What do our children need before they graduate from high school?
In my 22 years as an educator, these are two questions I have been trying to answer. For 20 of those years, I tried to find the answer in the public schools with limited success. Throughout that time, I worked towards academic excellence and scored well on tests. I worked to maximize academic time, while at times sacrificing the opportunities for social and real-world opportunities of the students. I looked for every opportunity to improve the numbers (whatever numbers were important at that time). What I have come to realize is that there is more to being educated than what a number can show you.
Now don’t get me wrong, we are in the education business. Results matter and tests are one piece of that component. But there’s more. Education truly is about forming our children in mind, body and soul.
As an educational community we must educate the mind, but we cannot do this at the expense and the absence of the body and soul. Rather, the way to maximize the learning of the mind is to educate the whole child. The three elements cannot be separated. This is where, based upon my experience, Catholic education makes a difference.
Through Catholic schools, students’ minds, bodies and souls are formed so they are prepared to share the Gospel in whatever personal vocation they are called to in serving God. It’s more than a number. It’s more than what can be measured on a test. What number tells you whether a child is prepared to serve God and spread the Gospel?
As parents, we are the primary educators of our children. Catholic schools partner with parents on that journey. Instruction in a Catholic school is not contrary to what is being lived out or taught in a Catholic household. It is designed to support parents in what they are teaching and expecting as Catholic parents.
Instruction cohesively brings together the teachings of our faith with the truth. Faith and reason are merged together. When we teach science in Catholic schools, students learn the same scientific facts as they would in any school. However, there is a huge difference—the teachings of the Gospel and the Church are also taught.
For example, science helps students understand the concept of cloning, but in a Catholic school we can address why cloning humans is morally unacceptable because it denigrates the dignity of the person. We thereby give our students the entire truth—faith and reason combined. Instruction is truly melding together the mind and soul, faith and reason. Students leave Catholic schools understanding the connection between knowledge and faith. In this way, our students go beyond a number on the test.
In addition to educating the whole child in the classroom, Catholic schools incorporate the formation of mind, body and soul into all aspects of school programs. Prayer is incorporated throughout the day, within extracurricular activities, and on the athletic field. Students actively participate in retreat programs and have regular access to the sacraments.
So, what does it mean to be educated? To be educated means to form the mind, body and soul in truth. After many years of looking elsewhere, I found the answer to this question in Catholic schools.