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As I wrote awhile back, too many Catholic schools are too similar to public schools, offering the same curriculum with some theology attached. Too many of them are led by fellows, like this administrator, who routinely and proudly cross Catholic doctrine. To understand how this happens, take a look at a recent job posting for a superintendent of Catholic Schools in Springfield, Massachusetts.

The job description is brief and generic, nothing there to trouble a faithful Catholic parent. In the qualifications section, however, we have three red flags. They may not bother laymen at first glance, but those who know about the education world will understand them as warning signs. The person who meets these qualifications will likely not produce a deeply Catholic school. 

The first warning sign: The qualification section asks that candidates “possess an advanced degree with an emphasis on educational administration.” That sounds fitting and proper, a customary and responsible requirement. We want people who have been trained in the field and accredited. The job of superintendent involves budgets, personnel, state and local regulations, construction projects, recruitment/retention of teachers and students, technology and sports, and fundraising. Our leader must have the necessary knowledge and savvy, and an advanced degree will help demonstrate them.

But there’s a problem. The graduate schools that grant such degrees are wholly secular in their outlook and practice. Students who pass through them learn administrative lore and skills without ever hearing of God, soul, Jesus, or prayer. The administration they learn to master has no room for the sacred. Faith plays no role in decision-making. Can you imagine what the professors at one of these institutions would say if a student submitted a master’s thesis arguing that the Catholic Catechism is a wonderful resource for school administrators, including those who run public systems?

The next qualification on the list poses the same problem as the previous one. It asks that candidates “hold state licensure as a superintendent or be committed to attain such licensure within two years of being hired.” But the licensure process at state education offices places the faithful Catholic superintendent in an uncongenial environment, if not a hostile one. The process involves some mentoring, prep classes, a panel review, and the like, effectively measuring the Catholic superintendent’s abilities by secular standards.  

This process of de-Catholicization does more than submit the candidate to a bothersome bureaucratic course of study. The immersion goes deeper than that. As with the graduate programs required in the previous qualification, the licensing process promotes certain conceptions and values regarding learning, childhood, discipline, human nature, social goals, and the role of the teacher. Those ideas do not match Catholic ideas, of course, and the licensure candidate will have to spend many hours surrounded by them, pretending to soak them up or, in many cases, actually doing so. An advanced degree and a license are more than sheepskin. They are an acculturation.

In other words, these two qualifications for the Springfield job plunge Catholic administrators into a habitat that erodes their Catholicism. At a time when the Church confronts an ever more aggressive secular state, the Springfield diocese is choosing to hire people trained by that state. As parents pull kids out of public schools because of the perverse ideologies in their classrooms, the diocese is drawing its next leader from the very system Catholic parents have rejected.

This is not an overstatement. The next bullet point in the job posting says this: “Have experience as an educator/administrator at the elementary and/or secondary [level]. Although not a prerequisite, experience in a Catholic elementary and/or secondary education is preferred.” Got that? Catholic school experience is but a preference. A public school background will do. Again, to recognize how bad this is, we must appreciate what that public school experience means—namely, school without Catholicism. A candidate who has been a public school administrator for five years knows how to do it all without a whisper of the Catechism entering into his administration. The habit is set, the practice wholly secular. He may be Catholic in his private life (the diocese does require that), but he doesn’t have to bring his faith into the office, not ever. He needn’t ask teachers about their faith, and he’s happy to have English, history, language, math, and science courses copy what public schools do in those subjects.

It is long past the time for bishops to recognize that the ed schools that certify teachers and the state education offices that license administrators are opposed to Catholic doctrine. Schools of education are, in fact, among the most ideological zones of the campus. Please, bishops, stop relying on those adversarial bodies. You don’t need them and your parishioners don’t want them. And if you have school officials working for you who are loyal to those secular institutions, if they really believe that Catholic schools need the affirmation of the state and the university, you should fire them now. 

Mark Bauerlein is contributing editor of First Things.

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Image by Fortepan licensed via Creative Commons. Image cropped. 

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