Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 22, 1960 when ground was broken for St. Philip Church, East Windsor.
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One issue that kept bobbing to the surface during the presidential campaign was the poor performance of young Americans with respect to standardized international testing. To cite one important example, scores from the 2006 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) showed that in science 15-year-old American students lagged behind those in 16 other countries, and in math they trailed their counterparts in 23 countries. Disappointing results such as these have prompted calls for improvement in public schools to help America keep pace in the global economy.

 

Former governor of Colorado Ray Romer, now chairman of Strong American Schools, promised that this issue of underperforming Americans students would be given prominence in the 2008 presidential election. The PISA test is administered every three years and measures the ability of 15-year-olds to apply science and math to real-life situations.

 

Former governor of Colorado Ray Romer, now chairman of Strong American Schools, promised that this issue of underperforming Americans students would be given prominence in the 2008 presidential election. The PISA test is administered every three years and measures the ability of 15-year-olds to apply science and math to real-life situations.

 

Approximately 400,000 students, including 5,600 from the United States, took the test in 2006.

 

Education, in the proper sense of the term, is aimed at the whole person. Science and math, important as they are, cannot be isolated from history and literature. Nor can they be isolated from morality, including issues pertaining to freedom and human rights. Dealing with a global economy in a high-tech world requires a moral vision.

 

A critical educational issue, largely ignored in the presidential debates, is the place of Christian morality in education. This is an issue that was not only not ignored, but given primacy by America’s forefathers.

 

Consider the following brief statements from America’s founding fathers and early presidents: “It is impossible to rightly govern without God and the Bible” (George Washington); “The general principles upon which our founders achieved independence . . . were the principles of Christianity” (John Adams); “The Bible is the rock upon which our republic rests” (Andrew Jackson); “A nation that will not be ruled by the Ten Commandments, shall be ruled by tyrants” (James Madison); “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded . . . by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ” (Patrick Henry).

 

We now live in what many politicians and sociologists call a “post-Christian” world. This expression also implies “post-Biblical.” How is a truly American education, one that emphasizes human rights and constitutional freedom, possible in such a climate? If abortion is entrenched, can there be education about the nature of the unborn as well as the hazards of abortion? If the homosexual lifestyle is an unquestioned part of culture, can its dangers to the health of society be taught?

 

A culture war now exists, pitting traditional values that are both Christian and American against purely secular values. Today’s young students are caught in the pincers of these two antithetical views, a situation that makes public education problematic.

 

Recently, a sixth-grade student in Minnesota was the victim of harassment by educational authorities for wearing pro-life T-shirts to school. On more than a dozen occasions, during April 2008, the principal and several teachers publicly singled out this young student for ridicule in front of his classmates. He was threatened with suspension if he did not stop wearing the “offending” T-shirts.

 

The shirts in question were produced by the American Life League and contained the following messages: “Abortion . . . growing . . . growing . .. gone”; “What part of abortion don’t you understand?”; “Never Known – Not Forgotten.”

 

Thanks to the Thomas More Law Center, the case went to court, resulting in a Federal Judge in Minnesota signing a permanent injunction allowing the student to wear his T-shirts to school. In addition to the permanent injunction prohibiting the school from banning the pro-life T-shirts, the School District agreed to pay the student for damages and $12,500 for legal fees.

 

The president of the law center commended the young student while asserting that it was his actions, and not those of the educational authorities, that were consistent with the Constitution: “This young Christian was not afraid to stand up for his pro-life beliefs despite ridicule and threats from school officials. We are pleased we were able to vindicate his constitutional rights.” It is now trendy for public schools to put forward a strong effort to end bullying. Attention should be given, however, to how teachers and principals bully pro-life students, which conveys the tacit message that it is permissible for students to bully their pro-life peers.

 

This incident in Minnesota, like numerous others of the same kind, indicates that the education problems America is facing go far beyond how well 15-year-olds perform in international testing in science and math, or how well teachers are paid. It raises questions about the competence of some educators, the ever-tightening grip of political correctness, existing prejudice against students who take pro-life positions, and a curious disregard for and even hostility toward the American tradition.

 

It is too much to ask of students that they be the moral teachers of their teachers. Yet, who will educate the educators? This is not a problem that money will solve. Nonetheless, it warrants attention. It should remind educators that Christianity is not moribund, despite the repeated references to a “post-Christian” world, and that Christian principles cannot be divorced from the United States Constitution.

 

Dr. DeMarco is an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell.  

 

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.