Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the NCEA (National Catholic Educational Association) conference in San Diego, CA. I was particularly impressed with the keynote that was delivered by David Coleman, president and CEO of the College Board. Coleman, who is Jewish, offered what he sees as five gifts that Catholic educators bring to the educational enterprise. I believe that these five gifts are exhibited not only by teachers in Catholic schools, but also by catechists in parish religious education programs. Coleman began by asserting that the only force that science knows that can transform the course of a child’s life is a great teacher. He described education as a “soul craft” and added that Catholic educators bring the following to this craft:
- Productive solitude as opposed to the “technology of interruption” that our world pushes. All great thinkers, while inspired by a community, rely on solitude to achieve their most creative work. Since we teach prayer and meditation, we provide young people with much-needed solitude.
- Reverent reading of shared texts. Today, many in education resist selecting texts that all will read. As a result, we don’t share a worldview with others nor are we able to join in the “great conversation.” As Catholics, we reverently read many shared texts: Scripture, the lives and writings of the saints, Church documents, etc. We also dare to know things by heart—something that is becoming a lost art.
- Restful excellence as opposed to frenzied excellence that the world espouses. The best predictor of success, other than grades and scores, is sustained engagement in a single activity. As Catholic educators, we encourage young people to become architects of their own time.
- A sense of gratitude and grace. When so many young people think that the world is owed to them, Catholic education fosters a sense of grace and gratitude—a recognition and appreciation of the sheer gift of God’s grace.
- Dignity and pricelessness of ideas. Rather than being purely utilitarian, Catholic education is truly a “soul craft.” We are animated by an idea (the Gospel/Kingdom of God), not simply by the desire to achieve a goal.
I might add that these five gifts are quintessentially Ignatian and are embodied in a unique way in the Finding God faith formation program!
Thanks, David Coleman, for sharing your perspective and for providing such affirmation for Catholic educators!