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Reflections on a Classical Catholic Education

 
This sign is posted at the entrance to a boy’s Catholic high school.

I was educated in what you could call the old school environment of Catholic education. Alas, today there are Catholic schools that have succumbed to what I call the warm fuzzies.

Personal identifiers of your choice was not a part of my education, with one exception. If you were not achieving then at some point you were called a thief by one or all of the priests who taught you. Sometimes you were called a thief in class. Obviously your self-esteem issues did not receive too much consideration either publicly or privately. You were called a thief because you were stealing from your parents. The same parents who were funding your early retirement at the expense of their own retirement.

These priests were quite experienced when it came to human nature. As one priest who had returned from mission work put it; We taught the beggars their basic sums so they knew exactly how much they had stolen at the end of the day. We weren’t any better than the beggars when we tried to rationalize our behavior.

My university had one-third of the student body enrolled in ROTC, and this is same today as it was in my day during the Vietnam War. We wore our uniforms to class and to meals on Friday; that has not changed either. The commissioning ceremony is still honored on graduation day and those of our alumni who are serving are featured on a regular basis in the alumni magazine.

One of my fondest memories is of the priest who was the head resident of my dorm. We would have some scotch and a cigar and discuss current events, the Church, and our school on Friday nights. None of us were 21. He was in his own way teaching us to engage in a rational discussion, and how to behave as gentlemen outside of the classroom.

I was fortunate because these priests understood that the inmates cannot run the asylum. They also understood that we had to be prepared for a world that is not always fair, and to recognize nonsense when we heard it.

Thanks to @fakejohnjanegalt for the inspiration for this essay. You can click on the link to read his essay.

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Members have made 26 comments.

  1. Profile photo of Lois Lane Coolidge

    I have always envied a Catholic education because I have always imagined it was superior to my own public schooling. One of my good friends went to a Jesuit college, and she was taught how to think–not what to think–in ways that I am still learning.

    Of course, I am also acquainted with the reality that not all priests and not all nuns should be involved in education. In other words, being Catholic is not what makes the magic happen. Yet the church’s staunch intellectual tradition certainly helps.

    • #1
    • August 9, 2017 at 4:02 pm
    • Like15 likes
  2. Profile photo of Trinity Waters Thatcher

    So happy to not see the bitterness and lack of understanding often associated with Catholic education memories.

    Our diocese labeled it the Pearl of Great Price. My parents scrimped to send all five of us to the schools. I actually attended an all-boys high school, too. I knew more after high school than most of my peers from the public system, even after they attended a couple of years of college.

    • #2
    • August 9, 2017 at 4:04 pm
    • Like15 likes
  3. Profile photo of Kevin Schulte Member

    I was raised Catholic but am no longer. However, I look back fondly of the years in Catholic school (1 thru 5) . I felt loved, cared for and safe. I can’t say the same for my public school experience.

    • #3
    • August 9, 2017 at 4:10 pm
    • Like12 likes
  4. Profile photo of Boss Mongo Member

    Outstanding. Thank you.

    • #4
    • August 9, 2017 at 4:35 pm
    • Like6 likes
  5. Profile photo of Doug Watt Member
    Doug Watt Post author

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):
    Outstanding. Thank you.

    Thanks Boss. @bossmongo By the way one of my close college buddies flew missions in the F-16 during Desert Storm, he also became a Squadron Commander and retired as a full Colonel from the Air Force. The student body hovers around 3500 and has produced one Air Force General, and one Admiral. To this day military service is encouraged at my university, and in fact when other schools started to drop Army ROTC, virtue signaling, my Catholic university accepted those students that were left high and dry into their Army ROTC program.

    • #5
    • August 9, 2017 at 4:50 pm
    • Like13 likes
  6. Profile photo of doulalady Member

    I attended a convent school. Phenomenal education in every respect. Fun fact: one of our dormitories was called Immaculate Conception dormitory

    • #6
    • August 9, 2017 at 6:16 pm
    • Like13 likes
  7. Profile photo of Hoyacon Member

    I was interested in a Catholic education, but the family decided to go with the Jesuits instead.

    • #7
    • August 9, 2017 at 6:34 pm
    • Like17 likes
  8. Profile photo of Painter Jean Member

    Hoyacon (View Comment):
    I was interested in a Catholic education, but the family decided to go with the Jesuits instead.

    Hah! It’s funny cuz it’s true…..

    • #8
    • August 9, 2017 at 7:04 pm
    • Like4 likes
  9. Profile photo of Painter Jean Member

    I went to Catholic grade school and found that when I went on to public schools for junior and senior high school, my reading and writing skills were far, far above those of my public-school educated classmates. I’ve talked to others who had the same experience.

    • #9
    • August 9, 2017 at 7:08 pm
    • Like7 likes
  10. Profile photo of Trinity Waters Thatcher

    Painter Jean (View Comment):
    I went to Catholic grade school and found that when I went on to public schools for junior and senior high school, my reading and writing skills were far, far above those of my public-school educated classmates. I’ve talked to others who had the same experience.

    Same thing I found in college, after my Catholic high school.

    • #10
    • August 9, 2017 at 7:19 pm
    • Like3 likes
  11. Profile photo of Lois Lane Coolidge

    Painter Jean (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):
    I was interested in a Catholic education, but the family decided to go with the Jesuits instead.

    Hah! It’s funny cuz it’s true…..

    Voltaire hated the Jesuits, but Voltaire clearly got a good education. 🙂

    • #11
    • August 9, 2017 at 7:34 pm
    • Like1 like
  12. Profile photo of Fake John/Jane Galt Thatcher

    I did 12 years in Catholic schools. Best thing to every happen to me. I have no doubts that at the time a Catholic education was much better than the public schools in our area. The first public school I went too was college. Considering my Catholic education college was much easier and I did not any of the struggles that my public school educated classmates had.

    During my time I was also an alter boy. Contrary to the jokes I have never had a member of the clergy do anything sexually inappropriate my entire life as a Catholic. What I did see was a group of people that tirelessly minister to those that need it when they need it most. I think most of the world has no idea what the Catholic Church has done and currently does but seems to want to believe the worse of it based on lies in popular culture.

    • #12
    • August 9, 2017 at 8:15 pm
    • Like13 likes
  13. Profile photo of Hoyacon Member

    Painter Jean (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):
    I was interested in a Catholic education, but the family decided to go with the Jesuits instead.

    Hah! It’s funny cuz it’s true…..

    Clearly they taught me to be glib. The “Catholic” part may be questionable, I suppose, but the education part is in their wheelhouse.

    • #13
    • August 9, 2017 at 8:28 pm
    • Like3 likes
  14. Profile photo of Ed G. Member

    12 year stint for me. Augustinians for high school. I too credit my Catholic education with a few extra points on the ACT, a solid approach to life, and a few percent higher lifetime earnings than I might have had otherwise.

    My kids are doing grades 1-8 in Catholic school now, but unfortunately I don’t think HS is in the cards for them. When I and my four siblings were going through, tuition was big but not unmanageable. Now? You can buy a new car for the cost of annual tuition/fees in high school. I suppose when fewer staff is pulled from the ranks of the convent and the monastery then salary and benefits tend to balloon. The irony is that I’m doing much better financially than my parents ever did, but somehow they manged it while I won’t be able to manage it for my own kids. Something went awry.

    • #14
    • August 10, 2017 at 9:19 am
    • Like5 likes
  15. Profile photo of Patrick McClure Member

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):
    I did 12 years in Catholic schools. Best thing to every happen to me. I have no doubts that at the time a Catholic education was much better than the public schools in our area. The first public school I went too was college. Considering my Catholic education college was much easier and I did not any of the struggles that my public school educated classmates had.

    During my time I was also an alter boy. Contrary to the jokes I have never had a member of the clergy do anything sexually inappropriate my entire life as a Catholic. What I did see was a group of people that tirelessly minister to those that need it when they need it most. I think most of the world has no idea what the Catholic Church has done and currently does but seems to want to believe the worse of it based on lies in popular culture.

    Quoted because I could have written almost the exact same thing. Except, when I was ready for first grade, my parish’s school began at second grade. So I did 1 year public and the following 11 Catholic, before heading off to college.

    • #15
    • August 10, 2017 at 9:29 am
    • Like5 likes
  16. Profile photo of Patrick McClure Member

    Ed G. (View Comment):
    12 year stint for me. Augustinians for high school. I too credit my Catholic education with a few extra points on the ACT, a solid approach to life, and a few percent higher lifetime earnings than I might have had otherwise.

    My kids are doing grades 1-8 in Catholic school now, but unfortunately I don’t think HS is in the cards for them. When I and my four siblings were going through, tuition was big but not unmanageable. Now? You can buy a new car for the cost of annual tuition/fees in high school. I suppose when fewer staff is pulled from the ranks of the convent and the monastery then salary and benefits tend to balloon. The irony is that I’m doing much better financially than my parents ever did, but somehow they manged it while I won’t be able to manage it for my own kids. Something went awry.

    @ed g. Check your diocese financial aid program. We did, and had significant help during HS. After our last one graduates HS next spring, we plan to set up a regular monthly donation back to the fund.

    • #16
    • August 10, 2017 at 9:32 am
    • Like7 likes
  17. Profile photo of Pilli Member

    I spent grades 1 thru 8 in a public school. Went to Catholic H.S., I was 2 years behind my peers the day I started. It was a struggle to catch up. When I entered college, I had a relatively easy time the first year because of the H. S. work.

    We had our 50th H.S. class reunion this spring. What a hoot to see some of those old friends. Garth Brooks had a song about Unanswered Prayers. How true!

    • #17
    • August 10, 2017 at 10:10 am
    • Like6 likes
  18. Profile photo of Odysseus Member

    Can’t help but chip in, since although my family isn’t Catholic, I went to a Catholic prep school in England till the age of 11. It was educationally superb, and had easily the most pleasant and decent atmosphere of any school or university I’ve ever been to. When I went to grammar school (a sort of state school for the brighter kids) at the age of 11 I was shocked at just how comparatively nasty and unpleasant the whole place was (though really by any standards it wasn’t a bad place), and it took me several years to adjust.

    I now look back on my days at that prep school as being the happiest of my life.

    • #18
    • August 10, 2017 at 10:54 am
    • Like5 likes
  19. Profile photo of Joe Boyle Member

    My first day of basic training reminded me of my first day at Loyola High School of Los Angeles.

    • #19
    • August 10, 2017 at 11:54 am
    • Like3 likes
  20. Profile photo of Lois Lane Coolidge

    Joe Boyle (View Comment):
    My first day of basic training reminded me of my first day at Loyola High School of Los Angeles.

    Gosh. This could be positive or negative. Expound, please.

    • #20
    • August 10, 2017 at 12:57 pm
    • LikeLike
  21. Profile photo of Ed G. Member

    Patrick McClure (View Comment):

    Ed G. (View Comment):
    12 year stint for me. Augustinians for high school. I too credit my Catholic education with a few extra points on the ACT, a solid approach to life, and a few percent higher lifetime earnings than I might have had otherwise.

    My kids are doing grades 1-8 in Catholic school now, but unfortunately I don’t think HS is in the cards for them. When I and my four siblings were going through, tuition was big but not unmanageable. Now? You can buy a new car for the cost of annual tuition/fees in high school. I suppose when fewer staff is pulled from the ranks of the convent and the monastery then salary and benefits tend to balloon. The irony is that I’m doing much better financially than my parents ever did, but somehow they manged it while I won’t be able to manage it for my own kids. Something went awry.

    @ed g. Check your diocese financial aid program. We did, and had significant help during HS. After our last one graduates HS next spring, we plan to set up a regular monthly donation back to the fund.

    Thank you but we have looked at it, and it’s not nearly enough and I make too much to qualify for most anyway. For grammar school the height of tuition will be around $7k annual total for all four kids combined. High school tuition for one kid is $15k right now. If that holds, we’d end up spending $240k over a period of eight years to send all our kids through. It breaks my heart, but reality won’t bend. Not that much.

    • #21
    • August 10, 2017 at 1:32 pm
    • LikeLike
  22. Profile photo of Joe Boyle Member

    @lois-lane I’m proud of having been a “Loyola Man” and I think my first day at Loyola helped prepare me for life as soldier. Both first days involved a lot of yelling by red faced men letting us all know respect is earned, and we were off to a bad start.

    • #22
    • August 10, 2017 at 3:46 pm
    • Like2 likes
  23. Profile photo of Petty B Member

    Ed G. (View Comment):

    Patrick McClure (View Comment):

    Ed G. (View Comment):
    12 year stint for me. Augustinians for high school. I too credit my Catholic education with a few extra points on the ACT, a solid approach to life, and a few percent higher lifetime earnings than I might have had otherwise.

    My kids are doing grades 1-8 in Catholic school now, but unfortunately I don’t think HS is in the cards for them. When I and my four siblings were going through, tuition was big but not unmanageable. Now? You can buy a new car for the cost of annual tuition/fees in high school. I suppose when fewer staff is pulled from the ranks of the convent and the monastery then salary and benefits tend to balloon. The irony is that I’m doing much better financially than my parents ever did, but somehow they manged it while I won’t be able to manage it for my own kids. Something went awry.

    @ed g. Check your diocese financial aid program. We did, and had significant help during HS. After our last one graduates HS next spring, we plan to set up a regular monthly donation back to the fund.

    Thank you but we have looked at it, and it’s not nearly enough and I make too much to qualify for most anyway. For grammar school the height of tuition will be around $7k annual total for all four kids combined. High school tuition for one kid is $15k right now. If that holds, we’d end up spending $240k over a period of eight years to send all our kids through. It breaks my heart, but reality won’t bend. Not that much.

    There must be scholarship resources someone here at Ricochet could direct you to, and I can’t believe you would not get a substantial package deal on more than one child attending at a time. I don’t know what your local public schools are like, but if you intend to take out any financial aid for college I think many times it would be better used to finance the high school years. College students can get financing from many sources.

    • #23
    • August 10, 2017 at 4:39 pm
    • LikeLike
  24. Profile photo of PGrossjr Coolidge

    Didn’t appreciate my Catholic education (all 16 years) until I got out into the world. Particularly the college years when the Franciscans who ran my college insisted that everyone get a classic liberals arts education regardless of your your major. Meaning, Logic, Philosophy, classic languages and literature were required for everyone. My favorite theology prof would take the opposite view of any argument and when challenged by a fellow student with teaching heresy, he replied that if the student could not defend his beliefs against someone who actually agreed with him, he had no hope of doing so outside the classroom.

    • #24
    • August 11, 2017 at 10:04 am
    • Like6 likes
  25. Profile photo of indymb Member

    Ah yes, the Jesuits…such Catholic free thinkers…

    Twelve years of Catholic education here, too, on my staff sergeant dad’s salary and mom’s frugality, for three of us.

    Since the Catholic Church conceived (immaculately?) the university system, among other cool things the Western World now takes for granted, I’m glad to have experienced the educational trickle-down.

    Great Audible read: “How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization.” It’s totally free, if it’s your first time accepting a book (from a friend). http://a.co/cKpgwpk

    • #25
    • August 13, 2017 at 5:15 am
    • Like2 likes
  26. Profile photo of Fake John/Jane Galt Thatcher

    indymb (View Comment):
    Ah yes, the Jesuits…such Catholic free thinkers…

    Twelve years of Catholic education here, too, on my staff sergeant dad’s salary and mom’s frugality, for three of us.

    Since the Catholic Church conceived (immaculately?) the university system, among other cool things the Western World now takes for granted, I’m glad to have experienced the educational trickle-down.

    Great Audible read: “How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization.” It’s totally free, if it’s your first time accepting a book (from a friend). http://a.co/cKpgwpk

    I highly recommend this book. I knew some of it from my Catholic background but there was a lot I did not know, had forgotten or just did not put all of it together in this way. It is a very good listen.

    • #26
    • August 13, 2017 at 8:21 am
    • Like1 like