Sunday, December 28, 2008

Manic Monday - tradition

Mo's word TRADITION has prompted me to get serious this week. My "pointed" point is made at the end of the article.
Via New York Times
At a Boys’ Catholic School, Tradition Fuels Demand

Uli Seit for The New York Times

Selective Orientation at Chaminade High School in Mineola. About 1,600 boys applied last year for 425 freshman spots.

Published: September 26, 2008

UNLIKE most Roman Catholic schools in the New York area, which embrace students regardless of their religion, Chaminade High School here requires a baptismal certificate to register.

“No exception,” said the Rev. James C. Williams, a cherub-faced priest who is the school’s president. “We advertise that pretty clearly because this is who we are. I don’t have room for all the Catholics who want to be here.”

Indeed, more than 1,600 boys from as far as Manhattan and Westchester County applied last year for 425 freshman seats at Chaminade, which many consider one of Long Island’s premier private schools and a relative bargain at $6,660 a year. Chaminade, founded in 1930 and now the Island’s only all-boys Catholic school, has thrived by staying unabashedly Catholic and traditional.

As the school year began this month, Chaminade students bowed their heads for a 10-minute morning prayer, repeated in an abbreviated version before every class. “Here I Am, Lord,” drifted through the hallways as the glee club practiced for a school Mass. Shortly before noon, the chapel filled with teenagers for a lunchtime prayer service.

No talk here of squaring Catholic teachings with secular realities. In 2005, out of concern over excessive materialism and alcohol consumption, Chaminade canceled its prom and later replaced it with a modest dinner cruise around Manhattan. There is a strict dress code that also prohibits facial hair.

Despite a recent haircut, Dominic DaRocha, a freshman, spent an hour during the first week of classes cleaning up the school library because his dark brown mop fell below ear level — a violation. “I thought I kind of deserved it,” Dominic, 13, said after a second haircut. “I know it’s a good school, and that’s all that really matters.”

Enrollment at Long Island’s 11 Catholic high schools is up about 7 percent since 2002, to nearly 13,000 (though down about 20 percent at elementary schools), according to officials with the Rockville Centre Diocese, which covers Long Island.

Sean Dolan, a spokesman for the diocese, said, “What we’re seeing anecdotally is that people are saving their money and saying we can’t do both, so we’re going to put them in public elementary school and then put them in Catholic high school.”

But perhaps no place is more popular than Chaminade, which has top-notch academic and athletic programs and last summer expanded its campus with a $20 million sports and activities complex. Donations from a high-powered alumni network that includes former Senator Alfonse M. D’Amato, County Executive Thomas R. Suozzi and the television commentator Bill O’Reilly paid for the project.

Parents like Gina and James McGovern pay school taxes of more than $10,000 a year in Merrick but switched their 14-year-old son, Terence, to Chaminade this year so he could discuss issues like poverty, social justice and respect for life from a Catholic perspective.

“We’re not proselytizing or preaching, we’re simply looking for an opportunity to have a school system that supports the lessons we’re teaching in our home,” said Mrs. McGovern, a former PTA president. “I think the pendulum has swung so far in the other direction that it makes religious expression difficult or uncomfortable in public school.”

Read more

Parents who want to send their children to private schools, and pay dearly for that privilege, so that the school supports the lessons they teach at home, have every right to do so. But to expect that they should be able to express their religious beliefs in public school and feel comfortable about it are completely wrong. Public school is no place for expressions of private religious beliefs.



Jamie said...

I agree that religion in the environment of come one come all public school is a bad idea, but I do believe courses in ethics that are common to all religions would be acceptable. It would be good if public schools could offer "magnets" that were all male or all female as there are students that respond best in such situations.

Akelamalu said...

The schools here that get the best exam results and have the best students are church schools with a strict code of practice - there must be something in it don't you think?

Akelamalu said...

I just read your comment over at mine. "Yes there is something to it and that is that private(religious) schools can pick the cream of the crop to go to their schools and therefore get the best exam results. Public schools must accommodate everyone, bright and not so bright - so that everyone has a chance to make it to college. My point was not against religious schools, Akelamalu, but that public schools should be religion-free"
I wasn't suggesting that you have anything agains religious schools just making the point that the code of practice church schools have seems to work. I went to a public school where school assemblies (not particularly religious) were held every morning and the discipline and ethos of the school was much better than the one in which I now work, where the students are not brought together in any way. I hope I'm making sense here.

Lisa said...

Religion has no place in public schools. I remember when I was homeroom mom for my older daughter's class and a mom complained that we had to have a winter party vs a Christmas party. Umm, duh, not everyone is Christian.

While we celebrate Christmas, we are not Christians. This really throws off people. It especially infuriates my MIL. She sent my husband to Catholic school for twelve years, only to have him reject it all.

What I don't understand is why people have issue with the idea that people can raise their children to be good people without using God in the teaching. You act good and kind because it is the right way to be.

Desert Songbird said...

Um, I think I'll refrain from making any comment other than to say thanks for the link to the article.

Linda said...

I guess, and I'm not saying this to be trite, a lot of it comes down to "you get what you pay for". It would be nice if all we parents could afford to send our children to the best schools possible but for most of us, public education is the only option available to us.

Even though I don't believe that religion should be taught in public schools as more lives have been lost and wars fought in the name of God, I don't know that I condone a completely Godless society either.

America was founded on a belief in God and to remove that from everything that our forefathers held dear is - to me - wrong. You don't have to embrace it yourself but you should respect it just as we, if visiting other cultures and countries, should respect their beliefs, too.

Oh, and I'm using "you" as a "you" in general and not a "you" in particular! Personally I am not a religious person at all but I do have faith if that makes sense.

Akelamalu said...

I just had to come back to this as I don't think what I wanted to say translated very well. However, having read Linda's response, I just need to say she said exactly what I meant and said it so much better that I ever could. :)

Travis said...

I think this can be a difficult discussion for many. On the one hand, there are people like me who are not religious and prefer not to have religious references in our secular lives. But then on the other hand, there are those who are religious and simply want to be able to carry that religion with them in all aspects of their lives.

Then there are those somewhere in between those extremes, who simply choose to keep their spirituality completely private.

I respect a person's right to their own religious observance. If a child wants to say a prayer, then who am I to tell the child no? But the child who doesn't care to add the words "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance shouldn't be made to do so.

If we can all agree on that basic freedom of and from religion, then we're taking a huge step forward.

I don't think I addressed the real topic of the article in your post. I guess my comment was more a comment to the other comments. It looked like a good discussion so I thought I would chime in.

Gina said...

I believe public schools should be an environment in which many points of view may be discussed and explored. Unfortunately, that does not exist in the public schools my children have attended.

While one responder cited how a parent complained about a winter party versus a Christmas party at school, I can tell you about my son's elementary school where he spent one full school day devoted to Hanukkah activities - a menorah art project, making latkes, spinning dreidels and sharing "gelt," and singing Hanukkah songs. This was not reported to me - I was actually there in the classroom for the better part of the day.

The holiday party was the following week. It was prescribed by the teacher that the class parents could do "winter" themed crafts and gave the OK to decorating tree cookies but that was it. I questioned why we had a day of Hanukkah activities yet the "holiday or winter" party was strictly a non-Christmas event and I was told that Hanukkah was a cultural celebration and Christmas was religious. My child also celebrated and learned about Kwanza that week.

IMO, you can't have it both ways. Either make school a secular place with no religious reference or make it a place where all holidays can be explained, explored and enjoyed.

As my boys got older, their teachers were predominantly young and liberal and these teachers felt free to express their personal views during class time. I did not object to sharing ideas however everyone in the class - students included - should be able to express his ideas without fear of being ostracized or marginalized. If a student's views are based on his religious beliefs, he should be able to discuss them in that context. Challenging others' views can be done respectfully but that was not the norm in my son's school.

To express what you believe and why you believe it does have a place in the public school. If you believe that to be good and kind is "the right way to be" and I believe to be good and kind is what Jesus teaches me to do ("Do unto others as I have done unto to you.") is your point of view "allowed" in public school and mine taboo?

Wear your yarmulke or head scarf, your crucifix or Star of David at school. Or don't.

Pray over your school lunch. Abstain from the hotdog at the year-end picnic or meat on Fridays. Say the pledge. Or don't.

Every child should be able to get a public education without sacrificing or sublimating his identity as a Christian, Jew, or atheist or anything else.

To deny him that opportunity would be completely wrong.

maryt/theteach said...

Gina, I agree you should do all the holidays or none. The explanation that teacher gave you about Christmas wasn't right. But we need to cover all the holidays fairly. I still believe that the school is no place for prayer or expressions of religion. The holidays are an exception (I'm not in favor of religious expressions of the holidays) trees, stocking by the fire, food, angels, wreaths, etc.

Your religion belongs in your church/synagogue/mosque, or your home, and in your mind and heart.

Gina said...

I guess I am curious what you consider an "expression of religion" and whether it is the school condoning (or promoting it) that you find improper or a student practicing an aspect of his/her faith.

If my son wished to say grace at his school lunch table before eating his lunch, would that be improper? If the school hosted a Thanksgiving Dinner fundraiser to benefit a local soup kitchen and there was a "blessing" before the meal performed by a local rabbi - would that be improper? Would wearing clothing or jewelry with religious significance - by students or teachers - be offensive? Would a prayer at a candlelight vigil for a hs student who took her life be a no-no? At the holiday concert - Silent Night; no; Jingle Bell Rock, ok but we must also have "The Dreidel Song" (Winter Wonderland, maybe but doesn't it mention Parson Brown?) I am using these examples specifically because I have witnessed them personally.

As an educator yourself, I really am curious to understand what you think is OK and not OK in public elementary, middle and high schools.
It is a topic I find enormously interesting because I have heard so many different views on the subject.