Brian Collier, Coordinator of Supervision for the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) Teaching Fellows, delivered a Hesburgh Lecture entitled “Save Our Schools, Save Our Country, Save Your Family.” Following the lecture, a panel of ACE graduates Mark Kirzeder (’04), Lauren Kloser (’07), Matthew Moloney (’08), and Jennifer O’Donnell (’11) reflected on their experiences as local Catholic educators.
The event was sponsored by the Notre Dame Club of Saint Joseph Valley and held to discuss ACE’s positive effects on local Catholic schools. ACE is a program established to preserve and transform under-resourced Catholic schools across the nation.
Collier began by discussing the history of education in the U.S., noting the replacement of significant community involvement in earlier schools with monetary donations from community members and government involvement.
To demonstrate this shift, Collier shared an anecdote of the construction of the Main Building and the stadium on Notre Dame’s campus. Students, workers, and priests physically had a hand in constructing the Main Building using bricks made of mud dredged from the lakes on campus in the late 1800s. By the early 1900s, however, construction of the stadium was completed solely by paid skilled-labor.
Collier went on to discuss the ways in which education is handled poorly at the policy level due to incorrect assessments of today’s educational environment.
“Legislators, presidents, city council people, and school board members all seem to deal with the idea of school as being the ones that they’ve attended, and as such, they’re oft times working to create a system that can’t possibly exist,” Collier said.
Collier pointed to a lack of racial, gender, and religious equality in schools of the past to emphasize this point. He also pointed to the increasing challenges schools face today such as comparisons to schools around the globe and the 24-hour news cycle.
“Similarly, I worry that we’ve forgotten that these children are our nation’s greatest asset,” Collier added, continuing, “More parks, more free-time, less homework, and more creative play, and fewer regulations, more involvement at school, more time doing the work as well as paying the money, and a greater insistence that we know what is best for our kids is the key to success.”
Following the lecture, the panel discussed Collier’s comments as well as their individual experiences teaching and administrating in Catholic schools.
O’Donnell agreed with Collier, saying, “We are finding now that we need to do a little bit of an overhaul of our academics and now need to give our students … a more well-rounded education because we are the ones who are going to be able to provide that for them.”
The pressure on students to earn high grades and test scores was another topic discussed.
Kloser, a ninth grade honors teacher, recounted how students have sent her emails in the middle of the night while completing homework.
“I get emails from my students at 2 a.m. sometimes because they are doing homework, and that is horrifying to me that they feel so much pressure to perform and to succeed in a very narrow understanding of what it means to be successful,” Kloser said.
Kirzeder agreed while acknowledging what he sees as the unfortunate reality that is the importance of good grades.
“We’re lying to kids if we tell them their grades don’t mean something, their standardized tests don’t mean something; they mean everything,” Kirzeder said, pointing to the college admissions process as the primary reason for this.
To conclude, Moloney reminded the audience of the purpose of education and, in extension, the role of educators.
“[W]e’re learning because it brings us closer to God … Jesus is human and divine, and the only way to be more like him is to be more human, and the only way we can be more human is to learn about the world, so that’s what we need to be teaching our kids,” Moloney explained.
Freshman Matthew Rice reflected on the event to the Rover, “I think that the panelists brought up a lot of good points about how the goals of education have become a little bit misguided in the past century or so, and I’d be interested to find out what they think could be done on a policy level to reorient education towards knowledge instead of accomplishment or productivity.”
Matt Connell is a freshman likely studying management consulting and political science. One day he hopes to be a contestant on the Amazing Race and is in search of the perfect teammate. If you think you’re the right fit, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.