I spent my formative years at an all-boys’ Catholic prep school in rural New England. It was a magical, Bridesheadian sorts of place, where everyone’s only pretending to be gay (probably) and women exist as a kind of theory or abstraction – like Persians, as Maistre would say. Our library was endowed by, and named for, John J. Studzinski: the distinguished-looking gentleman you see seated behind Donald Trump (and in front of Maria Bartiromo) at the infamous 2016 Al Smith Dinner. Other alumni include comedian Bo Burnham, who is, predictably, a prick.
So, with more than a little skin in the game, I must ask: why do progressives have it in for Catholic prep schools?
First it was Georgetown Prep, which is both Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch’s alma mater. Granted, the school has had its issues in the past. There was a big to-do in the Nineties about alcohol and sex, which ended when some angry mothers effectively staged a coup and ran the school themselves, with the headmaster reduced to a mere puppet. Still, I doubt the situation was ever much worse than the average DC public school. To say that Georgetown Prep was some kind of finishing school for upper-class molesters would just be ridiculous. Yet that’s the reputation it has acquired during Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing.
Now Covington Catholic in Kentucky is coming under fire because one of their students was caught on video listening quietly after an old Native American man approached him and began beating a drum in his face. The student, Nick Sandmann, is seen trying not to smirk as his classmates ‘dance racistly’ in the background. The New York Times alleges that the Covington boys ‘touched seemingly every raw nerve in this polarized country – race, President Trump and the behavior of young white men.’ I fail to see how a minor can ‘touch a nerve’ by standing very still while a grown-up gets in his face with a percussion instrument. But, oh well. Progressives are more than happy to touch their own nerves.
The Covington community is rallying to the students, who now face death threats from self-righteous left-wing psychopaths. Again, the Times doesn’t seem phased. Covington students allegedly hurled racially-charged taunts at an Asian basketball player from their rival school, which makes them fair game.
The idea that these private Catholic schools are bastions of privilege is just absurd. Remember that ‘elite’ parochial schools don’t really exist in this country as such. Virtually all of them were founded because the Church forbade Catholics from attending public schools; secular, Protestant, and all non-Catholic education was strictly verboten. Most of their students were the poor sons of immigrants from Ireland, Italy, Belgium, etc. If some of these schools have come to be identified with wealth and power, it’s unlikely to have been that way for more than a few generations. Protestant schools like Phillips Andover or Deerfield Academy are ‘elite’, aristocratic. Catholic schools are meritocratic.
That’s part of the extraordinary story of American Catholicism. At any given parish schools, the teaching nuns would undoubtedly have offered a better education than the public system. Combine that quality education with an immigrants’ gumption and you understand why most Polish jokes don’t really make sense anymore.
The notion that they harbor outmoded views about women, homosexuals, and other ‘oppressed’ groups is equally ridiculous. Beginning 1960s, the ‘person-centered therapy’ of Carl Rogers began decimating women’s religious orders. Nuns either left their convents, or else they abandoned teaching and turned to social-justice activism. Parochial schools had to hire droves of laypeople, most of whom are indistinguishable from the kind of fussy PC marms you find in public schools. Meanwhile, male teaching orders like the Jesuits were infected with a bland, generic liberalism.
Today, Church-run schools tend to be more left-wing, because they aren’t required to maintain a veneer of objectivity the way government-run schools are. If they’re single-sex, it’s even worse. Educators at boys’ schools seem to feel they have a vocation to correct the ingrained beastliness of pubescent males – particularly when it comes to the fairer sex. And, as a rule of thumb, the greater the preponderance of white students, the greater the emphasis on ‘diversity’. We had an administrative official devoted solely to ‘multiculturalism’ while roughly 95 percent of the student body was white.
I mean, look at the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s tweet condemned the Covington boys. Would that they were so swift and so resolute when dealing with pro-choice Catholic politicians, pro-‘LGBT’ priests, or licentious cardinals! In the American Church, the only heresies worthy of such fierce condemnation are those against politically-correct niceties. These aren’t the sorts of men who run schools as indoctrination centers for reactionary ideology.
So, the media’s obvious bias against Catholic schools is not only reprehensible: it’s factually inaccurate. For weal or for woe, the Catholic education system poses little threat to the prevailing liberal orthodoxies. (I tend towards the ‘woe’ view myself.) Bear that in mind next time the Times et al. decides to whip up a lynch mob against one of their students, which they undoubtedly will – to their shame.