“The scholarly research about secondary education has fallen on hard times. The Church has not done a good job of pushing the Catholic school advantage. We do schools better, and I’m proud of it. I’m a cradle Catholic, a product of Catholic education from grammar school on.
Two things about Catholic schools: One, Catholic schools were not founded to teach religion, and, two, they were not founded to teach virtue. The cornerstone should be academic excellence, not religion. Early on, this was a Vatican priority. What emerged was the best school system in the United States. We ruled the playing field, from the athletic courts to the SATs and ACTs, no question about it. I’ve seen this story with my own eyes.
I had an eight-year run as principal at St. Ignatius Prep in Chicago in the 1980s. It was in danger of closing. Parents asked me if their kids would make it through, and they didn’t mean were their kids smart enough. They meant, will you be open for four more years? We made it co-ed. We saw it as a way to provide a better opportunity for everybody and a better environment for girls education.
As president of Lexington Catholic High School in Kentucky from 1990-1999, I taught religious studies and I coached a lot—basketball, track, football. That was very important to me. I started the school’s development effort. The current wisdom was I didn’t know jack. I was not a trained educator. My experience was as a coach. Then I moved out to the front office and we grew the student
body from 321 to 855 while establishing funding for a $10-million expansion and facilities addition.
[It includes the Robert J. Bueter, S.J., Athletic Center.]
Catholic education is starting to, more and more, model itself on the failed model of the public school system. We’re getting away from what brought us to the dance: rigorous curriculum and school discipline. The major issues are, are we doing a good job of getting students ready for college, and are our colleges doing a good job of moving that forward?
The Center for Catholic Education is a new center at Xavier. We offer a deeply discounted master’s degree for teachers in Catholic schools. Another major outreach is we do a lot of consulting and try to serve on boards when we can. Our current project is we have developed a board of advisors to develop Catholic education in the region, but also to turn over some rocks for funding.
The other thing I am doing is teaching Latin. We had two graduate students trying to get licensed in Latin. I’m finding that intriguing. Why should someone take Latin? It’s the only chance you will ever get, and it’s a fun thing to do, to read Cicero, Horace, Catullus.”