In the 1960’s the Catholic Ghetto walls came down. In the 1950’s Catholics went to Catholic school, lived in Catholic enclaves, and had all their social needs met by the catholic community. One only left for graduate school or when certain professions required one to have non-Catholic co-workers. In the nineteen sixties, everything changed. Catholics wanted in live in new locations, new suburbs and exurbs, the idea that one should only live around Catholics declines and the cultural revolution of the 1960’s called into question the provincialism and parochialism of these enclaves. Some of these Catholic Ghettos dissolved entirely – from near total allegiance to the Church to minimal attendance, and even then only by the elderly.
Catholic teaching taught that building a parochial school is more important than a Church and that one would lose one’s faith in public school. Jews at this point were in favor of public schools, and many of the orthodox saw day schools as entirely unneeded for girls and a hot bed of Zionism.
The question is: Can the Orthodox Jewish community learn anything from the Catholic example? Are there things to learn about rapid declines of enclaves? Are there any reasons it wont happen to places like Teaneck? Will the young gen y- millennials share their parents Modern Orthodox provincialism? What about when they move to new cities, new professions or disdain living with the gen-x’ers? Dont just say we are committed to our religion in a way that Catholics are not. Catholics were more committed and had a much longer tradition of day schools.
Let’s turn to day schools. The Catholic system lost most of its attendees in the nineteen sixties. By the end of the decade they were down to 15%. N ow 40 years later they find themselves as an unsustainable system strapped for cash and may have to close. What can Orthodox Jews learn from it? I am not sure but we should ask ourselves what we can learn.
The quotes below are from a variety of papers. Some are based on a 2007 Notre Dame Study and some from the Bergen county schools. One factor they cite is that without nuns they have to pay real salaries for teachers. Is anyone here old enough to remember when Jewish day school teachers were seriously underpaid? We cannot go back to hiring Holocaust survivors who don’t live in our communities or to being months behind on salary payments.
Also many Jews and Catholics went to parochial school to avoid the public school in immigrant neighborhoods. We don’t live in immigrant neighborhoods anymore and many public schools are of the same class and caste as the parochial schools. The article also points out that we expect more. We are not first generation college bound anymore. There are currently high expectations for a school. When parents were lacking in either general or Jewish studies they expected less. Now what?
Many parents of children in Catholic schools attended these schools themselves and look back nostalgically at a day when Catholic schools, just a step past “The Bells of St. Mary’s,” were staffed by nuns, brothers and priests. Today, however, they account for a mere 4% of the staff, many of them in administration.
The glory days of the U.S. Catholic parochial school are gone, according to a new University of Notre Dame report, and the church must rethink its mission in order to recapture the school system’s lost luster.
The nuns and priests who educated generations of American Catholics are almost gone, retired or deceased.. Faculty salaries are too low while tuitions and costs are rising, the report says.
Catholic schools are in steep decline, their enrollment having “steadily dropped by more than half from its peak of five million 40 years ago.”Among the better-known reasons: 1) nuns and priests who once staffed teaching positions have retired and their ranks have not been renewed in the near-total absence of new American “vocations”; 2) as urban Catholics suburbanized over the past two generations, Church officials for various reasons did not choose to follow them out by establishing suburban schools in large numbers; 3) having fully entered the mainstream of American life, Catholics are less drawn than previously to separate institutions.
There was a time when parochial schools seemed almost omnipresent, when the daily migration of kids in plaid clothes seemed to fill every street. However, with enrollments plummeting and one school after another closing its doors, the torrent of Catholic school kids has become a trickle, and it looks like the days of Catholic education may well be numbered.
When it comes to Catholic education in America, the numbers are downright startling. In 1965, approximately half of all Catholic families sent their kids to parochial schools; today, roughly 15% do so. While there are numerous reasons for this, the big one seems to be that the cost of parochial school has vastly increased. Once upon a time, Catholic classes were largely taught by clerics. Today, however, fewer Catholics are choosing to enter the priesthood or the nunnery; in fact, one statistic states that there are presently more nuns over 90 than under 50 years old.
Another concern has been a reduction in religious definition. For many people, Catholicism has become less of an all-consuming lifestyle and more of a part-time identity. Where Catholic education was once a responsibility for Catholic parents, it is increasingly becoming an expensive luxury.
Furthermore, in areas where public education has improved, parochial education has suffered. For example, in Northern Virginia, where I grew up, Catholic schools once offered the best educational choices. However, as the area’s schools have improved, Catholic education has simply become a more expensive option.
You might have not seen the former paragraphs which were from NYT and other papers. But what about those who live in Bergen county? Did you not see the Bergen record two months ago? Has anyone called any of the Catholic parochial schools to see if anything can be brainstormed together? This article is on the remaining 15% of Catholics still going to parochial school having to leave because of the 2009 recession. They closed 40 out of 137 schools in the last few years. In addition, the local public schools which uses licensed teachers are currently seen as offering a superior education.
Bergen Record – Catholic schools enrollment drop blamed on economy
Friday, November 13, 2009 BY TONY GICAS
CLIFTON — The economic downturn has created frightening unemployment rates, forced many Americans to foreclose on their homes, brought sticker shock into the nation’s grocery stores and has even changed the way people plan their children’s education.
More specifically, many New Jerseyans have either decided to take their children out of parochial schools or send them to public schools because of the financial commitment required at most Catholic schools.
According to Brian Gray, a spokesman for the National Catholic Education Association, enrollment at America’s Catholic schools reached its peak in the 1960s with about 5.2 million students. By 1980 that number had dropped to approximately 3.1 million and last year the nationwide enrollment hit 2.19 million.
In September 2000, the Newark Archdiocese had 137 grade schools in Union, Essex, Hudson and Bergen counties. Now, it has just 97. The school population in neighboring Paterson jumped by 1,000 students this year, a 3.5 percent increase in the district that has about 28,000 students, the district reported.
“I think down the line if the economy continues this way the tuition at parochial schools will remain unaffordable to many and the numbers will continue to decline,” Tardalo said.
“Therefore they may desire a private education for their children, but if they have to they’ll opt to send their children to a public school.”
He said parochial schools offered “an equivalent educational experience” during his time as a Catholic school principal, however he did stipulate their teachers do not face the same licensing requirements as public school teachers.
I exclude from my discussion the wealthy Jewish prep schools like Ramaz becuase they are based on having a financial endowment and have a different constituency. The question remains- Will the average Jewish days schools decline the way the Catholic schools did? Why not? Why do we think we have a more sustainable system than the Catholic schools? Even if everyone struggles to keep their kids in their current day school, will those 10 years younger than you want to enter this rat race? Will your kids want to continue this struggle? Anyone have good data about those moving to the new Sun Belt suburbs? I have no solutions, only historical questions.
This post came from running into a neighbor HF in the grocery for whom this is a major concern. It is a write-up of a discussion that occurred by meat aisle. I do want to write this up as an op-ed at some point.
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