Brother Paul’s Thoughts and Musings Regarding the “Signs of the Times”

Sunday, April 2, 2023
Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord    

Due to events both locally and nationally, education has been on my mind, especially public education. Here at home the Cincinnati Public Schools have stirred a furor regarding a proposed 48-million-dollar budget cut for the 2023-24 academic year, the lowering of standards to achieve greater diversity at Walnut Hills High School—the district’s “crown jewel” school, and Superintendent Iranetta Wright’s leadership style. In addition at local North College Hill, that school district plans to go to a four-day school week next fall with Mondays being a teacher preparation days and a homework day for students. Their teachers claim the traditional five-day week is now overwhelming and substitute teachers are hard to find. Nationally, the Los Angeles Public Schools recently had a three-day strike by support staff employees claiming they cannot live on their present salaries. Finally, over the past year-plus, parents and lawmakers have been questioning and challenging what is, and what is not to be taught in their schools. This movement is only causing more stress on teachers and motivating many of them to leave the education profession.

The above situation is not good. Related and not related, I am thankful that our Catholic schools are not facing such turmoil. Now, they have their own issues but spared from many of the controversaries in many public districts. Let us all be thankful for that. Yet, we cannot turn away from the many issues facing our public schools and the millions of students affected by these and other institutional tensions.

What has happened to the education of our youth in this country? Why is it in such disarray and begging for money through ongoing ballot proposals? The Forest Park system is gearing-up for a critical levy in a couple of months. In the corporate world, much time and energy is placed on initial and ongoing training and development – but for some reason, such emphasis is not always given to the schools our children attend.

And let me not fail to make clear, if we are going to educate and form our children well, this can only be achieved by offering them a competent and appropriately compensated faculty, support staff and administration. There are no shortcuts in this endeavor. There must be justice done for both young and old in the schoolhouse.

Spiritually, Scripture makes it perfectly clear that children are important and their neglect has dire consequences. In addition, in other sections, the worker (teacher is worth a fair wage. Jesus makes these points often. I do like one verse from the Third Letter John: “I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (1:4). The “truth,” based on this theme, is to ensure the child is given all the information he/she needs to be successful in the faith life and in the world. And, perhaps the hardest part to hear is this, the truth can be hard and messy. The “truth” for our youth will be achieved by: strong academics taught by competent and respected teachers and staff; forming them to be good citizens; grounding them with a fact-based mindset; and preparing them to address and accept diversity. This is the challenge our schools and leadership must embrace.

Let us this Holy Week pray for our schools and the children they serve—to educate and form them to be the individuals God is calling them to be. At the same time, we pray for the blessing and affirmation of all called to be educators.