Important changes are coming to Bishop Machebeuf High School; changes that will secure the 62-year-old institution as a staple of Catholic education for years to come.
Beginning in the fall 2020 academic year, Bishop Machebeuf will be launching a new, integrated curriculum that takes elements of classical education and fuses them with the traditional college-prep curriculum for a more robust and intentional Catholic educational experience.
In the fall of 2017, Bishop Machebeuf High School added a classical track to its academic offerings as a way to diversify its curriculum and attract families seeking a classical education for their kids. The response from parents and students in the track has been very positive, and it set the stage for the new integrated curriculum, which is a positive step in a new direction for the school.
“The sustainability of the mission of our Catholic schools is contingent on our ability to be fully committed to ongoing and continuous improvement,” said Elias Moo, Superintendent of Catholic Schools. “This is the archdiocese’s manifested commitment to ensuring that Bishop Machebeuf High School continues to push the bar of excellence for all students.”
The new curriculum is designed for students of all learning types and emphasizes the critical skills of reading, writing, speaking and logic. Next year all students will experience an integrated English and Social Studies class through an Integrated Humanities Seminar. While the graduation requirements for students already at BMHS will not change, current students will have the opportunity to take Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric, and American Society and Government electives, which will be required for all incoming freshman over their four years at BMHS. The full breadth of the new curricular scope and sequence will be implemented with the class of 2024.
“What we’re trying to do is create a really strong Catholic liberal arts program that provides a well-rounded, holistic formation that helps students develop the intellectual habits or dispositions that they need to be ready for college, career, or whatever their next step is and, more importantly, enables them to know how to challenge and confront the influences of secularism and moral relativism around them that they may be freed to come to know, love and serve God as faithful disciples of Jesus,” Moo said.
The pursuit of truth
Even deeper than the practical applications of the new curriculum, however, is a renewed focus on the spiritual applications of seeking answers to the deeper questions of what it means to be human – the pursuit of which is the very thing that separates Catholic schools from other educational institutions.
“This approach is a beautiful rediscovery of the heritage of the Church and its focus on the human person,” said Kelsey Wicks, who teaches Theology at Bishop Machebeuf. “I am thrilled to know that my students will be engaging the questions of overarching meaning and importance in such a dynamic way throughout the curriculum.
“Today, more than ever, there is a crisis of meaning in our culture. We are fundamentally unsure of what it is to be human,” Wicks continued. “Even the name ‘Integrated Humanities’ suggest what this shift is about –– bequeathing to our students the surpassing gift of knowing what it means to be human, a truth only realized when Christ is the center of all our studies.”
This new integrated approach also seeks to instill in students the desire to not simply gain knowledge, but to understand how to continue the act of learning throughout their lives.
When you allow students to pursue the highest goods, the lower goods like test scores and college admittance come more easily.”
“The integrated humanities curriculum aims to foster the desire for learning that is inherent in all students,” said Bridget Rector, Associate Director of the Classical Program at Machebeuf. “My experience teaching in the program has convinced me that this kind of integrated, seminar-based class helps to strip away some of the layers that have been put in place to convince students that they should learn and instead asks them to see this for themselves.
“What high school student doesn’t have strong ideas about the meaning of justice?” Rector continued. “What teenager doesn’t want to share his or her thoughts on what a fulfilling and faithful life looks like? What Catholic doesn’t have questions about whether you can both pursue material goods and serve God? So how do we give them the means to investigate these questions? We provide them with books and teachers who are also engaged in an ongoing pursuit of Truth; we provide them with space and time to develop as readers, writers, and thinkers; and we provide them with the tools that are necessary to continue deepening and strengthening their understanding.
“When you allow students to pursue the highest goods, the lower goods like test scores and college admittance come more easily.”
A path to success
In addition to the academic revamp, Bishop Machebeuf will also shift to a different structure of leadership. The school has been operating under interim leadership for the past year, but they’ve now begun a national search for both a president and principal, who will co-lead the oversight of the school and its operations. The president will oversee the principal and focus primarily on mission advancement, operations and finances, while the principal will act more as a chief academic officer and oversee student affairs and formation.
The school’s counseling program will also be overhauled in a way that doesn’t just support students in their academic efforts, but also seeks to address their spiritual life.
“We’re building a stronger, more robust program that will implemented next year called discernment counseling support,” Moo said. “From the first moment students walk into the school their freshman year through their last day as a senior, they will be assigned a counselor that will walk with them over the course of their time.”
Counselors will still provide guidance on what classes students need to take and assist in the college search and admissions process when the time comes, but there will be a spiritual discernment component as well. Counselors will be engaged with the students and help them to explore where the Lord might be calling them after graduation and how the Lord may want to use their gifts and charisms at the service of the Church. They will help students to develop practical plans to further explore possible vocations.
“[It will be] something that’s way beyond anything we currently have present, and we hope it will also serve as a model for what should be happening in Catholic schools,” Moo said.
Vince Palermo, whose son Noah is a junior at Bishop Machebeuf, opted to enroll Noah in the classical track when it launched in 2017. He said he’s seen the benefits of an integrated curriculum in the way the school reinforces Catholic teaching and weaves it into the education his son has received at Machebeuf.
“As a whole, he’s received a good education, and that’s something that I think is worth others being able to realize and consider from a standpoint of if you believe in your faith and you want that reinforced in your children, Machebeuf is a good place to send your kids,” Palermo said.
Alumna and parent of Machebeuf graduates Annie Schmitz McBournie (‘83) said she is excited about the new opportunities for students.
“I am thrilled to see them going in such a positive direction!” McBournie said. “I think it will positively impact the school, the community and certainly all the students attending.”