A PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHER ASKS…
Why Support Catholic Schools?

September 2012By W. Patrick Cunningham

W. Patrick Cunningham, a deacon of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, teaches at a public high school in San Antonio. He is a former principal of Central Catholic High School in the same city.

The first point is the proclamation of the faith to the youth of our time. Young people today live in a secularized culture, totally oriented to material things. In daily life ­— in the means of communication, at work, in leisure time — they experience at most a culture in which God is absent. Yet they are waiting for God. — Pope Benedict XVI

My wife and I have been blessed with three daughters and nine grandchildren. Early in their childbearing years, we promised each of our children that if they chose Catholic schools for their children we would pay a significant part of the tuition. One accepted our offer; the other two elected to take advantage of the tuition-free public schools in their districts.

Recently, my eldest, the one whose children are in Catholic elementary and middle schools, asked me, “Dad, why should we send our oldest daughter to a Catholic high school?” That question was especially pertinent and timely because, after having served as an administrator in a Catholic high school for nine years, I find myself entering my fourth year of a teaching stint in a large public high school. As someone with recent experience in both environments, my immediate answer was off-the-cuff and utilitarian: “Delayed onset of sexual activity.” Since then, however, I have had time to contemplate the pros and cons of both educational settings.

Once I left the Catholic school, I was blessed with a fairly quick acceptance at a public school. The job market was very tight then and even tighter now. Nevertheless, I found myself in one of the finest and best-equipped schools in the county, a brand-new facility that has since become one of the top public academic centers in the state of Texas.

I teach chemistry. The lab-classrooms are completely modernized, with computer interfaces to data-collection probes, and all the necessary software. Every lab suite has its own preparation area; labware and chemicals are more than adequate. In just about every way, the physical situation is more conducive to science education than that of the Catholic school where I was principal and part-time chemistry teacher. Significantly, the administration has been extremely supportive, backing us up whenever there are disciplinary issues and giving us constant encouragement. They are, in turn, supported by a strong parent-teacher organization made up of parents who are vitally interested in their children’s growth and development.


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Back to September 2012 Issue

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Catholic Schools, DO NOT, "embrace a mission that is illegal in public schools: the embodiment of Jesus Christ in the faculty, staff, students, and their parents." Sexualized catechetics is mandated in every U S diocese and most the teachers in the 'catholic schools' abhor what the Catholic Church teaches in regards to birth controlling, abortion, and remarriage. The first point can be checked out at:
http://www.motherswatch.net/content/view/12/6/ - Part 1

http://www.motherswatch.net/content/view/15/6/ - Part 2
the second point can be found by the studies of Fathers Radecki, "Tumultuous Times".
How grievous that a man of your caliber would give 'catholic schools, that are corrupting youth a easy pass.
Posted by: Philom
September 19, 2012 12:46 PM EDT
Well good to hear from the home school contingent.Add another detractor group----I say - get in line....behind many local pastors, many of our bishops,our public school unions,pub school administrators,local medias. We are the red headed step children of the Church. The only ones who like us -- are -well us.We the parents,grandparents and friends will push on with keeping this vital Catholic insitution alive,giving our treasure and time,sacrifing to live Catholic -in public market place.If clergy could ever grasp that 1 hour mass a week and 16 hours a year of HS youth group(for a few) and a 7th grade understanding of the catechism of public school students usually just makes future protestants and athiests, they might reflect on the gem right in front of their eyes of Catholic Schools. It's why we FIGHT to keep them alive. Posted by: Chris Cassleman
September 19, 2012 01:28 PM EDT
The author of the article is a hypocrite. He continues to be on the public dole, accepting a paycheck from the government school system where he himself says "the environment must be non-religious, even anti-religious."

His last paragraph sums up his conflict:
"Today I teach in what I believe is the best public high school in the nation. I teach with dedicated colleagues and work with some of the finest young men and women I have ever known. Judged by secular standards, they are exemplars of excellence. But I continue to support Catholic schools enthusiastically, and do so for the same reason I gave parents when they toured my former school. Catholic schools embrace a mission that is illegal in public schools: the embodiment of Jesus Christ in the faculty, staff, students, and their parents. If we as a nation ever lose that leaven, we will be doomed to an age of darkness."

He prattles on and on in boring detail about the academically ridiculous standardized tests mandated for Texas public schools, yet he happily accepts a paycheck from this same institution.

His endorsement -- and I use the term loosely -- of Catholic schools is hardly a ringing one. An ordained Catholic deacon himself, the author readily admits he left the employ of a Catholic school to go to work for the (much-higher-paying) government school ("the best in the nation"). He says little about Catholic schools. Mainly his argument in favor of Catholic schools is that they are not public schools.

Steve Kellmeyer's "Designed to Fail: Catholic Education in America" is an excellent read on this whole subject; it is published by Bridegroom Press.
Posted by: Famijoly
October 03, 2012 11:25 AM EDT
Famijolly: Whoever you are you lack empathy, are rude, and do not write from an authentically Catholic spirit. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

Here is the hard truth: every school teacher I know who lives and believes what the Church teaches (I am speaking of men here) end up leaving Catholic schools to teach in public ones.

There is a good reason for this.

Just how are we supposed to provide for a wife and many children on what the Church pays its teachers?

Shame on you. The author, I guarantee it, would have loved to stay in Catholic education, but simply could not afford to. Shame on you for calling him a hypocrite simply because he is doing his best to live the Church's teachings.

I am so sick of anonymous, pharisaical, mean spirited, and barely literate comments in the comments sections of Catholic websites. It becomes a challenge to my faith to read them.
Posted by: RandomCatholic
October 03, 2012 07:59 PM EDT
JJC: This post is quite frankly laughable. Let's look at it bit by bit.

You say: "Famijolly has a point. There is some hypocrisy here."

I reply: No. There isn't, and he doesn't. Use your brain. Assume I lived in communist China, but really had not other choice, yet criticized the system there. Would I be a hypocrite for not moving to the United States? This is virtually a direct parallel. We have here a teacher who is trying to live the teachings of the Church, and therefore had to give up teaching in Catholic schools, but still defends their mission. That isn't hypocrisy.

You say: The Church likes to prattle on about the necessity of a "living wage" in its Social Teaching, but apparently it does not practice what it preaches for the salaries of its Catholic school teachers.

I reply: You are talking about the Church that Christ founded, and the teaching of its Magesterium. You apparently disagree with it. That is your call. I do not consider the Church's teaching on any issue "prattling on."

You say: One thing is certain most of the best teachers are in the Public School, as evidenced by the author's choice.

I reply: Poppycock. Teachers are teachers, but Catholic schools are more successful by every measure (number of students going on to college, the humane environment of the school, educating the whole person etc. etc. etc.). Why the difference? Largely it is due to bureaucratic structure.


You say: "As far as the authentic Catholicism of the parochial schools, you may want to peruse some older Catholic school texts, say from the 40s and 50s. There you will find the religion permeating almost every subject. These days the Faith is only portrayed and expounded on in Religion texts and there only imperfectly. (The USCCB still bemoans the inadequacy of catechetical materials available to our youth.) The old "Voyages in English" series is still available for purchase online at about $15 each. The current version of this same series sells for about $59 each and is devoid of any religious content, though the same non-religious passages, paragraphs, and exercises can still be found in the current version. It has been rendered morally sterile so the given diocese can obtain government funding for the text. So you tell me who the Catholic schools serve God or mammon?

I reply: I do not defend the watering down of the religion curriculum in the Catholic school. Yet, as many scholars have pointed out, despite that watering down, the Catholic schools are much more successful at teaching things like moral reasoning, and are at least not biased AGAINST God the way that public schools now are. This has MASSIVE repercussions for the students in the Catholic schools vs. those stuck in public ones.

You say: "The Catholic schools are a mixed bag. You would do well to read "The Underground History of American Education" by John Taylor Gatto and explain to me why most of the documented criticisms he levels do not apply equally to the Parochial schools as they do to the public."

I reply: This is anonymous discussion, so you are to be forgiven your ignorance. I am a published author on school choice, I have read tons of the relevant data (from Chubb and Moe on), and have done graduate work in the area. I am very familiar with the data on public school performance, parochial school performance, and have first hand experience with both. You sir, it is self-evident, do not.

You say: Your post sounds more like the whine of an effeminate man. You might help yourself out by reading Leon Podles' "The Church Impotent", which was favorably reviewed in this periodical. Man-up. Posted by: JJC
October 17, 2012 11:01 AM EDT


I reply: I have no respect for you or your position, and your final statement clearly summarizes why. You can keep you ill considered ad hominem attacks to yourself, along with your comments about Church teaching being prattling on. I for one do not care about the uninformed extremist positions of the lunatic fringe.
Posted by: RandomCatholic
October 21, 2012 02:45 PM EDT
RandomCatholic,

Famijolly has a point. There is some hypocrisy here. I also fail to see the basis of your accusations of "barely literate" or "pharisaical".

The Church likes to prattle on about the necessity of a "living wage" in its Social Teaching, but apparently it does not practice what it preaches for the salaries of its Catholic school teachers. One thing is certain most of the best teachers are in the Public School, as evidenced by the author's choice.

As far as the authentic Catholicism of the parochial schools, you may want to peruse some older Catholic school texts, say from the 40s and 50s. There you will find the religion permeating almost every subject. These days the Faith is only portrayed and expounded on in Religion texts and there only imperfectly. (The USCCB still bemoans the inadequacy of catechetical materials available to our youth.) The old "Voyages in English" series is still available for purchase online at about $15 each. The current version of this same series sells for about $59 each and is devoid of any religious content, though the same non-religious passages, paragraphs, and exercises can still be found in the current version. It has been rendered morally sterile so the given diocese can obtain government funding for the text. So you tell me who the Catholic schools serve God or mammon?

The Catholic schools are a mixed bag. You would do well to read "The Underground History of American Education" by John Taylor Gatto and explain to me why most of the documented criticisms he levels do not apply equally to the Parochial schools as they do to the public.

Your post sounds more like the whine of an effeminate man. You might help yourself out by reading Leon Podles' "The Church Impotent", which was favorably reviewed in this periodical. Man-up.
Posted by: JJC
October 17, 2012 11:01 AM EDT
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