The State v. Self-Reliance

I nearly missed an email note from a reader (because he didn’t use the contact form) which had a semi-jocular solution to mass shooting attacks on schools.

“Our solution to the school shooter crisis is Universal Mandatory Home Schooling!”

Okay. I guess if your child is being home-schooled, then she isn’t going to be in the school where the madman attacks.

Of course not every family is in a position to school their children well. “Well”, being the key.

On the other hand, this does bring a few questions to the fore.

Have we gotten to the point where we rely on the State for far too much? Where is self-reliance, personal responsibility? It can be argued that, for example, state schools free us up to do other things and provide a minimum level of education. However, it also seems to me that huge damage has been done to the entire nation through a decades long systematic bending of young minds with liberal and atheist agendas.

Just compare the exams (expectations) of grade school students in this decade with those of yesteryear. Take a look at a story about an 8th grade exam from 1912. HERE and HERE  They didn’t have fancy gizmos then. They had simple books, chalk, and a board… and expectations.

So, where’s the benefit from the big State-run schools these days? Students can learn about 57 different self-defined genders, but not much about history… of anything. And we know what happens when history is unknown or ignored.

Are there ways in which we can be more self-reliant, especially in the education of children?   I have in mind in particular religious education.  Parents are the first educators of their children.  Every other resource has to be an aid to parents, not a substitution.

I’m sure that many of you who have raised offspring have some view on this.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. tominrichmond says:

    There’s a germ of truth in this. One reason these schools are attractive targets is their size; public high schools tend to be very large, making it easier to find a target-rich environment, and easier to infiltrate without being noticed.

    Tax credits that would allow education money to attach to a student and be used at any school, private, parochial, public, charter, homeschool, would de-centralize these behomothic schools (and have the happy side effect of providing choice and competition in schooling).

  2. mercy2013 says:

    The concept of self-reliance that you mention is the reason that we pulled our kids out of Catholic school this year. I left my 6-figure job to homeschool them. Granted, we are fortunate to have enough financial means to do so. We tried two different Catholic schools, and found that they are very much influenced by the secular state, and most of the teachers at the school are not even aware of it. (Secular social studies – not history – books, reading programs guided by companies such as Scholastic. School libraries full of books with occult themes.) Most Catholic schools are members of the NCEA, which often lines up with secular thinking as well. Though I see the tide turning with the establishment of more classical schools in the US, it will take decades for the clean-up to be complete. We offered solutions and help to the school, which were not accepted. Therefore, we decided that the only option was to take matters into our own hands and homeschool. The idea that our kids would not be exposed to mass shootings was a plus, but not part of our considerations. They could be exposed to the same thing at a park or a mall or a public event. I truly pray that Catholic schools can turn things around. I believe that they should not accept ANY money from the state, even in the form of vouchers or through the school lunch program. A Catholic community ought to be able to take care of its own to provide assistance for food, etc… All of these programs tie the school to the state.

  3. Gripen says:

    For an eighth-grader back in the good old days, I’m pretty dumb. But I aced that 1926 SAT!

  4. HeatherPA says:

    This is an uncomfortable topic for me because of the conflict I feel about it.
    I live in a rural area. We have pretty crappy public schools that have went the way of the world, and surprisingly, in our rural pocket of the state, there are a lot of same sex couples and homosexuals per capita. A number of kids at the school “identify” as gay or bisexual or transgender (though I think a lot of it is for attention and not true thought), and it has caused quite a problem with the main population of the area, which is pretty conservative. However, there are also many single parent families, drugs (pills and heroin), and high unemployment/poverty in our area too.
    The nearest small and good Catholic school is a 50 minute drive one way, in a neighboring state, and only goes to grade 8. My husband tries to arrange his schedule to help me out, but I drive that daily with two toddlers in the SUV, so we spend a lot of time driving daily. It’s that important to us. It was a family decision that has been confirmed by the flourishing and deepening of the faith we have seen.
    Lots of time to pray rosaries.
    My 16 year old son goes to the high school in the area and spends his morning there, and then goes to the vocational program in the afternoon where he is learning computer networking. We thought long and hard before we signed him up for that program. However, with college prep being not the best here, we thought he would learn much more going that route and be away from the worst influences at the high school. The technical program is actually hard to get into and the teacher is pretty great. He will be able to graduate and get straight into a networking job if he chooses, or be advanced in college if he chooses. He is also considering the military for at least a 4 year stint (my husband is retired military) before maybe going to college. I am praying he is called to the priesthood and have been since he was a toddler.

    I know my limitations and I honestly think I would fail at homeschooling. There are no resources here for homeschooling outside of cyber school offered through the district. No groups or parents groups. It’s pretty desolate.

    However, my husband and I have decided when our younger three get to high school age, we will have to figure out homeschooling or move, because the high school has gone downhill so much just in the past decade, there is no way we could conceivably send them there after being at the awesome little Catholic primary they attend/ will attend now. Daily prayer, weekly Mass, Saint of the Day, critical thinking taught… so many pluses that it would be cultural shock for them. I feel really guilty that my son attends the public high, though he has decent friends and does well. The only Catholic high school in the area (one hour away) is very, very worldly and nominally Catholic. I wouldn’t send any of our kids there. I pray that we could somehow start a classic education high school here, along the lines of GK Chesterton.

    We pay a very large amount of school tax for the public schools here in addition to our tuition for our Catholic school. We get no vouchers for our Catholic school tuition or help from the diocese because it is a school
    outside our diocese.

    As far as religious ed goes, we have always supplemented what the official diocese program was because I am not impressed with it. There are a couple of dinosaurs that teach religious ed at our parish that Father inherited and I know he can’t get rid of, and they are of the “be good people and you’ll go to Heaven” school. Thankfully, because our kid(s) go to parochial school, they are exempt from religious ed taught at our parish and Father knows we also teach from the Baltimore Catechism at home. Our 16 year old is in the high school religious education which is taught by our priest, a college professor (a good one) and his wife, a NFP educator, so he is in good hands there and is also supplemented by us. He will be confirmed next year.

    Our son goes to Confession at least once a month.
    We pray though in our rosary intentions to preserve our kids from making any mortal sins, begging Our Lady to keep them from ever offending God in that manner. We hope it helps! I heard this suggested years ago in a FSSP homily and have used it ever since.

    The Baltimore Catechism, if one can get their hands on the older illustrated volumes, is so good to teach from for kids. It really shows them with pictures and words what we believe and why. Scour eBay, Amazon sellers, and old bookstores. The old editions are worth every penny.

  5. GypsyMom says:

    My husband and I run a small homeschool “co-op” using an accredited Catholic classical curriculum. The materials are solid and trustworthy, and the students get a good education if they take it seriously. Some parents help with teaching, but mostly we have to hire teachers, all of whom are believing orthodox Catholics who take an oath of fidelity to the magisterium at our opening Mass. Most of the staff are not professional educators, though we have good educations behind us, we know the state of the world and the Church, and we’re trying to protect our kids from the dangers of government and pseudo-Catholic schools.

    This can be done by any small group of parents and other adult orthodox Catholic members of the community. It takes some organizational ability, some bookkeeping skills, the commitment to follow through, and a lot of prayer, especially for Jesus to provide the teachers. One of our best resources for teachers is retired and semi-retired professionals, though we have difficulty getting some of them to donate their time during their retirement. It is a wonderful way for retired people to help rebuild the Church and for the community to show that they are still needed and valued.

    The question of funding is a little trickier. We keep our tuition as low as possible (between $2,200 and $4,000) to make it affordable for parents. Some even get further financial aid beyond that. If we had even a few thousand per student from tax money, it would make a dramatic change in our ability to attract teachers, but then there’s always the worry of possible government control. I have no answers, short of wealthy benefactors.

    Attracting students is also difficult. In spite of the expressed wishes of some parents that they’d like a better Catholic education for their children, so many are still caught up in the extras of large schools–sports, dances, music programs, and other activities–that those win out in the end. Small and humble, but solid, won’t cut it. And they still keep repeating the mantra that they have to get their kids into a good high school so that they can get into a good college and get a good job. No student who has taken our program seriously and graduated from it has had trouble getting into any college to which they have applied. Some even come back and say our program prepared them better than their college classmates.

    It can be done, but people have to really want it and have to be willing to put in the time and effort. My kids and their souls are worth it.

  6. bobbird says:

    This was texted to me by a fellow retired teacher:

    Young Girl: “Dear God, why do you permit these terrible school shootings to take place?”
    God: “I’m sorry, but I am not invited into your school.”

  7. momoften says:

    I homeschool. I have been for about 20 years. I am not perfect at it. I am not a teacher. I know what I do want for my kids. I want the best mass, best churches I can go to in the city I live in. I want them to have a good traditional Catholic education that I did not have. It is even more important today than ever. I can say that High School is difficult for homeschooling for me. BUT, today versus when I started there are more options. The best is the online interactive courses. Some are pricey, some are not. They do a good job. They make my boys more accountable to do what they hate to do (composition). It is a good transition to college. Good Catholic Schools are not common. There is one that is a block away(it first prides itself on its athletics, then academics, then God), and unless I needed to I do not want them there (Our public schools are going downhill as well.) It is impossible as a parent to keep up with all the changes and even if you challenge the administration, you get the run around. (my experience with sending my 1st 3 kids to schools, both kinds ) You can send them, but you better be vigilant, extremely. A note about standard testing—what a joke. You can’t even compare today versus yesterday. First, many kids retake tests to get better scores. Kids either take classes or buy study guides to help them. Even in schools, the kids are taught to take tests, they are prepped. How is that a comparison to the past? How do we know, really know if the students of today are as bright or brighter than those of years past? On top of that, they change the test frequently. How can we possibly compare test scores if they are different tests? We can’t. I may not have a college education, nor be the brightest person, but I just know what I do want for my children. God is first. It is so much easier to make him first for our family when we homeschool.

  8. adriennep says:

    HeatherPA, I feel your pain, as I’m also a rural Catholic desirous of a classical education. But rejoice, there are options now.

    Not only can you get a great classical education online now, there are numerous Catholic ones as well—as well there should be since St. Augustine paved the way…). Kolbe Academy in Napa, California has for years served homeschool families with a “best of both worlds” approach. I know local homeschoolers who go there for high school, but it is online. Ignatius Press’s Father Fessio personally teaches at Angelicum/Great Books Academy online. Memoria Press has a complete online school to enhance their classical curriculum resources and Latin program. There are others and the list grows. The Institute for Catholic Liberal Education has a list of member hybrid and regular classical schools. Chesterton Academy is currently replicating their school model. So please don’t feel trapped by your environment. God must want us to grow where we are planted!

  9. Mary Jane says:

    I wanted to give some words of encouragement for HeatherPA. :)

    I’m a homeschool graduate (I’m in my early 30s now). After graduating, I went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree from an accredited state university. My husband (who also has a B.S. degree and was also homeschooled during high school) and I have 5 (this summer it’ll be 6) children. We are both so grateful to our parents for choosing to school us at home, and we wanted the same for our children. (Now if there was a great Catholic school in the area we might send our children to it and not homeschool, but there isn’t, so we homeschool).

    We are in our second year of homeschooling our oldest two (ages 5 and 7) through the Kolbe Academy homeschool program. We do all the textbook work at home, and I track attendance and grades and send in paperwork at the end of each quarter. It is a wonderful program, and we are very pleased with it so far. I just wanted to give a thumbs up for the Kolbe program, because it may be just what you are looking for, especially if you don’t have any local support groups.

    Speaking of support groups, we do have a great local Catholic homeschool support group through our FSSP parish, but I have not participated much at all in it yet – I don’t actually feel like I need it right now, and I think trying to participate in all the activities and meetings might overwhelm me more than it would help (at least at this phase in life). It may help more when the kids are older but right now we’re just doing our thing at home. I also believe Kolbe has options for support/assistance if you need it during the school year.

  10. Suburbanbanshee says:

    The SAT test of today is a lot easier than the old ones, although poorly asked questions do introduce a degree of difficulty.

    But any SAT should be easy it you read a lot, know math, and know how to take tests.

    Retaking tests is only helpful if you were nervous or needed more practice texts. But a lot of kids do need that reality dose. It has always been an option, albeit a pricey one!

  11. MacCheese says:

    We are fortunate to have a very good Catholic k-8 school near to us. Our children go there and love it. It’s not perfect, e.g. much to our annoyance some of the texts are Common Core but still, there is much emphasis on our faith, our Lord, Blessed Mother, devotions etc. Even though it’s Catholic, we remain vigilant and always inspect texts and particularly books from the school library (Many of those push the progressive agenda)
    Whatever about the school, we believe that as parents it’s our responsibility to teach and pass on the faith. The school helps, but we make it a habit of discussing our faith at dinner and always have the Baltimore Cat handy for Q&A. We are also fortunate to have a FSSP parish not too far away where Fathers Catechism teaching after Sunday mass is exceptional.
    The point is, in today’s secular world, it’s a battle for the minds of our children and it takes a multi pronged approach to crowd out the progressive secular ideology.

  12. Dan says:

    My wife has homeschooled our children for the past 15 years. When she started it was difficult but over the past few years has become the “in” thing to do and resources are more readily available. Although the burnout rate is high.
    With the internet there is no shortage of information (for good or bad) these days and no excuse not to learn something you want to know about. We have always considered homeschooling more about teaching the kids to love to learn than about teaching them to regurgitate facts for a test.
    So far all of our kids have done their last two years of school at the local community college through their PSEO program. They graduate high school with their AA degree and continuing on to the college of their choosing has never been an issue. Most schools are now actively seeking homeschool students because they have a better success rate on average. By the time they go to the community college they have had a solid formation, are able to adapt to different learning environments and have done well.

    Surprisingly we have had more flack from the diocese when we tell them we want to also do faith formation at home. It seems many churches and diocese see the faith formation as the only way to get young people through the doors.

  13. Antonin says:

    As early as 1816, the constitution, for example, in the state of Indiana to provide, by law, “for a
    general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all.” The point is that public schooling, funded by taxpayers, has been seen as an important role for the state. It is true, that private schools (Catholic and others) were permitted but in Canada and Quebec, in particular, this we also taxpayer supported. This is the same as in many European countries. I don’t think the issue, from a Catholic point of view, is state or private but really about control and I would agree that local is better. But I think we are part of a public space and public education is good for facilitating bonds of community. In Finland, private schools are not permitted, there are no standardized tests, it is all locally controlled, all students are taught in same class and they have among the best systems in the world. We, in the west, now have among the lowest illiteracy rate, ever, in the entire world. There are many benefits that have come with increasing access to educational opportunities.

    Education is also about learning to work with all people and get along with diverse kinds of people who inhabit our geographic space. It is not about crawling into self imposed ghettos.

  14. JesusFreak84 says:

    I wouldn’t even send my kids (if I had any :( ) to a Catholic school that required government certification of teachers. If I wanted my kids to be taught by government-approved and trained teachers, why would I PAY to send kids to a private school? Unfortunately, that pretty much leaves homeschooling or the SSPX, since most Sees in the US require the Catholic school teachers be thoroughly indoctrinated by government-mandated training, and they even use that as a *selling point.*

  15. Mary Jane says:

    Antonin, you have a point about learning to work with all kinds of people and get along. I know that can be a weakness of homeschooling – there is a possibility the homeschooled students won’t develop the social skills necessary for certain types of jobs. That risk can be mitigated by enrolling the students in “dual enrollment” courses, as well as sports and art and what-have-you classes in your local area. But, I hardly think homeschooled students are in a “self imposed ghetto”. Most homeschooled students are among the best and the brighest out there. Most homeschool parents aren’t doing it out of laziness (as any homeschool parent knows, homeschooling is not for the lazy :) or out of a desire to raise their children in a bubble. The general desire of a homeschool parent is to teach the faith and morals and give children the best education possible, while making sure the children are not exposed to immoral material/bad friends/what-have-you. Increasing access to educational opportunities is a wonderful thing – as long as the education is solid. This is what homeschoolers doubt they can find in most public school systems.

    As regards taxes, I think it’s an injustice that my husband and I are forced to pay taxes towards funding our local public system that 1) we don’t like, 2) that don’t agree with, and 3) that we don’t get to benefit from, because we cannot in good conscience send our kids there. If our public schools weren’t so bad, I would not be grouchy about paying taxes to fund them.

  16. Imrahil says:

    Dear JesusFreak84,

    or, you could reconsider your position (which is apparently “the State is the Christian’s enemy”) in favor of the Catholic position, which is that the state is in itself a part of the good order and not necessarily more prone to sin than any other structure or man (nor less).

    And even if the “government-training” was a training with evil intent, then the practical position may be “occasions of sin must be overcome by flight not fight”, but for a teacher one would want someone who knows what this government-training consists in and the reasons with which it can be contradicted, not someone who prefers not to know it, wouldn’t one?

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