When the “Harmless” Gets in the Way of the Excellent

"What Makes Catholic School Libraries Different?" at Cardinal Newman Society

Aug 11, 2022

A Catholic school library does not seek to provide access to “all kinds of books,” but rather the best and most meaningful books aligned with the school’s mission. Even books that appear to have nothing harmful in them may not make sense to include in the library’s collection if it is unduly attracting students away from the best readings. For example, the cartoon-enhanced book, Ellie McDougal, may be more attractive and less work than Little Women, and the book Captain Underpants may be more enticing than Captains Courageous. But there is no doubt which books are better for our children. When the “harmless” gets in the way of the excellent, it’s not as harmless as first thought. Efforts should be made to steer youth to lasting and meaningful works that have high quality writing and artistry and ideals of enduring value. There are plenty of other options outside of the school and the school library for trite and frivolous reading.

What Makes Catholic School Libraries Different? at Cardinal Newman Society. A Catholic school library does not seek to provide access to “all kinds of books,” but rather the best and most meaningful books aligned with the school’s mission. Even books that appear to have nothing harmful in them may not make sense to include in the library’s collection if it is unduly attracting students away from the best readings. For example, the cartoon-enhanced book, Ellie McDougal, may be more attractive and less work than Little Women, and the book Captain Underpants may be more enticing than Captains Courageous. But there is no doubt which books are better for our children. When the “harmless” gets in the way of the excellent, it’s not as harmless as first thought. Efforts should be made to steer youth to lasting and meaningful works that have high quality writing and artistry and ideals of enduring value. There are plenty of other options outside of the school and the school library for trite and frivolous reading. Read

How Daily Mass Transformed a Catholic School in Kentucky by Joan Frawley Desmond at National Catholic Register. Five years later, St. Augustine scored second place among 30 diocesan parish schools on an assessment of students’ religious knowledge, and the pastor and principal credit daily Mass with boosting the children’s engagement with the faith. Yet that academic bonus doesn’t tell the whole story of this Catholic school’s transformative policy. A significant number of children attending St. Augustine receive tuition assistance and come from families broken by divorce, addiction and incarceration. Principal Nienaber has witnessed the striking impact of sacred worship on students who relish time for quiet reflection. Read

Teachers: The Heart of the Mission by Jeannette Decelles-Zwerneman at Cana Academy. It is often said that curriculum is what defines a school. While I agree that curriculum is important, it isn’t enough to make an excellent school. It’s the teachers who make a school thrive and its students grow intellectually.... All good teachers—of humanities, math and science, and the fine arts—establish a rich culture of rigorous learning in their classrooms, and they invite their students into that culture by eliciting wonder, lively exchanges, and genuine insight. Read

DC Catholic Schools Must Comply with District’s COVID-19 Vaccination Rules for Students 12 and Older by Edie Heipel for Catholic News Agency at Catholic World Report. Under the rules, to attend classes in the coming school year students 12 and older attending all public, charter, private, and parochial schools in D.C. are required to either be fully vaccinated, have a medical exemption on file, or obtain approval for a religious exemption. The district also has revised its religious exemption form to include a section specific to the COVID-19 vaccine. In addition to requiring parents to provide a written personal statement supporting their religious objection to the vaccine, the new form asks for the following information: The reason “you do not get vaccinations based on your sincerely held religious beliefs”; “The religious principles that guide your decision to not get vaccinated”; A statement on “whether you are opposed to all vaccinations” and if not, an explanation of the “religious beliefs you follow that will not allow you to get the COVID-19 vaccination.” Read

Iowa School District Sued by Parent Group Over Secrecy in Gender Transition Policy by Jeremiah Poff at Washington Examiner. The policy in question, enacted by the Linn-Mar school district in April, requires schools to create a "gender support plan" when a student claims they no longer identify with their biological sex and wish to adopt a new gender identity. According to the lawsuit, the support plan must be formulated "without any knowledge or input from the child's parents" and, when implemented, requires all school staff and students to address the student in question by their preferred name and pronoun. The lawsuit says the plan means school officials will edit students' names on official documents and allow students to use bathroom and locker room facilities and participate in athletics based on their chosen identity. Furthermore, the lawsuit alleges that the policy actually prohibits school officials from disclosing a gender support plan to the student's parents, even when the parent asks if one exists for their child. Read

Woke Math? How Critical Race Theory Found Its Way into Math Curriculum by Jeremiah Poff at Washington Examiner. The website notes that "math problems ... have correct answers," but says the program is the "simple understanding that students and communities come from different backgrounds and may have different ways of being and thinking, even in math." Butcher said that the Gates-funded initiative and others are working to change how math is taught from "how numbers operate and work together" to claiming that math is an area in which the culture of the U.S. "harbors white supremacy" due to achievement gaps between white students and black students. "Dismantling white supremacy" is a phrase that repeatedly appears in the materials for Dismantling Racism in Mathematics Instruction. The words "white supremacy" appear in the 83-page document 54 times. Read

California School District Uses Planned Parenthood Lesson to Teach Sexual Health by Reagan Reese at The Stream. San Diego Unified School District partnered with Planned Parenthood on a K-12 sexual health curriculum that focuses on sexual orientation and breaking down “gender norms,” according to public school documents…. Educators are also prepped for student questions they may have to answer as a part of the sexual health lesson including, “is it okay to masturbate?” “what does semen taste like?” “how do gay people have sex?” and “what is porn?”, according to the documents. The lesson advises educators to make sure their response is “inclusive of all students.” San Diego Unified School District also provides “student information change request” forms for teachers to complete to change their name and pronouns on teacher rosters, report cards, school mailings and diplomas, the documents state. Educators are advised not to disclose the change in gender identity to parents unless advised by the student to do so. Read

Charter Schools Sue to Stop the Biden Administration’s Attack on Educational Opportunities at Pacific Legal Foundation. Today, a coalition of charter schools in Michigan and Ohio have teamed up in a federal lawsuit to challenge the Department of Education’s illegal rule that punishes successful charter schools nationwide. In 2015, with bipartisan support, Congress expanded the federal Charter Schools Program and appropriated hundreds of millions of dollars for annual grants to increase the number of high-quality charter schools. Congress gave clear instructions and criteria for distributing these funds; however, the DOE has issued a new rule that makes attaining these grants much more difficult. Applicants must prove that traditional public schools are over-enrolled, not just failing to serve the needs of their students; must seek approval from existing public schools; and must show that they are not serving too many students who are racial minorities. Read

Biden Education Department’s Fake Punt on Women’s Sports by Rachel N. Morrison at Newsweek. That is a win for girls’ and women’s sports, right? Wrong. Just last year, the Biden Department of Justice issued a statement of interest in a federal court case about a state law ensuring only biological females can participate in girls’ and women’s sports. DOJ claimed that the law violates Title IX. It argued that Title IX regulations do not “address how students who are transgender should be assigned to such teams” and do not “require, or even suggest” that schools assign students who identify as transgender to teams based on their biological sex. “[A]ny interpretation of Title IX’s regulations that requires gender identity discrimination would violate the statute’s nondiscrimination mandate,” the statement declares. It doesn’t get much clearer than that. DOJ’s statement exposes the Biden administration’s true legal position: Title IX and current regulations require participation in sex-specific sports based on gender identity. Read

Throwback Thursday

Education for Eternity by Dr. Jared Ortiz at Catholic World Report on May 29, 2021. If education is the formation of the whole person and the path to true humanity and wisdom, then when does this journey begin? Let me propose that it begins when God calls you forth from nothingness into existence. It began when God formed your inmost being and knit you together in your mother’s womb (Ps. 139:13). And God did not create you as a blank slate to be filled in by society or your own preferences, but he created each and every one of you with a destiny, with a purpose, with the goal of being united to him in an unbreakable bond of love and transformed into him forever. Read