By John Wick
Some of you may know that I work within the Catholic school system. This is an important fact because it means that my worldview is heavily influenced by this system. There are certain freedoms that are allowed within a Catholic school that are not as readily available in the public system. For example the ability to make quick changes to curriculum or programs without all the red tape that the public system has to endure. I feel for my brothers and sisters in public schools and I am impressed by their ability to carry on in this very difficult time for educators.
However, this is not a post about the differences. Rather, I’m telling you that I am part of the Catholic school system because its important for this post. I’m currently enrolled in a course at Loyola Marymount University, which focuses upon mission driven education. One of our assignments was to write our own personal vision of Catholic education. Some perceive Catholic schools as a dying entity, however I hold an opposite view. We have hit a rough spot due to an unwillingness to change (which is built into our system) but some of us have begun to take our heads out of the sand long enough to know that we must start running toward radical changes to keep our schools alive.
What follows is the paper I wrote about my personal vision of Catholic education. If it were up to me, this would be a little shorter, however there were some elements of the assignment that had to be covered. What I can say, is that I wholeheartedly believe in what I wrote, which is why I’m going to share my paper (Vision – Dream) with you.
I welcome your thoughts and comments on this topic.
My Vision of Catholic Education
In order to describe my personal vision of Catholic education, it becomes necessary to first understand a core philosophical tenet to which I adhere. Greenleaf (2002) expertly expresses the philosophical perspective I maintain:
Not much happens without a dream. And for something great to happen, there must be a great dream. Behind every great achievement is a dreamer of great dreams. Much more than a dreamer is required to bring it to reality, but the dream must be there first. (p. 30)
This statement clearly depicts the necessity of a leader, his or her colleagues, and of course the adherence to a vision (dream) that is unwavering.
My dream for Catholic education is to raise it to new heights, the likes of which have never been seen. My vision is to establish a Catholic school system that supports education for all Catholic students regardless of their socioeconomic status. Miller (2006) underscores this importance; he stated, “All Catholic children, not just those whose families have the financial means, have a right to Catholic education” (p. 15). Providing affordable education to our Catholic community is of the utmost importance.
My vision is to work toward a reality in which Catholic schools surpass the zenith of enrollment experienced in 1965 when approximately 5.6 million students were enrolled in 13,500 Catholic schools (Reardon, Cheadle, & Robinson, 2009). During this decade, roughly 12 percent of all children enrolled in schools the United States were enrolled in Catholic schools (Walch, 1996, p. 1). In order to facilitate this, Catholic education must focus, not only upon being financial accessible to its students, but also on its ability to demonstrate a strong Catholic identity while remaining on the forefront of educational excellence.
Jesus Christ must be at the center of Catholic education. It is easy to become caught up in a maelstrom of secular educational issues, however it is more important to focus upon the spiritual development of the child, lest he or she lose connection with their Catholic faith. “The gospel of Jesus Christ and his very person are to inspire and guide the Catholic school in every dimension of its life and activity…” (Miller, 2006, p. 25). Holding to this foundation will allow all that is accomplished within the school to serve the spiritual growth and development of the entire school community.
Once this foundation has been set, it becomes manifest that we must strive for excellence in every aspect of the Catholic school. My vision is that Catholic schools will provide an education experience that will surpass public schools. Catholic education has the ability to drive education research and new pedagogical implementations. Providing our schools with leading technologies and teachers, who are trained to use them correctly, will help to secure a prosperous future for our students.
Catholic schools are well poised to make this a reality. According to Walch (1996), “Where Catholic schools had once followed every innovation introduced in public education, the roles have been reversed. Catholic schools are now laboratories for the development of effective tools in reaching a broad cross-section of children” (p. 244). Maintaining this view of Catholic schools as learning laboratories focused upon the spiritual and academic excellence of our students will help to ensure that Catholic education thrives in the United States.
The key to attaining this vision of Catholic education will be to ensure that lay educators are well versed in Catholic teachings, as well as educational research and methodology. In order to make this a reality, leaders who hold a similar vision of Catholic education will need to emerge. These leaders should embody servant leadership. Jesus said, “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all” (Mark 1:43-44, New International Version). These leaders must not be passive; they must seek to strengthen Catholic schools and shape a future in which the Catholic school is a thriving entity (Lowney, 2003, p. 33).
With the reduction of religious personnel in Catholic schools, the laity will increasingly need to strengthen and maintain the Catholic identity and academic integrity within Catholic education (Cook, 2007, p. vi; Miller, 2006, p. 5). According to Miller (2006), we know that the Catholic church will survive, and that it “… must have schools that are recognizably Catholic” (p. 7). Therefore, it is important that leaders in Catholic education emerge who are willing to shoulder the duty of ensuring the success of Catholic education.
My vision is to work with these leaders in close collaboration, across multiple diocese. This will help us to achieve the dream of raising Catholic education to new heights. This vision will enable students to grow spiritually in the love of Jesus Christ, while expanding their future horizons through academic excellence. “A Catholic educator is a person who gives testimony by his or her life” (Miller, 2006, p. 53). My desire is to give testimony through the acts of my life, which will help Catholic schools to attain my vision for their future thriving success.
Cook, T. (2007). Architects of Catholic Culture: Designing & Building Catholic Culture in Catholic Schools. Washington DC: National Catholic Education Association.
Greenleaf, R. (2002). Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power & Greatness (25th Anniversary Edition ed.). New York: Paulist Press.
Lowney, C. (2003). Heroic Leadership. Chicago: Loyola Press.
Miller, J. M. (2006). The Holy See’s Teaching on Catholic Schools. Atlanta: Solidarity Association.
Reardon, S., Cheadle, J., & Robinson, J. (2009). The Effect of Catholic Schooling on Math and Reading Development in Kindergarten through Fifth Grade. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 2(1), 45-87.
Walch, T. (1996). Parish School. New York: Crossroad Publishing.