Catholic School Matters

January 25, 2021

The Common Good

Several years ago, I was struck by Robert Putnam’s insights in Bowling Alone. He contends that Americans have become disconnected by failing to participate in social clubs and group activities such as bowling leagues. Now Americans are bowling alone. As attendance and participation in churches has also declined, the impact on Catholic schools has been significant. Vibrant Catholic schools at the center of vibrant parishes seem to be the exception, not the norm.

I grew up in that type of vibrant milieu. My mother was in the guild and the parish bridge club. My father helped organize the adult coed volleyball league and helped coach soccer teams. My parents were in a Renew group, various prayer groups, and were confirmation sponsors. Our lives revolved around the church and school, both of which were full. Although SMM is still a vibrant school, I have seen former classmates drift away from the church and have seen weaker ties from those who remain.

As we all try to recruit more students to our schools and draw more back to our pews, we all confront the struggle of how to create a community which people want to join. We all can recognize the divisions in our society, our politics, and in our church that continue to pull us all apart.

So I was intrigued by the topic of Putnam’s new book The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again. He points out that the Social Gospel—emphasizing community and equality—took root during the Progressive era of the late 1800s and replaced social Darwinism and the American individualist and market capitalism mindsets.

Progressivism is receiving new scrutiny these days with some critics simply calling it socialism. If you go back to the early 1900s, all parties had progressive elements (including the original cowboy president, Teddy Roosevelt) and the reforms were popular, including: secret ballot, initiative & referendum, popular election of senators, women’s suffrage, federal income tax, Federal Reserve system, protective labor laws, minimum wage, antitrust statutes, food & drug regulation, public utilities, the high school movement, libraries & parks, etc. (318) The New Deal was an outgrowth of progressivism and represented a time (along with World War II) when America displayed more social cohesion.

Putnam traces a number of different factors which showed that America became less cohesive after the middle of the last century in similar ways to the previous century. He maintains that a movement to unite around common principles could bring about a change in our collective mindset to focus on the common good. This focus might lead to stronger community associations like Catholic parishes, Catholic schools, and, yes, even bowling leagues.

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Dr. Tim Uhl

Catholic Schools

Catholic Schools Closing & Opening 2021

  1. St. Agnes Academy in College Point to close
  2. 4 Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago to close
  3. St. Paul (Seattle) to close;
  4. St. Ann’s (Hawaii) to close at end of year;
  5. St. Paul’s Mission Grade School to close (at least temporarily) in fall of 2021

Here is the curated list of Catholic schools closing at the end of the 2021 school year and new schools opening for the 2021-22 year.


Teaching & Learning


Catholic School Matters podcast

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What I'm Reading

    The Last 5 Books:

    1. America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States (2019) by Erika Lee
    2. White Flight: Atlanta & the Making of Modern Conservatism (2005) by Kevin M. Kruse
    3. A Fine Line: How Most American Kids are Kept Out of the Best Public Schools (2020) by Tim DeRoche.
    4. The Cult of Smart: How Our Broken Education System Perpetuates Social Injustice (2020) by Fredrik DeBoer
    5. Fratelli Tutti (2020) by Pope Francis

            Click this link for a full list of my professional reading

            Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

            Orchestrating Conflict

            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 prescient 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.