June 22, 2013

The last thing our world needs is more schools...

Catholic Schools Fall on Hard Times | Via Meadia:

...In the past, Catholic schools have routinely outperformed public schools on standardized tests, and they boast college admissions rates near 100 percent. Just as important for many Catholic parents, the schools have also helps parents bestow the values and culture handed down to them through the generations. Unfortunately, the decline of Catholic schools will be difficult to reverse. The NYT points to the expansion of charter schools, large tuition increases, the evaporation of cheap labor as nuns leave the teaching profession, and migration from urban environments to the suburbs and the South as important factors. None of these things are likely to change anytime soon. It's an interesting take on the decline of a long-standing American institution and the effect it could have on the marginalized communities these schools have served for years....

What Mead fails to see is that Catholic schools "worked" in a particular time and place.

The Industrial Age was a big step up in the complexity and size of human activities. But in order for these new activities to work, and to continue to grow, many factors had to be upgraded simultaneously. One of these was that workforces needed to be of higher quality. Smarter, healthier, more disciplined. The industrial world needed ever-increasing numbers of people who were literate and numerate. It needed ever-increasing numbers of managers and executives and professionals and all kinds of "white-collar" workers. And the "blue collar" workers also had to upgrade to fit with more complex organizations and machines.

This resulted in a titanic struggle to improve education. A battle that is almost invisible to us, because we take universal education for granted. And the Catholic Church was at the heart of this. Was often a leader. Both private and governmental sectors extracted increasing amounts of money from the people, and invested it in education. Which paid off! Catholic schools were a big success, in simple dollars-and-cents terms. They resulted in stronger and wealthier Catholic communities, which could support more education.

But we are now in a new age of the world. Commonly called the Information Age. (More of my thoughts on the is age here.) I think that transition happened roughly in the 1960's. And when it did, many things that had worked well in the Industrial Age started to come apart. They didn't "pay off" anymore. We are now surrounded by failing institutions, because our world has stubbornly insisted on keeping industrial age solutions going long after they became obsolete.

What the world needs now from the Catholic Church is not more education. Our world is over-supplied with education. And, I think, under-supplied with Truth! Wisdom! The Church is the original firm for that product, but we have forgotten how to live it and teach it.

. Posted by John Weidner at June 22, 2013 7:56 AM
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