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You Needn't Be Catholic to Learn the Lesson of Catholic Schools Week

January 31, 2018 in Economics

By Neal McCluskey

Neal McCluskey

It is Catholic Schools Week , when the
nation’s 6,429 Roman Catholic schools discuss their
reason for existence, and try to attract attention—and
students—as many struggle to survive against
“free” public schools. But you don’t have to be
Catholic—or Christian, or religious at all—to learn
from Catholic schools. You only have to care about equality and

Catholic schools exist, quite simply, because public schools
cannot treat all, diverse people equally. Catholics felt compelled
to set up a system that taught their children beliefs and
identities they believed were essential—and sometimes to
escape outright abuse—even though it meant sacrificing their
public schooling tax dollars to do it.

As envisioned by Horace Mann, the “Father of the Common
School,” and other 19th Century public schooling champions, a
primary mission of the nascent system was to shape proper,
virtuous, American citizens. Probably the large majority of early
Americans sincerely believed that meant being Protestant, and
Catholics were considered almost the antithesis of this, both for
theological and political reasons. Rather than voting as
free-thinking people, many Protestants feared that Catholics would
vote according to the bidding of their Vatican-controlled Church,
threatening control of America by the Pope himself. And certainly,
the Church had a track record of exerting power in Europe.

Instead of setting up
pitched battles to control a single school system, attach money to
children, give educators autonomy to teach what and how they see
fit, and let diverse people freely choose what their kids will

With the conviction that “American” was synonymous
with “Protestant,” many public schools were de facto
Protestant institutions. Students read from the King James
Bible—unacceptable to Catholics, especially because it lacked
official Church interpretations—said Protestant prayers, and
learned lessons containing anti-Catholic invective. The Protestant
flavor was not always enforced on Catholics, but other times it was
brutally so. In 1859 Boston, for instance, a Catholic boy was
whipped for refusing to recite the Protestant form of the Ten
Commandments, and many sympathizing students were expelled.

As Catholic numbers grew, and requests for accommodations were
repeatedly rejected, Catholics concluded that they had no choice
but to establish their own schools, lest their children be
repeatedly subjected to teaching they found immoral, and even
official abuse for their beliefs. By their peak in 1965, Catholic
schools educated almost 12 percent of all school-aged

Why is this an important lesson for everyone? Catholics
established the largest set of parallel schools and are the most
visible group to have been treated unequally for their beliefs by
the public schools. But such inequality for countless groups is
inescapable in a system in which the people are diverse, but single
governments …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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