Our School’s Vision
Our School’s Vision
By Bob Schell, Principal (shared with permission of St. Jerome Academy)
In previous Gatherings, we explored the 5 Marks of a Catholic School from The Holy See’s Teaching on Catholic Schools and the implications they present for SMG Catholic School. Our staff are diving into a book study using Renewing Catholic Schools: How to Regain a Catholic Vision in a Secular Age from the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education (ICLE).
Now we’d like to share excerpts from an introduction to the educational plan of St. Maria Goretti Catholic School, printed with permission of St. Jerome Academy of Hyattsville, Maryland.
A Introductory Blueprint for the Vision of St. Maria Goretti Catholic School
With every building and every work of art, there is a sense in which the finished product or the completed work comes first. The builder or the artist starts with a blueprint, a plan, or a picture of the finished work in mind. Sometimes the builder modifies the plan in the course of the work, but he cannot modify it entirely without creating something entirely different or destroying the work altogether. By keeping this picture firmly in view, the builder can ensure that each step in construction occurs for the sake of the next, and he can see how all the steps combine to build up the whole. If this blueprint does not guide his work, then the end result of his labors is not a building, but a heap of stones. Education is like this. Without a clear sense of what education is and the end it serves, we may expend a great deal of effort ‘piling up stones’ instead of truly educating.
This outline is like a blueprint. It begins with the end product: the sort of person we hope would emerge after nine years at St. Maria Goretti Catholic School (SMG). The actual content of the various subjects within the curriculum are like the foundation stones of the educated person. The skills, aptitudes, and habits we hope to cultivate through pedagogy and through the culture of the school are like the tools of learning. And of course the teachers are the builders who bring their art and experience to bear on the construction of the building. We proceed from the vision, first through the core subjects that would comprise our school’s curriculum, and then with increasing detail through the specific stages in the teaching of each subject to show how each stage builds upon the next and these combine with the labors of SMG’s teachers to contribute to the building up of the whole.
St. Maria Goretti Catholic School educates children in the truest and fullest sense by giving them the necessary tools of learning and by fostering wonder and love for all that is genuinely true, good, and beautiful. We emphasize advanced level learning because we want our students to read well, speak well, and think well and ultimately because truth and beauty are good in themselves and desirable for their own sake. We seek to incorporate our students into the wisdom of two thousand years of Roman Catholic thought, history, culture, liturgy, and arts so that they might understand themselves and their world in the light of the truth and acquire the character to live happy and integrated lives in the service of God and others. Education in this deep and comprehensive sense extends beyond the classroom and is more than just the acquisition of skills. It encompasses the whole of one’s life. For this reason, St. Maria Goretti Catholic School seeks to involve families ever more deeply in the life of the school and in the education of their children.
True education has always rested on two presuppositions. The first is that truth is desirable for its own sake. It is good not for what it does, but for what it is. The second is that knowledge consists not in bending the truth to ourselves, but in conforming ourselves to truth. We can only conform ourselves to truth by freely embracing and loving it, and we can only love truth if we are enticed by its beauty. Love of beauty has therefore always been integral to the discovery of truth and true education has always sought to form the heart and mind, reason and will, desire and knowledge. In short, education forms the whole person in light of truth, beauty, and goodness.
Our vision seeks to root a comprehensive understanding of education in a compelling and beautiful vision of reality worthy of students’ love. This vision is intended to govern every facet of the school’s life. Its aim is twofold: first, to communicate a certain body of knowledge; and second, to cultivate a certain kind of person, to develop as far as possible what is uniquely human in them, and so to equip them with the skills, habits, and aptitudes necessary to embrace truth and to become the person they were truly created to be. Immediately it becomes clear that no aspect of a school’s life is truly ‘extra-curricular’ or falls outside of its core mission of education, because every aspect of its life—from the way the school prays, to the dress code of students and staff, the arrangement of furniture in the classroom, the paint and posters on the wall, the activities during recess, the way technology is used, and the songs the children sing—reflects the school’s judgments and priorities about the meaning of its educational mission. Everything a school does teaches something. Everything a school does is education of some sort. The important thing is to be sure that it is a good and coherent education and that policies, procedures, pedagogical methods, and the culture of the school are not at cross purposes with the vision.
Curriculum, pedagogical methods, and all the details of the school’s life should therefore be constantly assessed both in light of the conviction that knowledge and love of truth, beauty, and goodness are ends in themselves and in light of the twofold goal of the school’s vision. Every activity, program, policy, method, or proposal should be tested by the following criteria, which follow from this vision, though not all are equally applicable to each of these facets of the school’s life.
- Is it beautiful?
- Are we doing this because it is inherently good, or as a means to an end? If the latter, what end?
- Does it encourage students to think of education itself as a high and noble enterprise, or does it cheapen education?
- Is it excellent? Does it demand the best students and teachers have to offer, and hold them to the highest standard they are capable of achieving? Or does it give in to the gravitational pull of mediocrity? Is excellence the highest standard, or is excellence subordinate to lower standards such as convenience, popularity, or marketing considerations (i.e., consumer appeal)?
- Does it encourage reverence for the mystery of God and the splendor of His creation?
- Does it encourage reverence for the mystery of the human person and respect for the students’ own human dignity?
- Does it encourage students to desire truth, to understand such virtues as courage, modesty, prudence, and moderation and to cultivate these within themselves?
- Does it help the students to see what difference God makes to all the facets of the world, or does it make God’s existence seem irrelevant, trivial, small or private?
- Does it assist in passing on the received wisdom of the Roman Catholic tradition and the teachings of the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church, or does it create obstacles to reception of the tradition and teachings?
- Does it encourage real searching and thinking? Does it provoke students to ask ‘why?’ Does it stir up a desire for understanding?
- Does it encourage conversation between and across generations or does it hinder it?
- Does it help to develop to the fullest extent what is uniquely human in the students: the powers of attending, deliberating, questioning, calculating, remembering, and loving?
- Does it encourage students to become patient, to take time, and if necessary, to start over in order to achieve excellence, or does it subordinate excellence to speed, ease, and efficiency?
- Does it encourage students to value rigor and discipline?
- Does it deepen the role of the family in the life of the school and the role of education in the life of the family, or does it erect a barrier between family and school?
In our ongoing search for truth, beauty, and goodness, our SMG Catholic School community is energized and excited to embark towards this vision for Catholic education… for the greater glory of God!
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