Completing private school applications has brought up a philosophical question that I was hoping to defer until my children were much older – What do we believe?
My husband “P” and I were both raised Catholic, and both of us have experienced different levels of religious education (him: high school, me: college). Speaking for my own experience at Holy Cross, religion was always present, but it did not feel forced on me. Furthermore, Holy Cross is remarkably progressive – I am proud to say that our Alumni magazine started to feature same-sex wedding announcements despite protests from some. But when we had children, we specifically decided not to introduce religion for many different reasons. I won’t speak for P, but as a teenager I was confused by the concept of Confirmation – I was affirming that I was choosing the Catholic faith, yet I had no choice but to go through the process??
Despite the lack of religion in our family, P is totally open to Catholic school. We have two in our area that seem like reasonably good schools, and at least one states that it is open to children of all faiths (does that include children of no faith?). Let’s face it – we may not have good options come September. But do I want my child indoctrinated into the Catholic faith? My dear Memere, if you are reading this post for some reason, please stop here. I’d like you to spend the rest of your life believing I’m a model granddaughter.
P thinks that the exposure will be limited although both have religious education as part of the curriculum. I did some research, and one school’s Kindergarten religious curriculum is called “We Believe.” The program description says:
The main idea we will focus upon this year is that God created the world and everything in it. This year, we will look for God in ourselves, others, and all that surrounds us. We will also celebrate Catholic holidays.
So that will cover creationism, the birth of Christ, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection? I pointed that out to P, who said something like well maybe our kids will question the Catholic church’s teachings. That should go over well in Catholic Kindergarten. Do they still embrace corporal punishment?
But even the non-religious private schools have their own philosophies about what children should learn and when. My top choice private school, for example, teaches sexuality education starting in elementary school. Whaaaaaaaaaaat? The school believes that it’s best to educate children proactively on factual information in an open and respectful environment before they start hearing rumors on the playground. P, who seems to not have an issue with our child hearing about a man dying on a cross or that homosexuality is morally wrong, may have a problem with her hearing where babies come from.
Honestly, I was initially shocked by this too and it has given me pause as to whether we should apply there. However, the more I thought about it, the more I questioned why I was having that reaction (Catholic guilt?). Sure, elementary school is a little young, but our daughter is bound to ask about it on her own anyway. I asked P how he would respond to our daughter if she were to ask, and predictably, he said “I’ll tell her when she’s 25.” I think they will keep the conversations fairly simple and high level at that age – I can’t imagine they’ll be pulling out the bananas – and, there is something to be said about giving information to children before they hit puberty and start feeling uncomfortable in their own bodies. Bringing it up at 12? Hello, awkwardness! On the flip side, do I really want her to know certain things before she wants to or needs to? Will this impact her ability to enjoy an innocent childhood?
Going to any private school will force questions of what we believe and how we want to address those beliefs. Should we send our child to a school that will raise topics we’d like to avoid (sorry: I meant defer)? Can we navigate these issues by sharing with her what we believe and that different people have different beliefs? Can we even articulate what believe?
Moving would be soooooo much easier than this!