Christ spent his life teaching. He entrusted his mission to his followers urging them to “go and teach.” Teaching is essential to the message of Christ. Catholic schools are a structured way to present the message of Christ. These schools attempt to produce other generations that will know and experience how much God loves and cares for them.
Catholics view God and creation as good. Educators in Catholic schools assist new generations in exploring God’s creation. They strive for excellence in human skills and learning to help their students become more fully human. These educators realize that human learning can open persons to greater religious sensibility. Thus, they teach in order to educate, that is, to help others ultimately to find God in all things and to be attentive to God’s continuing revelation.
Catholic education has a vision and a set of values. Its vision is that of Jesus Christ calling each one individually and corporately to be a community of faith, to restore all things in Christ, and to bring Christian values to all subjects, activities, and persons in the school. The values that flow from this vision are those of Jesus Christ. In particular, they include community, faith, hope, reconciliation, courage, service, justice, and love.
…explore alternatives to the assumptions of the culture,
Ask questions as to what makes life meaningful…
Catholic education is also a freeing process. It aims to provide insight on how to live and a context for this living. Thus, educators in Catholic schools explore alternatives to the assumptions of the culture, ask questions as to what makes life meaningful, look at choices in decisions to be made, and deal with issues for living in a pluralistic society. Catholic schools are free to explore these dimensions and to enable students to integrate faith, life, and culture.
The goals of education are idealistic and manifold. The real test of a school is what students carry away with them, remember of their experience, and put into daily practice. The Catholic Bishops of the United States in their pastoral message on Catholic education, To Teach as Jesus Did, described three highlights that they hoped students in Catholic schools would embody as a result of a Catholic education. These salient characteristics, which transcend academic excellence, are MESSAGE, SERVICE, COMMUNITY. The message is that Jesus Christ which is particularly, though not only, proclaimed through the school’s religious education opportunities, sacramental life, liturgical celebrations, and retreats. The service is the program of assisting in the community and reflecting on the experience. The community is the atmosphere of trust, respect, caring, and charity which permeate the school and reflect a belief in transcendence.
Many studies have been made on the impact of Catholic schools. In one study, James S. Coleman found that Catholic high school students score higher in academic tests, attend college twenty to thirty percent more, succeed in college at a greater rate, have a lower drop-out rate in high school, and have stricter course requirements. Critics would attribute these achievements to greater parental wealth and interest in education, the strictness of discipline, or the selectivity of students in Catholic school.
However, Coleman’s examination compared students of comparable backgrounds. He concluded the greater achievement to the condition that parents back up the authority of Catholic schools. Parents will trust a Catholic school because it is connected to a church that shares their values; and they communicate this trust to their children. They become involved in the school. When the parents get together, they are able to draw on a great deal of support from one another. They become part of a community of adults who know and care about one another. This important asset of Catholic schools Coleman calls “social capital.” This asset is enhanced by a consensus on goals, objectives, and priorities which leads to essential agreement, cooperation, achievements, administrators and teachers in Catholic schools can minister so that they exist in their particular school.