Found Classroom, Found Community

What is ‘social capital,’ and how do we measure it?

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

Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the author of The Little Prince, was a novelist and Free French Army aviator lost missing in action in 1944 during World War II.  He is paraphrased to have said, “The most important things in life are invisible and impossible to measure.”

For many years this statement applied to the benefits of Catholic education.  A recent book, Lost Classroom, Lost Community by Margaret Brining and Nicole Stelle Garnett, helps to quantify the value of Catholic education to the community.  The authors, both of whom are Notre Dame University Law School professors, studied demographic, educational and criminal statistics in Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. They found a close connection between the presence of a Catholic school and community social capital.  This connection can have a positive impact not only on the life of the community as a whole but also on the lives of the individuals within that community.

Social capital can be defined as the social networks and norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness shared by members of a community with one another.  Brining and Garnett found high levels of social capital among the administrators, teachers, parents and students of Catholic schools.  Social capital can be considered a factor of production similar to physical, financial and human capital.  According to Brining and Garnett, social capital can be viewed as something that helps to produce a better society, less crime, less disorder and more trust.  When Catholic schools are closed in a community, the community suffers.  Many people who support Catholic education sense these findings intuitively.  Saint-Exupery to the contrary, notwithstanding, Brining and Garnett help to quantify those intuitions. Continue reading “Found Classroom, Found Community”

If Geese Flock, How Will Your Child React?

Being a kid today is not easy. But then again, it never was, which is why Catholic schools such as Fenwick teach both ‘résumé virtues’ and ‘eulogy virtues.’

By John Paulett

Mr. Paulett is a Golden Apple-winning Moral Theology Teacher at Fenwick.

One of our graduates, currently a student at a university in Indiana, sent me a copy of an article she wrote for the college publication. Her essay told about a college student being transported to the hospital for excessive consumption of alcohol.

“’Four guys carried this kid downstairs limb by limb and they sat him down, and he could barely sit in the chair, and we tried to wake him up, but he was unconscious,’ (a witness) said.”

The article, written on October 10th, stated that, “21 students were hospitalized for alcohol consumption in the fall semester of last year, 20 students have already been hospitalized in the first half of the fall semester this year.”

I am a parent as well as a teacher, and I know these are frightening stories to read. They remind us that young people often face situations that are new and uncertain. Young people can make bad decisions, sometimes because pressures take the place of good judgment.

When I think about young people confronted by difficult choices, it brings to mind a dramatic incident from 2009. On January 15th of that year, minutes after takeoff, US Airways flight 1549 struck a flock of geese. The collision happened at 3:27:11. The plane’s pilot, Captain Chesley Sullenberger (Sully, they called him,) radioed a Mayday call at 3:27:33. At 3:31 p.m., less than five minutes later, the pilot landed the plane in the Hudson River. His recognition of the problem, creation of a plan, and execution of the action happened in minutes. Like most people, I found the Captain’s ability to solve the problem and land the plane in such a short time almost unbelievable. (Actor Tom Hanks portrays him in the 2016 motion picture, “Sully.”)

Captain Chesley Sullenberger

I read an interview with Sullenberger in which he was questioned about his ability to act so well so fast. He said, “I had to very quickly come up with a paradigm of how to solve even this problem.”

His response reminds me of what happens in Catholic education. Continue reading “If Geese Flock, How Will Your Child React?”

Fenwick’s Vision Is Keen and Full of Life

Guided by Jesus, our brother, and St. Thomas Aquinas, our students’ minds want to know and their wills want to love.

By Fr. Richard LaPata, O.P., President Emeritus of Fenwick High School

Father LaPata is a 1950 graduate of Fenwick.

Hardly a day goes by when some institution, business, or government isn’t asked to share its “vision.” Fenwick is no different. It is important that our school be called upon to offer its vision to the public. The only difference is that we have a theological vision. And what exactly is it?

First of all, the Gospel tells us that Jesus has come to bring life and to bring it more abundantly. Because Fenwick has as its mission to continue the ministry of Jesus, it is our responsibility to bring not only “life,” but abundant life to our students. How do we as an educational institution do that? In other words, how do we become life-giving?

Well, St. Thomas Aquinas reminds us that human life consists in an intellect and a free will and in the exercise of these faculties. It is in the development and use of the mind to know and a will to love that we experience our human life. God’s grace, building and supporting these powers, is able to bring it abundantly. And so the vision we have of Fenwick is its ability to actualize to the fullest every student’s ability to know and love, always supported by an underlying Christian Faith.

Do we fully succeed at every moment to realize this vision in each student? Perhaps there may be times when we fall short, but the vision is always there and will always remain.

Why Go to Fenwick?

Partly because Friars look at the world through ‘faith-colored’ glasses.

By Fr. Richard LaPata, O.P., President Emeritus

Why do parents send their children to a religious-sponsored school such as Fenwick? There may be more than one reason why they do so. For example, our school has the reputation of preparing a child well for college.

Or, it is felt that a Fenwick diploma guarantees a student getting into a good college or university? Perhaps it is the knowledge of well-qualified teachers present on our faculty. Possibly a first visit has impressed the visitor with Fenwick’s welcoming, friendly atmosphere. They see how much Fenwick appreciates diversity and the sense of family, and that these qualities are continued in the lives of our alumni.

Into this mix of motives, I hope boys and girls are seated here for the main reason why Dominican Friars founded the school: that is, to encounter and learn all about the faith and beliefs of the Catholic Christian community.

Like any other educational institution, Fenwick forms the students in their knowledge of the world through instruction in the arts and sciences, but it adds another dimension to the student’s awareness of that world. This is done through the study of theology, which looks at everything in its relation to God. Theology presents what we believe and how that belief throws light on whatever else we may know about the universe. There is another resource of learning, and that is our Christian faith. Contrary to what some people think, God’s gift of faith does not constrain or restrict human knowledge, nor does it diminish all other true knowledge but adds to our understanding of all things.

Again, it’s like looking at the world through faith-colored glasses. This faith-view sees God as present and working in the world, and that we have a relationship with God as Creator and Parent. And, so, what Fenwick attempts to do through its Theology classes is to enlighten the student, answering for him/her the ultimate meaning of life.

Whatever reasons move parents to send their children to Fenwick, I hope a deep understanding of the faith may be one of them.

Father LaPata is a 1950 graduate of Fenwick High School.

 

The Philosophy of Education

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

There are five principal educational philosophies in America:

  1. the Idealism of Plato
  2. the Realism of Aristotle
  3. the Experimentalism of Dewey
  4. the Existentialism of Sartre
  5. the Thomism of Aquinas

Philosophy is the love of wisdom. A philosopher seeks to ask the right question — and not to give the right answer. Philosophy has three principal questions: a) What is real? (metaphysics), b) What is true? (epistemology), and c) What is good? (axiology)

The axiological question is so broad that it often is divided into two subsections: What is right? (ethics) and What is beautiful? (aesthetics)

Approximately 90% of American children attend public schools. They are usually taught under more than one of the first four philosophies. Approximately 10% of American children attend private schools. Of that amount, about nine of ten are in parochial schools, and some 90% of them are in Roman Catholic schools. These children are usually taught under Thomism.

The private-sector students who do not attend a parochial school usually attend an independent school. These schools usually have a focus on either Idealism or Existentialism. I believe those schools which focus on one philosophy better serve their children. Furthermore, it is my opinion that those schools which focus on Thomism best serve their children.

Here’s Why

In the Chicago metropolitan area, we have schools which are examples of all five educational philosophies. The curriculum model of an Idealist-philosophy school is Scholar Academic. The Scholar Academic School trains the next generation of academic discipline scholars – that is chemists, poets, mathematicians, etc. Students are valuable for what they know.

The curriculum model of a Realist-philosophy school is Social Efficiency. The Social Efficiency School trains the next generation of workers – that is engineers, accountants, architects, actuaries, librarians, etc. Students are valuable for what they do.

The curriculum model of an Experimentalist-philosophy school is Social Reconstruction. The Social Reconstruction School trains the next generation of change agents dedicated to the advancement of a democratic, capitalist, political-economic order. Students are valuable for what they believe.

The curriculum model of an Existentialist-philosophy school is Human Development. The Human Development School prepares the next generation of self-actualized individuals. Students are valuable for the people they may become.

The curriculum model at Fenwick is Thomism. Fenwick prepares the next generation of virtuous servant leaders of society. Students are valuable as human beings with the potential to be full of God’s grace. There are neither superiors nor inferiors in a Thomist-philosophy school, but rather superodinates and subordinates. They are trained to be members of the Hero Generation.

The Hero is the poor boy or girl made good; the person on horseback who rides into a polis, a city, in the midst of anarchy, a situation in which there is bad government by the many with mob rule and wildness in the streets – a scenario in which nobody’s life, liberty and property are safe. The Hero says, “I know what to do. I have a plan. Follow me.” The Hero inspires the people and leads society to serenity.

About the Author

 

Gerald Lordan

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.

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.

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

Chicago’s West Side Story

How Dominicans shaped Fenwick and the surrounding areas.

By Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P.

Saint Dominic de Guzman (1170-1221) and his contemporary, St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226), were 13th century religious innovators. As founders, respectively, of the Dominican and Franciscan Orders, their vision was to bring the good news of the gospel to the urban centers of Europe. The members of their religious communities, known as friars, would be present to the people of God — living and ministering in the same milieu as the people of God.

This move was revolutionary for the religious life of the time. Up to that time, the overarching model had been monastic life. The great monasteries of Europe were in the countryside. The monks worked the land and supported themselves through agriculture. They took a vow of stability — promising to remain physically attached — to their monastery. This ethos has been succinctly referred to as fuga mundi, “fleeing from the world.” The monks, who had, by entrance into the monastery, fled the world, would not go out to the people; the people would go the monks for prayer and education.

In contrast, Saint Dominic and Saint Francis began what we might call a “ministry of presence.” They and their friars would not be remote and removed from their brothers and sisters.  Instead, they would live in their midst, take part in their lives, and minister to them on their own turf.  They would, so to speak, embrace the world and be leaven in the world to transform the world.  At the same time, they would not expend their energy in agriculture; they would live by the charity of others — recognizing that because of their ministry, the worker is worthy of his wage (cf. Luke 10:7).

Continuing the Tradition

The Dominican friars at Fenwick High School continue that ministry of presence first envisioned by St. Dominic. The friars of Fenwick are present to the Fenwick community in all aspects of the “Fenwick experience.”  (And, the visible sign of their religious commitment, “the habit,” does indeed help us to stand out in a crowd!)  Through our teaching, celebrating the sacraments, coaching, supervising, counseling, and cheering teams on to victory, the Dominican friars bring the good news of the gospel to the Fenwick community.

During the 2016-2017 school year, eight friars have been assigned to Fenwick by the Dominican provincial, Fr. James Marchionda, O.P. This commitment of manpower (under the general conditions of a clergy shortage) is a powerful sign of the significance of Fenwick High School in the Order’s ministerial priorities. They are:

  • Richard Peddicord, O.P.—president
  • Richard LaPata, O.P.—president emeritus, member of the Institutional Advancement department
  • Dennis Woerter, O.P.—director of campus ministry, teacher, assistant soccer coach for boys’ and girls’ teams
  • Michael Winkels, O.P.—teacher, assistant technology director, assistant hockey coach
  • Douglas Greer, O.P.—teacher
  • Paul Byrd, O.P.—teacher
  • Nicholas Monco, O.P.—teacher, chess team coach
  • Joseph Trout, O.P.—teacher, assistant cross country coach

    Historical Brotherhood

Continue reading “Chicago’s West Side Story”

Dominican Collaboration Spanning the Decades

For 88 years now, nearly 200 friars have rolled up their sleeves to help make Fenwick a beacon of light and hope.

By Father Jim Marchionda, O.P.

Dominican friar Father James Dominic Kavanaugh “worked all day long with the housecleaning brigade, putting his hand to any task that presented itself with a good will and cheerfulness that were an inspiration in themselves.” – from the Rosary Convent Annals of October 5, 1922

Saint Dominic meets Saint Francis: Stained glass window from St. Dominic’s Church in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P.)

Years before Fenwick High School first opened its doors nearly 88 years ago, Dominican friars flourished in a multitude of ways throughout the developing western suburbs of Chicago. Dominicans have made major contributions and significant differences in the lives of countless high school and college students, parents of students, members of their own Dominican Family, and thousands upon thousands of parishioners in the villages of Oak Park, River Forest and beyond, for close to 100 years.

The opening quote above, referring to the dirty, dusty and dramatic opening days of Rosary College (now Dominican University) in River Forest, Illinois, established by our beloved Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters, demonstrates the meaning, joy and power of collaboration that has existed between Dominican women and men for centuries. Fr. Kavanaugh, then chaplain at the Sinsinawa Mound (located near Dubuque, Iowa), came to Chicago with the sisters, rolled up his sleeves, got down on his hands and knees and did whatever work was necessary in preparation for the opening of Rosary College in 1922. For eight full days, he helped wherever and however he could. All those many years ago, Fr. Kavanaugh already resembled the brave, bold words that our own Pope Francis has used to describe and define anew how priests, bishops and all ecclesial leaders can best serve the church of today. “Roll up your sleeves and get to work!” (Pope Francis interview: “A Big Heart Open to God”)

Advancing the spirit of Dominican collaboration on the West side of Chicago, friars served as chaplains at both Rosary College and Trinity High School for many years. Residing at the Dominican House of Studies on the corner of Harlem Avenue and Division Street in River Forest, friars provided great spiritual formation to both men and women. It was in the early 1920s that Cardinal Mundelein gave the Dominican Friars permission to build the House of Studies on the condition that they also found a high school in the archdiocese. We are well-aware of the great grandeur that followed. On September 9, 1929, 11 Dominican priests opened wide Fenwick’s doors to 200 students, leading to the first graduating class of 1932. By 1936, a mere seven years later, Fenwick won its First Catholic League football championship. It did not take long for the Fenwick Friars to flex their cumulative muscles, demonstrating their great aptitude for sports, while at the same time raising the bar for the decades that followed!

Build and Rebuild

Even before Fenwick’s doors opened, other dynamic Dominicans such as Fr. Kavanaugh were making their own marks on the West side. Continue reading “Dominican Collaboration Spanning the Decades”