Essay: Core Values In Catholic Education

An educational philosophy is the tool that provides direction, and forms the conceptual structure for a school’s purpose and mission. Thomas Hopkins (1941) noted that “philosophy has entered into every important decision that has ever been made about curriculum, and teaching in the past, and will continue to be the basis of every important decision in the future…” (as cited in Ornstein, 2015). The fundamental and essential basis for my philosophy of Catholic education originated from a strong belief in a duty to serve God, and an understanding that each child is a unique gift from God, with individual needs, abilities and potential.

This philosophy underlies the mission I adopted from the Diocese of Arlington, “to serve God by providing for the social, emotional, physical, spiritual, and academic development of each child,” while helping each child develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. As a Catholic school administrator, my philosophy of education reflects the desire to be a servant leader, dedicated to meeting individual student learning needs. In this way, student needs are put ahead of administrator or teacher needs. Personal Philosophy

I believe that my job is to serve the needs of the student. I believe in a Christ-centered classroom, where student learning is facilitated by addressing student learning styles, interests, and abilities. Such an environment encourages students to take responsibility for their education, and actively participate in the learning process. This active participation creates an opportunity for deeper understanding. I also believe in second chances and allowing students multiple opportunities to master content. God created each child unique in his or her approach to learning.

I accept the responsibility, as a Catholic school administrator, I would ask teachers to differentiate instruction, in content, product, or process, to engage each child in his or her education. I recognize that all children can be successful and will learn. In addition, guiding students to develop a love of learning occurs in a classroom environment where all students feel safe and respected. In a Christ-centered, safe environment, students will take chances and be open to learning from each other, and this free exchange of ideas may generate genius in someone else.

I believe that as an dministrator, my lifelong commitment to education and love of learning must be evident. I show this through my enthusiasm and continued growth, staying current on trends and best practices. I recognize my position as a school-wide role model, mentor and spiritual leader. Philosophical Alignment My personal philosophy of education compares with the pragmatist philosophy. Educational pragmatitst believe in the individual interacting with the environment. Knowledge is acquired through experience. John Dewey is perhaps the most noteworthy of the pragmatists/progressives in education.

He objected to pedagogy that encouraged inactivity by students. Dewey argued that students need to make connections to what is taught to establish a deeper understanding. In the philosophy of pragmatism, “emphasis is on individual growth and development. ” (Orenstein, Pajak & Orenstein, 2015). Today, it is considered best practice to encourage students to make connections, either to the self, to the world, or to other similar content. In advocating for students to be active participants in the learning process, John Dewey never lost sight that there needs to be a balance between subject content and student interests.

Dewey valued the role of the teacher and considered the teacher as a partner in the learning process, cautious that the role of the student was not over-emphasized. John Dewey was secular in his approach to education, and thought of poorly in Catholic educational communities. William F. Losito wrote an article entitled Reclaiming Inquiry in the Catholic Philosophy of Education. In this article published in Catholic School Leadership, An Invitation to Lead, (2000), Losito criticizes Dewey for his “reductive naturalism. ” (p. 63).

Losito argued that Dewey and others, “deny any spiritual qualities to humans and their transcendent destiny. (p. 63). It is in this area that my personal philosophy diverges from the strictly secular nature of John Dewey’s pragmatism. I agree with Catholic education philosophers who recognize a responsibility to bring all men to Christ. Nevertheless, pragmatists enjoy an important role in current curriculum and instruction practices, including practices found in Catholic schools. Pragmatists value critical thinking skills over fact-finding and are more apt to ask open-ended questions that engage the higher thinking skills of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

This open-ended questioning and searching for truth is found in religion classes and helps tudents strengthen their relationship with Christ. Purpose and Goal of Catholic Education The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops describes the mission of Catholic schools as one where “the development of the whole person is addressed, through spiritual and academic formation based on the Gospel of Jesus Christ” (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2015). The purpose of Catholic education is described in To Teach as Jesus Did (1972) as threefold; Catholic schools must teach doctrine, build and live in community, and serve both the mainstream and the disadvantaged.

These two statements are essential components of the Catholic school mission statement, and are companion to secular philosophies like pragmatism. The two combine for a complete picture of the purpose and goal of Catholic education, articulating both the spiritual and academic missions of Catholic schools. The Role of Curricula Fine arts curricula and the religion curriculum challenge students on a level very different from the challenges presented in social studies or math classes. “Encounters with the arts nurture and sometimes provoke the growth of individuals. (Orenstein, p. 36).

This perspective aligns with the pragmatist philosophy that views “education as creative self-learning, an active process in which the learner reconstructs knowledge. ” (Orenstein, p. 7). The argument has been made that the arts and a discovery approach to education are at odds with the current educational climate where accountability is the norm, adequate yearly progress is the mandate, and teachers have little time to explore the interests of students, as students must be ready for year-end, standardized test of academic achievement.

Moreover, “the inability to control what [students] discover as meaningful makes traditional educators uneasy. ” (Orenstein, p. 32). Exposure to the arts and religion can help students grow closer to God by understanding and appreciating diversity. The Role of Teacher, Principal, Parent, Student and Broader Community Parents are the primary educators of their children and the teacher and principal support that role.

However, once a parent decides to send a child o school, it becomes the parents’ responsibility to cooperate with the school and to work in concert to benefit the child. I agree with pragmatists who see the teacher as a facilitator of inquiry based learning. However, while pragmatists value the individual, my philosophy recognizes and adheres to the need to build and live in a faith community, called to serve. Academic pragmatism in a Catholic school relies on the broader community to help students live Catholic values. These values are fixed and absolute not open to debate.

The community models Catholic social teachings, shares in the celebration of the Mass, and provides authentic opportunities for faith formation. The Ever-Changing World As with the pragmatist philosophy, Catholic administrators and teachers keep pace with current trends and best practices in education. A pragmatic/progressive philosophy of education recognizes a responsibility for continuing professional development, and this includes the area of technology. In maintaining core beliefs, Catholic educators recognize that we live in a fast-paced, ever-changing world.

Students must be equipped to handle that world. Catholic education maintains relevance through its commitment to faith formation and rich Catholic traditions. These are passed from generation to generation and unite Catholics, creating stability in the constantly changing society. In addition, Catholic education makes a commitment to academic excellence by differentiating instruction to meet individual student needs. This enables students to be better prepared to make life decisions and function in society.

Catholic education makes a commitment to the whole development of the child by providing opportunities to serve the community through food drives and other social justice projects. In this way, students are reminded of their duty to serve the marginalized and those society neglects. Pragmatism emphasizes problem solving and creativity, and that good citizenship derives from personal and social development. This theme unites with Catholic social justice teachings that demand citizenship and impose on all Catholic a responsibility to serve one another. Catholic schools are essential to this process.