and even families that parents are the first educators of their children. Catholic education serves the needs of families in educating and forming children, or it is not Catholic education at all.

Canon law states, “Catholic parents also have the duty and right of choosing those means and institutions through which they can provide more suitably for the Catholic education of their children, according to local circumstances.” If local Catholic schools aren’t enthusiastically and fully providing a truly Catholic education, parents are fully within their rights, and may have a duty, to find better, more faithful options for their children.

As Catholic school enrollment continues to decline, the Church urgently needs to renew the Catholic identity of Catholic schools to support only those that serve parents and the mission of the Church well.

For their part, parents should continue to find their voice and explain to their pastors what genuinely helps them form children for sainthood. This does not include secular fads such as the Common Core.

T This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

Catholic Schools Not Improving Under Common Core

The Nation’s Report Card1 administered by the U.S. Department of Education reveals stagnant and even slightly declining test scores among Catholic schools since 2013, when many embraced the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Public schools also are showing no marked improvement, which is not what many had claimed would result from “internationally benchmarked” and globally competitive standards.2

With more than 100 Catholic dioceses implementing the CCSS to some degree3 in Catholic schools, it’s worth taking a look to see how Catholic schools are faring.

NAEP Assessment Results

Catholic schools are one of the largest private school groupings in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data collection, perhaps because their involvement is encouraged by the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA). The NAEP was last re-worked in 2009 and was never re-aligned to the Common Core, so it is a good measure of pre- and post-Common Core achievement.

Historically, Catholic schools have scored well above public schools in both 4th and 8th grade reading and math,4 and they continue to do so. Over the last two decades, reading scores have averaged 19.5 points higher for 8th graders in Catholic schools and 16.1 points higher for 4th graders. In math, Catholic schools have scored 12.7 points higher in 8th grade and 7.6 points higher in 4th grade.

The scores of both public and Catholic schools have remained largely stable over the past 8 years, with a small decrease in Catholic school scores that slightly narrows the gap with public schools.

(Sources: MathReading)

(Sources: MathReading)

This isn’t what was supposed to happen, is it? Neither public nor Catholic schools experienced the upswing that was promised by the authors of the Common Core Standards. Public school scores from 2009 (pre-CCSS) to 2017 (post-CCSS) are relatively the same and are categorized in the “basic” range on the academic standards scale for the NAEP, whereas Catholic school 8th grade math scores have slid three points in the pre-test/post-test scenario (297 in 2009 to 294 in 2017). Interestingly, the cut-off for “proficient” according to the NAEP literature is a score of 2995, leaving Catholic schools that much more to attain before reaching the mark. Meanwhile, the opportunity costs are unknown. Perhaps Catholic schools’ 8th grade math and reading scores might have continued their positive upward trend before the onset of the CCSS.

As for international benchmarking, the 4th grade U.S. scores in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS) remained the same in 2015 at the internationally low benchmark.6 The 8th grade TIMMS scores went up,7 but they are still at the internationally low benchmark.8

In reading, scores for U.S. 4th grade students on the Progress for International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) have declined from 556 in 2011 to 549 in 2016 (the most recent year for scores).9 The United States is currently sitting in 15th place in reading achievement for 4th graders, down from 6th place in 2011.10

Common Core and Catholic Schools

What the test scores don’t measure is the loss to Catholic identity when Catholic schools conform to secular school standards that fail to consider essential differences in faithful Catholic education.

Recognizing that the CCSS would drive textbook publishing, teacher preparation programs, state assessments, teacher professional development11, and college-entry exams12, the NCEA encouraged Catholic schools to adopt the CCSS as they saw fit or as they were compelled to do, based on state and accreditation requirements.

But with parent concerns rising across the country and Catholic parents wondering why Catholic schools were using the same academic standards as public schools, The Cardinal Newman Society launched Catholic is Our Core13 in 2013 to evaluate the CCSS and counter many of the dangerous and progressive claims advanced by Common Core proponents.

In December 2013, the Newman Society expressed serious reservations14 about the use of the CCSS in Catholic schools, especially since historical data for Catholic high school graduation and college attendance was consistently outstanding and there seemed no need to work from standards designed primarily to raise academic achievement of students in the lower national quartile.

Moreover, the utilitarian underpinning of the CCSS stands in stark contrast to the full flourishing of the human person, as promoted in Church documents on education. Children and young adults are not to be viewed as components of an economic machine to be manipulated and directed toward labor slots in manufacturing15, as some would like. An impoverished view of the human person, which pervades society, is not how the Church has traditionally approached Catholic education. To take on such limiting constraints is unworthy of the dignity of the educational institution.

In 2014, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a statement recognizing the limitations of the CCSS for faith-based formation:

Catholic schools must consider standards that support the mission and purpose of the school as a Catholic institution. Attempts to compartmentalize the religious and the secular in Catholic schools reflect a relativistic perspective by suggesting that faith is merely a private matter and does not have a significant bearing on how reality as a whole should be understood. Such attempts are at odds with the integral approach to education that is a hallmark of Catholic schools. Standards that support an appropriate integration should be encouraged.16

Embracing subsidiarity and local decision-making, the USCCB directed that each bishop, along with their education leaders, decide whether to adapt, adopt, or reject the CCSS. About 33 dioceses17 announced they would not use the CCSS, preferring to retain their already workable standards and curricular frameworks. Most of the others, though, chose to work with the Common Core in some fashion.

Today, we can see the wisdom of the Newman Society’s warnings against the rapid adoption of CCSS in Catholic schools, “a mistake that will be difficult or impossible to undo for years to come.” The NAEP scores suggest that the Common Core comes with empty promises, and it may in fact hinder progress toward excellence in both public and Catholic schools.

 

America’s Common Core: Standardization by a Low Standard

Many years ago, the English writer G. K. Chesterton claimed that the “coming peril” facing civilization was “standardization by a low standard.” Today, almost a century later, Chesterton’s words have something of the mark of prophecy about them. Standards of literacy and numeracy, to say nothing of standards of morality, are not so much declining as plummeting.

The calamitous “dumbing down” of America’s already beleaguered education system is encapsulated and epitomized by the monstrous Common Core. At the risk of seeming a trifle sensationalist, this affront to educational standards is nothing short of being a crime against humanity. Let’s not forget that the humanities are thus called because they teach us about our own humanity. A failure to appreciate the humanities must inevitably lead to the dehumanizing of culture and a disastrous loss of the ability to see ourselves truthfully and objectively.

The problem is that the architects of the Common Core do not believe that it is possible to see ourselves truthfully and objectively. They have a chilling indifference to truthfulness and objectivity in human affairs, rejecting all discussion of truth and objectivity except in terms of that which can be measured empirically by science. With regard to the truth that we can know about ourselves as human beings, and which is expressed in the great works that have graced our civilization through the centuries, they never get beyond Pontius Pilate’s famous question, quid est veritas?, which is asked not in the spirit of philosophy as a question to be answered, but in the ennui of intellectual philandery as merely a rhetorical question that is intrinsically unanswerable. This intellectual philandery spawns numerous illegitimate children, each of which has its day as the dominant fad of educationists, at least until a new intellectual fad replaces it. It is in the nature of fads to fade but in the brief period in which they find themselves in the fashionable limelight they can cause a great deal of damage, a fact that Chesterton addressed with customary adroitness in 1910, over a century ago:

Obviously it ought to be the oldest things that are taught to the youngest people; the assured and experienced truths that are put first to the baby. But in a school today the baby has to submit to a system that is younger than himself. The flopping infant of four actually has more experience and has weathered the world longer than the dogma to which he is made to submit. Many a school boasts of having the latest ideas in education, when it has not even the first idea; for the first idea is that even innocence, divine as it is, may learn something from experience.

Implicit in Chesterton’s critique of the nature of modern education is a condemnation of the intellectual elitism that fuels the transient fads and fashions of the zeitgeist, the antidote to which is the timeless touchtone of Tradition.

It should, of course, be obvious that the disenfranchisement of the past inherent in the Common Core’s manic pursuit of novelty is not only an abandonment of the wisdom of the dead but also a disenfranchisement of the unborn. In denigrating and deriding the Great Books of Western Civilization, and the great ideas that informed them, the doyens of the modern academy have broken the continuum by which the wisdom of the ages is transmitted to each new generation. In refusing any authority beyond the individualism of the self, egocentric Man (homo superbus) has disinherited himself from his own priceless inheritance; in imposing his egocentric ethos on the Common Core, he is also disinheriting future generations. He is a contemptuous and therefore contemptible cad who not only kicks down the ladder by which he’s climbed but tries to destroy the ladder so that no-one coming after him can climb it either.

The Common Core is nothing less than the dogmatic imposition of radical relativism, the only philosophy compatible with homo superbus, a philosophy which goes hand in glove with the implementation of secular fundamentalism, the political ideology of homo superbus. Such a philosophy and its accompanying ideology refuses to tolerate anything but the things it tolerates itself, doing so in the name of “tolerance”, an egregious and outrageous example of the sheer chutzpah of Orwellian double-think! In short, homo superbus has recreated education in his own image, sacrificing all rival dogmas on the altar of self-worship he has erected to himself, on which the tabernacle of any god other than himself has been replaced by the mirror of self-referential subjectivism. There is no place in such self-referential education for religion or for any metaphysical philosophy, nor for the great writers and thinkers who espouse religion or a metaphysical understanding of the cosmos. Homer and Plato and Aristotle are vanquished, vanishing from school curricula. There’s no room for Dante or Chaucer or Shakespeare; or Austen or Dickens or Dostoyevsky. Instead today’s already malnourished high school students will be fed trivia and trash, selected on the basis of its perceived “relevance”. Instead of a good, solid education offering real meat and gravitas, American kids, thanks to the Common Core, are being fed a thin gruel of nutrient-free nonsense. A good education is health-food for the mind and soul, full of nourishing traditions; the Common Core offers only fast food and junk food for the soulless and the mindless.

The reductio ad absurdum at the heart of such a system of education was certainly not lost on Chesterton, who perceived it as the very antithesis of the object of a true education: “The whole point of education is that it should give a man abstract and eternal standards by which he can judge material and fugitive standards.” The problem is that the radical relativism of the Common Core presumes that there are no abstract and eternal standards but that, on the contrary, all standards are merely fugitive, here today and gone tomorrow. Education does not serve truth because there is no truth to serve. Chesterton’s bon mot will not serve as a motto for the modern academy because the modern academy does not serve anything but itself. Its motto is non serviam. In such circumstances, education ceases to be the means to an end because there is no end, in the objective sense of a purpose or meaning to life. Such an education, incarnate in the Common Core, is nothing less than the end of education in that other doom-laden sense of the word. It has put an end to it.

The tragedy of the Common Core is that it has left us perilously ignorant of who we are, where we are, where we have come from, and where we are going. We are lost and blissfully unaware that we are heading for the abyss. Such is the price we are doomed to pay for our blind faith in nothing in particular.

This article was first published in the International Business Times.

The Call to Lead: Educational Leadership According to Catholic Church Documents

Table of Contents

Introduction
Catholic Educational Leadership – Answering the Call
Citations: Catholic Educational Leadership – Answering the Call
Catholic Educational Leaders Fulfill the Mission of Catholic Education
Citations: Catholic Educational Leaders Fulfill the Mission
The Spiritual Dimension of Catholic Educational Leadership
Citations: The Spiritual Dimension of Catholic Educational Leadership
The Professional Dimension of Catholic Educational Leadership
Citations: The Professional Dimension of Catholic Educational Leadership
Catholic Educational Leaders – The Call to Witness
Citations: Catholic Educational Leaders – The Call to Witness
Required Formation of Catholic Educational Leaders
Citations: Required Formation of Catholic Educational Leaders
Conclusion
Questions for Reflection
References

Introduction

The Call to Lead draws upon Church documents published since the Second Vatican Council to consider essential aspects of leadership in Catholic education. These aspects include answering the call to leadership, commitment to the mission of Catholic education, the spiritual and professional dimensions of leadership, Gospel witness, and the formation needed to assume the role of faith leader.

This review is intended primarily to assist Catholic school principals, but it has clear implications for other academic and program leaders, directors and trustees, and diocesan officials who oversee Catholic education. While it draws upon Church documents focused on elementary and secondary education, postsecondary leaders will find that much applies to their roles in colleges and universities as well.

Throughout much of the history of Catholic education, diocesan priests and various religious congregations guided a school’s culture, identity, and mission. Clergy and religious held most full-time administrative and faculty positions and integrated religious education and practices to ensure strong Catholic identity.

In the years following Vatican II, American Catholic education experienced a steady transition to lay teachers and leaders. By 2016, less than 3 percent of full-time professional staff were clergy and religious. The new challenge of properly forming lay teachers and leaders has made it necessary for the Church to discern and prescribe qualities of school leadership, once previously assumed in the leadership roles of clergy and religious. The result is a richer understanding of how the school leader upholds and advances the mission of Catholic education.

The role of the Catholic principal as faith leader was highlighted in Sharing the Light of Faith (1979), where the United States bishops elaborated on the relationship between Catholic identity, administrative leadership, and ways for realizing the Church’s mission for Catholic education.

Documents in the 1980s began to highlight the ecclesial, spiritual, and pastoral dimensions of school leadership required of the laity who were now more involved in leadership roles within Catholic schools:

The lay Catholic educator is a person who exercises a specific mission within the Church by living, in faith, a secular vocation in the communitarian structure of the school: with the best possible professional qualifications, with an apostolic intention inspired by faith, for the integral formation of the human person, in a communication of culture, in an exercise of that pedagogy which will give emphasis to direct and personal contact with students, giving spiritual inspiration to the educational community of which he or she is a member, as well as to all the different persons related to the educational community. To this lay person, as a member of this community, the family and the Church entrust the school’s educational endeavor (Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, 1982, 24).

The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School (1988) elaborated on guidelines for Catholic education, acknowledged the movement of laity into leadership positions, and encouraged the development of formation programs necessary to ensure that administrators obtain training comparable to religious. Research highlighted the urgency for programs to prepare Catholic school administrators and the shortage of educational leaders who understood the concepts of theological and spiritual leadership.

From the late 1990s, Church documents emphasized the relationship between faithful Catholic leadership and Catholic identity, expressed the need for preparation and formation, and linked those who served in these positions to the long-term viability of Catholic education. It became clear by this time that Catholic education leaders needed to be experienced in the professional dimension, but even more critical, they need to have an understanding and commitment to the Church’s expectations for Catholic education.

At the turn of the century, the Congregation for Catholic Education acknowledged the important role of lay administrators in evangelization, building Christian community, and pastoral care in The Catholic School on the Threshold of the Third Millennium (1997).

Eight years later, referring to a “crisis in education,” the United States bishops expressed the need to prepare Catholic educational leaders in Renewing Our Commitment to Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools in the Third Millennium (2005).

The preparation and ongoing formation of new administrators and teachers is vital if our schools are to remain truly Catholic in all aspects of school life. Catholic school personnel should be grounded in a faith-based Catholic culture, have strong bonds to Christ and the Church, and be witnesses to the faith in both their words and actions.

And in his 2008 address to Catholic educators in the United States, Pope Benedict XVI stated:

Teachers and administrators, whether in universities or schools, have the duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice. This requires that public witness to the way of Christ, as found in the Gospel and upheld by the Church’s Magisterium, shapes all aspects of an institution’s life, both inside and outside the classroom. Divergence from this vision weakens Catholic identity and, far from advancing freedom, inevitably leads to confusion, whether moral, intellectual, or spiritual.

In 2015, the United States bishops identified leadership as a priority for the future of Catholic education:

Clarity of vision and strong leaders formed in the faith are critical to establishing a rich Catholic culture in the Catholic school. Being academically excellent is critical and necessary but not sufficient. The schools whether primary and secondary or colleges and universities must be fully Catholic. Formation of this kind would include pastors, administrators, teachers and all those serving in the Catholic schools. Faith formation that includes individual formation in prayer, sacramental life, Scripture, doctrine, and knowledge of the nature and purpose of Catholic education would appear to be component parts of the formation of future leaders and teachers.

Some dioceses have established foundations that pay for formation of leaders and teachers during the school year. Other dioceses have partnerships with diocesan programs, associations, academic institutes and Catholic higher education to offer formation and education to teachers and staff. Bishops and pastors should be actively engaged in identifying and forming present and future leaders in the schools.

Some dioceses have established certificate and degree programs for future administrators and superintendents. Creating interest and incentive in education for the future is critical to long-term viability and success of the colleges, universities and schools. In addition to programs of training, there should be an intentional and emphasis on the sacramental and spiritual lives of the future leaders (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2015, III, B, a).

Catholic leaders are required not only to be adept in areas associated with operations, curriculum, and management but to also possess the ability to strengthen the school’s Catholic identity by building a Catholic culture and community, fostering faith development, and integrating the Church’s traditions and doctrinal practices into all aspects of school life. Without this intense spiritual dimension, Catholic education would only mirror secular private education and fall short of fulfilling its divine mission of evangelization and sanctification.

Specific writings directed toward Catholic educational leaders have blossomed over the years, yet most documents written on the topic of educational personnel are still very much focused on Catholic school teachers. When one reads about unique dimensions of formation and witness for these teachers, one can be certain that these apply also to its educational leaders. Thus, this document might be read in tandem with its sister document, The Call to Teach: Expectations for the Catholic Educator in Magisterial Teaching (2015).

Called to a special role within the Catholic school environment, educational leaders hold themselves out as formal collaborators with the ecclesial Church and are, therefore, held more accountable. Reviewing what the Church asks of them through documents such as The Call to Teach and The Call to Lead allows school leaders to substantially and efficiently fulfill the professional formation the Church asks of them. Using the formative questions at the end of this document can help school leaders with self-assessment and the development of plans for self-improvement. It is to these school leaders that parents, students, teachers, and all stakeholders of the school look to for fidelity and flourishing of the Church’s mission for Catholic education. It is hoped that this document will help them in that endeavor.

Catholic Educational Leadership – Answering the Call

Overview

Leaders in Catholic education, called by God and led by the spirit of the Gospel, work for the sanctification of the world.1 Their work is not just a profession, but a vocation, a calling to the apostolate of Catholic education.2 Each leader must be fully aware of the importance and the responsibility of this vocation and fully respond to its demands, secure in the knowledge that their response is vital for the construction and ongoing renewal of the earthly city and the evangelization of the world.3

This vocational aspect requires each leader to live in faith within the communitarian nature of the school.  Through faith they will find an unfailing source of the humility, hope, and charity needed for perseverance in their work.

Catholic school leaders should have the necessary professional qualifications and an apostolic intention inspired by faith to pursue the integral formation of the human person.4  Through their modeling and personal witness, Catholic school leaders make Christ known to others: students, teachers, families, and all those associated with the school.5 This vocation to Catholic education demands special qualities of mind and heart, careful preparation, and continued readiness to renew and to adapt.6

Citations: Catholic Educational Leadership – Answering the Call

Gravissimum Educationis (Pope Paul VI, 1965)

Beautiful indeed and of great importance is the vocation of all those who aid parents in fulfilling their duties and who, as representatives of the human community, undertake the task of education in schools. This vocation demands special qualities of mind and heart, very careful preparation, and continuing readiness to renew and to adapt (5).

Lay Catholics in Schools:  Witnesses to Faith (Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, 1982)

This call to personal holiness and to apostolic mission is common to all believers; but there are many cases in which the life of a lay person takes on specific characteristics which transform this life into a specific “wonderful” vocation within the Church. The laity “seeks the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God”. They live in the midst of the world’s activities and professions, and in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life; and there they are called by God so that by exercising their proper function and being led by the spirit of the Gospel they can work for the sanctification of the world from within, in the manner of leaven. In this way they can make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope, and charity (7).

Because of the experiences that lay people acquire in their lives, and through their presence in all of the various spheres of human activity, they will be especially capable of recognizing and clarifying the signs of the times that characterize the present historical period of the People of God. Therefore, as a proper part of their vocation, they should contribute their initiative, their creativity, and their competent, conscious, and enthusiastic labor to this task. In this way, the whole People of God will be able to distinguish more precisely those elements of the signs that are Gospel values, or values contrary to the Gospel (10).

One specific characteristic of the educational profession assumes its most profound significance in the Catholic educator: the communication of truth. For the Catholic educator, whatever is true is a participation in Him who is the Truth; the communication of truth, therefore, as a professional activity, is thus fundamentally transformed into a unique participation in the prophetic mission of Christ, carried on through one’s teaching (16).

And if there is no trace of Catholic identity in the education, the educator can hardly be called a Catholic educator. Some of the aspects of this living out of one’s identity are common and essential; they must be present no matter what the school is in which the lay educator exercises his or her vocation (25).

A Vocation, rather than a Profession: The work of a lay educator has an undeniably professional aspect; but it cannot be reduced to professionalism alone. Professionalism is marked by, and raised to, a super-natural Christian vocation. The life of the Catholic teacher must be marked by the exercise of a personal vocation in the Church, and not simply by the exercise of a profession. In a lay vocation, detachment and generosity are joined to legitimate defense of personal rights; but it is still a vocation, with the fullness of life and the personal commitment that the word implies. It offers ample opportunity for a life filled with enthusiasm. It is, therefore, very desirable that every lay Catholic educator become fully aware of the importance, the richness, and the responsibility of this vocation. They should fully respond to all of its demands, secure in the knowledge that their response is vital for the construction and ongoing renewal of the earthly city, and for the evangelization of the world (37).

Lay Catholic educators must be very aware of the real impoverishment which will result if priests and religious disappear from the Catholic schools, or noticeably decline in number. This is to be avoided as far as is possible; and yet, the laity must prepare themselves in such a way that they will be able to maintain Catholic schools on their own whenever this becomes necessary or at least more desirable, in the present or in the future (45).

… laity should participate authentically in the responsibility for the school; this assumes that they have the ability that is needed in all areas, and are sincerely committed to the educational objectives which characterize a Catholic school. And the school should use every means possible to encourage this kind of commitment; without it, the objectives of the school can never be fully realized. It must never be forgotten that the school itself is always in the process of being created, due to the labor brought to fruition by all those who have a role to play in it, and most especially by those who are teachers (78).

Above all else, lay Catholics will find support in their own faith. Faith is the unfailing source of the humility, the hope, and the charity needed for perseverance in their vocation (72-79).

Educating Together in Catholic Schools, A Shared Mission Between Consecrated Persons and the Lay Faithful (Congregation for Catholic Education, 2007)

Just as a consecrated person is called to testify his or her specific vocation to a life of communion in love so as to be in the scholastic community a sign, a memorial and a prophecy of the values of the Gospel, so too a lay educator is required to exercise a specific mission within the Church by living, in faith, a secular vocation in the communitarian structure of the school (15).

While invited to deepen their vocation as educators in the Catholic school in communion with consecrated persons, the lay faithful also are called in the common formational journey to give the original and irreplaceable contribution of their full ecclesial subjectivity… As educators, they are called on to live in faith a secular vocation in the communitarian structure of the school: with the best possible professional qualifications, with an apostolic intention inspired by faith, for the integral formation of the human person (30).

Organized according to the diversities of persons and vocations, but vivified by the same spirit of communion, the educational community of the Catholic school aims at creating increasingly deeper relationships of communion that are in themselves educational. Precisely in this, it expresses the variety and beauty of the various vocations and the fruitfulness at educational and pedagogical levels that this contributes to the life of the school (37).

“Themes in Catholic Schools in the United States” (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2015)

Amidst the persistent call for ongoing formation, there was an emerging sense of the vocation of Catholic school leaders, almost an awakening of the apostolate for administrators, teachers, board members and pastors. Catholic education is not just a job, it is a vocation. A school’s Catholic identity depends on effective leader formation. Competent and capable leaders are able to address other needs like finance, governance, and recruitment. Faith filled Catholic leaders keep Catholic identity strong, set a positive tone and bring the community together. Catholic school leaders need to see themselves as part of the mission and respond to the call for co-responsibility and collaboration. These men and women need to take their own faith journey seriously. Potential resources for formation were identified as: Catholic colleges and universities, Catholic studies institutes, leadership programs within seminaries, and cooperative efforts with parish and local faith communities (2).

Catholic Educational Leaders Fulfill the Mission of Catholic Education

Overview

Leaders in Catholic education, filled with deep conviction, joy, and a spirit of sacrifice7, share in the Church’s mission and in the priestly, prophetic, and kingly functions of Christ.8 They constitute an element of great hope for the Church, for they are entrusted with the “integral human formation and faith education of young people who will determine whether the world of tomorrow is more closely or more loosely bound to Christ.9As members of the People of God, united to Christ through Baptism, they work not for a mere employer but for the Body of Christ, carrying out the mission of the Redeemer.10

Their role is to imbue their students with the spirit of Christ, striving to excel in pedagogy and the pursuit of knowledge in such a way that they advance the internal renewal of the Church and preserve and enhance its influence upon the modern world.11 By accepting and developing a legacy of Catholic thought and educational experience, they take their place as full partners in the Church’s mission of educating the whole person and of transmitting the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ to successive generations.12

The ultimate goal of all Catholic education is transmitting clearly and fully the message of salvation, which elicits the response of faith.13 By enriching students’ lives with the fullness of Christ’s message and inviting them to Christ, educators promote most effectively the students’ integral human development and build a community of truth, faith, hope, and love.14

Hiring for mission is essential to the future success of Catholic education. Leaders must be committed to Catholic identity and mission. All who are responsible for Catholic education must keep sight of the mission and apostolic value of their work so schools enjoy the conditions in which to accomplish their mission of pursing the individual good of the student (specifically his or her salvation) and service to the common good.

Citations: Catholic Education Leaders Fulfill the Mission of Catholic Education

Gravissimum Educationis (Pope Paul VI, 1965)

The sacred synod earnestly entreats young people themselves to become aware of the importance of the work of education and to prepare themselves to take it up, especially where because of a shortage of teachers the education of youth is in jeopardy. This same sacred synod, while professing its gratitude to priests, religious men and women, and the laity who by their evangelical self-dedication are devoted to the noble work of education and of schools of every type and level, exhorts them to persevere generously in the work they have undertaken and, imbuing their students with the spirit of Christ, to strive to excel in pedagogy and the pursuit of knowledge in such a way that they not merely advance the internal renewal of the Church but preserve and enhance its beneficent influence upon today’s world, especially the intellectual world (Conclusion).

The Catholic School (Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education,1977)

If all who are responsible for the Catholic school would never lose sight of their mission and the apostolic value of their teaching, the school would enjoy better conditions in which to function in the present and would faithfully hand on its mission to future generations. They themselves, moreover, would most surely be filled with a deep conviction, joy and spirit of sacrifice in the knowledge that they are offering innumerable young people the opportunity of growing in faith, of accepting and living its precious principles of truth, charity and hope (87).

Lay Catholics in Schools: Witnesses to Faith (Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, 1982)

The lay Catholic working in a school is, along with every Christian, a member of the People of God. As such, united to Christ through Baptism, he or she shares in the basic dignity that is common to all members. For, “they share a common dignity from their rebirth in Christ. They have the same filial grace and the same vocation to perfection. They possess in common one salvation, one hope, and one undivided charity”. Although it is true that, in the Church, “by the will of Christ, some are made teachers, dispensers of mysteries and shepherds on behalf of others, yet all share a true equality with regard to the dignity and to the activity common to all the faithful for the building up of the Body of Christ”. Every Christian, and therefore also every lay person, has been made a sharer in “the priestly, prophetic, and kingly functions of Christ”, and their apostolate “is a participation in the saving mission of the Church itself… All are commissioned to that apostolate by the Lord Himself” (6).

There are times in which the Bishops will take advantage of the availability of competent lay persons who wish to give clear Christian witness in the field of education, and will entrust them with complete direction of Catholic schools, thus incorporating them more closely into the apostolic mission of the Church (46).

Lay Catholic educators in schools, whether teachers, directors, administrators, or auxiliary staff, must never have any doubts about the fact that they constitute an element of great hope for the Church. The Church puts its trust in them entrusting them with the task of gradually bringing about an integration of temporal reality with the Gospel, so that the Gospel can thus reach into the lives of all men and women. More particularly, it has entrusted them with the integral human formation and the faith education of young people. These young people are the ones who will determine whether the world of tomorrow is more closely or more loosely bound to Christ (81).

When it [Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education] considers the tremendous evangelical resource embodied in the millions of lay Catholics who devote their lives to schools, it recalls the words with which the Second Vatican Council ended its Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, and “earnestly entreats in the Lord that all lay persons give a glad, generous, and prompt response to the voice of Christ, who is giving them an especially urgent invitation at this moment; …they should respond to it eagerly and magnanimously… and, recognizing that what is His is also their own (Phil 2, 5), to associate themselves with Him in His saving mission… Thus they can show that they are His co-workers in the various forms and methods of the Church’s one apostolate, which must be constantly adapted to the new needs of the times. May they always abound in the works of God, knowing that they will not labor in vain when their labour is for Him (Cf. I Cor 15, 58)” (82).

Apostolic Journey to the United States and Canada: Meeting with the Representatives of Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools and Leaders in Religious Education in New Orleans (Pope John Paul II, 1987)

In recent years, thousands of lay people have come forward as administrators and teachers in the Church’s schools and educational programs. By accepting and developing the legacy of Catholic thought and educational experience which they have inherited, they take their place as full partners in the Church’s mission of educating the whole person and of transmitting the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ to successive generations of young Americans. Even if they do not “teach religion”, their service in a Catholic school or educational program is part of the Church’s unceasing endeavor to lead all to profess the truth in love and grow to the full maturity of Christ the head (Eph. 4, 15) (4).

For a Catholic educator, the Church should not be looked upon merely as an employer. The Church is the Body of Christ, carrying on the mission of the Redeemer throughout history. It is our privilege to share in that mission, to which we are called by the grace of God and in which we are engaged together (4).

The ultimate goal of all Catholic education is salvation in Jesus Christ. Catholic educators effectively work for the coming of Christ’s Kingdom; this work includes transmitting clearly and in full the message of salvation, which elicits the response of faith. In faith we know God, and the hidden purpose of his will (Cfr. Eph. 1, 9). In faith we truly come to know ourselves. By sharing our faith, we communicate a complete vision of the whole of reality and a commitment to truth and goodness. This vision and this commitment draw the strands of life into a purposeful pattern. By enriching your student’s lives with the fullness of Christ’s message and by inviting them to accept with all their hearts Christ’s work, which is the Church, you promote most effectively their integral human development and you help them to build a community of faith, hope and love (8).

Evangelii Gaudium (Pope Francis, 2013)

I want to emphasize that what I am trying to express here has a programmatic significance and important consequences. I hope that all communities will devote the necessary effort to advancing along the path of pastoral and missionary conversion which cannot leave things as they presently are. “Mere administration” can no longer be enough. Throughout the world, let us be “permanently in a state of mission” (25).

Educating Today and Tomorrow: A Renewing Passion (Congregation for Catholic Education, 2014)

School heads must be leaders who make sure that education is a shared and living mission, who support and organize teachers, who promote mutual encouragement and assistance (III,1, b).

USCCB Response to Educating Today and Tomorrow (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2015)

We need Catholic educators that are strong leaders committed to Catholic identity and mission. They were described as truly Catholic, well-formed in faith and morals, active in the faith and involved in parish life (2).

Hiring for mission is essential to the future success of Catholic schools. School administrators, teachers, coaches and staff need to be thoroughly evangelized and living vibrant Christian lives. This atmosphere begins with formation of leaders in school; principals need encouragement in personal faith formation and in encouraging faculty and staff in their faith formation. Catholic education is about making sure we do everything we can to form and educate the future leaders in our Church and society. Training for teachers in an integrated curriculum is part of Catholic identity in the schools (4).

The Spiritual Dimension of Catholic Educational Leadership

Overview

Catholic education depends on strong leaders, well-formed in the faith15 and in Christian pedagogy16 and committed to the Church’s vision for Catholic education. Inspired by the Gospel, they establish a rich Catholic culture in their schools,17 serving as co-workers in the Church’s apostolate. Through prayer, sacramental life, Scripture, doctrine, and knowledge of the nature and purpose of Catholic education, they cultivate their own spiritual formation and develop a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. These encounters awaken leaders’ love and open their spirits to others so that their educational commitment becomes a consequence of their faith, a faith which becomes active through love.

School leaders assume responsibility for the ecclesial and pastoral mission of Catholic education. As practicing Catholics in good standing, they understand and accept the teachings of the Church and moral demands of the Gospel.18 Their calling guides and shapes their commitment to the Church and the faith they profess. They participate simply and actively in the liturgical and sacramental life of the school and provide an example to others who find in them nourishment for Christian living.19

Catholic education leaders serve the Church in a type of ministerial function under the direction of the hierarchy20 and participate in the threefold ministry of Christ: to teach doctrine, to build community, and to serve. This is the most effective means available to the Church for the education of children and young people.21

The Catholic education leader provides spiritual inspiration for the school, the academic and cultural organizations that the school comes in contact with, the local Church, and the wider community.22 Such inspiration will manifest itself in different forms of evangelization.23

Citations: The Spiritual Dimension of Catholic Educational Leadership

Lay Catholics in Schools: Witnesses to Faith (Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education,1982)

The communitarian structure of the school brings the Catholic educator into contact with a wide and rich assortment of people; not only the students, who are the reason why the school and the teaching profession exist, but also with one’s colleagues in the work of education, with parents, with other personnel in the school, with the school directors. The Catholic educator must be a source of spiritual inspiration for each of these groups, as well as for each of the scholastic and cultural organizations that the school comes in contact with, for the local Church and the parishes, for the entire human ambience in which he or she is inserted and, in a variety of ways, should have an effect on. In this way, the Catholic educator is called to display that kind of spiritual inspiration which will manifest different forms of evangelization (23).

As a visible manifestation of the faith they profess and the life witness they are supposed to manifest, it is important that lay Catholics who work in a Catholic school participate simply and actively in the liturgical and sacramental life of the school. Students will share in this life more readily when they have concrete examples: when they see the importance that this life has for believers. In today’s secularized world, students will see many lay people who call themselves Catholics, but who never take part in liturgy or sacraments. It is very important that they also have the example of lay adults who take such things seriously, who find in them a source and nourishment for Christian living (40).

Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2005)

Today in parishes, schools, Church institutions, and diocesan agencies, laity serve in various “ministries, offices and roles” that do not require sacramental ordination but rather “find their foundation in the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, indeed, for a good many of them, in the Sacrament of Matrimony” (p.9).

The term “lay ecclesial minister” is generic. It is meant to encompass and describe several possible roles. In parish life—to cite only one sphere of involvement—the pastoral associate, parish catechetical leader, youth ministry leader, school principal, and director of liturgy or pastoral music are examples of such roles (p.11).

Their functions of collaboration with the ordained require of lay ecclesial ministers a special level of professional competence and presence to the community. Their position often involves coordinating and directing others in the community… For these reasons, their roles often require academic preparation, certification, credentialing, and a formation that integrates personal, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral dimensions. These lay ecclesial ministers often express a sense of being called. This sense motivates what they are doing, guiding and shaping a major life choice and commitment to Church ministry (p.12).

National Directory for Catechesis (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2005)

The Catholic school is a center for evangelization; this, its catechetical program is essential to its distinctly Catholic identity and character. It is “an active apostolate.” Therefore, the principal of a Catholic school must be a practicing Catholic in good standing who understands and accepts the teachings of the Church and moral demands of the Gospel. As a catechetical leader in the Catholic school, the principal is called to:

  • Recognize that all members of the faculty and staff “are an integral part of the process of religious education”
  • Recruit teachers who are practicing Catholic, who can understand and accept the teachings of the Catholic Church and the moral demands of the Gospel, and who can contribute to the achievement of the school’s Catholic identity and apostolic goals
  • Supervise, through observation and evaluation, the performance of each religion teacher
  • Provide opportunities for ongoing catechesis of faculty members
  • Design a curriculum that supports the school’s catechetical goals and, if the school is associated with a parish, the parish’s catechetical goals.
  • Develop goals for the implement of an overall catechetical plan for the school, and periodically evaluate progress toward these goals
  • Foster a distinctively Christian community among the faculty, students, and parents
  • Provide, alongside the pastor, for the spiritual growth of the faculty
  • Collaborate with parish, area, and diocesan personnel in planning and implementing programs of total parish catechesis (231).

Educating Together in Catholic Schools, A Shared Mission Between Consecrated Persons and the Lay Faithful (Congregation for Catholic Education, 2007)

For this reason, Catholic educators need a “formation of the heart”: they need to be led to that encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to others, so that their educational commitment becomes a consequence deriving from their faith, a faith which becomes active through love (cf. Gal 5:6). In fact, even care for instruction means loving (Wis 6:17). It is only in this way that they can make their teaching a school of faith, that is to say, a transmission of the Gospel, as required by the educational project of the Catholic school (25).

The transmission of the Christian message through teaching implies a mastery of the knowledge of the truths of the faith and of the principles of spiritual life that require constant improvement. This is why both consecrated and lay educators of the Catholic school need to follow an opportune formational theological itinerary. Such an itinerary makes it easier to combine the understanding of faith with professional commitment and Christian action. Apart from their theological formation, educators need also to cultivate their spiritual formation in order to develop their relationship with Jesus Christ and become a Master like Him. In this sense, the formational journey of both lay and consecrated educators must be combined with the molding of the person towards greater conformity with Christ (cf. Rm 8:29) and of the educational community around Christ the Master. Moreover, the Catholic school is well aware that the community that it forms must be constantly nourished and compared with the sources from which the reason for its existence derives: the saving word of God in Sacred Scripture, in Tradition, above all liturgical and sacramental Tradition, enlightened by the Magisterium of the Church (26).

In the perspective of formation, by sharing their life of prayer and opportune forms of community life, the lay faithful and consecrated persons will nourish their reflection, their sense of fraternity and generous dedication. In this common catechetical-theological and spiritual formational journey, we can see the face of a Church that presents that of Christ, praying, listening, learning and teaching in fraternal communion (33).

It is also through their formational journey that educators are called on to build relationships at professional, personal and spiritual levels, according to the logic of communion. For each one this involves being open, welcoming, disposed to a deep exchange of ideas, convivial and living a fraternal life within the educational community itself (35).

Circular Letter to the Presidents of Bishops’ Conferences on Religious Education in Schools (Congregation for Catholic Education, 2009)

A form of education that ignores or marginalises the moral and religious dimension of the person is a hindrance to full education, because “children and young people have a right to be motivated to appraise moral values with a right conscience, to embrace them with a personal adherence, together with a deeper knowledge and love of God.” That is why the Second Vatican Council asked and recommended “all those who hold a position of public authority or who are in charge of education to see to it that youth is never deprived of this sacred right” (1).

Educating in Intercultural Dialogue in Catholic Schools: Living in Harmony for a Civilization of Love (Congregation for Catholic Education, 2013)

For those who occupy positions of leadership, there can be a strong temptation to consider the school like a company or business. However, schools that aim to be educating communities need those who govern them to be able to invoke the school’s reference values; they must then direct all the school’s professional and human resources in this direction. School leaders are more than just managers of an organization. They are true educational leaders when they are the first to take on this responsibility, which is also an ecclesial and pastoral mission rooted in a relationship with the Church’s pastors (85).

Educating Today and Tomorrow: A Renewing Passion (Congregation for Catholic Education, 2014)

Spiritual poverty and declining cultural levels are starting to produce their dismal effects, even within Catholic schools. Often times, authoritativeness is being undermined. It is really not a matter of discipline—parents greatly appreciate Catholic schools because of their discipline—but do some Catholic school heads still have anything to say to students and their families? Is their authority based on formal rules or on the authoritativeness of their testimony? If we want to avert a gradual impoverishment, Catholic schools must be run by individuals and teams who are inspired by the Gospel, who have been formed in Christian pedagogy, in tune with Catholic schools’ educational project, and not by people who are prone to being seduced by fashionability, or by what can become an easier sell, to put it bluntly (III,1,a).

USCCB Response to Educating Today and Tomorrow (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2015)

Clarity of vision and strong leaders formed in the faith are critical to establishing a rich Catholic culture in the Catholic school. Being academically excellent is critical and necessary but no sufficient. The schools whether primary and secondary or colleges and universities must be fully Catholic. Formation of this kind would include pastors, administrators, teachers and all those serving in the Catholic school. Faith formation that includes individual formation in prayer, sacramental life, Scripture, doctrine and knowledge of the nature and purpose of Catholic education would appear to be component parts of the formation of future leaders and teachers.

…Bishops and pastors should be actively engaged in identifying and forming present and future leaders in the schools.

…In addition to programs of training, there should be an intentional and particular emphasis on the sacramental and spiritual lives of the future leaders (III, B, a).

The Congregation for Catholic Education has stated that, “Catholic schools are at the heart of the Church.” They are a vital aspect of the Church’s mission to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and as such are important to the future and vitality of the Church in the United States. Because they are vital and important, it is critical to support new efforts to develop and form strong faith-filled leaders and teachers at the elementary, secondary and collegiate levels of Catholic education. Faith formation for all involved in the mission of Catholic education is part of the New Evangelization (IV).

“Themes in Catholic Schools in the United States” (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2015)

Catholic schools depend on clarity of vision and strong leaders well formed in the faith, who are capable of establishing a rich Catholic culture in the schools. Consequently, training, both professional and spiritual, was lifted up as vitally important. Our schools need professionally prepared, competent leaders who can lead and inspire.

As principals, teachers and administrators they must know and live Catholic principles and morality. Their formation should be rooted in the vision of missionary discipleship as articulated by the Holy Father in Evangelii Gaudium. The bishops noted the significance of witness statements for Catholic teachers and administrators. It was Pope Paul VI that noted young people listen more to witnesses than to teachers and if they listen to teachers, it is because they are also witnesses. In service to the New Evangelization the formation of school leaders and teachers must equip them to create an evangelizing culture. The schools should be centers for evangelization and catechesis.

The formation of school leaders is foundational for a Catholic school. The bishops spoke most frequently of principals, pastors and teachers. A common term used was school leader which encompasses a broad range of people related to the school: principals, pastors, teachers, coaches, administrators, board members and parents, Latinos and Anglos, men and women, religious and lay. Through their formation, these leaders work to integrate faith into every facet of school life. Across the country, bishops call for catechetical formation for all school leaders (2).

The Professional Dimension of Catholic Educational Leadership

Overview

Professional competence is necessary to unleash educational potential. Those who oversee Catholic education must have the ability to create and manage learning environments that provide plentiful opportunities for students and teachers to flourish. Leaders respect individual differences and guide others toward significant and profound learning.24 Leaders accompany their students and teachers toward lofty and challenging goals, establish high expectations for them, and connect them to each other and the world.25 A solid professional formation in a wide range of cultural, psychological, and pedagogical areas will aid toward this end.26

The purpose of education is the development of man from within, freeing him from that conditioning which would prevent him from becoming a fully integrated human being.27 Every school and every educator in the school should strive to form strong and responsible individuals, who are grounded in Gospel values, capable of making free and correct choices, have a clear idea of the meaning of life, are open more and more to reality, and are ready to take their place in society.28

It is therefore important that leaders know how to create communities of formation and of study where knowledge is explored in the light of the Gospel and where each individual can make their own essential contribution to society.29

Citations: The Professional Dimension of Catholic Educational Leadership

The Catholic School (Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, 1977)

It must never be forgotten that the purpose of instruction at school is education, that is, the development of man from within, freeing him from that conditioning which would prevent him from becoming a fully integrated human being. The school must begin from the principle that its educational programme is intentionally directed to the growth of the whole person (29).

The Catholic school must be alert at all times to developments in the fields of child psychology, pedagogy and particularly catechetics, and should especially keep abreast of directives from competent ecclesiastical authorities. The school must do everything in its power to aid the Church to fulfill its catechetical mission and so must have the best possible qualified teachers of religion (52).

Lay Catholics in Schools:  Witnesses to Faith (Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, 1982)

Every person who contributes to integral human formation is an educator; but teachers have made integral human formation their very profession. When, then, we discuss the school, teachers deserve special consideration: because of their number, but also because of the institutional purpose of the school. But everyone who has a share in this formation is also to be included in the discussion: especially those who are responsible for the direction of the school, or are counsellors, tutors or coordinators; also those who complement and complete the educational activities of the teacher or help in administrative and auxiliary positions (15).

The integral formation of the human person, which is the purpose of education, includes the development of all the human faculties of the students, together with preparation for professional life, formation of ethical and social awareness, becoming aware of the transcendental, and religious education. Every school, and every educator in the school, ought to be striving “to form strong and responsible individuals, who are capable of making free and correct choices”, thus preparing young people “to open themselves more and more to reality, and to form in themselves a clear idea of the meaning of life” (17).

Each type of education, moreover, is influenced by a particular concept of what it means to be a human person. In today’s pluralistic world, the Catholic educator must consciously inspire his or her activity with the Christian concept of the person, in communion with the Magisterium of the Church. It is a concept which includes a defense of human rights, but also attributes to the human person the dignity of a child of God; it attributes the fullest liberty, freed from sin itself by Christ, the most exalted destiny, which is the definitive and total possession of God Himself, through love. It establishes the strictest possible relationship of solidarity among all persons; through mutual love and an ecclesial community. It calls for the fullest development of all that is human, because we have been made masters of the world by its Creator. Finally, it proposes Christ, Incarnate Son of God and perfect Man, as both model and means; to imitate Him, is, for all men and women, the inexhaustible source of personal and communal perfection. Thus, Catholic educators can be certain that they make human beings more human. Moreover, the special task of those educators who are lay persons is to offer to their students a concrete example of the fact that people deeply immersed in the world, living fully the same secular life as the vast majority of the human family, possess this same exalted dignity (18).

The vocation of every Catholic educator includes the work of ongoing social development: to form men and women who will be ready to take their place in society, preparing them in such a way that they will make the kind of social commitment which will enable them to work for the improvement of social structures, making these structures more conformed to the principles of the Gospel. Thus, they will form human beings who will make human society more peaceful, fraternal, and communitarian… The Catholic educator, in other words, must be committed to the task of forming men and women who will make the “civilization of love” a reality. But lay educators must bring the experience of their own lives to this social development and social awareness, so that students can be prepared to take their place in society with an appreciation of the specific role of the lay person—for this is the life that nearly all of the students will be called to live (19).

A school uses its own specific means for the integral formation of the human person: the communication of culture. It is extremely important, then, that the Catholic educator reflect on the profound relationship that exists between culture and the Church…

For this reason, if the communication of culture is to be a genuine educational activity, it must not only be organic, but also critical and evaluative, historical and dynamic. Faith will provide Catholic educators with some essential principles for critique and evaluation; faith will help them to see all of human history as a history of salvation which culminates in the fullness of the Kingdom. This puts culture into a creative context, constantly being perfected (20).

To summarize: The Lay Catholic educator is a person who exercises a specific mission within the Church by living, in faith, a secular vocation in the communitarian structure of the school: with the best possible professional qualifications, with an apostolic intention inspired by faith, for the integral formation of the human person, in a communication of culture, in an exercise of that pedagogy which will give emphasis to direct and personal contact with students, giving spiritual inspiration to the educational community of which he or she is a member, as well as to all the different persons related to the educational community. To this lay person, as a member of this community, the family and the Church entrust the school’s educational endeavor. Lay teachers must be profoundly convinced that they share in the sanctifying, and therefore educational mission of the Church; they cannot regard themselves as cut off from the ecclesial complex (24).

Professionalism is one of the most important characteristics in the identity of every lay Catholic. The first requirement, then, for a lay educator who wishes to live out his or her ecclesial vocation, is the acquisition of a solid professional formation. In the case of an educator, this includes competency in a wide range of cultural, psychological, and pedagogical areas. However, it is not enough that the initial training be at a good level; this must be maintained and deepened, always bringing it up to date (27).

New horizons will be opened to students through the responses that Christian revelation brings to questions about the ultimate meaning of the human person, of human life, of history, and of the world. These must be offered to the students as responses which flow out of the profound faith of the educator, but at the same time with the greatest sensitive respect for the conscience of each student (28).

Faced with this reality [expansion of science & technology; age of change], which lay people are the first to experience, the Catholic educator has an obvious and constant need for updating: in personal attitudes, in the content of the subjects, that are taught, in the pedagogical methods that are used. Recall that the vocation of an educator requires “ a constant readiness to begin anew and to adapt” (68-70).

If the directors of the school and the lay people who work in the school are to live according to the same ideals, two things are essential. First, lay people must receive an adequate salary, guaranteed by a well defined contract, for the work they do in the     school: a salary that will permit them to live in dignity, without excessive work or a need for additional employment that will interfere with the duties of an educator. This may not be immediately possible without putting an enormous financial burden on the families, or making the school so expensive that it becomes a school for a small elite group; but so long as a truly adequate salary is not being paid, the laity should see in the school directors a genuine preoccupation to find the resources necessary to achieve this end. Secondly, laity should participate authentically in the responsibility for the school; this assumes that they have the ability that is needed in all areas, and are sincerely committed to the educational objectives which characterize a Catholic school (78).

As a part of its mission, an element proper to the school is solicitous care for the permanent professional and religious formation of its lay members. Lay people should be able to look to the school for the orientation and the assistance that they need, including the willingness to make time available when this is needed. Formation is indispensable; without it, the school will wander further and further away from its objectives. Often enough, if it will join forces with other educational centers and with Catholic professional organizations, a Catholic school will not find it too difficult to organize conferences, seminars, and other meetings which will provide the needed formation. According to circumstances, these could be expanded to include other lay Catholic educators who do    not work in Catholic schools; these people would thus be offered an opportunity they are frequently in need of, and do not easily find elsewhere (79).

Code of Canon Law (1983)

Directors of Catholic schools are to take care under the watchfulness of the local ordinary that the instruction which is given in them is at least as academically distinguished as that in the other schools of the area (c.806 §2).

The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School (Congregation for Catholic Education, 1988)

Recent Church teaching has added an essential note: “The basic principle which must guide us in our commitment to this sensitive area of pastoral activity is that religious instruction and catechesis are at the same time distinct and complementary. A school has as its purpose the students’ integral formation. Religious instruction, therefore, should be integrated into the objectives and criteria which characterize a modern school.” School directors should keep this directive of the Magisterium in mind, and they should respect the distinctive characteristics of religious instruction (70).

Educating Together in Catholic Schools: A Shared Mission Between Consecrated Persons and the Lay Faithful (Congregation for Catholic Education, 2007)

Professional formation: One of the fundamental requirements for an educator in a Catholic school is his or her possession of a solid professional formation. Poor quality teaching, due to insufficient professional preparation or inadequate pedagogical methods, unavoidably undermines the effectiveness of the overall formation of the student and of the cultural witness that the educator must offer (21).

Educating to Intercultural Dialogue in the Catholic School: Living in Harmony for a Civilization of Love (Congregation for Catholic Education, 2013)

Hence, it is important that schools know how to be communities of formation and of study, where relationships among individuals color relationships among academic disciplines. Knowledge is enhanced from within by this reclaimed unity, in the light of the Gospel and Christian doctrine, and so can make its own essential contribution to the integral growth of both individuals and the evermore heralded global society (80).

Educating Today and Tomorrow: A Renewing Passion (Congregation for Catholic Education, 2014)

The importance of schools’ and universities’ educational tasks explains how crucial training is for teachers, managers and the entire staff that has educational responsibilities. Professional competence is the necessary condition for openness to unleash its educational potential. A lot is being required of teachers and managers: they should have the ability to create, invent and manage learning environments that provide plentiful opportunities; they should be able to respect students’ different intelligences and guide them towards significant and profound learning; they should be able to accompany their students towards lofty and challenging goals, cherish high expectations for them, involve and connect students to each other and the world. Teachers must be able to pursue different goals simultaneously and face problem situations that require a high level of professionalism and preparation. To fulfil such expectations, these tasks should not be left to individual responsibility and adequate support should be provided at institutional level, with competent leaders showing the way, rather than bureaucrats (7).

USCCB Response to Educating Today and Tomorrow (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2015)

Catholic schools depend on clarity of vision and strong leaders well formed in the faith, who are capable of establishing a rich Catholic culture in the schools. Consequently, training, both professional and spiritual, was lifted up as vitally important. Our schools need professionally prepared, competent leaders who can lead and inspire. These leaders need to be well-formed and able to teach, govern, recruit and set the tone. They need to engage and invite minorities while making a clear case for the value of Catholic schools (5).

Catholic Educational Leaders – The Call to Witness

Overview

The concrete living out of a vocation as rich and profound as that of a Catholic educational leader requires a mature spiritual life expressed in a profound lived Christian witness.30 Leaders are called in a special way to make the Church present and operative so She might become the salt of the earth.31 Catholic leaders must proclaim the Gospel message through their words and witness.32 Helping to bring about the cooperation of all, as a witness to Christ, is the cornerstone of the community. The Catholic leader becomes a living example of one inspired by the Gospel.33

“Conduct is always much more important than speech; this fact becomes especially important in the formation of students.”34  This requires following the way of Christianity to shape all aspects of the school’s life, both inside and outside the classroom.35 The more completely the leader gives concrete witness to the model of Christ, the more the leader will be trusted and imitated.36

The project of the Catholic school is effective and convincing only if carried out by people who are deeply motivated to give witness to a living encounter with Christ, in who alone the mystery of man truly becomes clear.37 Authentic witness to the school’s values creates a community climate permeated by the Gospel spirit of freedom and love.38

Citations: Catholic Educational Leaders – The Call to Witness

The Catholic School (Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, 1977)

By their witness and their behavior teachers are of the first importance to impart a distinctive character to Catholic schools. It is, therefore, indispensable to ensure their continuing formation through some form of suitable pastoral provision. This must aim to animate them as witness of Christ in the classroom and tackle the problems of their particular apostolate, especially regarding a Christian vision of the world and of education, problems also connected with the art of teaching in accordance with the principles of the Gospel (78).

Lay Catholics in Schools:  Witnesses to Faith (Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, 1982)

It seems necessary to begin by trying to delineate the identity of the lay Catholics who work in a school; the way in which they bear witness to the faith will depend on this specific identity, in the Church and in this particular field of labor. In trying to contribute to the investigation, it is the intention of this Sacred Congregation to offer a service to lay Catholics who work in schools (and who should have a clear idea of the specific character of their vocation), and also to the People of God (who need to have a true picture of the laity as an active element, accomplishing an important task for the entire Church through their labor (5).

Therefore, “the laity are called in a special way to make the Church present and operative in those places and circumstances where only through them can she become the salt of the earth.”  In order to achieve this presence of the whole Church, and of the Savior whom she proclaims lay people must be ready to proclaim the message through their words, and witness to it in what they do (9).

Personal Life  Witness. Direct and Personal Contact with Students: Conduct is always much more important than speech; this fact becomes especially important in the formation period of students. The more completely an educator can give concrete witness to the model of the ideal person that is being presented to the students, the more this ideal will be believed and imitated… Without this witness, living in such an atmosphere, they may begin to regard Christian behavior as an impossible ideal. It must never be forgotten that, in the crises “which have their greatest effect on the younger generations”, the most important element in the educational endeavor is “always the individual person: the person, and the moral dignity of that person which is the result of his or her principles, and the conformity of actions with those principles” (32).

Professional commitment; support of truth, justice and freedom; openness to the point of view of others, combined with a habitual attitude of service; personal commitment to the students, and fraternal solidarity with everyone; a life that is integrally moral in all its aspects. The lay Catholic who brings all of this to his or her work in a pluralist school becomes a living mirror, in whom every individual in the educational community will see reflected an image of one inspired by the Gospel (52).

The concrete living out of a vocation as rich and profound as that of the lay Catholic in a school requires an appropriate formation, both on the professional plane and on the religious plane. Most especially, it requires the educator to have a mature spiritual personality, expressed in a profound Christian life (60).

The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School (Congregation for Catholic Education, 1988)

The Church, therefore, is willing to give lay people charge of the schools that it has established, and the laity themselves establish schools. The recognition of the school as a Catholic school is, however, always reserved to the competent ecclesiastical authority.  When lay people do establish schools, they should be especially concerned with the creation of a community climate permeated by the Gospel spirit of freedom and love, and they should witness to this in their own lives (38).

Apostolic Journey to the United States: Meeting with Catholic Educators at the Conference Hall of The Catholic University of America (Pope Benedict XVI, 2008)

Teachers and administrators, whether in universities or schools, have the duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice. This requires that public witness to the way of Christ, as found in the Gospel and upheld by the Church’s Magisterium, shapes all aspects of an institution’s life, both inside and outside the classroom. Divergence from this vision weakens Catholic identity and, far from advancing freedom, inevitably leads to confusion, whether moral, intellectual or spiritual.

Educating Together in Catholic Schools:  A Shared Mission Between Consecrated Persons and the Lay Faithful (Congregation for Catholic Education, 2007)

The project of the Catholic school is convincing only if carried out by people who are deeply motivated, because they witness to a living encounter with Christ, in whom alone «the mystery of man truly becomes clear. These persons, therefore, acknowledge a personal and communal adherence with the Lord, assumed as the basis and constant reference of the inter-personal relationship and mutual cooperation between educator and student (4).

Educating to Intercultural Dialogue in Catholic Schools: Living in Harmony for a Civilization of Love (Congregation for Catholic Education, 2013)

Catholic schools develop, in a manner wholly particular to them, the basic hypothesis that formation covers the whole arc of professional experience and is not limited to the period of initial formation or formation in the early years. Catholic schools require people not only to know how to teach or direct an organization; they also require them, using the skills of their profession, to know how to bear authentic witness to the school’s values, as well as to their own continuing efforts to live out ever more deeply, in thought and deed, the ideals that are stated publicly in words (80).

 Educating Today and Tomorrow: A Renewing Passion (Congregation for Catholic Education, 2014)

Hence, one of the most important challenges will be to foster a greater cultural openness amongst teachers and, at the same time, an equally greater willingness to act as witnesses, so that they are aware and careful about their school’s peculiar context in their work, without being lukewarm or extremist, teaching what they know and testifying to what they believe in. In order for teachers to interpret their profession in this way, they must be formed to engage in the dialogue between faith and cultures and between different religions; there cannot be any real dialogue if educators themselves have not been formed and helped to deepen their faith and personal beliefs (III,1, i).

Required Formation of Catholic Educational Leaders

Overview

Formation of Catholic leaders, and of all personnel, allows the Gospel message and the living presence of Jesus to permeate the entire life of the school community and, thus, be faithful to the school’s evangelizing mission.39 Formation needs to consider both professional matters typical of teaching and administrating, and the fundamental elements that make up a school’s Catholic identity.

The synthesis of faith, culture, and life that Catholic schools are called to, is reached by integrating all aspects of human knowledge in the light of the Gospel and in fostering growth in Christian virtue. Catholic leaders facilitate growth in knowledge and growth in humanity.40 They support and organize teacher collaboration and community by providing encouragement and assistance, so they, too, can share in the living mission of evangelization and formation.41

Leaders have a duty to ensure all personnel, including themselves, receive adequate preparation to serve effectively.42 Formational needs for Catholic school leaders and teachers extends beyond that of teachers in government-run schools, since the purpose and end of education are different. Therefore, formational programs for teacher and school leaders focusing on Christian cultural and pedagogical approaches must also be developed and provided.43

Citations: Required Formation of Catholic Educational Leaders

Teach Them (National Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1976)

We urge administrators to exercise their gifts of education leadership by promoting structures and cooperative procedures which will render such accountability and evaluation meaningful and useful to all in the Catholic educational community—parents, teachers and the Catholic community generally. They should exercise their responsibility particularly with reference to the selection, motivation and development of teaching personnel, keeping ever in mind the apostolic goals and character of the Catholic school (Administrators, 2).

Lay Catholics in Schools:  Witnesses to Faith (Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, 1982)

This calling says the Second Vatican Council, speaking about educators, requires “extremely careful preparation” …The need for an adequate formation is often felt most acutely in religious and spiritual areas; all too frequently, lay Catholics have not had a religious formation that is equal to their general, cultural, and, most especially, professional formation (60).

The need for religious formation is related to this specific awareness that is being asked of lay Catholics; religious formation must be broadened and be kept up to date, on the same level as, and in harmony with, human formation as a whole. Lay Catholics need to be keenly aware of the need for this kind of religious formation; it is not only the exercise of an apostolate that depends on it, but even an appropriate professional competence, especially when the competence is in the field of education (62).

For the Catholic educator, religious formation does not come to an end with the completion of basic education; it must be a part of and a complement to one’s professional formation, and so be proportionate to adult faith, human culture, and the specific lay vocation. This means that religious formation must be oriented toward both personal sanctification and apostolic mission, for these are two inseparable elements in a Christian vocation. “Formation for apostolic mission means a certain human and well-rounded formation, adapted to the natural abilities and circumstances of each person” and requires “in addition to spiritual formation…solid doctrinal instruction…in theology, ethics and philosophy”. Nor can we forget, in the case of an educator, adequate formation in the social teachings of the Church, which are “an integral part of the Christian concept of life”, and help to keep intensely alive the kind of social sensitivity that is needed (65).

Faced with this reality [extraordinary growth in science and technology], which lay people are the first to experience, the Catholic educator has an obvious and constant need for updating: in personal attitudes, in the content of the subjects, that are taught, in the pedagogical methods that are used. Recall that the vocation of an educator requires “a constant readiness to begin anew and to adapt”. If the need for updating is constant, then the formation must be permanent. This need is not limited to professional formation; it includes religious formation and, in general, the enrichment of the whole person. In this way, the Church will constantly adapt its pastoral mission to the circumstances of the men and women of each age, so that the message of Jesus Christ can be brought to them in a way that is understandable and adapted to their condition… If the need for updating is constant, then the formation must be permanent. This need is not limited to professional formation; it includes religious formation and, in general, the enrichment of the whole person.  In this way, the Church will constantly adapt its pastoral mission to the circumstances of the men and women of each age, so that the message of Jesus Christ can be brought to them in a way that is understandable and adapted to their condition.

Permanent formation involves a wide variety of different elements; a constant search for ways to bring it about is therefore required of both individuals and the community. Among the variety of means for permanent formation, some have become ordinary and virtually indispensable instruments: reading periodicals and pertinent books, attending conferences and seminars, participating in workshops, assemblies and congresses, making appropriate use of periods of free time for formation. All lay Catholics who work in schools should make these a habitual part of their own human, professional, and religious life.

No one can deny that permanent formation, as the name itself suggests, is a difficult task; not everyone succeeds in doing it. This becomes especially true in the face of the growing complexity of contemporary life and the difficult nature of the educational mission, combined with the economic insecurity that so often accompanies it. But in spite of all these factors, no lay Catholic who works in a school can ignore this present-day need. To do so would be to remain locked up in outdated knowledge, criteria, and attitudes. To reject a formation that is permanent and that involves the whole person—human, professional, and religious—is to isolate oneself from that very world that has to be brought closer to the Gospel (68-70).

As a part of its mission, an element proper to the school is solicitous care for the permanent professional and religious formation of its lay members. Lay people should be able to look to the school for the orientation and the assistance that they need, including the willingness to make time available when this is needed. Formation is indispensable; without it, the school will wander further and further away from its objectives (72-79).

Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2005)

The Church has always required proper preparation of those who exercise a ministry. In the same way, CIC, canon 231, states that “lay persons who devote themselves permanently or temporarily to some special service of the Church are obliged to acquire the appropriate formation which is required to fulfill their function properly.”

“To set high standards,” said Pope John Paul II, “means both to provide a thorough basic training and to keep it constantly updated. This is a fundamental duty, in order to ensure qualified personnel for the Church’s mission” (19).

Renewing Our Commitment to Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools in the Third Millennium (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2005)

Ninety-five percent of our current school administrators and teachers are members of the laity. The preparation and ongoing formation of new administrators and teachers is vital if our schools are to remain truly Catholic in all aspects of school life. Catholic school personnel should be grounded in a faith-based Catholic culture, have strong bonds to Christ and the Church, and be witnesses to the faith in both their words and actions. The formation of personnel will allow the Gospel message and the living presence of Jesus to permeate the entire life of the school community and thus be faithful to the school’s evangelizing mission.

We must provide a sufficient number of programs of the highest quality to recruit and prepare our future diocesan and local school administrators and teachers so that they are knowledgeable in matters of our faith, are professionally prepared, and are committed to the Church. These programs will require even more active involvement and cooperation by our Catholic colleges and universities in collaboration with the diocesan educational leadership.

Ongoing faith formation and professional development programs must also be available so that administrators and teachers in Catholic schools can continue to grow in their ministry of education. These programs will introduce new and effective initiatives, educational models, and approaches, while always maintaining a sound Catholic identity in our schools. This is especially important when new Catholic school administrators and teachers come from private and state colleges and universities or from careers in the public school system (Personnel).

Work with the leaders of Catholic colleges and universities to address the critical staffing needs of our Catholic elementary and secondary schools. This would include steps to ensure that sound and effective programs of teacher education and administration are available and affordable to those interested in working in our Catholic schools (Future Actions).

Educating Together in Catholic Schools: A Shared Mission Between Consecrated Persons and the Lay Faithful (Congregation for Catholic Education, 2007)

The professional formation of the educator implies a vast range of cultural, psychological and pedagogical skills, characterized by autonomy, planning and evaluation capacity, creativity, openness to innovation, aptitude for updating, research and experimentation. It also demands the ability to synthesize professional skills with educational motivations, giving particular attention to the relational situation required today by the increasingly collegial exercise of the teaching profession. Moreover, in the eyes and expectations of students and their families, the educator is seen and desired as a welcoming and prepared interlocutor, able to motivate the young to a complete formation, to encourage and direct their greatest energy and skills towards a positive construction of themselves and their lives, and to be a serious and credible witness of the responsibility and hope which the school owes to society (22).

It is not sufficient simply to care about professional updating in the strict sense. The synthesis between faith, culture and life that educators of the Catholic school are called to achieve is, in fact, reached “by integrating all the different aspects of human knowledge through the subjects taught, in the light of the Gospel […and] in the growth of the virtues characteristic of the Christian.” This means that Catholic educators must attain a special sensitivity with regard to the person to be educated in order to grasp not only the request for growth in knowledge and skills, but also the need for growth in humanity. Thus educators must dedicate themselves “to others with heartfelt concern, enabling them to experience the richness of their humanity” (24).

Educating to Intercultural Dialogue in Catholic Schools: Living in Harmony for a Civilization of Love (Congregation for Catholic Education, 2013)

The formation of teachers and administrators is of crucial importance. In most countries, the state provides the initial formation of school personnel. Good though this may be, it cannot be considered sufficient. In fact, Catholic schools bring something extra, particular to them, that must always be recognized and developed. Therefore, while the obligatory formation needs to consider those disciplinary and professional matters typical of teaching and administrating, it must also consider the cultural and pedagogical fundamentals that make up Catholic schools’ identity.

The time spent in formation must be used for reinforcing the idea of Catholic schools as being communities of fraternal relationships and places of research, dedicated to deepening and communicating truth in the various scholarly disciplines. Those who have leadership positions are duty-bound to guarantee that all personnel receive adequate preparation to serve effectively. Moreover, they must serve in coherence with the faith they profess, and be able to interpret society’s demands in the actual situation of its current configuration. This also favors the school’s collaboration with parents in education, respecting their responsibility as first and natural educators (76-77).

 Educating Today and Tomorrow: A Renewing Passion (Congregation for Catholic Education, 2014)

…a particular attention must be devoted to the formation and selection of school heads. They are not only in charge of their respective schools, but are also Bishops’ reference persons inside schools in matters of pastoral care. School heads must be leaders who make sure that education is a shared and living mission, who support  and organize teachers, who promote mutual encouragement and assistance (III,1, b).

“Themes in Catholic Schools in the United States” (U.S. Conference of  Catholic Bishops, 2015)

Formation is a major concern for Catholic schools. While teacher formation was articulated as important, the formation of principals and Catholic school leaders emerged as an area of critical importance to the bishops. The need to cultivate Catholic school leaders was voiced numerous times across the conversations. Some bishops argue that the Catholic identity of a school depends on the faith formation of a school’s leaders and faculty. Many bishops stressed the importance of finding and training competent principals and pastors able to work with the schools. It was noted that bishops, current pastors and principals play a valuable role in helping to identify leaders (2).

Conclusion

The Church’s teachings convey the immense responsibility that Catholic school leaders assume in the ministry of Catholic education.  In addition to financial, operational, and curricular knowledge, these leaders must work toward “an integration of temporal reality with the Gospel, so that the Gospel can thus reach into the lives of all men and women” (Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, 1982).  Theirs is a special call, a vocation to the apostolate of Catholic education where it is demanded of them to live lives of Gospel witness, fully and integrally. Not only is it entrusted to them the human formation and education of young people, but also the modeling and witness of the Catholic faith on a daily basis to edify and bolster the faith of their colleagues and peers. A school’s Catholic identity depends on effective and formed faith-filled leaders who set the tone for a vibrant, worshiping community of believers who collaborate with the Church to fulfill the mission of evangelization and sanctification of its faithful.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Do I look at my work in a Catholic school as a vocation, a call from God, or simply a means of sustenance?
  2. Do I have the “special qualities of mind and heart” and the willingness to “renew and adapt” that this very public and high-profile position requires?
  3. Do I have the capacity, both intellectually and physically, to fulfill the mission as a full partner with the Catholic Church of advancing an internal renewal within the Church and preserving and enhancing its influence in the world? In my community? In my diocese?
  4. How convicted am I to fulfill the mission of Catholic education, moving beyond mere administration to enriching “student’s lives with the fullness of Christ’s message and… inviting them to accept with all their hearts Christ’s work”?
  5. Am I living in full communion with the Catholic Church? Is my prayer life strong? Am I willing to share and witness my faith to all those I meet and work with?
  6. Do I have a full understanding of all the teachings of the Church? Are there areas where I could learn more? What are they?
  7. Am I willing and do I have the capacity to mentor colleagues and teachers?
  8. What are my strengths and weaknesses in providing professional development for teachers? Do I have adequate outside resources I can call upon?
  9. Am I willing and able to collaborate with religious in the formation of students? Teacher formation?
  10. Am I willing to continue my own personal professional and spiritual formation even when times seem burdensome?

References

Arthur, J. (2015). The call to teach: Expectations for the Catholic educator in magisterial teaching. Retrieved from http://s3.amazonaws.com/cardinalnewmansociety/wp-content/uploads/The-Call-to-Teach-by-Jamie-Arthur-June-2015.pdf

Code of canon law. (1983). Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/_INDEX.HTM

Congregation for Catholic Education. (1988). The religious dimension of education in a Catholic school. Retrieved from http://vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_con_catheduc_doc_19880407_catholic-school_en.html

Congregation for Catholic Education. (1997). The Catholic school on the threshold of the third millennium. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_con_ccatheduc_doc_27041988_school2000_en.html

Congregation for Catholic Education. (2007). Educating together in Catholic schools: A shared    mission between consecrated persons and the lay faithful. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_con_ccatheduc_doc_20070908_educare-insieme_en.html

Congregation for Catholic Education. (2009). Circular Letter to the Presidents of Bishops’ Conferences on Religious Education in Schools. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_con_ccatheduc_doc_20090505_circ-insegn-relig_en.html

Congregation for Catholic Education. (2013). Educating to intercultural dialogue in Catholic schools: Living in harmony for a civilization of love. Retrieved from

http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_con_ccatheduc_doc_20131028_dialogo-interculturale_en.html

Congregation for Catholic Education. (2014). Educating today and tomorrow: A renewing passion. Instrumentum laboris. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_con_ccatheduc_doc_20140407_educare-oggi-e-domani_en.html

National Conference of Catholic Bishops. (1976). Teach them. Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference.

National Conference of Catholic Bishops. (1979). Sharing the light of faith: National catechetical directory for Catholics in the United States. Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference.

Pope Benedict XVI. (2008). Apostolic journey to the United States: Meeting with Catholic educators at the conference hall of the Catholic University of America in Washington. Retrieved from http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/speeches/2008/april/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20080417_cath-univ-washington.html

Pope Francis. (2013). Evangelii Gaudium. Retrieved from https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html

Pope John Paul II. (1987). Apostolic journey to the United States and Canada: Meeting with the representatives of Catholic elementary and secondary schools and leaders in religious education in New Orleans. Retrieved from https://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/speeches/1987/september/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_19870912_scuole-cattoliche.html

Pope Paul VI. (1965). Gravissimum educationis. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651028_gravissimum-educationis_en.html

Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education. (1977). The Catholic school. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_con_ccatheduc_doc_19770319_catholic-school_en.html

Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education. (1982). Lay Catholics in schools: Witnesses to faith. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_con_ccatheduc_doc_19821015_lay-catholics_en.html

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. (2005a). Co-workers in the vineyard of the Lord. Retrieved from http://www.usccb.org/upload/co-workers-vineyard-lay-ecclesial-    ministry-2005.pdf

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. (2005b). National directory for catechesis. Washington, D.C.: USCCB.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. (2005c). Renewing our commitment to Catholic elementary and secondary schools in the third millennium. Retrieved from http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/catholic-education/upload/renewing-our-commitment-2005.pdf

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. (2015a). Themes in Catholic schools in the United States. Educating today and tomorrow: A renewing passion. World congress on Catholic education. Retrieved from http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/catholic-education/k-12/upload/15-076-Final-World-Congress.pdf

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. (2015b). USCCB response to Educating Today and Tomorrow in Educating today and tomorrow: A renewing passion. World congress on Catholic education. Retrieved from http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/catholic-education/k-12/upload/15-076-Final-World-Congress.pdf

 

 

Catholic Curriculum Standards Header

Resources for Implementing the Standards

Blog Posts

The Transcendental Taxonomy and Catholic Education  Jan 2, 2018, Rubicon – more information on using philosophical questioning in all disciplines

Teaching and Assessing Dispositions In Catholic Curriculum Dec 27, 2017, Rubicon

Understanding and Implementing Catholic Curriculum Standards July 5, 2017, Rubicon

History and Implementation of Catholic Curriculum Standards

Webinar with Rubicon International and Diocese of Lansing, MI

Key Insights into the Catholic Curriculum Standards

Webinar with Rubicon International  – This webinar discusses the underlying philosophy and use of the transcendentals of truth, beauty, and goodness embedded within the Catholic Curriculum Standards and shows how the transcendentals can serve as interdisciplinary threads between content areas and academic disciplines. Assessment of these concepts is discussed. (Must register first.)

Examples of integrating the Catholic Curriculum Standards

Diocese of Venice – Video of Most Rev. Bishop Frank DeWayne explaining new updated K12 standards which include the Catholic Curriculum Standards

Diocese of Joliet – K-8 Standards using English Language Arts, Science, Mathematics, and Social Science

Diocese of Owensboro – K-12 Science Standards using Catholic Catholic Standards and Resource material

Diocese of Grand Rapids – Adapted the Catholic Curriculum Standards to their ELA, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies standards

Policy Resources

Literature, Library, and Media Guide

Holistic Rubric for Selecting Literature in a Catholic School

Selected Reading List for K-12 Schools

Sample Lesson/Unit Plans*

Scientific Topics 6-8

English Language Arts 7-10

Mathematics

History

Transcendental Taxonomy

Taxonomy of Education Objectives – Affective Domain

*These can be adapted to individual lesson plan templates.

Teacher Formation Readings

Below are a series of readings that teachers might undertake to develop a deeper and richer understanding of the philosophical approach embedded within the Catholic Curriculum Standards. They are listed in order with the most general article describing the benefits of the integration of philosophy within the educational program (1) moving next to a brief explanation of the five Transcendentals: Perfect and unconditional Truth, Love, Goodness (Justice), Beauty, and Being (Home) (2), a brief history of western philosophical teaching on the transcendentals by Augustine and Aquinas (3) and a call of how these transcendentals lead us to Jesus, as God, and the Word (4). Adler provides the philosophical framework for understanding truth and beauty (5), and then finally Saint John Paul II’s Fides et Ratio (6) expounds on objective truth and reality.

At some point within a Catholic school teacher’s career, a wide-spread and thorough reading of the Church documents on education can be undertaken (7).

  1. Kreeft, P. (Jan. 2015). “It’s About Navigating Life: The Importance of Philosophy & Theology.”
  2. Spitzer, R. (2011). “Appendix: Evidence of the transmateriality of human beings” in Ten Universal Principles: A Brief Philosophy of the Life Issues. Pgs. 123 – 139.
  3. Turley, S. (2014). Awakening Wonder: A Classical Guide to Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Camp Hill, PA: Classical Academic Press. Chapter 4. Overview of western philosophical teachings on the transcendentals.
  4. Caldecott, S. (2012). Beauty in the Word. Tacoma, WA: Angelico Press. Pgs. 133-136 and 153 – 160.
  5. Adler, M. (2000). The Great Ideas. Peru, IL: Open Court Publishing. Pgs. 1 – 10 on Truth and Pgs. 153 – 162 on Beauty.
  6. John Paul II, (1998). Fides et Ratio, #28 – 93.
  7. Church Documents for School Teachers: Annotated Bibliography

Taking a Catholic View on Academic Freedom

Editor’s Note: The Cardinal Newman Society is releasing several articles marking the 50th anniversary of the devastating Land O’Lakes Statement, in which several Catholic university leaders declared Catholic universities independent from “authority of whatever kind, lay or clerical, external to the academic community itself”. In considering the future of Catholic education, it’s impossible to ignore the past. “How did we get here?” is a question essential to determining how many American Catholic colleges and universities can overcome their conformity to secular norms for curriculum, campus life, governance, and academic freedom. Ultimately, these articles serve as hope that the mistakes of the past can be corrected and that God will bless the renaissance of faithful Catholic education in the United States that is underway.

This article was originally published in The Enduring Nature of the Catholic University, a collection of essays released by The Cardinal Newman Society in 2009. 

So much about an answer depends on the way one poses the question. In the old story about the two monks who liked to smoke, for instance, it is easy to see why the one who asked if he could pray while smoking received permission, but the one who asked if he could smoke while praying had his request denied.

There is all the difference in the world between asking whether academic freedom is an indispensable condition for intellectual inquiry or is itself the goal. It is surely a crucial condition for real intellectual progress, for we do not know all the answers to our questions. Even figuring out how best to formulate the questions can be a difficult task. The promotion of such freedom is a necessary feature of university life. This is as true of a Catholic institution as of any other. But to think of academic freedom as somehow more than a necessary condition for intellectual progress is to mistake the means for the end. Academic freedom cannot be rightly understood as a permission to advocate for policies that are intrinsically immoral or as an artistic license for the exhibition of what is obscene, for these are not part of the goal. Academic freedom, properly understood, is a sphere for genuine scholarly debate about the truth of things.

Robust and lax views of academic freedom

The effort to take a Catholic view on academic freedom is not to postulate that there is some distinct species of the genus (“Catholic academic freedom”). Quite the contrary—my suggestion is that a Catholic view on academic freedom provides a model of what academic freedom rightly understood ought to look like anywhere. We should not presume that what passes for academic freedom in the secular sphere is the true model, and that the Catholic view is some quaint, parochial version that unfairly permits special reservations or exclusions. A better understanding of academic freedom makes it possible to see how lax versions of it can obscure a proper understanding of the relation between truth and freedom.

In the academy today there is a tendency to envision academic freedom as utterly unrestricted and to criticize any position that might order freedom to the service of any other interest. But such a highly abstract view of academic freedom risks treating what is important as a condition for scholarly inquiry as if it were independent of higher goals such as academic instruction of students, or docility to inconvenient truths, or service to a particular community that a religiously affiliated university was founded to provide. Freedom in the academy, as anywhere else, ought to be understood in service of something higher. To put it very simply, freedom is not just a matter of freedom from but of freedom for.

The idea of a university

What is essential to the very idea of a university is an interlocking triad of functions: scientific and scholarly research, academic teaching, and a creative cultural life intended to be bear fruit for the larger society and for the body that sponsors the institution. The kind of intellectual formation that students may rightly expect to find at the university level will be more likely to occur when their instructors are personally engaged in research, so that what teachers impart is a personal sense of the quest and not just a set of pre-packaged results. The demands of teaching help keep researchers alert to the meaning of the indefatigable work their disciplines require. By teaching they are regularly challenged to relate their discoveries and frustrations to the whole of knowledge, for their students are studying other things and want to understand connections between the subjects under study, even if full achievement of the unity of all knowledge may remain out of reach.

What the faculty should hope to develop in university students is a love of the quest for truth as well as the skills and disciplines needed to join in that quest. The goal of university education is the development not only of the mind but of the whole person. There ought to be concern to make new discoveries, to impart what is knowable in a given discipline, and to contribute to the development of maturity in body and mind, heart and spirit. To treat academic freedom as if it were some privileged sphere for the expression of personal beliefs in a way that is unrelated to other—and sometimes higher—ends is to sacrifice certain essential concerns of the university to a mere abstraction.

As an institution within a culture, the university receives benefits that it could not obtain on its own. In turn it owes significant debts to that culture. The service that a university needs to render includes education of a new generation in useful disciplines and moral formation of persons with a sense of the common good, the discovery of approaches and solutions to genuine problems, and the transmission of wisdom, knowledge, and traditions important to the community. Seeing academic freedom in the context of these important relationships makes for a better sense of its true nature. From this expectation of mutual benefits come both the reason for the sacrifices needed to sustain universities and the need for those who are granted the freedom of a university to benefit the community precisely by contributing to all the missions of a university.

The relation of truth and freedom

One might well argue that the relationship of the university to the society is “dialectical,” like the very relationship between truth and freedom. Freedom is a condition for the possibility of truth, and truth is the goal of freedom. To assert that a relation is dialectical is to say that the terms stand in a kind of complementary relation to one another—here it is a relation between an enabling condition and the proper use of that condition. Grasping this dialectical relationship allows us to distinguish authentic forms of freedom from inauthentic forms. However much of a little world of its own the university tends to be, the university is not its own end, but an indispensable means for the progress of research and the transmission of knowledge and wisdom. Understood in light of the specific goals of any institution of higher learning, the freedom typical of university life can be seen to take authentic and inauthentic forms.

Negatively, academic freedom involves an absence of external compulsion. Granted the need to respect such practical concerns as the financial, universities need to resist utilitarian and ideological pressures, such as a quest to give intellectual respectability to positions that are not respectable or to provide sophisticated propaganda for partisan projects. Positively, academic freedom has to be a “freedom for truth,” that is, a condition suitable for enabling scientific and scholarly progress and for subjecting reasons and arguments to the most compelling scrutiny we can devise.

In more practical terms, a university marked by a true sense of academic freedom ought to be hostile to political correctness in any form. There should be a willingness to engage frankly and deeply even the positions with which a sponsoring institution most profoundly disagrees. Coming to an authentic understanding of the best reasons in the arsenal of one’s opponent is, after all, a hallmark of intellectual respectability and a better route for making sure of the validity of one’s own position than precluding the discussion of those points. On this point, Catholics have the testimony of none other than Pope Benedict XVI in his address of April 2008, when he urged that the idea of Catholic higher education is not only compatible with academic freedom in the genuine sense of the term but that ensuring appropriate instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice is crucial to advancing academic freedom and to honoring the institution’s mission:

In regard to faculty members at Catholic colleges and universities, I wish to reaffirm the great value of academic freedom. In virtue of this freedom you are called to search for the truth wherever careful analysis of evidence leads you. Yet… any appeal to the principle of academic freedom in order to justify positions that contradict the faith and teaching of the Church would obstruct or even betray the university’s identity and mission…. Divergence from this vision weakens Catholic identity and, far from advancing freedom, inevitably leads to confusion, whether moral, intellectual or spiritual…. Teachers and administrators, whether in universities or schools, have the duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice. This requires that public witness to the way of Christ, as found in the Gospel and upheld by the Church’s Magisterium, shapes all aspects of an institution’s life, both inside and outside the classroom.1

In his address Pope Benedict reinforces the notion that Catholic-sponsored institutions would fail in their duty if they did not provide adequate instruction in the religious tradition that supports the school.2 While an overly abstract understanding of academic freedom is only likely to bring confusion, academic freedom in its proper sense gives precisely the venue needed for the search for truth, wherever the evidence may lead.

Personal commitments and the university’s mission

In practice, I believe that there needs to be toleration for those who do not share a sponsoring institution’s outlook, but on the understanding that the specific mission goals of such a university may never be sidelined; rather, it must be given accurate presentation in any academic forum.3 This position does mean that we ought to resist the demand that every possible outlook be represented at a university; unless a given point of view produces scholars of the first rank, it has no claim to the status expected of a university faculty. Some will urge that it is not permissible to investigate a prospective member of the university’s beliefs, but only the person’s professional attainment and intellectual standing. But this also seems excessively abstract. In the effort to enhance the quest for intellectual progress and the teaching mission of a university, there has to be concern not just with the learning typical of a recognized discipline but also with the sort of truths that are associated with a person’s philosophy, that is, the insights that are not accessible by the relatively impersonal sort of thinking that is typical of training in a discipline but also those that require personal commitment. These are important concerns about the meaning of human existence, about the natural law that is beyond all jurisprudence, and about the reality of God, however ineffable and mysterious, and they will enter into the life of those who live and work at a university.

University faculty like to think of themselves as independent-minded. In many respects they are, for their training has generated habits of disciplined analysis. But in addition to learning in any area there is often a curious blindness to how little one knows outside the area of one’s discipline. The penchant of any professor to be a know-it-all can easily lead to the temptation to use one’s post as a bully pulpit for what is no more than an opinion. In our own day, the liberal biases of many graduate and professional schools can dull the awareness that this temptation specially afflicts the chattering classes.

The responsibility to use freedom for pursuing and presenting the truth

In this regard there is an immediate and direct implication of the relation between freedom and responsibility. Members of a university faculty should truly have the freedom to pursue truth according to the methods germane to their disciplines and should be free from interference by those outside the discipline. But it is also important to remember that in their use of this freedom they ought to remain true to the methods of their discipline that qualify them for the privilege of this freedom and that presenting themselves as authorities beyond the areas of their expertise risks misusing that freedom.4

Of special interest to Catholic universities, of course, is the academic freedom of theologians and the proper use of this privilege.5 In this sphere there is need to bear in mind not only the standard considerations about methodology proper to any discipline, but also the specific grounding in the truth of divine revelation and the teachings of the Church for the areas of knowledge that are particularly the concern of theology. The teaching of Catholic theology in a Church-sponsored institution requires an acceptance of the truth of revelation and the teachings of the Church.

In addition to the moral responsibility that individual faculty members must shoulder in this area, there is also a responsibility on the administration of a Catholic university.6 Such a university must have a staunch commitment both to protect the proper freedom of theologians for their research and to insist that the members of the theology faculty present the teachings of the Church faithfully. The obligation here involves ensuring that the university honor its commitments to its sponsoring tradition and safeguarding the principle that one not exceed the areas of one’s professional expertise in teaching, particularly in areas of special sensitivity.

Consider, for example, the problems that can arise in courses on moral theology and ethics, an area where there can be strong personal convictions by faculty members but also an area where the Church has clear teachings. These courses might be courses in general ethics or one of the various specializations (medical ethics, business ethics, professional ethics, etc.). The need to have faculty members teaching within the area of their expertise will require that the university provide teachers suitably trained in Catholic moral theology and disposed to teach such courses in ethics in a way that is consistent with the university’s Catholic identity by being faithful to Catholic doctrine.

Faculty members who are not Catholic theologians or not willing to do this should identify themselves in such a way that will prevent confusion about this matter. Likewise, the obligation not to teach beyond one’s area of expertise should preclude faculty members in other departments who are not trained in ethics or moral theology from teaching or promoting varieties of ethics that are inconsistent with the university’s Catholic identity. To say this is in no way to put into doubt that such individuals may well have personal convictions on matters of ethics; in fact, it would be highly appropriate and advisable to organize suitable forums for the discussion of these matters in interdisciplinary circles. But it is not appropriate to have individuals who have never formally studied ethics offering courses identified as courses in ethics or moral values within the course offerings of their various disciplines. For instructors who have not themselves formally studied ethics or moral theology to be offering such courses would be cases of teaching outside the area of their professional expertise and thus to go beyond the privileges accorded to academic freedom properly understood.

Privilege, obligation, and right

When discussing academic freedom, we would do well to speak in terms of “privilege and “obligation.” Academic freedom is a privilege, not a right. The language of right should probably be reserved to “the pursuit of truth.” Individuals are privileged to come to a university for the purpose of seeking truth, both to participate in its discovery and to play a role in its dissemination. But the human right to pursue truth unconditionally and for its own sake is what governs the privilege and grounds the obligation of those exercising this right to make proper use of it. Getting this relationship right requires keeping sharp one’s intellectual conscience and exerting conscious and honest control over one’s creative impulses, especially by staying alert to the consequences, immediate and far-reaching, for one’s ideas.

There can be failures to observe these proprieties. One might consider, for instance, the sad history of the German universities in the period leading up to the Second World War.7 Despite the courageous resistance of some of its members, a university can collapse under the attack of a dictator. We need to acknowledge a special responsibility for such a collapse that lies at the feet of those university professors who care too little about the interaction between academic life and its social and political environment. The rationalizations and justifications used for the programs of forcible sterilization and the murder of the mentally ill seem to be recurring in our debates on abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, and euthanasia. The price of freedom is always vigilance and a readiness for sacrifice: in no walk of life may one take one’s post for granted and allow oneself not to see what one prefers not to see.

The dialectical tension between truth and freedom is one that academics sometimes do not like to hear about. Although a non-negotiable aspect of the life of a university, academic freedom is not an independent absolute but an absolute that stands in a dialectical relation to truth. Karl Jaspers put the point clearly when writing of those German universities:

Academic freedom can survive only if the scholars invoking it remain aware of its meaning. It does not mean the right to say what one pleases. Truth is much too difficult and great a task that it should be mistaken for the passionate exchange of half-truths spoken in the heat of the moment. It exists only where scholarly ends and a commitment to truth are involved. Practical objectives, educational bias, or political propaganda have no right to invoke academic freedom.8

Academic freedom does not refer to the political concept of freedom of speech, let alone to the liberty of pure license in thought, but to the liberty that is the condition for the possibility of truth. In turn, the truth toward which academic work is ordered as its goal justifies the freedom provided at a university and protected by our understanding of a university’s privileges. Academic freedom exempts a faculty member from certain kinds of external constraints so as to enable that person better to honor the obligations of a scholar to intellectual thoroughness, method, and system.

The correlative safeguards for the proper use of that freedom will presumably have to be moral rather than legal. This is often the case with other kinds of authority, for the highest administrators of legal justice are near the summit of law and generally have no higher authority watching over them. We depend upon justice being in the heart of the judge as much as upon the checks and balances of power that are so crucial to our system of government, and yet are ever subject to corruption. The frustrations of academic life (e.g., when one simply has no success in the lab, at the clinic, or in one’s research) point out clearly enough that freedom may be the condition for truth, but it is not a guarantee that one will automatically achieve truth merely by hard work or persistence.

In my judgment, the dialectical relation between truth and freedom constitutes a central aspect of academic freedom. That all of a university’s branches of learning work with hypotheses of only relative validity and do not describe the whole of reality itself but only particular aspects in no way alters or denies the goal of truth that belongs to the idea of the university. There remains a need for the guidance in our endeavors that the idea of the unity of knowledge provides. Only the goal of truth pursued in responsible freedom, guided by a sense of the oneness of reality, can sustain our search to know all the particulars as a way of getting at that basic oneness and wholeness. The result of a commitment to this idea will be not just the protection of academic freedom but the maturation of an increasingly authentic idea of freedom in the individual and the community of the university.

 

 

 

Gerard V. Bradley: Common Core Catastrophe

Editor’s Note: This guest commentary by University of Notre Dame Law Professor Gerard V. Bradley was originally published on November 15, 2016, at Public Discourse, an online publication of the Witherspoon Institute, and is reprinted here with permission.

Pyrotechnics about unsecured e-mails, groping, pay-to-play, and multiple personality disorders suffocated what was—early in the 2016 election cycle—an essential discussion about the most far-reaching reform of K-12 schooling in our country’s history. “Common Core” is the latest, and by far the most comprehensive, plan for national educational standards. Developed by a select group of consultants and bankrolled by the Gates Foundation, Common Core was aggressively promoted by the Obama administration beginning in 2010. Within eighteen months, forty-six states adopted it, 90 percent of them egged on by a chance to snag federal dollars in the form of “Race to the Top” funds.

Gerard V. Bradley
Gerard V. Bradley

President-elect Donald Trump regularly denounced Common Core on the primary campaign trail, beginning with his speech to CPAC in 2015. This also gave him an opportunity to browbeat Jeb Bush, a fervent early supporter of this educational overhaul. Hillary Clinton’s criticism of Common Core was limited to lamenting its “poor implementation”; about the revision’s basic soundness and desirability, she expressed no doubt. Had she prevailed last Tuesday, Common Core would have been safe in the hands of Clinton constituencies who brought it to life, especially the public education establishment and the business oligarchs who want shovel-ready workers. The grassroots rebellion against Common Core (which “paused” its implementation in 2013 or triggered reassessment of it in a few states) would have been squeezed from the top down. Those rebels must refocus President Trump’s attention upon Common Core and persuade him to ignite a national movement to roll it back.

The stated objective of Common Core is to produce “college- and career-ready” high school graduates. Yet even its proponents concede that it only prepares students for community-college level work. In truth, Common Core is a dramatic reduction of the nature and purpose of education to mere workforce preparation.

In 2013, a group of 132 scholars, myself among them, spoke out against Common Core. Our criticism was and is sound:

Common Core adopts a bottom-line, pragmatic approach to education. The heart of its philosophy is, as far as we can see, that it is a waste of resources to “over-educate” people. The basic goal of K-12 schools is to provide everyone with a modest skill set; after that, people can specialize in college – if they end up there. Truck-drivers do not need to know Huck Finn. Physicians have no use for the humanities. Only those destined to major in literature need to worry about Ulysses. …

Perhaps a truck-driver needs no acquaintance with Paradise Lostto do his or her day’s work. But everyone is better off knowing Shakespeare and Euclidian geometry, and everyone is capable of it. Everyone bears the responsibility of growing in wisdom and grace and in deliberating with fellow-citizens about how we should all live together. A sound education helps each of us to do so.

One silver lining that could be expected in this gray cloud is a renaissance for Catholic schools. The overwhelming majority of Catholic children attend public schools, there being “educated” according to Common Core’s secularized workforce prescription. Catholic parents who are informed about Common Core could be expected to seize the moment and switch their kids to one of the Church’s thousands of elementary or high schools.

For the contrast between a sound Catholic education and Common Core could scarcely be sharper. That difference was illumined by us, the 132 scholars—Catholics all—who addressed our letter (which was subsequently made public) to each of America’s bishops:

Common Core is innocent of America’s Catholic schools’ rich tradition of helping to form children’s hearts and minds. In that tradition, education brings children to the Word of God. It provides students with a sound foundation of knowledge and sharpens their faculties of reason. It nurtures the child’s natural openness to truth and beauty, his moral goodness, and his longing for the infinite and happiness. It equips students to understand the laws of nature and to recognize the face of God in their fellow man. Education in this tradition forms men and women capable of discerning and pursuing their path in life and who stand ready to defend truth, their church, their families, and their country.

The case for the incompatibility of Common Core with a Catholic education has now been extended, and completed, with the release of “After the Fall: Catholic Education Beyond the Common Core.” A joint publication of the Pioneer Institute and the American Principles Project, this white paper is authored by Anthony Esolen, Dan Guernsey, Jane Robbins, and Kevin Ryan. They observe that at

the heart of Common Core agenda is a century-old dream of Progressive educators to redirect education’s mission away from engaging the young in the best of human thought and focusing instead on preparation for “real life.” While a reasonable but quite secondary goal, workforce-development is dwarfed by Catholic schools’ transcendent goals of human excellence, spiritual transformation, and preparation for the “next life” as well.

In a compact but rich Preface to “After the Fall,” former ambassadors to the Holy See Raymond Flynn and Mary Ann Glendon write that the “basic goal of Common Core is not genuine education, but rather the training and production of workers for an economic machine.” By contrast, Catholic schools have traditionally provided “a classical liberal-arts education” that seeks to “impart moral lessons and deep truths about the human condition.” Glendon and Flynn observe that religion and the integrated humanist education that Catholic educators have long offered have “never been more needed than they are in this era of popular entertainment culture, opioid epidemics, street-gang violence, wide achievement gaps, and explosive racial tensions.” Just so.

It is no wonder, then, that John Doerfler, Catholic Bishop of Marquette, Michigan, recently announced his rejection of Common Core, saying that adopting it would not “benefit the mission, Catholic identity or academic excellence of our schools.” Just so.

Bishop Doerfler is, however, in the minorityHis rejection of Common Core is the exception, not the rule. In fact, most Catholic dioceses and archdioceses—approximately 100 (including New York and Los Angeles)—have adopted Common Core. This means that the vast majority of our nation’s Catholic schoolchildren will be taught from Common Core, whether they are enrolled in public or private Catholic schools.

“After the Fall” tells some of this sad tale. The de facto voice of Catholic education in America is the National Catholic Educational Association, to which about 85 percent of America’s 6500 Catholic schools belong. By May 2012, the NCEA was encouraging Catholic schools to embrace Common Core, gushing a bit later that it contained “high quality academic standards,” which would “in no way compromise the Catholic identity or educational program of a Catholic school.” Catholic school systems rushed to buy in. More recently and after much negative feedback, the NCEA has backed off its embrace of Common Core and has begun to provide some helpful resources and tools for teachers who have no choice but to teach within its strictures. But the damage of hasty adoption was done.

What could explain the mad rush? Anecdotal feedback to the Catholic scholars’ letter (which I not only signed but organized) strongly suggests that, in spite of so many enthusiastic public statements, Catholic educators recognized effortlessly that Common Core was deeply flawed. It is doubtful that any serious Catholic educator would have recommended adopting it, or anything like it, were it not for real or perceived pressure from public authorities and teachers’ organizations to do so. Their view seems to have been: Common Core is not good for a Catholic school, but it is not so bad that it needs to be rejected, at least where the local political and economic powers-that-be want us to go along with it. These Catholic educators thought that they could “work with” Common Core.

“After the Fall” carefully states and cogently refutes the pragmatic reasons offered by these Catholic educators for adopting Common Core. The study also shows—conclusively, in my judgment—that these educators’ pragmatic approach is ill-conceived in a deeper, more important, way: Common Core is so philosophically at odds with a sound Catholic education that an acceptable modus vivendi is unavailable. Trying to pour Common Core into such venerable wineskins will burst them.

I would add the further criticism that these educators’ accommodationism is shortsighted. It is ultimately a recipe for the demise of Catholic schools. Already a great many dedicated Catholic parents have withdrawn their children from Catholic schools due to low academic standards and substandard Catholic character. These parents homeschool or send their children to a burgeoning number of new “classical Christian” schools, which are almost always outside the control of the local Catholic educational establishment. Other dedicated parents send their children to decent public schools where they are available, reckoning that the avowedly secular atmosphere there at least portends no confusion about the content of the Catholic faith. Adopting Common Core will surely accelerate this exodus, a hemorrhage of precisely those students who should form a Catholic school’s backbone.

Left behind in many Catholic schools, especially but not only in Rust Belt cities, are non-Catholic students happy to escape under-performing public schools, as well as Catholics who are in it for sports, college prep, or an ambiance of social justice service projects. These are all good things, and a good Catholic school should have them if it can. But they are secondary features of a sound Catholic education, not essential ones. A perfectly good Catholic grade school might have no sports and no service projects, and a solid Catholic high school might enroll only a few students with serious college aspirations.

The important point is that the appetite (if you will) for an integral Catholic education is already perilously suppressed in a vast swath of this country’s Catholic schools. Students in them tolerate the distinctly Catholic quality of the education they are getting. But it is not a big reason for their attendance, and for some it is not a reason at all. Its decline would not deprive them of anything they came to a Catholic school to get. The decision of so many Catholic administrators and teachers to embrace Common Core probably reflects their recognition of exactly this unfortunate situation. They would give the students pretty much the education they want.

These schools are already far down the path of transition from providing a truly Catholic education (as it is so aptly described in “After the Fall”) to being more like a religiously inspired, affordable private alternative to dysfunctional public schools. The appeal of this denouement is undeniable: urban “Catholic” schools might be the best route up and out of the ghetto for thousands of non-Catholic children who deserve that opportunity. But this encouraging effect is and must be just that: a welcome side-benefit of providing a genuine Catholic education.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence is now in charge of the Trump transition. That is a good omen; as Indiana governor Pence heeded the grassroots rebellion against Common Core—led, as a matter of fact, by two very able moms (Erin Tuttle and Heather Crossin)—and orchestrated a significant modification of the curriculum. He should now be encouraged to recommend to Donald Trump the appointment of an Education Secretary who will release the pressure from Washington, and instead encourage the states to explore alternatives to Common Core.

For those interested in genuine Catholic education, the politics is local. School parents and others with the best interests of students at heart will have to seek, and insist politely, on receiving straight answers from principals and administrators about whether, and to what extent, Common Core is in their schools. In places such as Marquette, Michigan, officials from the bishop on down should be thanked for their stand against it. In the hundred or so jurisdictions where Common Core (or something practically indistinguishable from it) is in place, respectful but firm corrective action is needed, including the organization of parents who want more than workforce prep for their Catholic school children. The sponsors of “After the Fall”—American Principles Project and Pioneer Institute—have the resources and the experts to help.

Eight Bad Reasons for Adopting Common Core in Catholic Schools

There are many expertly crafted reasons presented in After the Fall: Catholic Education Beyond the Common Core for why Common Core State Standards are insufficient for Catholic education. Among them are refutations of eight popular arguments used by proponents of the controversial standards to justify Common Core in Catholic schools.

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After the Fall was published by the Pioneer Institute in collaboration with American Principles Project in October 2016. The Cardinal Newman Society praised the report for its “devastating critique” of Common Core’s use in Catholic schools.

The Cardinal Newman Society’s Dr. Dan Guernsey, director of K-12 education programs, and his co-authors of After the Fall, Dr. Anthony Esolen, Jane Robbins and Dr. Kevin Ryan, show why Catholic school leaders should move above and beyond the flawed Common Core standards by embracing truly Catholic standards of excellence in education, such as the Newman Society’s new Catholic Curriculum Standards.

Below are eight bad reasons for adopting Common Core in Catholic schools that are debunked in After the Fall:

Bad Reason #1: “Catholic schools need to adopt the Common Core standards because they are high-quality standards that will keep test scores high and enable Catholic schools to compete with public schools.”

Debunked: “Catholic schools have been outperforming public schools by double-digit margins for the last 20 years on federal National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading and math tests (often referred to as “the nation’s report card”). Catholic-school college preparation is outstanding, with over 99 percent of students graduating from high school and 84 percent going on to four-year colleges (almost double the public-school rate). … These statistics establish that in adopting the Common Core, Catholic schools were attempting to fix what was not broken. …

“Five years into the Common Core experiment, the [test score] data is at best mixed, and in fact NAEP scores are dropping, although causation is not yet clear.”

Bad Reason #2: “Catholic schools need to adopt the Common Core standards because some states require Catholic-school students to take state tests aligned to them.”

Debunked: Only six states “require that Catholic-school students at some point take state-administered tests … but wholescale adoption of the Common Core standards is not necessary or advisable, especially as the state tests themselves are in flux.

“Roughly 90 percent of states either leave Catholic schools entirely alone on testing issues or only require them to take a nationally normed test … of their own choice. There are a number of non-Common Core options for schools to choose from … Catholic schools should be wary of simply choosing Common Core-based tests because they are perceived as being more current or valid. State testing related to the Common Core is still uncertain and controversial.”

Bad Reason #3: “Catholic schools need to adopt the Common Core standards because they will influence college-entrance exams.”

Debunked: Commenting on the two major college entrance exams, the ACT and the SAT, “ACT is not beholden to the Common Core,” and “If the SAT were to swerve too deeply into the Common Core, hampering its perceived ability to evaluate all students across the nation, ACT will gain millions of more customers from non-Common Core schools.”

Further, “About a thousand colleges and universities, including more than 125 featured in U.S. News and World Report rankings, no longer require SAT or ACT scores at all.”

Bad Reason #4: “Catholic schools need to adopt the Common Core standards because most teachers will be trained under the new standards, and most teacher in-services for ongoing development will occur in a Common Core world.”

Debunked: “While this argument seems plausible on the surface, it is also true that for years, when states had different standards, it was never thought that a teacher trained in Michigan under its specific curricular standards would therefore be unqualified to teach in Florida under its different particular curricular standards. A professional educator with strong core teaching skills can easily adapt to a set of curriculum standards. It simply was never an issue before. …

“Competent educators can move skillfully through any set of standards. To a professional educator, there is nothing sacrosanct, magical, or deeply mysterious about a particular set of standards.”

Bad Reason #5: “Catholic schools need to adopt the Common Core standards because most textbooks and materials will reference them.”

Debunked: “Most textbooks have always covered a broad set of standards. Teachers in individual states would adapt the use of those texts to ensure that they meet their own state standards. In fact, even though there is a related effort to nationalize science standards, there technically are no Common Core science standards today. Each state has its own history standards, yet that does not prevent states from using the same textbooks to teach to their individual standards. This dynamic has not changed. Catholic educators can still follow their own standards and not be lost in interacting with any textbooks, Common Core-based or not.”

Bad Reason #6: “Catholic schools can adopt the Common Core standards because criticism of them is just ‘political,’ not educational.”

Debunked: “To say that [critics’] legitimate concerns about academic rigor and Catholic identity are ‘political as opposed to educational’ is dismissive and ignores their legitimate educational concerns. Even the many concerns of a political nature that plague the Common Core, specifically about the proper role of government in citizens’ lives, are legitimate and should not be simply dismissed. Catholics are citizens and have the responsibility to ensure the political order operates for the common good. …

“Few activities are more ‘political’ than forming other people’s children. It is the responsibility and duty of politics to inform this process. Political concerns, even though they are not the focus of this report, cannot simply be brushed away.”

Bad Reason #7: “Catholic schools can adopt the Common Core standards since schools can simply ‘infuse’ Catholicism into the existing standards.”

Debunked: “Most Catholics would agree it is a good and important thing for Catholic schools to infuse their curriculum with Catholic subject matter as appropriate. … However, a fundamental concern remains: The Common Core standards are not enough to guide the complete intellectual formation in a Catholic school. The attempt to ‘work within’ the Common Core by infusing Catholic content (or, as the superintendent of schools in one archdiocese said, to use the Common Core but ‘sprinkle Catholicism on top’) is inadequate — ultimately much more is needed to retain a genuine Catholic education.”

Bad Reason #8: “Catholic schools can adopt the Common Core standards since standards are not a curriculum and therefore do not really affect what, when, and how Catholic schools teach.”

Debunked: “Especially in Catholic education, mission should drive standards; standards should drive curriculum. Both standards and curriculum serve the mission. If mission drives standards, then to the degree the Catholic schools’ educational mission is similar to public schools’ (e.g., in teaching basic math skills to second-graders), there can be some sharing of standards (if there is proof of their effectiveness). However, to the degree that elements of the Catholic mission are broader than the public schools’, different or additional standards are required. …

“The Common Core is clear that it seeks to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to prepare students for college and career. If there is any other purpose to education, the Common Core does not recognize it. The mission of a Catholic school, though, is much broader.”

Catholic Curriculum Standards Header

Educating to Truth, Beauty and Goodness

Editor’s Note: The following essay appears in Appendix A of The Cardinal Newman Society’s Catholic Curriculum Standards.1

The world, in all its diversity, is eager to be guided towards the great values of mankind, truth, good and beauty; now more than ever…Teaching means to accompany young people in their search for truth and beauty, for what is right and good.  — Educating Today and Tomorrow: A Renewing Passion, 2014 2

We want our students to maximize their human potential and to both be good and do good in authentic freedom. In order to do this, our students need to be able to know how to wisely and fully apprehend and interrogate all aspects of reality from a solid Christian intellectual tradition. This intellectual tradition involves not just teaching facts and skills, but is also essentially focused on seeking to know the value and nature of things and in appreciating the value of knowledge for its own sake.

One method of assisting students to keep focus on these aspects of Catholic intellectual inquiry is to use the lenses of truth, goodness, and beauty to evaluate a subject under consideration. These three elements are often understood as being among the transcendentals. Transcendentals are the timeless and universal attributes of being.3 They are the properties of all beings. They reflect the divine origin of all things and the unity of all truth and reality in God. These elements are among the deepest realities. They help unite men across time and culture and are often a delight to explore and discuss, because they are substantive to our very nature.

The transcendentals of truth, beauty, and goodness are closely intertwined. Dubay (1999) observed that, “Truth beauty and goodness have their being together, by truth we are put in touch with reality which we find is good for us and beautiful to behold. In our knowing, loving and delighting the gift of reality appears to us as something infinitely and in-exhaustively valuable and fascinating.”4 In seeking to discuss one, the others are naturally and organically brought into the conversation.

The following simple definitions and essential questions are provided as a general framework to help facilitate a discussion on any topic in any subject. The goal is not to generate easy questions for easy answers, but to generate foundational questions for deep inquiry into the value and nature of things, to instill a sense of the intrinsic value of knowledge, and to elicit a sense of wonder.

Beauty

Beauty can help evoke wonder and delight, which are foundations of a life of wisdom and inquiry.5 Beauty involves apprehending unity, harmony, proportion, wholeness, and radiance.6 It often manifests itself in simplicity and purity, especially in math and science.7 Often beauty has a type of pre-rational (striking) force upon the soul, for instance when one witnesses a spectacular sunset or the face of one’s beloved. Beauty can be understood as a type of inner radiance or shine coming from a thing that is well-ordered to its state of being or is true to its nature or form.8

Beauty pleases not only the eye or ear, but also the intellect in a celebration of the integrity of our body and soul. It can be seen as a sign of God’s goodness, benevolence and graciousness, of both His presence and His transcendence in the world.9 It can serve as re-enchantment with the cosmos and all reality10 and assist in moving our students to a rich and deep contemplative beholding of the real.11

Some essential questions related to beauty:

  • Is “X” beautiful? How so? Why not?
  • Which of these (i.e., poems, experiments, proofs, theories, people, functions, concepts) is more beautiful and why? Why might others have thought this beautiful?
  • How does this person/thing attract? Is this person using their God-given gifts to attract in a way that pleases God and draws others closer to God? What can happen when beauty is not used for the glory of God?
  • What is delightful, wondrous about this person/thing?
  • How does this shine? Radiate?
  • How is faithfulness to form or nature powerfully evident here?
  • What does this reveal about the nature of what is seen?
  • Where is there unity and wholeness here?
  • Where is there proportion and harmony here?
  • How does this reveal God’s graciousness, presence, and transcendence?
  • What does my response to this reveal about me?
  • Is this also Good? Is this also True?

Goodness

When we explore issues of goodness with our students, we are fundamentally asking them to consider questions of how well someone or something fulfills its purpose. Goodness is understood as the perfection of being. A thing is good to the degree that it enacts and perfects those powers, activities, and capacities appropriate to its nature and purpose. A good pair of scissors cuts, a good eye has 20/20 vision, and so forth. We have to know a thing’s purpose, nature, or form to engage in an authentic discussion of “The Good.” When we get to questions of what is a good law, a good government, a good father, or a good man, the discussion quickly grows richer, deeper, and more complex.

As Catholic educators, our goal is to help our students to become good persons. Among those qualities we deem good are wisdom, faithfulness, and virtue. Virtue is a habitual and firm disposition to do the good.12 We are free to the extent that with the help of others, we have maximized these goods, these proper powers and perfections as man.13 Such efforts raise fundamental questions of what it means to be human and our relationships with each other, the created world, and God.

God, through reason and revelation, has not left us blind on these issues, nor has He left us up to our own subjective devices. It is a fundamental responsibility of the Catholic school to teach and pass on this Catholic culture, this Catholic worldview, this cultural patrimony, these insights, and these very fundamental truths about the good and what constitutes the good life.14 Particularly, in this and all our efforts as Catholic educators, we build our foundation of the good on Jesus Christ, who is the perfect man, and who fully reveals man to himself.15

Some essential questions related to goodness:

  • What is this thing’s purpose/end? What do we know from our senses and reason? From nature and natural law? What do we know from revelation?
  • What is this thing’s nature? What do we know from our senses and reason? From nature and natural law? What do we know from revelation?
  • What perfections are proper to this thing in light of its purpose?
  • To what degree does the particular instance we are considering possess or lack these perfections?
  • What, if anything, would make this better?
  • What would make this worse?
  • How well does this work? Is “X” a good “Y”? What makes “X” a good “Y”? (e.g., Is Odysseus a good husband? Is the liver we are diagnosing a good liver? Is the theory of relativity a good theory? Is Picasso a good artist?)
  • How does this measure up in terms of a Catholic worldview and values?
  • How does this measure up in terms of Catholic morality and virtue?
  • How does this measure up to God’s plan or expectations of it as revealed in Christ?
  • Is this also beautiful? Is this also true?

Truth

A simple definition for truth is the mind being in accord with reality.16 We seek always to place our students and ourselves in proper relationship with the truth. Nothing we do can ever be opposed to the truth, that is, opposed to reality which has its being in God. Catholics hold that when our senses are in good condition and functioning properly under normal circumstances, and when our reason is functioning honestly and clearly, we can come to know reality and have the ability to make true judgments about reality. Through study, reflection, experimentation, argument and discussion, we believe that an object under discussion may manifest itself in its various relations, either directly or indirectly, to the mind.17

We believe that Man tends by nature toward the truth. Even though due to our fallen nature we may sometimes seek to ignore or obfuscate the truth, we are nonetheless obliged to honor and bear witness to it in its fullness. We are bound to adhere to the truth once we come to know it and direct our whole life in accordance with the demands of truth.18 As Catholics, we believe that reason, revelation, and science will never be in ultimate conflict, as the same God created them all.19 We oppose scientism which without evidence makes the metaphysical claim that only what can be measured and subject to physical science can be true. We oppose relativism, not only because its central dictum “there is no truth” is self-contradicting, but also because in removing objective truths from any analysis, this also removes the possibility of gauging human progress, destroys the basis for human dignity, and disables the ability to make important moral distinctions such as the desirability of tolerance20 and wisdom of pursuing truth, beauty, and goodness as opposed to their opposites of error, ugliness, and sin.

Some essential questions related to truth:

  • Is it true?
  • Is our mind/concept in accord with reality?
  • Are we looking at this clearly and with our senses and reason properly attuned?
  • Is the thinking rational and logical?
  • Is the information and reasoning clear and precise?
  • Is the approach fair and balanced?
  • How does this square with what we know from revelation? If there is a disconnect, where further shall we explore?
  • On what intellectual, moral, or intuitive principle are we basing this?
  • Can the knowledge or situation under consideration be integrated with or expanded by the knowledge from another academic discipline?
  • Now that we know this particular truth about a thing, what other questions does that raise? What more do we want to know?
  • Is this also beautiful? Is this also good?