Last fall my husband and I, after many agonizing months of deliberation, soul searching and prayer, decided to send two of our seven children to the local Catholic school. We met with teachers, discussed concerns with the principal, poured over the literature, took multiple tours of the facility, and spent ample time weighing the pros and cons of institutional schooling versus homeschooling.
Just like with buying another car, we kicked the tires, checked under the hood, took it for a spin and felt that we had made a reasonable effort to determine the quality of the education the school was offering. We decided to give the Catholic school a try, after all, we had faith in the principal and pastor that they would uphold the Church’s teachings, and some of the teachers we met seemed to be genuinely faithful Catholics.
The Church teaches that it’s the parent’s right and duty to educate their children in the Faith and in life. The Second Vatican Council states, “Since parents have conferred life on their children, they have a most solemn obligation to educate their offspring. Hence, parents must be acknowledged as the first and foremost educators of their children. Their role as educators is so decisive that scarcely anything can compensate for their failure in it.”(CCC 99).
The obligation of parents to educate their children is so sacred that there is almost no legitimate or acceptable excuse to make up for their not doing so. Which means being busy with work and family, suffering from lack of sleep and being preoccupied with local politics or family drama is not enough to get parents off the hook from educating their children.
Lamentably, issues began to arise in rapid succession that made us both question and regret our decision. We were shocked to discover that both of our children’s Health and Physical Education classes were yoga-based. Our 6th-grade son brought home paperwork and study guides which required him to memorize yoga positions and terminology, including concepts such as Namaste, prana, chakra, kundalini, guru, and yogi. The literature explained how to incorporate yoga into his daily life and routines, particularly for stress management, meditation, and relaxation.
He was also advised to rely on yoga during times of stress or anxiety, and to use yoga as a means of relaxation, contemplation, and to reach the ultimate desired state of “mindfulness.” Group yoga classes were offered as prize incentives for the school fundraiser, with the winner “earning” a free yoga session for himself and his friends.
Given the Church’s prohibition of Catholics from participating in this activity due to its violation of the First Commandment, it was appalling to discover this was a vital, essential and well-publicized part of the curriculum. Ironically, there wasn’t a single mention of using the Holy Rosary for meditation, or turning to prayer and the Sacraments in time of stress or using Lectio Divina to obtain a sense of peace and calmness. According to the Health and Gym curriculum, Hinduism was the exclusive and superior mechanism for dealing with life’s stresses.
We immediately went to the principal with our concerns about the school-sanctioned yoga program and the teaching of Eastern Spirituality and Hinduism. She graciously and apologetically admitted that she had been unaware of the spiritual implications of yoga, and immediately took steps to rectify the problem. Perhaps as a result of Divine intervention, or maybe just a healthy coincidence, the teacher for both Health and Physical Education resigned fortuitously, and the replacement teacher never revisited the topic. We were grateful that the issue was resolved but now had raised antennae due to something this serious seemingly slipping through the cracks for so long.
Next came the disturbing revelation about the content at the library. After making numerous suggestions to our children that they check-out some quality Catholic books from the school library to read, we were informed that positive Catholic reading literature was not available. After personal investigation, it was clear that there was a serious lack of Catholic literature, as well as a striking imbalance of politically charged material available for students to read.
The library had a plethora of books about former President Obama and a vast selection of books pertaining to more radical, left-wing ideological causes, there was absolutely no literature for the children to read about our current president (now in his second year in office), and a notable lack of books devoted to ideologies that better reflect our Catholic Faith. We requested that the library provide books about our current president as well as virtuous Catholic ideologies, charities and causes. We suggested that the school invest in a healthy selection of books on saints, vocations, and Catholicism.
Our request fell on deaf ears.
Significant and serious curriculum issues began to surface in the subjects of Language Arts and Social Studies. Our 6th grader brought home novel after novel of assigned reading literature, each of which was corrupted with anti-Catholic worldviews, inappropriate subject matter and potentially damaging exposure to topics far too sensitive for most 11-12-year-old children. The content of the novels was overwhelmingly scandalous to the psyches of the young and impressionable students.
The novel Rules portrayed every male character as weak, deeply flawed, inept, incapable, unfeeling and unredeemable. It contained salacious details of the protagonists developing adolescent female body which was both unnecessary and inappropriate for a pre-adolescent young boy to read. The book Maniac Magee told the story of a young orphan boy escaping from his adopted aunt and uncle (the villains) because they were Catholic. They were portrayed as antagonistic and uncaring, precisely and exclusively due to their adherence to Catholicism. The protagonist was ultimately “saved” by a (presumably) evangelical Baptist family, leading the reader to the obvious conclusion that Catholics are evil and Protestants are heroic.
The book Out of the Dust highlighted (again) the unfeeling, uncaring and emotionally absent behavior of men, with gratuitous and unnecessary descriptions of female nudity. Role of Thunder, Hear Me Cry was filled with violence, filthy and offensive language, and profuse references to rape, horror, and torture. Without a clear understanding of the Reconstruction and the Depression Eras, the message was likely lost or obscured on the students. It was more disturbing than educational, and, like the other novels, had we known ahead of time the content of this book, would have suggested this book would not be appropriate for a young Catholic student and refused to let our son read it.
The novel selections were overwhelmingly misandristic and demoralizing to the boys in the school and served to create an unnecessarily hostile climate. The resources utilized for the Language Arts class had clear anti-Catholic biases, and rather serious academic, ideological and theological issues. These were just the novels for the 6th grade. We found 2 out of 3 of the novel selections for the 7th grade were also unacceptable, and have been unable to obtain a thorough list of novels used in the other grades for further analysis, so it’s anyone’s guess how many more questionable novels are being utilized in the curriculum.
Despite all of the problems that we identified with the novels, the school stood behind the selections because of their Newbery Award status. We attempted to explain that not every novel with a Newbery Award designation is necessarily acceptable or appropriate to be used in a Catholic School, after all, a recent Newbery Award-winning book was about an adolescent boy’s appreciation for masturbation, which is a clear indication that the folks at Newbery don’t always follow a compass that is facing due north.
We requested that the assigned reading literature for the school’s Language Arts curriculum be replaced with positive, affirming, uplifting and pro-Catholic options to inspire the students and promote ideologies consistent with the Faith.
Our request again fell on deaf ears.
We found the Social Studies curriculum to be particularly offensive and unacceptable. The secular Social Studies textbook presented a distorted view of history and was fraught with factual and interpretive errors, inaccuracies and ambiguities. Religion in general and Catholicism, in particular, was viewed as just one of many equal and viable societal traits. The role of Catholicism was not just downplayed, it was totally ignored in the formation of Western Civilization.
The secularized Social Studies text was a politically-correct disgrace that used the students as pawns in the culture war and the unbalanced and inaccurate information was used in a not-so-subtle attempt to convince students to be receptive to Socialism. The only biographical profiles in the text were of individuals with liberal agendas.
Patriotism was ignored in exchange for encouraging students to see themselves as global citizens. The lack of a Catholic worldview ran deep through the text, as the perspective was completely from a progressive, liberal ideology that directly conflicted with Catholic values. The text was not just academically inaccurate and lacking in intellectual credibility and integrity, it was just plain one-sided. Even Alan Singer, a contributor at HuffPost, arguably one of the most liberal publications in existence, gave the Pearson Social Studies curriculum the thumbs down, saying his purpose in reviewing the curriculum was “not to destroy its integrity, because I could not find very much integrity in the package.”
It was clear to us that the curriculum in the school needed a serious overhaul, and we decided to look into ways to replace the inferior secular texts with superior Catholic texts. We identified the many problems with the Social Studies and Language Arts program throughout the school year, and in December, after much research and prayer, found and shared the Catholic Textbook Project Social Studies series (https://www.catholictextbookproject.com) with the school principal. She informed us that the current Social Studies curriculum would be replaced prior to the next school year and she promised to review the material we provided. Copies of each of the Catholic textbooks, workbooks, teacher’s manuals and additional resources were provided to her in March, and she gave every indication that she intended to commit to the series.
We met several times during the spring and shared with her the good news that the cost of the books would be almost entirely covered by NPIS, a state agency for assisting schools with curriculum purchases, and we assured her that we would cover any leftover balance to avoid any monetary outlay from the school. Every conversation suggested that she was committed to making the change from the secular text to the Catholic textbook.
Unfortunately, and without any explanation, things went south during our June meeting. In this meeting, we were told that our diocese didn’t support the use of the texts and that her employment could be jeopardized should she decide to use them in the school. At our final meeting, we were told that the books would not be used and that the (primarily non-Catholic) teachers needed to be consulted about the books prior to making any changes to the curriculum.
We were appalled at the blatant disregard for and outright hostility towards the importance of the Faith in education. Discarding the academically superior and theologically accurate Catholic textbooks in deference to the inferior secular texts was incomprehensible. While we understood the importance of employees feeling some ownership in the subject matter they teach, to refuse to use a mainstream Catholic text because it may offend the non-Catholic teachers is illogical. Being afraid to offend the delicate or tender sensibilities of the teachers who disagree with our Faith by asking them to teach from a Catholic textbook is nonsense.
Weeks of reaching out to the pastor, followed by requests to meet with our bishop, ultimately yielded a meeting with the Diocesan Director of Education. We were not optimistic about the outcome of the meeting, particularly since our diocese is notorious for both its ordained priests and lay employees being radically left of center. This particular diocese is so scandal-ridden that the previous director of education, Sr. Donna Marie Leiden, was banned from entering several of the diocesan schools because she had been principal in a school where two child molesters, including Franciscan Brother, had raped hundreds of students. We went into the meeting with trepidation.
Despite our reservations, the meeting with the new director turned out to be overwhelmingly positive, with her telling us that she shared our concerns, and she was doing her best to remedy the problems that she has seen throughout the schools in the diocese. She informed us that she had given the four novels we identified to an objective third party, who had 35 years of experience in library sciences, for professional analysis, and the determination was that three of the four of these books were inappropriate for a Catholic school, and the one outlier was questionable enough that it shouldn’t be used. She had enthusiastic praise for the Catholic Social Studies texts and revealed that her priority was that the Faith be first and foremost in all of the Catholic schools in the diocese.
Contrary to what we had been told by the principal, she expressed hope that all of the diocesan schools would utilize the Catholic Social Studies series. She praised a number of the successful schools who read novels about saints and Catholic historical events and lamented that this isn’t practiced diocesan-wide. Sadly, she revealed that exacting any immediate or significant change would require the cooperation of the principal and pastor, which would be unlikely, and that real change comes slowly.
We have no reason to assume that any curricular improvements will be forthcoming for the upcoming school year.
The situation we have discovered in our Catholic school is pathological and systemic. What we’ve uncovered locally is happening nationwide to unsuspecting parents and students. Catholic schools are almost entirely devoid of Catholic textbooks, and most core curricular programs have no inclusion of Catholicism in them. For the last 15 years, the focus of most Catholic schools has been on making the schools “safe” from pedophiles.
The fallout from the pedophile scandal has resulted in Catholic schools performing criminal background checks on everyone who interacts with students to assure the safety of the children. But it is not enough to just adopt a vast array of policies and practices to protect children’s bodies. We need to be equally concerned with their minds, hearts, and souls. The emotional, psychological and spiritual abuse levied on the children in our Catholic schools is devastating.
There is an ongoing attempt to infiltrate and corrupt the minds of Catholic students with secular, offensive content through the use of both inferior and anti-Catholic literature, textbooks, and other resources. Even worse is the arming non-Catholic teachers with this arsenal of untruths that corroborate their prejudice and push our children away from the Faith. Our Catholic schools are corrupting, abusing, invading and perverting the minds of our unwitting children and blissfully ignorant and unaware parents.
Many Catholic schools are feeding their students garbage and poisoning their souls with the secular values of our hedonistic society and dismissing the values of our Faith as passe and irrelevant. So while parishes nationwide insist that anyone who comes in contact with a school satisfy legal safety clearances, they are simultaneously allowing predator educators to rape the innocent psyches of our children. Just as we have adopted policies to protect our children’s bodies, we must also adopt policies to protect their minds, hearts and souls.
Decades ago every Catholic school teacher was asked to sign the Oath Against Modernism, or an Oath of Fidelity, to assure the Catholic school that nothing they thought, lived or condoned violated any of the Church’s teachings. Clearly, this needs to be re-evaluated and reinstituted for the safety and well being of our current students’ hearts, minds and souls.
Which brings us back to the old Latin saying: caveat emptor, buyer beware. Are you sure you’re getting what you’re paying for with your child’s Catholic education? Are your children receiving a Catholic education or a pagan, political indoctrination? Every parent of a Catholic school child needs to cynically analyze their school: interview the principal, meet the teachers, insist on viewing the materials used in the core subjects as well as the religion program, examine the library, and demand that anyone who interacts with the children. Finally, in addition to having passed a child abuse clearance, also pass a child mind abuse clearance by insisting upon an Oath of Fidelity to the Church.
Demand excellence in your school! Demand Catholic textbooks! Insist on Catholic literature! Demand that both your child’s mind and body be considered sacred! Demand that dishonest teachers do not assault your children with educational materials that have no place in a Catholic education. As Familiaris Consortio reminds us, scarcely anything can compensate for our failure to do so.
My husband still hasn’t pulled the trigger on the car he wants to purchase, but we have decided to homeschool our children this year. The amount of time and effort we spent identifying the problems, and then striving to provide realistic solutions to solving the problems, could have been far better spent educating our children ourselves. The high level of hostility towards the Faith that exists in our Catholic schools nationwide is disturbing, despicable and demoralizing.
What we learned from this past year is to apply the same level of scrutiny to any school we ever consider using for our children as we do to the cars we plan to purchase. Kicking the tires is not enough. Just because a school gleefully exploits the holy name of the Blessed Mother or beloved saint in their title, doesn’t automatically mean it’s producing an education that She or they would endorse.