All posts tagged: education

School as Personalist Community

Education is power. I’ve heard this many times, and I don’t disagree. However, our educational system is in crisis. Our diocesan schools are in crisis, and the solutions coming from the top don’t really seem to be helping. Parish schools continue to close. Test scores don’t actually measure the health of a school or the quality of the learning taking place there. More parents are seeking other options, choosing to homeschool or find alternative models. There is less and less faith in institutional schools, and as families pull out, the sense of community in these institutions falters. As a parent, I totally get it. I too find it difficult to trust the education of my children to a large scale operation that often seems bureaucratic and distant. I like to think outside the box, something many “old-school” schools aren’t comfortable with. I would like to offer, however, that the solution is perhaps simpler than a complete overhaul of the system. I would like to offer that a school can become a place of joyful learning …

Celebrating the Easter Season, Part 2: Education

Editors’ Note: This post is part of a series offering ways to keep the joy of Easter alive for the entire fifty days of the season. Read Part 1: Music here. As my students walked into the classroom this morning, I greeted them with an energetic “Happy Easter!” One of my students quickly turned and responded, “Why are you saying that? Easter was on Sunday.” As we chatted about it further, I learned that the students had just discussed in their religion class that Easter lasts for 50 days until the celebration of Pentecost. They talked with me about Jesus’ Resurrection, his appearances to the disciples, his Ascension, and the descent of the Holy Spirit. They knew the facts, but did not recognize that we were truly still celebrating Easter. Like the concepts in every class and at every age, the truth takes a little bit longer to settle in and take root than the facts do. So how can we help our students to realize that Easter is full season of joyful celebration in the rhythm …

Don’t Ban Art: ‘This is a Bad Idea’

The theme for the school’s annual fund-raising banquet was “The Art of the Possible.” Whoever chose it, I thought to myself, either didn’t know or didn’t care that the phrase was used by Otto von Bismarck to capture the concept of realpolitik: “Die Politik ist die Lehre vom Möglichen”—politics is the art of confining oneself to what is within reach, of compromising in the pursuit of the attainable rather than pursuing the ideal. I only knew that myself because my college roommate Susan Gosdick had played the original cast album of Evita pretty much non-stop throughout our sophomore year, and I’d been curious about the origin of the phrase featured in one of Tim Rice’s caustically witty lyrics: Perón & military leaders One has no rules Is not precise. One rarely acts The same way twice One spurns no device Practicing the art of the possible One always picks The easy fight One praises fools One smothers light One shifts left to right It’s part of the art of the possible. The phrase was thus …

Augustine: Saint of Suspicion

Saint of Suspicion! Wow! It’s kind of a suspicious title! Does it actually mean anything? I have my suspicions, and perhaps you do too, but we will have to put them on hold for now, laying aside the hermeneutic of suspicion, which is never to be applied to the one making claim to it, after all, and replace it with the hermeneutic of trust, until the appropriate time. This presentation is actually about the meaning of life. Yes, I am actually going to reveal the meaning of life, in a simple, declaratory sentence, without any admission fee, tuition, or other compensation. Perhaps you are suspicious of that claim! Both the claim that I can reveal the meaning of life in one simple sentence, and also the claim that I am doing it for no compensation at all. Perhaps you are thinking, true, he isn’t charging admission or looking to be paid, but perhaps he is hoping we will praise him, clap for him, cheer and acclaim him for such an accomplishment. After all, just as it’s …

Love of Learning, Love of God and Neighbor

“You’re still going to take classes?” “Yes.” “But . . . didn’t you graduate?” “Yes.” “Okay, so . . . why are you still going to take classes?” “Because I still have a lot to learn.” If I had a dollar for the number of times I’ve had this conversation with friends or family over the past several months, I’d have many dollars. To be fair, they’re not wrong to ask. I’ve been in school for a long time. With the exception of taking one year off between degrees, I’ve been in school or taking classes in varying degrees of intensity for almost thirty years now, and people wonder when/if I’ll ever be done. Truthfully, I think the answer is probably never/no. But my status as a perma-student isn’t the result of a prolonged existential crisis—I didn’t change my major multiple times (or even once) or spend years spinning my wheels trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I was lucky. The next step just always seemed to present itself, and always happened …

“Amoris Laetitia”: An Invaluable Opportunity for Teachers of the Faith

“We love because he first loved us.” (1 Jn 4:19) On April 8, 2016, the Vatican published the English-language version of Pope Francis’ post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”): On Love in the Family. In the time period leading up to the much-anticipated release of Amoris Laetitia—effectively spanning the [Extraordinary] Synod of Bishops on the Family of October 2014 and the [Ordinary] Synod of Bishops on the Family of October 2015—all categories of the faithful, comprising the clergy and laity alike, offered speculation concerning what the document would entail. This is not to mention that news outlets, mainstream or otherwise, were quick to extend manifestations of pseudo-expertise addressing sentimental perceptions of what Pope Francis would say, or perhaps would not say, in terms of what the Catholic Church professes regarding God, marriage, and family life. Ultimately, in over 250 sprawling pages, Amoris Laetitia revealed that which various realms of the Church should have expected to receive from Pope Francis in the end: his defense, promotion, and embrace of God’s age-old plan for …

The Raised Hand

You can tell a lot by the timing, posture, and movement of a raised hand. The quick and sudden, mid-sentence hand raise often catches my attention and I anticipate a thoughtful inquiry into my lecture. The slow, slouching, ninety-degree elbow raise frequently precedes the request for the bathroom and freedom from the current attack of information and instructions. The shaking, waving, over-eager, over-achiever hand raise almost always offers to write on the board, deliver the mail, pass out the tests, clean up after projects, email the class, and bring in cupcakes. All of these examples are caricatures of our students, and yet each of these students is in our classrooms this year, and will be every year. I offer this image of a raised hand to share a reflection I had during my third year of teaching. It occurred to me that I had gradually altered my approach to raised hands. When I began teaching, I naïvely called on each and every hand that was raised, and gave my absolute best, most exhaustive answer to …

Encountering Christ, the Eternal Word

Within the Catholic high school, formation often becomes fragmented. Differences in staffing, resources, and approaches to ministry lead to a lack of integration among different dimensions of the spiritual life. Students study religion in class, go on retreats, celebrate Mass, and earn service hours, often overseen by different departments or staff members. Yet, “it’s all curriculum.” What happens on the athletic field, in conversations on retreat, during class sessions, in afterschool activities, or while in prayer all contribute to the development of young men and women of faith. This holistic vision of formation guided the restructuring of our campus ministry department at a Chicago high school. In restructuring, we made the decision to lay everything on the table and ask first: “How can we best serve the needs of our students? How can we focus on ministering to people rather than administering programs?” Our response was to move from two separate departments of Pastoral Ministry and Community Service to create the Department of Formation and Ministry. Guided by a Director, the rest of the staff …

A Gesture in Common: The Joy of the Gospel in Undergraduate Education

These are challenging days for those doing the work of undergraduate education, and perhaps especially so for those who mean to pursue that work in light of the Gospel. In the midst of economic challenges, we must ask again what the real purpose of a college education is. How should we think about the classical project of the liberal arts? What about ongoing challenges in making education available to students who are economically and culturally disadvantaged? For those in a religious context, another set of equally important questions must be asked. What are the crucial markers of mission and identity? What should be the composition of the “core” of courses required for graduation? On Catholic campuses, it’s asked whether a certain percentage of the faculty must be Catholic or how sacramental life can be fostered on campus. These are not questions that can be simply ignored. The publication of Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis’ first Apostolic Exhortation, does, however, present new possibilities. What if we were to reframe the questions in light of the concerns the …

The Pedagogy of Faith

Blessed be God! During my Dad’s final years of life, he was unable to communicate through the gift of voice.[1] A victim of Alzheimer’s disease, Dad’s voice suddenly departed a few years before he died. Other family members, already Dad’s advocates, became Dad’s voice in new and distinctive ways. His own vocal expressions were gone but Dad, child of God, was not. I am convinced that Dad communicated during his last years through the gift of sight. On the day he died, his eyes scanned the room where he lay, focusing intently on each of the family members gathered around his bed. Dad, even in the moments leading up to physical death, continued to “speak” to us. He continued to proclaim the goodness of God. In today’s language, we might identify him as an emissary of the New Evangelization. Faith in God, the one true God of all who reveals himself to us, is faith that enables us to proclaim in word and action, in thought and look, in Gospel and glance, the goodness and …