In a bid to save Catholic education, major Catholic archdioceses are closing many schools and turning others over to the control of regional boards. This sad necessity has become an occasion for soul-searching within the Catholic educational bureaucracy. As Catholic leaders combat the causes of plummeting enrollment, they might look beyond the obvious financial barriers to examine the curricula and culture offered in their schools.
Fewer Catholic parents are willing or able to make costly tuition payments when the differences between free government education and the local parochial option are negligible. However, an emerging movement in Catholic education offers an alternative both faithful and marketable. At the cutting edge of the effort to restore Catholic education are a number of schools, private and even diocesan, that are finding growth and enthusiasm in the rediscovery of a rigorous, classical liberal arts curriculum.
This movement first emerged among Catholic homeschoolers in the 1970’s and 1980’s, then spread to small independent schools in the early 1990’s. Today, around 100,000 Catholic students are homeschooled, and thousands more are enrolled in independent Catholic schools outside of the diocesan system. The enormity of this loss to the diocesan schools cannot be measured simply by empty seats. These parents, who have chosen “the road less traveled”, are among those most willing to sacrifice time, talent, and treasure for an authentically Catholic education. With parental devotion and American spirit, they have not settled for merely passing on catechesis.