Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Solution is Simple

I read today where Our Lady of Lourdes School in Massapequa Park on Long Island is closing in June because of low enrollment. Since Our Lady of Lourdes was the name of my old grammar school in Brooklyn, it saddened me to read this news. Many Catholic grade schools are closing all across the country because they are simply becoming too expensive to operate. That wasn't always the case, in fact, when I attended Lourdes in the 1950s, the average student came from what we would call today a "poor" family. It's funny but nobody ever told us we were poor. All our neighbors were in the same boat...poor maybe in liquid assets, but rich in values like love of family, reverence for God, and a thirst for education.

Catholic Schools were bursting at the seams in the 1950's. There was a nominal tuition fee, but every family found a way to do without something else so that tuition could be paid. Why did people sacrifice to send their children to these schools? Results. Many of the immigrant families who came to America at the turn of the 20th century understood too well that the way to a better life for their children lay in education. It's not that the public schools were bad at the time, in fact, back then New York City had one of the finest public school systems in the country. What the Catholic Schools offered that made them so popular was not only a first class education, but also religious instruction and character building that synched perfectly with the values of first generation Americans.

The methods used in running a Catholic School were harsh by today's ridiculously lenient standards, but man did they work. The business of those schools was learning, and honestly, by that measure they did a hell of a job. I would equate the educational value of my eighth grade diploma to that of almost any NYC high school diploma in 2010. We were drilled in the fundamentals of writing and grammar, knew math up to elementary algebra, were taught geography (I'd bet some high school kids today couldn't find the United States on a map) and real history, not the revisionist crap they peddle these days. We learned art, music, government operated, we were even schooled in etiquette, something that we could badly use in 2010.

There were no discipline problems; if you stepped over the line you got whacked upside the head. That simple but effective prescription usually discouraged repeat offenses, and teachers were free to teach. I don't think my parents set foot inside the school until the day I graduated. They were perfectly content to give the teachers leave to discipline me when required, knowing perfectly well that I probably deserved it. If any kid's parent was summoned to school, it was serious. Parents didn't go with the attitude that their kid was right and the teacher wrong, quite the opposite. They went to listen, and to do what the teacher suggested to remedy any "problem" that came up. The kid was almost sure to get whacked by his parents for causing them the embarrassment of a visit to school.

I'm sure the methods used in Catholic Schools in my day have been toned down, but even so, any student, even in a modern Catholic classroom, knows they are there to learn. The nuns and brothers may have put away the rulers and the thumb screws, but the air of discipline is still there. They simply do not put up with the crap they tolerate in public schools. Little thugs who should be in jail are given "time outs" to think about their transgressions. When a kid is suspended from school, they don't get sent home because their parents are both out working to make those Lexus payments, no, they receive "in school" suspensions where they sit in an empty room next to a pretty young teacher to "punish" them. Insane.

Mayor Bloomberg should get rid of that Muppet of a Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and bring Brother Jude of the Franciscans out of retirement to reorganize the system. Parents should be banned from school unless summoned. Teachers who fail should not be protected by unions and sent to "rubber rooms" to collect paychecks for doing nothing, they should be sent packing. Kids who are chronically troublesome should get to spend two minutes in the hall with the biggest, meanest teacher who has the authority to talk some sense into them, capisce. I guarantee in five years the United States would regain its pre-eminent position in education, and not have to take a back seat to the Russians, Indians or Chinese.


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Joseph Del Broccolo said...

To tell the truth, my parents sent me to Catholic school, because they didn't want all the trouble of packing and making reservations for a vacation. Dad figured if he spent the money on education, then we would have to give something up, and he could then take his naps without interruption!

Jim Pantaleno said...

Well his plan worked...he got his naps and you got a great education.