kitchen table math, the sequel: the way of proceeding

Sunday, April 4, 2010

the way of proceeding

Thirty-five years ago, the nation's Jesuit high schools were reeling from an identity crisis. Jesuits were leaving both the schools and the Society; social action ministries seemed more relevant than teaching high school. Should the Jesuits continue to run high schools for upper- and middle-class students or focus on serving the poor?

Simultaneously, urban riots slashed enrollments at some inner-city Jesuit schools, and single-sex education seemed to some to be a chauvinistic anachronism. Replacing Jesuits with lay faculty raised tuition. Some of the nation's best Catholic high schools were in danger.

Fast-forward to 2006. The "long black line" of Jesuits is gone, with just a handful of priests and brothers remaining in most of the forty-nine American Jesuit high schools. However, the Society of Jesus is committed to its high schools, because Jesuits now realize that they provide outstanding opportunities for the spiritual formation of young people, says Fr. Ralph Metts, SJ, president of the Jesuit Secondary Education Association (JSEA). AMDG still rules at today's thriving schools. Consider these developments.

  • Inner-city Jesuit Cristo Rey high schools, where low-income students work for their tuition, are opening rapidly. Two were added to the network in 2006, with more planned.
  • Most of the traditional Jesuit high schools are at capacity, with competitive enrollments. This includes inner-city schools once threatened with closing.
  • The schools are raising at least four hundred million dollars in capital campaigns alone to upgrade campuses and enhance endowments/financial aid.
  • Jesuit schools all over the country are still academically and athletically elite.

What lies behind this turnaround?

That's what I sought to discover in writing this book.

They Made All the Difference: Life-changing Stories from Jesuit High Schools by Eileen Wirth


3 comments:

Catherine Johnson said...

next lines:

After teaching at Creighton University, in Omaha, for fifteen years and writing about Catholic high schools, I wanted to better understand why so many Jesuit high school alums say these years were definitive. That's not what most people say about their high school experience.

Allison said...

But Catherine,

Their population is not Catholic in those inner city schools. Christo Rey here in Mpls says less than 40% of its incoming hs class comes from parochial schools.

"However, the Society of Jesus is committed to its high schools, because Jesuits now realize that they provide outstanding opportunities for the spiritual formation of young people, says Fr. Ralph Metts, SJ, president of the Jesuit Secondary Education Association (JSEA). "

What spiritual formation are they actually doing, then? They are not converting these kids.

Catherine Johnson said...

I'm not the person to ask; I don't know what "spiritual formation' is.

I can tell you, though, that C. is experiencing what I would call "spiritual formation" at Hogwarts.

This year, we've been talking about whether he should become Catholic. (I'm a Methodist & C. was raised in the Methodist church but not confirmed because of an issue with the minister. Otherwise he would have been confirmed at the normal age.)

For a couple of reasons, we've probably decided to pursue confirmation in the Methodist Church (which has a new pastor now).

I bring this up only to say that if spiritual formation means making students Catholic, Hogwarts has nearly achieved that, too.