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Catholic Northwest Progress
Seattle, Washington
March 15, 1963     Catholic Northwest Progress
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March 15, 1963

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15, 1963 Catholic Progress---IS Education in the Archdiocese BY RIGHT REV. MSGR. PHILIP H. DUFFY, PH.D. Superintendent, Department of Education Archdiocese of Seattle i ODAY'S Catholic school system, xchich has in its care the education of some five million Americans, is a thing of recent and/dramatic ap- pearance. It did not come about through the zeal of a few pastors who began to conduct schools, or through the sacrifice and skill of a religious order long prepared by tradition to lead the Church toward a new vision of Catholic education. Our present Catholic schools were foreseen, prepared, and begun by the wise and: courageous bishops who governed the Church in this country during the latter years of the lagt century. They faced a crisis. The American people, inspired by the ideal of universal free education had initiated a pro- gram which would bring to every child the rudi- ments of schooling and perhaps something more. Should the Catholic Church not be content to in- struct during their free time the boys and girls who would attend public sctlool, and limit herself to sponsoring academies, private schools, and in- stitutions for the gifted or .he more fortunate? Could she build a parochial school system? Who would pay for it? Who would staff it? Agreed Church Is Teacher of Child Many good bishops thought a parish school system-,impossible, others considered it unwise, or unnecessary; but the majority determined that ideally the Catholic child belonged in the care of the Church, the best and most experienced ed- ucator in the world, and that their conscience would allow them to accept nothing less for their dioceses. They wrote it into law at the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore so that no one could mistake the settled intention of the Catholic hier- archy. We are still seeking the ideal. Catholic schools enroll only a fraction of the children who apply for admission, and Sisters, teaching brothers and priests g'ork far beyond' the limits of normal performance in the classroom, but the Church has not given up; neither bishops nor pastors nor Catholic parents will admit that the Catholic child, whatever the difficulty ,,;rhich impedes, does not belong in a Catholic school. Must Care For Souls The Catholic school is, then, an instrument of pastoral care. That is to say. it exists to help pastors and parents care for the souls of the chil- dren whom God has given them. As the fathers of the Third Plenary Council well recognized, a child can get an xceltent education in the public schools. He can learn to read and write, to figure, and ,to do whatever else is necessary to his train- ing in the public schools, ancl clo it well. They are good schools. But of their nature, by intention, they can teach him nothing of God. However upright the men and women who conduct them. whatever may be the excellence of their private lives, or however sturdy their faith, they may not teach religion. This is what disturbed the bishops and Catholic parents. As official teacher of the Catholic Faith, the pastor is the heart of every parochial school. He decides who is to be admitted, who is dismissed when necessary, and what will be the progression of each child in the study and practice of his religion. He hears and often teaches cathechism, and follows with responsible interest the student's progress in secular subjects of instruction. The good pastor makes an ideal school administrator because he knows intimately the family of each child, often for several generations, and ap- proaches his task with an unrivaled sense of dedi- cation. Not that every pastor teaches school, a religious principal and qualified faculty assisted by highly competent lay teachers conduct day to day instructional activities. Religion is the soul of the curriculum; as a subject of formal instruction it receives about the same time daily as do arith- metic or reading, the most import/,nt secular sub- jects, but apart from the time given to the cate- chism, the influence of the Catholic Faith dotal- 'nares and inspires the approach to study in a parochial school. Religion Studied, Not Preached Religion is studied, not preached. The child comes to school to learn, and so he must study his Faith. He is expected to understand the catechism in terms proper to his age and opportu- nity for experience of the world, but the catechism learned by heart between the third and fifth grade makes the only sound foundation for more advanced study of religion at any age of life. Parents should insist on such training and hear catechism recitation daily at home. A vague appreciation of the beauty of the Gospel does not take the place of a thorough, orderly exposition of the truths by which the Catholic Church be- lieves and teaches. The student is not there to be converted as though he were a pagan, his task is to learn Christian Doctrine like a Catholic child. Reading and arithmetic make the heart of the secular curriculum. With a good knowledge of both disciplines a boy or girl can continue his education without difficulty, without them he is severely handicapped. A child should read with- out difficulty by the end of the fourth grade. Al- though some children learn more slowly than others, and a slight degree of lagging need cause no anxiety, parents of slow readers would be well advised to keep in close touch with the classroom teacher, and to follow with more than ordinary interest their child's progress in this critical area of instruction. Rate Mathematics Valuable The course in arithmetic is equally important. Moved by a sudden concern for scientific achieve- ment our people have become very much aware of the value of mathematics in the curriculum. Their interest has had the happy effect of stimulating educators to wring out of the elementary school course much of the water which made the last two years of the old arithmetics largely nugatory for an imaginative child. The newer books, one of the most advanced of which has just been adopted for use in the schools of the Archdiocese of Seattle, begin to acquaint the student with the language and concepts of mathematics from first grade. This is math for the average child; genius is not required or looked for, but a much more rapid! progression in fundamental ideas is expected from the new and welcome approach. Emphasize English Many regard as the most worthwhile acquisi- tion of an educated man the ability to speak and write his own language, and their opinion is well founded. With this in mind Catholic schools have traditionally emphasized the value of English grammar, although the child who would learn his own language might more profitably have begun his training in the schools of some generations past. It was then the habit to begin the study of a dead language as soon as the child had learned to read his own tongue with facility. The enormous advantages which accrue to the child from ac- quaintance with an inflected language have dis- appeared from our modern curriculum, and the loss is very much our own. Learning English is largely a matter, not alone of studying rules, but of acquiring an instinc- tive feeling for syntax and idiom, the peculiarities which give character and distinctive flavor to one's native tongue, and this is done best by the study of a language whose inflectional variations have not wholly disappeared. If our boys and girls could begin the study of Latin or Greek in the fifth grade, their education would be immeasurably im- proved. The study of modern foreign languages with which both parochial and public schools are experimenting, does not replace a knowledge of the highly inflected tongues upon which our syn- tax and to some extent our very way of thought, are based. No Child Neglected The Catholic school curriculum is written for the average child. This does not mean that the gifted child is neglected, for he will find ample challenge in the course of study as currently taught, and for many children of high intelligence an ac- quaintance with a wider variety of disciplines and activities is frequently a better advised expedient than the more intense application to a single course of study. Children who deviate from the lower ranges of the academic norm are not neg- Continued on Page 17