In Loco Parentis Does Not Mean ‘Crazy Parents:’ Why We Place So Much Value on Private Education

Fenwick High School, Oak Park, IL, was founded by Dominican Friars in 1929.

Parochial teachers serve as parental supplements, not substitutes — and therein lies the difference between the Fenwick community and its public-school counterparts.

By Gerald F. Lordan, O.P., Ph.D., Social Studies Teacher

Parents of parochial school students almost universally value their decision to choose religious-based programs over public education for the formation of their children. However, beyond intuition, parents sometimes find it difficult to articulate why they value that decision. An examination of the philosophical foundations of parochial education may enable us to understand on a rational level what we already value on an intuitive level.

Parochial schools have greater social capital than their public school counterparts. Social capital is the agreement among families concerning the core values which identify their behavior.  Parochial school communities often have great diversity among their families by ethnicity, geography, income, and language, but these schools are successful in achieving the goals of their ministries because there is a congruence of core values among families. Good families gravitate toward good schools with good community values. With their obligation to service all families within their geographic attendance area, public schools often have less value congruence and less social capital.

In accord with this social capital, parochial school educators are partners with parents in the education of children. In public education the teachers act in loco parentis (in the place of the parent) and not as contractual partners. As contractual partners, parochial school educators address all three of the educational domains – the cognitive, the psychomotor, and the affective ­ – just as loving parents do. Parochial educators form the mind, the body, and the spirit. This has a deeper, longer-lasting influence on the student than a singular focus on the cognitive domain.

“As contractual partners, parochial school educators address all three of the educational domains – the cognitive, the psychomotor, and the affective ­ – just as loving parents do.”

Mind, Body and Spirit

The late Ed Brennan, a Fenwick alumnus, expressed this sentiment in public remarks he delivered at a formal dinner in a university setting. Brennan was CEO at Sears Roebuck and an active member of the governance bodies for Marquette University, DePaul University, American Airlines, and what is now the Rush University Medical Center. When asked what courses he had studied which best prepared him for his corporate and community roles, he replied, “Just one: Moral Theology my Junior year at Fenwick.”

The late Edward Brennan, FHS Class of 1951 and former chairman of Sears. (Image courtesy New York Times.)

Adolescents often are heavily influenced by their peer group. Peer groups dominated by adolescents raised in faith-based, value-oriented, functional families have a positive influence on our children. Likewise, peer groups featuring adolescents educated with these same, faith-based values, holistically reinforced in the school setting, also have a positive impact on our children and on our society as a whole.

Parents value that positive influence on their children. Parochial educators partner with parents to provide that positive influence. That is why so many parents place such a high value on parochial education.

Corporate Coincidence?

Global leaders: Former CEOs A.G. Lafley (left) of Proctor & Gamble and the late George Keller of Chevron Oil also are Fenwick alumni, graduating in 1965 and ’41, respectively. (Images courtesy of Fortune magazine and Chevron.)

In conclusion, it is interesting to note what Jared Diamand, author of a New York Times best-selling book entitled Collapse, has found. Diamand studies the failure of civilizations, such as the Maya on the Yucatan peninsula and the Polynesians on Easter Island. He has identified two corporations that he considers to be lighthouses for international commerce in a global economy: Chevron and Proctor & Gamble. What do these two organizations have in common? Both companies had Fenwick alumni as chief executive officers – George Keller at Chevron and A.G. Lafley at Proctor/Gamble.

Mr. Lordan’s blog article (above) prompted a radio interview (AM 550) on Sept. 6, 2017, by host Dan Proft, an alumnus of Benet Academy in Lisle, IL.

Also, hear Dr. Lordan discuss this topic, and more, on Relevant Radio (AM 950) on September 25, 2017.

About the Author

Dr. Lordan is entering his 27th year of teaching at Fenwick. Originally from Massachusetts, Lordan completed his under-graduate studies at Northeastern University and received a master’s degree in elementary education from the University of Maryland. He earned his Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from Boston College.

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