Catholic School Matters
January 18, 2021
Fredrik deBoer makes a common—and for Catholic educators, uncomfortable—argument about Catholic schools in The Cult of Smart: How Our Broken Education System Perpetuates Social Injustice (2020). He says “Tell me how your students are assigned to your school, and I can predict your outcomes” (99). He suggests that these outcomes (better test scores, fewer disciplinary problems, perhaps even athletic success) are due to who chooses to enroll.
This doesn’t just happen in Catholic schools. In A Fine Line: How Most American Kids Are Kept Out of the Best Public Schools (2020), Tim DeRoche painstakingly establishes how public school parents select their homes by attendance area, thereby perpetuating educational inequalities. He argues for an abolishment of attendance areas (which are often no more than administrative policies, not laws, unlike district boundaries).
It’s worth considering how an abolishment of district attendance zones would impact our urban schools and shake up the educational environment. It’s also worth considering the implications to American education that we (educators and parents) are so aware of the importance of who enrolls in a school but are unable to accomplish anything to mitigate the inequities. And I’m not just talking about public vs. public or public vs. Catholic. Catholic school principal Dr. Lauren Roberts of Dallas researched the funding discrepancies between Catholic schools in one metro area for her dissertation. Are our educational systems addressing these inequities?
The Century Foundation studied 12 districts who prioritized socioeconomic integration (rather than simply race or housing locations). The results were positive for the common good.
It’s also worth considering the nightmare scenario found in White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism (2005) which traces how Atlanta became desegregated but white flight has made the school system of the metro area even more segregated today. Catholic schools make an appearance in this book, too, described as an alternative to segregated public schools since they remained segregated after the public schools. The opponents used terms like “freedom to associate with whom we want to” and portrayed themselves as victims of these diversity efforts. These themes have been carried forward and are present today.
What does this mean for Catholic schools? For many people, Catholic schools represent an alternative at least and an escape in the worst scenario. If a Catholic school doesn’t articulate a value other than “we’re not the local public school,” then that school deserves the criticism for contributing to an unequal and unjust system. But if a Catholic school can represent a unique value distinguishing itself from other schools, then that criticism is undeserved.
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Dr. Tim Uhl
Teaching & Learning
Catholic School Matters podcast
Check out the past episodes from this season:
- 12 Christmas podcasts: Michael Deegan of the Archdiocese of NY, Nicole Garnett of Notre Dame law school on religious charters, Maka Black Elk on truth & healing, Dr. Jeannine Hill Fletcher on The Sin of White Supremacy, Dr Leslie Lipovski from the Diocese of Arlington & St. Isidore Virtual Catholic School, Mary Flock of the Diocese of Orange & St. Polycarp Virtual Catholic School, Bruce Davis of Catholic Virtual, Jeff Hausman of AVLI, Kyle Pietrantonio of DIA Schools, Sr. Angela Ann Zukowski of VLCFF, Frankie Jones of ACE, and Mike Derrick of San Diego Cristo Rey HS.
- Thought Leaders: Dave Stuart, Jr., George Couros, Dr. Christian Dallavis from Partnership Schools; Dr. Debbie Sullivan & FADICA reports;
- Pandemic-focused podcasts: Fr. Eric Ramirez, SJ from Regis Jesuit HS; John Galvan from the Diocese of San Diego; Elizabeth Goettl, CEO, Cristo Rey Network; Dr. Tim McNiff of Engineering Tomorrow.; Dr. Brandi Odom Lucas of Verbum Dei (Cristo Rey) HS; Jenny Oliver, the principal of St. Joe's in Auburn, CA; Br. John Montgomery, FSC, the principal of Cathedral High in Los Angeles; Leanne Geise, president of Dominican High in Wisconsin; August 19, 2020 Bea Kaleva (MT attorney) on COVID-related legal issues;
- August 12, 2020 Dr. Daryl Hagan of the Diocese of Evansville on reopening
What I'm Reading
The Last 5 Books:
- Dune (1965) by Frank Herbert
- The United States of Paranoia (2014) by Jesse Walker
- America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States (2019) by Erika Lee
- White Flight: Atlanta & the Making of Modern Conservatism (2005) by Kevin M. Kruse
- A Fine Line: How Most American Kids are Kept Out of the Best Public Schools (2020) by Tim DeRoche.
Click this link for a full list of my professional reading
Past Issues of Catholic School Matters
Jan 11, 2021 "Reading List on Racism"
Jan 4, 2021 12 Days of Christmas Podcasts
Nov 9, 2020 "God in Disguise"
Nov 2, 2020 "Sharks and Survival"
Oct 26, 2020 "Mt. Rushmore Controversy"
Oct 19, 2020 "The Cleveland Partnership"
Oct 5, 2020 "Governance Reform"
Sep 28, 2020 "Autonomy & Radar"
Sep 21, 2020 "Learning While Doing"
Sep 14, 2020 "Connecting the Disconnected"
Aug 31, 2020 "Racial Injustice"
Aug 24, 2020 "Figuring it Out"
Aug 17, 2020 Serenity Prayer
May 24, 2020 Value Proposition During Uncertain Times
For previous newsletters, click this link
A couple of years ago I set out to write a book which would explore the challenges of Catholic school leadership. My premise that there are no easy answers and that we have to learn from our (and other's) mistakes in order to form a mindset appropriate for orchestrating conflict proved presient as we all faced completely new and unexpected challenges in 2020. The book,Orchestrating Conflict: Case Studies in Catholic Leadership is now available on Amazon or on the Barnes & Noble site in print or e-book formats. The book explores issues in Catholic school leadership and the tensions between building community and following Church policies and introduces deliberate practice as a method for leadership formation.