Friday, June 25, 2010
The end of another school year has arrived—and for most of us in the legal academy probably arrived several weeks ago. For those of us who are parents, the elementary and secondary school year also has come to an end, although summer vacation for our kids is still new and fresh (at least to our kids if not us parents).
In recent weeks and months, members and friends of Mirror of Justice have reminded us of the vital importance of Catholic elementary and secondary education generally, for our children and communities:
In a very important work, “Catholic Schools and Broken Windows,” (SSRN) Margaret Brinig and Nicole Garnett explore the impact that the disappearance of Catholic schools has had on urban neighborhoods.
Patrick Brennan in “Differentiating Church and State (Without Losing the Church)” (SSRN) reminds us that the liberty of the Church has often been closely associated with the availability of Catholic education, citing the closing of thousands of Catholic schools in France as totalitarianism rose in the years before World War II.
With some regularity, the Mirror of Justice has hosted discussions of educational choice and the need for vouchers to allow children from disadvantaged families the option of attending a high quality Catholic school if they so choose.
And, of course, Rick Garnett has been indefatigable in boosting Catholic education. His philosophy, which I share, was most directly presented two-and-a-half years ago in this Mirror of Justice post: “I am a big fan of Catholic schools. Every parish should have one, every Catholic kid should be in one.”
To be sure, in determining the best education for their children, Catholic parents cannot all be expected to reach the same conclusion about whether to enroll children in the local public school or to select a Catholic school. Family resources, number of children, the particular needs of each child, the availability of a quality Catholic school in the parish or nearby, special academic opportunities or other programs in other public or private schools, and other factors and circumstances will lead parents in one or another direction.
In starting a short series of short posts on why Catholics generally should choose Catholic schools for their children, I acknowledge these factors and circumstances. Reasonable Catholics of good will can and will weigh those factors and circumstances differently. Moreover, as a strong believer that parents are entitled to make educational choices and not have those choices dictated, I would not presume to state some kind of “law,” moral or otherwise, on this question.
Instead, I humbly suggest that all things being equal, Catholics should begin with a rebuttable presumption in favor of Catholic schools and should support public policies that strengthen the ability of Catholic parents to choose Catholic schools, just as other parents should be empowered to make the best educational choice for their children.
Over the next few days, I will make that case in five more parts, turning on the comments for others to add thoughts or critique:
(1) Catholic education offers the best venue for children to learn to integrate faith into all aspects of life.
(2) For parents of means to choose Catholic schools for their own children enhances the opportunity for other families of lesser means to do the same.
(3) By choosing Catholic schools, we make a statement for educational choice that amplified by other parents may bring about an educational reform in this society that respects parents choice.
(4) Vital Catholic schools are important to a vital community, having an impact on neighborhoods beyond the parents and children who attend.
(5) Maintaining strong Catholic schools strengthens liberty and the role of the Church in public life.
Although I’ve already turned on the comments, you may wish to wait until each individual point is made in the days to come before adding your thoughts. More tomorrow.