To the Editor:
As an honors graduate of a leading Catholic high school in Indiana and as a former teacher in public and private schools, I found Philip Robey’s Commentary on Catholic schools interesting (“What Catholic Schools Can Teach About Educating the Whole Child,” Oct. 5, 2011). But several questions went begging.
If Catholic schools are so good, why has their enrollment dropped from 5.5 million in 1965 to slightly over 2 million today? Why do a majority of Catholic voters reject vouchers and similar plans to provide tax aid to private schools in state referendums on the subject? Has this anything to do with the fact that Catholics donate only half as much per capita to their church and its schools as do Protestants with slightly lower average incomes?
How does one square Mr. Robey’s rosy view with that of Kirsten Goldberg’s reporting in Education Week on April 29, 1987, about a study of 16,000 high school seniors in public and private schools (“Catholic Educators Surprised by Data on Student Values”) that “significantly greater percentages of Catholic school seniors said they used alcohol, cocaine, and marijuana than public school seniors,” conclusions backed by Michael Guerra, Michael Donahue, and Peter Benson in the book The Heart of the Matter: Effects of Catholic High Schools on Student Values, Beliefs and Behavior (National Catholic Educational Association, 1990)?
Some answers would be useful.
Americans for Religious Liberty
Silver Spring, Md.
A version of this article appeared in the October 19, 2011 edition of Education Week as Writer Raises Questions About Catholic Ed. Essay