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Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Priest that Understands the Importance of Public Schools

My mother just sent a package to my daughters and in it was a church bulletin for me. Is she hinting that I need to start attending church? Nope. She has highlighted some important text written by Father Charles Niblick of St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church in Dyer, IN. Let me preface this by letting you know that this is the most amazing Catholic priest that I have ever met. Every mass that I have attended includes a homily with a bit of a history lesson (he's a former high school teacher) and he challenges his congregation to really think. He is definitely a bit of a rebellious priest who works hard to welcome all people into his church. So it really isn't too much of a surprise to read what he has to say about public schools. He has an interesting perspective that is worth sharing. (You can read the entire piece HERE.)

From Fr. Niblick's weekly "Words For The Wind":

The 20th century was a time of all kinds of terrible and wonderful things. Because it was the 20th century, more people than ever before knew about the terrible and wonderful thing very quickly.
 As the 20th century moved into the second half, the previously unimaginable happened. We could see the terrible and wonderful things live and in color. 
Please don't underestimate what that means to you and me and the children that we all care about in the 21st century.
As we saw the terrible things happening we recoiled, we tried to hide our eyes. We changed the channel so we would not see them.
They still happened but we could pretend that they didn't, at least, they didn't happen to us. Yet, they did happen to real people. They still do happen to real people.
That is why today when the terrible things keep happening closer and closer to home you hear people say things like, "but those kinds of things don't happen here."
But they do, they happen increasingly in schools or to school age children. It is as if we have created a culture that cannot stand innocence and possibility. We are afraid of our present so we hate our future.
Not all of us, to be sure, but enough of us to make things pretty dangerous.
Think about it, it isn't as wacky as it sounds.
That is why teachers and schools, in my opinion, are our last best hope.
Please don't take this as a rant against Catholic schools.
But unless they are very careful and very transparent about the religious values they espouse, schools associated with religion can appeal to darker, unspoken motives that facilitate fear of the other rather than empathy for one another.
Public schools are the last place left where all kinds of people may gather, they are the last really "catholic" places that a child may ever find. They are the remnants of communities where empathy is still a possibility.
They are the last outposts where some measure of civic responsibility is possible, the last place where there is a possibility of common discourse.
The public school teacher may be the only adult that a child has ever encountered who knows that we are not all alike, that we don't have to be all alike, that we don't have to think alike, and they know that we are not islands adrift on a turbulent ocean.
Whether they teach math or science, chemistry or creative writing, physical education or Spanish, French, German, Latin, or Greek, music or geography, that teacher knows that they are part of a bigger project.
They are inheritors of, not owners or possessors of, wisdom or knowledge. They are conduits not terminals, tenants not landlords. 

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