I was not that surprised to read it, were you?
The Wall Street Journal a couple of weeks ago had a fine piece by Peter Beinart, very effectively making the point that, if Jews in the United States are worried about their children and grandchildren keeping the faith – - and are they ever worried! – - well, the best course of action is to support Jewish grade and high schools.
Mr. Beinart convincingly shows that Jewish children who attend Hebrew private schools are statistically much more likely, as adults, to practice their Jewish faith, attend synagogue, marry a Jewish spouse, and pass on the faith of Israel to their own children.
He remarks that American Judaism is at a crisis, with more and more Jews leaving their faith, and not raising their own children as faithful Jews. A strong Jewish school system, argues the author, will correct that.
Sound familiar? We Catholics have known this for years: there is no more tried-and-true way of passing on our Catholic faith to our kids than by sacrificing to put them in a Catholic school. Data proves they persevere in the faith at higher rates, pray better, are more faithful to Sunday Mass, live gospel values, are more generous to their parish, even have happier marriages, volunteer more, and transmit the faith to their own children, than those not in a Catholic school.
In our nation’s history, Catholic schools had two goals: to educate excellently, and to form children in the faith. Both are essential.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting with leaders in our Catholic high schools. They observed that, in some of their areas, the public schools were, thank God, offering a good education. Lord knows, they remarked, their facilities, and the frills in the government schools, were more dazzling than the Catholic high schools.
So, they asserted, there was only one reason for a parent to sacrifice financially to send his/her son/daughter to the Catholic high school: formation in faith, values, character, discipline, and religion . . . along with a first class education.
In other words, Catholic identity is a priority.
If our schools are not visibly and robustly Catholic, let’s save a lot of money and close them in areas where our children can get a decent academic education free of charge.
Our Jewish neighbors have come to know that; we had best rediscover it!